Earth's Core by Lonahora B8 C37 OUT!

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  • Gracias por el capitulo
    ¡De nada!
    Ahora no estás seguro de si hablo español o usa google translate

    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 12 – The Earthly Crater



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Is that all?” Zax asked.

    “That is all”.

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

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

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

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

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

    “Little girl, are you listening now-”

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Prolly translate, but still cool. Thx for the chapter :smiley: 
  • Prolly translate, but still cool. Thx for the chapter :smiley: 
    Well, if it's "Prolly" translated I'll take it.

    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 13 – Galu The Violet Knight




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleven days, twelve days, fourteen days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ‘Oh? This is an unfamiliar face…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes, you can say-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “And earthly attribute”. Saulalu corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 14 – I Know What It Is!



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

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

    Horned Eels!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    She flogged at the quicker of the incoming Horned Eels.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



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

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

    BANG!

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

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

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

    BANG!

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

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

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

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

    ‘She made it!’

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

    ‘Is that it?’

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

    ‘No matter one, this is my chance!‘

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I know”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    ‘I know what it is!’
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 15 – A Stride Toward Evolution



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    One month passed.

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Two months and twenty four days in the fifth ring.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 16 – Finding The Third Black Core



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    KNOCK!

    KNOCK!

    KNOCK!

    He waited for someone inside the respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 17 – The Scythe And The Mace



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Your husband… when is he returning?”

    His question aroused astonishment as well as confused her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    WHOOSH!

    Yet another incomplete sentence…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    Explosions reverberated from every direction.

    Bang!

    Zax felt a blast right at his face.

    Bang!

    Another one went off at the back of his neck.

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

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

    The red headed woman used her own hair to construct the layout, shapes and forms that amplified her consciousness and channeled it with the powder. In essence, extended the domain of her soul beyond her mortal body and trapped Zax within it, in the process nullifying the physical, extracting and isolating the spiritual.

    ‘Remarkable!’ Even though he perceived it all, he had troubles comprehending it. ‘If our souls were on the same level… no! if mine was just a bit weaker and could not support itself with the dark attribute…’ He somewhat had a sense of dread.

    ‘Fortunately she is not that kind of opponent’. He felt embarrassed for having this thought. ‘Now, lingering any longer and I will really be pushed back’. Awakening his numb body, resuming the connection with the soul, the explosions dimmed. ‘Still not under its effect…’ A very minute influence, but influence nonetheless.

    Breathing in, compressing air in his lungs, Zax’s cheeks inflated and he blew.

    “Lenrah!” The duel pistols guy shouted.

    Simply blowing air was not enough for Zax to assault a Peak Core Master, but when adding high pressure and catching them unprepared, he could certainly give them a scare.

    The cloud collapsed and the powder scattered with the wind. The aghast red headed woman, Lenrah, felt something invisible hitting her abdomen and though it was painful no real injury was done.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    Enraged, the duel pistols guy shot at Zax, who was roughly a meter and a half from reaching the veranda and by now had his fill from testing his opponents. Besides, the formation on the pistols seemed to only generate strong, penetrating bullets that as dangerous as they are, against a bodily cultivator they were most useless.

    His final assessment… ‘There is definitely a genuine expert behind these four, but is it really the husband of the woman upstairs?’

    A foot on the stone railing, Zax caught the five bullets, so they will not ricochet into the apartment, and punched the last of the four.

    “Duthur, stop him”. As he and the two women regained their footing, the giant man shouted at the duel pistols guy, Duthur, but how could he?

    ‘Have they not got it?’ Zax wondered what the chances were for all four to be so dense and not recognize their inferiority.

    “Stand back!” Two voices echoing as one resounded in everybody’s ears.

    Zax was a step inside the apartment when he had a tingling sensation at his back. He turned around, prepared to confront with the man or woman with the capital to order the four and maybe the one who trained them?

    He could not see them, as they both were invisible, but certainly feel their oppressive demeanor.

    From the left sliced a crescent and sharp blade of a scythe.

    From the right rammed the heavy, deceive and vicious head of a mace.
     
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 18 – Old Rivals Reunited



    It was no longer the meager power of the second realm, but a force to be reckoned with, a threat to even Martial Mortals!

    “Oh, apparently I shouldn’t have abstained from using my Soul Sense. Then again, if I used it, the impact of this surprise would have been abortive”. Smiling, Zax held his hands upfront, reached out and grabbed the invisible scythe and mace.

    Encompassed by a cohesive invisible energy, one man and one women moving in unison, bonded by a Companion's Link formation!

    “You two have gotten stronger”. Zax complimented. “But against the person I am now… even augmented by this formation, your chances cannot even be described as slimmer, in comparison to what they had been last time!”

    Channeling dark attribute energy, Zax’s fingers dug into the invisible energy weapons and with a dim “BANG” crushed them.

    The two retreated. Jumping to the rooftop of the adjacent building and staring down, “We had yet to reveal the full extent of our power”. They voiced simultaneously with a tad of unwillingness due to the loss.

    “Zechariah, Linor”. Zax’s smile grew.

    “Wait, you know this guy?” The giant man interrupted the reunion of old rivals and acquaintances.

    “Yes”, the two restrained their mystification as to why Zax appeared here, now, so strong, when he was thought to be dead! “A fellow indigenous of New Earth”. It was Zechariah doing the wording, but Linor’s voice resonated all the same.

    “Is it true?” The four were deeply shaken. “How come we haven’t heard about him?” The duel pistols, Duthur, wanted to know why they kept in the dark instead of being told about a possible allay and a one so strong, at that.

    “You did hear”. Zechariah, Linor. “His name is ‘Zax Zel’”.

    “Zax Zel? The supposed runner up of our generation’s Martial competition? Wasn’t he declared deceased by the Elder Master?” The barehanded woman asked.

    “Wait a moment”. Zax suddenly said, intending to renew the conversation with Zechariah and Linor after retrieving the Black Core from the Blue Stone.

    “You can’t intrude on this house”. Zechariah and Linor in a flicker moved from the rooftop to the apartment, in front of Zax, their aura not entirely hostile but also not submissive.

    “This formation… Are you and the other four, and maybe that woman’s husband, too, are members of Sinister Chain?”

    Zechariah’s and Linor’s brows creased. First he rises from the dead, and then he recognizes the organization they are in based on their formation? ‘Could it be that he faked his death, to hide the fact he joined the five powers?‘

    In truth, they recognized him the instant the defensive formation was utilized and they probed the scene with their Soul Senses. They were in immense shock and wanted to confirm that he is who he looks like immediately. They asked the four to investigate first, assuring them that they will show up in case they will not be able to handle the opponent and convincing them that this is an opportunity to familiarize with each other so in the future mastering the Companion's Link formation would be easier. However, as the notion that he might be a traitor occurred, along with the identity of the woman’s husband he mentioned and they are familiar with, their resolution to first get answers escalated.

    “This house is of limits, even to you, Zax. If there is a reason you must get in, then you first have to shed light over some of the questions we have”. Zechariah and Linor gave an ultimatum. Wary of the worse and how strong Zax has become, they maintained the formation.

    “Fine, I also have things I’d like to know, but first I will finish my business here”. He was disinterested in prolonging the argument.

    His figure was there and then it was not. Keeping up with it was futile.

    Zax returned to the nursery and approached the barrier defensive formation. The woman within was a mere Earth’s Core Holder, for here couple of seconds gone by since the activation of the formation, but for him it could have been hours. As of now she stood still, frozen in his time.

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    Five fingers penetrated the formation like sharp claws. Zax drew his hand and ripped the barrier. The floor quaked, the yellow gold shade began to collapse and fade.

    “Don’t touch her”. They were Peak Core Masters, but the Companion's Link formation enhanced their perception, made them faster and stronger as it did Rockwell and Riv. However they were still much slower than Zax.

    Despite it being liquefied, his was Qi was poor, meant to be cultivated the day he will obtain the full Legacy Of The One’s Path. As unique as it constantly been, his soul had yet attained the third realm’s capabilities of performing feats such as telekinesis. Thus, Zax extended his reach with the dark attribute energy, grasping with it and taking the Blue Stone from the young woman’s blouse.

    “See? I didn’t hurt her or the baby”. Zax raised his hands in surrender. With the Black Core being a Blue Stone distance away, he was in a wonderful mood.

    “Eh? It’s gone”. The young woman cried as they all returned to communicate at the same flow. “The formation!” Her voice turned high pitched from fright and the baby boy in her arms started crying by the approximate loudness.

    “Settle down, Savir”.

    “Mister Zechariah, Miss Linor, you arrived! Where is everybody else?” One moment they show up, the next vanished together with the intruder – now thief – following by the reappearance of the intruder and two of the six familiar faces left in the city to protect them in case of an emergency.

    “He stole it, please take it back”, without hesitation the young woman, Savir, beseeched. “Yurnal said that it’s for Yimin, when he will grow up!”

    “No, it’s mine”. Zax corrected her. “Zechariah, Linor, it seems that you are unaware of what she’s taking about. Let me tell you, it’s not something that belongs to anyone, but me. Regardless who’s the owner of this Blue Stone; I will return it, however not before taking the object inside”.

    “Zax, it’s you who don’t understand. Keep the Blue Stone, but don’t break the soul imprint on it just yet. First let’s talk and then, after both sides get a little bit smarter, decide what to do”. They were relieved that he was true to his words of not posing harm to Savir and Yimin, but they also had no idea what was kept inside the Blue Stone and what will be his… Yurnal’s response should he know that it was stolen.

    Feeling the Blue Stone wrapped by his palm, “I can manage to wait”. He was reluctant, yet complied since he could feel that the two were earnest with him.

    “Thank you”. They said, though it was obvious that Zechariah was the one leading the conversation. His and Linor’s different backgrounds hinder the synchronization of their formation, it was actually the last hurdle before they will completely master it, but it also allowed them to compose a more competent whole.

    “I’ll take Savir and Yimin to the hotel. There are too many Soul Senses concentrating on the building right now and the Golden Desert Fort’s guards will soon arrive here, too”. Lenrah offered.

    “I’ll go with them”. Duthur appeared determined to accompany the three, or more precisely, Lenrah.



    The confrontation took place in the span of seconds and with much consideration of the neighboring and dining population.

    Guests in the ground floor restaurant were only susceptive to a small portion of the booms, but they associated the noise to the liveliness of this desert city.

    Cultivators in the Peak of the first realm and stronger did realize that an altercation occurring and where. The weaker expert proceeded with their day, knew that even if the interfere they will only get in trouble once the guards arrive. The stronger ones cautiously assessed why the commission, if any of them felt driven by curiosity to show up in person in the uncommon place for a strong defensive formation to manifest, they were still weighting the pros and cons of getting involve.



    Ahead were Zechariah and Linor. Since last he saw them, Zax discovered that separately their cultivation reached, and so fast, to the Peak of the second realm. He also noticed that the other two, behind him, were not acting as if they take orders from the leading two and in moment of disagreement would even disobey them.

    ‘All of them have the same cultivation and are in pairs?’ He was not a hundred percent certain. ‘Are they complying with Zechariah and Linor because they can erect this formation or someone told them to?’

    Zechariah and Linor took Zax to an underground bar named “Gordy’s Grotto”. Inside was very spacious, yet cold and murky. On the bright side, the middle aged hostess was very nice; found them a fitting table with an extra open chair, since there was no table for five.

    Despite most tables taken by men, women and humanoid beasts, the bar was so quiet a person could hear his or her own heartbeats. The reason was the sounds blocking formations etched at the opposite side of each table. They had some additional minor functions, but overall were not elaborate formations, so not much was required to bypass them with Soul Sense, but for common courtesy or maybe some other reason, no one attempted to do so.

    Basically, here experts could converge and discuss on any matter without prying ears and if they were interested in something to eat or drink, all they had to do was raise their hands.

    “You drink?” The giant man,”Havreim” or “Giant Havreim”, Zax learned along the way, asked in a manner that either was offering the glass of dark beer in his hands or holding it in a semi drinking motion. The black haired, barehanded woman, by the way, was Varinka.

    “Rarely”. Zax said amiably. The big fellow was the first to treat him, the supposed invite. His answer, however, seemed to be the cause for Giant Havreim disagreeably snort and his change of generous heart.

    “Ignore him. Giant Havreim is just a drunkhead and a foodie”. Varinka slapped Havreim on the back, making him suffocate and cough.

    “How did you know that we are Sinister Chain’s members?” It was Linor who asked, but Zechariah voiced nonetheless as they continue to maintain the formation, siting side by side.

    “I met another pair, Rockwell and Riv, who claimed to be from the same organization and used this formation, though even individually they were much stronger than you two and their compatibility much better”. Zax was projecting the same level of bluntness. “My turn, when did you left to Ercas Mir? I thought that you were drawn from the competition, losing that opportunity to join the five powers as I did”.

    ”When you were approached by Supreme- senior Ariel, we were visited by senior Trey. She tasked us with joining Sinister Chain. Couple of weeks after the competition someone assaulted the Curators, allowing us a chance to leave without being noticed”. Zechariah chose the words. “This should count for at least two answers. How are you alive?” He first wanted an answer and then to move on to the following question.

    “I guess you were informed by senior Ariel that I died…” It was not hard for Zax to figure. “I never did, simply removed the Curator’s Marks to make it look like it”.

    “Removed the Curator’s Mark?” Varinka displayed the same skepticism that was plastered on Zechariah’s and Linor’s faces.

    “Do you possess communicator? Able to speak with Rockwell or Riv? They can validate my skill, if you still have doubts”.

    “No”. Zechariah and Linor shook their heads. He was able to suppress them as if he was the Elder Master. “We don’t. How did you get so strong?” Either of them and even Varinka and Giant Havreim could pick a multitude of better question to ask, but he was of the same generation, moreover they knew that he was sent on a later date to traverse alone and without guidance the world above ground. Logically, he should still be vigilantly wondering now in the forests of Selivereb, not showing up in the Eastern Continent and making their rigorous training of the past year or so look like a joke.

    Zax smiled. A young waiter served him a jug of beer and placed on the table a tray of crispy and spicy dried fruit. “There is more than one factor in play, but the main one… What do you know about Rockwell’s and Riv’s trip to the Western Continent?”

    “It’s our turn to ask question”. Giant Havreim grunted.

    “It’s interrelated”.

    “We don’t know what their job in the Western Continent was, but we know that they returned because of the Event in Demirva Ridge and the dark attribute’s essence they obtained”.

    Zax’s smile revealed his white teeth and at that moment, following by a drop of a large glass, beer spilling on the wooden panels of the floor and the shriek of someone biting her tongue, Zechariah’s and Linor’s eyes opened wide.
     
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 19 – Three Out Of Three



    “Wait a moment, are you him?!” Zechariah exclaimed in outrage. Due to both his and Linor’s turbulent mental state, the Companion's Link formation became instable, the invisible energy agitated and in a “BANG!” they were thrown sideways.

    Waving his hand, Zax dissolved the rampant energy and helped Zechariah and Linor back to their seats before crossing the boundary of the table’s formation. He speculated that Rockwell and Riv had disclosed the details of the Event in Demirva Ridge and the invitation they extended for him to join Sinister Chain.

    “That’s a third question. Now is my turn”.

    “First tell us!” Giant Havreim demanded. “Were you the guy Rockwell and Riv claimed to obtain the perfect dark attribute’s essence, consume it, by some implausible miracle survive and kill those members of the five powers?” Like his three colleagues, he merely thought that Zax met Rockwell and Riv in the ridge by chance or something and not at all was the pivotal variable in the demise of the five powers’ representatives.

    “Linor, Zech, you tell me this guy, who is of our generation, supposed to be as strong as third level Martial Mortal?!” Varinka was on pins and needles, not even caring about the pain in her tongue.

    She had learned of the qualitative difference between common attribute’s essences and God made attribute’s essences, yet it was excruciatingly hard to believe that a twenty years old possesses the strength of what most experts spend thousands of years to cultivate, not to mention that in their generation – not measured by a certain period or date, but in Ercas Mir those who are considered experts and were born less than hundred years apart – he was among the youngest!

    Composing themselves, Zechariah and Linor did not reformed their formation, it was not that easy. Free from its restraints, they now could also choose to speak or not to their own words.

    “Well…” Zechariah opened, not finding more to say, to come up with a logical reply to Varinka. He gave up and looked for Zax for explanation. “Tell us, then anything you’d ask we will answer”.

    “Fine”, Zax complied, aware of how similar his reaction would have been if he was in their oblivious shoes. “I put my life on the line when taking the perfect dark attribute’s essence and I’m pretty sure that I reeked death in the moments it changed course, after I absorbed it, from trying to kill me to almost reincarnating me”. The experience etched in his brain, never to be forgotten. “Yes, I can handle myself against a third level Martial Mortal, but after what I’d been through it is the least I should hope for. Feeling envy? Go ahead and make the same bet I did. If you’ll survive, I promise you will also get a little stronger”. He placed the Blue Stone on the table. His turn could not be denied anymore. “Take me to its owner”. He only agreed to postpone taking the Black Core inside out of consideration to the mysterious expert that first found it.

    “Back to camp?” Giant Havreim grumbled, the first to digest Zax’s narrative. “You haven’t answered all we have to ask, only these two’s questions. And we are exchanging questions, not requests, so ask as many as yours now and let us continue with ours”. Regretful for the spilled beer, he picked another one of his several glasses; few were empty, and finished it in one lasting sip.  “No more fruits. Bring cheesy fries and dried slices of your best Deformed Beast meat”. He requested from the waiter that he summoned to clean the floor’s wooden panels.

    Waiting for the waiter to leave, Varinka corresponded. “Your story correlates with Rockwell’s, the reason for faking your death is also rational and you are not a stranger to Linor and Zech”. She first made it seem like she only intend to sum up. “But before convincing us to lead you to our camp, there are couple more matters you must disclose, such as why did you arrive to the Eastern Continent? How did you do it? Currently no ships are coming or leaving. Without a vessel it’s a dangerous journey even to third level Martial Mortal… How did you discover Second Master’s- Savir’s and Yimin’s home?” She would have added what so special about the content of the Blue Stone, but that would have been invasion of Second Master’s privacy. “So go ahead and think of stuff to ask us, since it’s your turn, let’s finish both sides’ question before moving on to requests”.

    PAM!

    Zax slapped the table and sneered. “Who do you lot think you are?” He had no ill intent toward Zechariah and Linor, yet they were on Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s side, so he ended up addressing all four. “Frankly, I don’t give a damn”. He got up. Let them confront with the mysterious expert, who apparently is their Second Master.

    “We’ll take you”. A voice, typically poised and taciturn, declared in the heat of the argument. “We are taking you”. Linor said.

    “Linor…” Zechariah was taken aback.

    If there was someone sitting around this table that he will sacrifice his all to support without a second thought, it was none other than the brutish and deadly woman beside him, his closest companion since… His issue was not with her agreeing to Zax’s request; he himself was in half a mind to do so, but her not discussing it with him first.

    “On whose authority?!” Giant Havreim grunted displeasingly. “He is your compatriot, we know, mine too, in an unconventional manner, but don’t let it affect your judgment”.

    “Elder Master approved”. With these three words, Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s objection flattened.

    “When did you talk to him?” Zechariah wanted to know. Because their formation was imperfect, they could use, to a degree, their communicators separately. So it begged the question, did Linor contact the Elder Master when they were bound by the profound intimacy of the Companion’s Link formation, or afterwards?

    “Just now”. Linor assured him with an understanding look. “He said that he is eager to meet Zax”.

    Giant Havreim grimaced.

    “You contacted him?” Varinka figured why his countenance turned sour.

    Keeping the response to himself, Giant Havreim stuffed his mouth with cheesy fries, a chunk of thin sliced Deformed Being meat and finished it off with a sup of cold beer.

    “Mm… you got berated”. Varinka grinned and pinched his muscular forearm. A bystander would think that she mocks Giant Havreim, but a keen observer will find the affectionate twinkle hiding in her eyes.

    Zax noticed, and so did Zechariah and Linor. Giant Havreim, too, and it was not clear if he blushed because the feelings were mutual or because he willingly gave in to the alcohol.

    Anyway, at this point Varinka did not mind lowering her guard in front of Zax. If the Elder Master re extended Rockwell’s and Riv’s invitation, then she can be a little less harsh in her cautiousness.

    “Will you come?” Linor stared at Zax, aware of what he will say, but she was not asking for herself. The Elder Master spoke through her.

    His expression was enough to imply his consent. Already on his feet, it was also fine for him to depart right now, which was quite clear, as well.

    Raising a hand, Zechariah called the waiter old fashion and all, instead of utilizing table’s formation. It took longer than it should, but eventually the waiter came and Giant Havreim paid the bill.



    “Are you that impatient to meet the Elder Master or is it because you can’t wait to open the Blue Stone?” Varinka raised a brow.

    They led Zax, not flying or running, but to his annoyance leisurely walking. After eating so much potent Deformed Being meat, Giant Havreim just wanted to savor the satisfaction at his own pace and rub his belly. Varinka was prepared in advance to tune down the precipitancy, being familiar with how the big guy is after a full meal. Honestly, sometimes she wonders how many non cultivator families can be sustained from one bite of the kind of Deformed Being meat that he likes to eat.

    On a side note: Gordy’s Grotto serves mature two scales Deformed Being meat and once a decade or so even the fledgling of a three scales Deformed Being.

    “Are you paired as teammates or couples?” Zax retorted. Ahead of him were walking Zechariah and Linor, and it seemed that the two were in the midst of a very personal, nearly heated conversation.

    Zechariah was hurt that Linor did not consult with him before contacting the Elder Master, redirecting her actions to the reason why they still struggle with the Companion’s Link formation. Linor was mainly nodding, giving the impression of apologizing, though she never said the words. Then, after a few blocks, Zechariah ended the discord with a whisper, which for a brief instant aroused softness in Linor’s posture.

    “They…” Varinka followed Zax’s line of sight, then glanced back at him with a smile. “You don’t understand. To perfect our technique it is required for each of us to wholeheartedly know our formation’s companion, much like comprehending a profound insight. Developing feelings of a romantic nature for one another is, when the companions are of opposite sex and are interested in the other sex, most times inevitable”. She explained ever so comfortably. “I’m not sure how much you knew either of them back in New Earth. Yes, you can say that externally they look like an odd couple, but you shouldn’t misjudge their hearts by the skin and bones around it or its temperament”.

    Zax listened and kept to himself. The talk of love reminded him Anet and for the first time made him wonder why did he think that spending two years apart is fine?

    Was he tired of her? ‘Absolutely not’.

    Did he miss her? ‘Since the day of departure to this very moment and tomorrow and day after tomorrow, for sure’.

    Would he return now, just for her, if the option was available? ‘Not yet…’

    This venture was not just for his sake. ‘I came here with two purposes. Finding out if our love can survive the test of time wasn’t one of them, it doesn’t need to be’. They were young, not as cultivated as they would like to believe, in their hearts, at least. Nevertheless, they were not regular people and as they continued to foster themselves, they could recall more vividly and feel more sincerely. Their love, Zax assessed days before leaving and Anet imagined the same, was not the fleeting kind.

    They exited the crowded, metropolitan part of the city, which was not as impressive as some of Kingdom Earth’s caves, going past rural neighborhoods and proceeding to the poor and secluded outskirts of the grand city “Sanctum Oasis”. Here the number of residences was small, stone houses that were built randomly around the area, perhaps out of miscalculated convenience, maybe under the influences of wanting to live alone. The number of people was even scarcer than houses’. They were divided into two groups: old and forgotten and young familial yet extremely poor.

    Normally, the only guests a place like this in Sanctum Oasis city would know are the patrol guards that show up every two to three days in the morning or night.

    “What’s her name?” Varinka intrude, recognizing hint of longing in Zax eyes and drawing his attention from trying to understand why he was led to this unremarkable place.

    “Don’t be nosey, Varinka”. Giant Havreim reprimanded. The big guy considered matters of the heart as something that men should keep just there, buried inside and out for air only in the company of the significant other.

    “Anet”. Zax did not mind.

    “Mm…” Varinka ignored Giant Havreim. “Want us to arrange smuggling her from New Earth like Zech and Linor? It’s possible, if the Elder Master or Second Master give their approval”.

    “No”. Zax declined on the spot, without the mood to explain. ‘When I’ll have the strength I’d walk with her hand in hand through the passageway’. He would not let her ever experiencing being on the run or worse, looming death.

    “Soothe yourself”. Varinka shrugged. “This is the place, by the way”. She pointed.

    It was a one storey cottage, not small like the adjusting houses and not large as some of the villas they crossed at the better parts of the city. It was surrounded by a courtyard of sand and rugged earth.

    If Sinister Chain’s leader wanted their headquarters to be unassuming, his certainly found a working solution. Using his Soul Senses, the place was not even protected by an obstructive formation, yet Zax could discover nothing particular.

    “It’s rude, you know, probing someone else home without asking first”. A man opened the wooden door and come out.

    His clothes were simple, adhering to norm and fitting the visage, a thawb, or ankle length, long sleeves, earth colors robe.

    His skin had a light brown shade, an obvious tan that masked his natural white skin. His short hair was black and so were his slightly slanted eyes.

    Zax’s heart pounded in his chest at the sight of the man whom his Soul Sense failed to detect. He started him, deaf to the calls of Zechariah, in utter stupor.

    It was their first meeting, but he unquestionably knew him and most definitely never believed that he would meet.

    “Supreme Ruler… Gid Chu Takeda!”
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 20 – Joining Sinister Chain?



    “You are not my Tal or apprentice, so ‘Senior Gid’ or my whole name ‘Gid Chu’ is acceptable. This is how big brother Ariel told you to refer to him, might as well do the same with me”. Former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda exuded no air of haughtiness as one who grew up learning about the feats and temperament of his or her exalted founder would expect. In fact, he also did not have an iota of a cultivator’s air to him, just the impression of a middle aged man at his early forties who still retained some of his youthful features.

    ‘Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda!’ Even if his life was on the line and he had to scream every name that he could scrap from his mind, Zax would have never assumed that the leader of Sinister Chain is actually former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda. His mood suddenly turned foul and he glared at Zechariah and Linor, his eyes demanding: ‘Could you not have freaking told me?!’

    The duo averted their gazes, truthfully were kind of anticipating his shock, more so because in the short span of time that passed since their first and last meeting he managed to surpass all their rigorous cultivating by an outrages margin.

    As for their initial response to former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda… they pretty much reacted the same way. Linor’s composed and cool demeanor faltered and her mouth opened wide enough to fit a bundle of Earth’s Cores while the mannered Zechariah nearly shit himself shouting “Founder? You are alive!” Apparently it is some sort of well kept secret in the family…

    “Varinka, Havreim, Linor, Zechariah, return to the hotel”. Gid Chu dismissed them and then gestured for Zax to enter the courtyard and inside the cottage.

    “Elder Master-” Varinka opened.

    “Leave”, he interrupted her attempt to sway him otherwise. “Your duties are unattended”. Gid Chu reminded, calm and patient, sending them off like a father rather than teacher or superior.

    “Elder Master, everything Rockwell and Riv said is true”. Giant Havreim said.

    “Of course it is”. Gid Chu nodded and with that stopped paying attention to his four apprentices. “Let’s get inside”. He turned to Zax. “Currently everyone is out, so we can have peace and quiet while enlightening each other. There is good coffee, too”.

    The cottage was spacious, consisted of a large room, right after the entrance, that most of its space was overtaken by the living room and the rest, the northwest corner, was the open kitchen. Two bathrooms, a laundry room, a storage room and four bedrooms were evenly divided beyond the east and west hallways.

    “You wonder why I picked this place to stay in?” Gid Chu read Zax’s inquisitive expression. “It’s not our headquarters, far from it. Take it as a temporary resident randomly chosen”.

    “Senior Gid”, the many things Zax wanted to ask him about amounted to too much that his pick of residency was barely at the bottom of the list. “Why did Senior Ariel say nothing about you here, moreover being the leader of the five powers’ number one opposing organization?”

    “Would you like to join Sinister Chain?” Gid Chu asked in return, “I mean, it was not why big brother Ariel sent you up here, if it was he could let big sister Trey handle your affairs, making sure you understand, but the five powers think now that you are dead and we already met. Ultimately we share the same goal, the betterment of our fellow New Earth’s citizens. Why not work together, then?” He pulled a chair for Zax to sit on by the round table at the back of the living room and turned to the kitchen, where he used a grinder to grind dark brown, slightly reddish, coffee beans he took from a jar that sat on the countertop.

    Zax smelled the rich aroma of the ground coffee. He was not a fan of the bitter beverage, never got the chance to drink enough to get accustomed to the flavor, but he appreciated the scent.

    He realized that Gid Chu was serious with his offer and addressed him on equal footing, his pick, perhaps because Zax was not his apprentices and he acknowledged his accomplishments in Demirve Ridge, not to mention his level of strength from recounts of Rockwell, Riv and Linor.

    Thinking about the pair and remembering that he still possess inside his Blue Stone the hexagonal token with two letters printed on it in Netherling, ”S.C” Rockwell gave him following the invitation to join Sinister Chain, Zax also recalled the same reckonings he made back then for either becoming part of a criminal organization or a Geared mercenary band.

    “I’m not good with taking orders”. He wanted to negotiate his terms of service. Requests were one thing and being constantly told what to do was another, against the nature he fostered growing up around more beasts than humans.

    Gid Chu washed and wiped two small cups. “And working in a group? Have you ever been part of a group working for mutual purpose?” He causally inquired.

    “I can work with other. I did”.

    “Then you always were the leader, remarkable”.

    Zax frowned. Was he being mocked?

    Following the silence of a lack of response, Gid Chu glanced at him while pouring the steaming dark liquid to both cups. “Being a loner is fine and dandy, but then what does it has to do with your disposition toward orders?” He carried the cups, each on a small wooden saucer, served Zax his and sat down. “There is no contract to sign or an oath you have to make. Heck! Looking at you, I cannot even buy you with our resources. That is, besides the thing you took, or rather its content…”

    “You know?” Zax was surprised. Not that Gid Chu was informed of the Blue Stone he stole, but what inside of it and its usage. He thought it belonged to the so called “Second Master”.

    “Hahaha”, Gid Chu laughed, choosing not to elaborate, and returned to the original subject. “Would you mind if I’ll tell you in the form of an order to save a life?”

    “Of course not”, or more accurately he would not care, since if the subject was someone who did not deserve to die and was nearby, then he would have helped regardless what others told him and in what manner.

    “What about taking a life to save a life?”

    For now he decided not to force the issue of the Blue Stone, partly at the chance Gid Chu would forward it toward the absent Second Master. “You won’t have to tell. I don’t particularly like seeing innocents suffer and don’t overthink killing evildoers”. In his book, the innocents were mostly non cultivators hoping for peaceful life, a concept he unconsciously associated with his parents, extended family and friends.

    “Lastly, should I order you to search for a name, follow the person, acquire the information and clean all evidence that you were ever present, all for the sake of New Earth, humans and beasts alike, would you refuse it?”

    ‘This is ridiculous’. Zax thought, knowing exactly what Gid Chu was coercing him to say. “Where did you send them, Zechariah and the others? What are they doing?” He reached for his cup, mimicking Gid Chu he held it by the handle, as to not get burn nor would he but this was common custom. As expected, it was bitterly offensive to his tongue and when he sniffed the aroma from right under his nose its richness turned pungent. In retrospect, most unexpected was that the coffee did not have any special properties. Inwardly Zax wondered why he assumed that the coffee Senior Gid, former Supreme Ruler of Kingdom Earth, serve him would be something rare that only cultivators can drink. ‘Did I indulge myself with too much of the Deformed Being meat Havreim ordered?’ He barely ate, but in recent months it was the largest meal he had…

    “You have to be a member of Sinister Chain to get exact details”. Gid Chu remarked as a reminder. “They are somewhere in a more populated area of the city, lying in wait till further orders, which importance they fully recognize”. He added the last part despite not being asked for their opinions.

    “Then this is something I cannot do. Senior Ariel wanted me to follow the steps of my predecessors, those sent to explore the world above ground, but I’m sure he truly intended for me to actually investigate the five power and just was not able to be explicit about it due to some sort of limitation. He stated that an oath was involved. Anyway, I have my own way of going about it and resting in place not it”. He was blunt. If he was the same young man who first laid his eyes on the most exalted figure he grew up to believe exists, he probably would have had a lot less spunk and expressed himself more meekly.

    For a long while, after hearing Zax, Gid Chu preoccupied himself in a concentrated sip of hot coffee. He was hard to read, always seeming placid, maintaining an air of hospitality.

    “I gather you are not interested in our Companion’s Link formation?”

    “No”.

    It was painly obvious.  Gid Chu just wanted to clear it for certain out of the way, but Zax was so direct that he felt a tad disgruntled. ‘Brat, can you comprehend how sought for this formation is and the figure who created it?!’ Naturally, he did not reveal it.

    “Then it settled”. He declared out of the blue with an approving smile as though they made an agreement Zax was unaware of.

    “What’s settled?” Zax uncomfortably shifted in his seat, leaning a bit forward.  He was not worried about Gid Chu imposing something on him, and if he was someone else then he would not have even batted an eyelash, but the man still was a hero of childhood, an elder who reshaped history. Without his involvement there is one third chance he never would have been born. So of course he will feel a level of shame and embracement, should he deny him.

    “Of course, that you shall join Sinister Chain!”

    “Senior Gid-”

    “As an outside contractor”.

    “Outside what?” Zax was confused. He knew what an “Outside contractor” is, but was taken aback that the supposed most notorious criminal organization has an acceptance policy for odd recruits.

    “This way it will be easier for you and me”. Gid Chu began to explain as well as narrate the state of affairs. “In the organization I’m known as ‘Elder Master’ or ‘Leader’. I share the leading post with another, a beast cultivator from Valgarel, referred to as ‘Second Master’ or ‘Second Leader’. You can say that the both of us established Sinister Chain. Currently we have seventy four members, including myself, divided into three groups: First are New Earth’s natives, such as me, Second Leader Yurnal and your acquaintances... Seconds are descendants of New Earth’s immigrants, basically sons and daughters of older generation members who were born in Ercas Mir. Last are Ercas Mir’s natives, with no bloodline connation to New Earth, like Rockwell and Riv that you met in Demirva Ridge”. Gid Chu kept holding his cup in one hand, the saucer in another and In between sentences drank his coffee. “All seventy four members are direct operators of the organization, as the seventy fifth you will be the sole outside contractor. The downside is that you will enjoy less of the resources, which doesn’t seem to be a loss… the upside is that you will have the ability to accept or refuse tasks and accomplish them without interference, though I do expect a flawless success rate, since you insist on working alone. Is that fair?”

    “Yes”. Zax agreed.

    “Hahaha”, as if struck by a amusing thought, Gid Chu laughed in satisfaction, postponing further proceedings. “Anyway, now you should feel relived”.

    “Yes? For what?” Zax had achieved nothing yet, merely joined Sinister Chain.

    “Why of course, despite big brother Arial’s doubts on the matter, us in Sinister Chain already obtained the results of the task he hope you, many before you and those sent after, will accomplish”.
     
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 21 – Truths, Goals And Brining Up To Speed



    Zax was on the verge of retorting against the notion of already joining Sinister Chain when it dawn on him that if former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda declared so, he probably will not budge for any other demand. Thus, he semi officially became the seventy fifth member of Sinister Chain.

    As Zax showed no indication of asking himself, Gid Chu took his silence as the essential attentiveness he would like him to exhibit before bringing up to speed. “Might as well start from the beginning, won’t you mind?” It was a rhetorical question.

    Zax preserved his equanimity. Taking a sip from his cup he thought he detected a hint of a nutty flavor. ‘Also earthy…?’ They did not make the bitterness less harsh on his taste buds, but fixating on them enriched the overall experience, perhaps the first step toward acquiring the taste?

    “Back then”, Gid Chu opened. “I was serving, together with big brother Ariel and big sister Trey, in the Blessed Army. Big brother Ariel shined the brightest among us three, catching the attention of the high command. His talents were, are legit, so dazzling that me and big sister Trey had to strive with utmost determination just to keep up with the sight of his back. It is fine, though, we would not have attained our accomplishments without him presenting goals to learn from and surpass. Besides, we were wary of the five powers for New Earth. By attracting the limelight to himself alone, he could advance quickly in rank while helping us stay inconspicuous as we probed long enough to formulate an idea of the Blessed Army’s, correspondingly all five powers, intentions”. He snickered and reminisced. “If they came to know of our identities early on, things wouldn’t had been as simple. You see, at its core it was a web of deceit, enlisting to the Blessed Army”.

    For the most part Zax’s possessed a solid countenance. On the one side he was listening and on the other, trying impatiently to figure how the man sitting before him now came to be through the narrated history.

    “At the time of our enlistment, despite knowing of the world beneath the ground, the five powers’ attitude toward it was very lax, therefore when we joined the Blessed Army, by the time where we originated from was known, certain figures in the army were convinced of our, big brother’s mostly, value and allegiance, which, following by contemplating their intentions, enabled us to uncover a truth or two. These truths were the reason of my discharge, a decision that aroused distrust from those who had opposed big brother’s promotions and were cautious from our countryman’s Martial potential.

    ”It was not easy, but in the end, in order to leave and be free from the watchful eye of the army, be it in New Earth or Ercas Mir, I was penalized with a great but worth it price”.

    “Your mist cultivation?” Zax asked bluntly. Not trying to be impolite, yet not being able to sense an iota of mist energy when he used his Soul Sense before, he was quite curious about the former Supreme Ruler’s cultivation, unless it was concealed extremely well, like his presence. Additionally, Gid Chu’s cordiality simply gave him the impression that he is free to ask anything.

    Gid Chu lowered his head to his cup and whether it was a confirmation, he did not say it immediately. “Big brother Ariel remained at stationary position in the army, he was obligated by an oath and frankly it was good for him to stay on this front in the occasion of a storm… Big sister Trey returned to Kingdom Earth as the chief Supreme Ruler. She was still unlisted in the army but with big brother’s support it was agreed to let her manage Kingdom Earth. As for me, after conditioning my soul to the task”, he said as if admitting to Zax’s suspicion and as if it was understandable for him to exchange the mist cultivation he earned by the tutelage of the Blessed Army for freedom and a life as a soul cultivator. “I returned to Ercas Mir and roamed the oceans and continents till eventually establishing my own power, Sinister Chain, which fundamental goal is to eliminate the threat of the five powers”.

    Zax withheld his opinion on Gid Chu sacrificing his mist cultivation. Grandmaster Kartion had done the same for a cause that was righteous for him and sometimes another man’s shoes and another stag’s hooves are better left with no wet behind the ears sympathizers. ‘The five powers are a threat?’ He turned to the following matter.

    He was aware of their oppressiveness, especially against New Earth’s inhabitants, with their rules and limitations, yet their conduct never really posed a threat, on the contrary, they were open to receive and groom those prospects from New Earth, hence the Martial competition every half a century.

    ‘It correlates to their findings’. Zax thought, meaning the intentions and truths that were uncovered, probably long before he was born.

    “Here we return to the hope big brother Ariel placed on you. At his current position of a Lieutenant General, the second highest rank in the army, and as a fourth level Martial Mortal, along with all the contribution he made over the years and meritorious service, the General of the army is still keeping him, the majority of the army actually, in the dark from a few things I could not discover unless I was discharged.

    “Starting with understanding the magnitude of the truths we learned, after Sinister Chain was functioning and we gathered intel from four of the powers (Blue Sea not easy to get to or penetrate as the rest due to its topography) and investigating the roots of the different communities… initially we thought that the tribes and villages who grew up to become the first clans and cities were cells of humans and beasts left behind during the great immigration, but it turned out that we were entirely wrong. By examining the heritage of the human communities, there are no signs of any association to the pre immigration humanity. Furthermore, all documented history indicates that since they, first villages and tribes, were formed, the five powers were already reigning”.

    Allowing Zax a moment to digest, Gid Chu took a step back and said. “The truths about the five powers that we thought we so well understood are, one, the five powers emerged thriving right after the catastrophe that drove our ancestors underground, meaning there is a chance they were connected to it”.

    ‘They weren’t’. Zax said to himself, knowing it was the expert from whom he inherited his Black Core that was the mastermind of what he, too, entitled as “Age of Catastrophe”. Nevertheless, he will not tell it to Gid Chu, not his full truth, anyway, and not before he will have an alternative to mask the details he would rather keep to himself.

    “Second, the Generals of Blessed Army and Golden Desert Fort, Horn of the Violet Scaled Troops, Admiral of Blue Sea and Luminous Church’s Archbishop aren’t necessarily the highest authority of the five powers. From conversations we intercepted we know that outside this planet, somewhere in space, are situated absolute powerhouses, Immortals, who transmit orders to the leaders of the five powers here on earth. These are the two truths my big brother and big sister are also aware of and roughly the full extent of their knowledge (big sister Trey know a bit more because her oath to the Blessed Army less restrictive, which makes it safer to share my findings with her then with big brother). One of these truths is in inaccurate, but before I’ll tell you which I’ll sum what we knew of the five powers’ intentions before I left the Blessed Army.

    “Today it’s not much of a secret for anyone in the circle of third realm experts, be they five powers’ personal or not. In fact, anyone who can manage to infiltrate there mobile outposts undetected and rummage through the complied data (you do have computer skills, right? High cultivation cannot be relied on for everything), would be able to catch on what the five powers’ ‘purpose’, to be precise, is… excavation”.

    “They want the planet’s resources? New Earth’s resources?” Zax creased his brows, listing in his head all the valuables treasures unique to the world beneath the ground. Earth’s Cores and Sun Stones and all sorts of plants and minerals came to mind, yet none his intuition told him was something the five powers should covet. ‘Are they after quantity rather than quality?’ That was one possibility; the other was the remaining items on the list, or more accurately Places. He never been there but got close enough and heard a lot from his Master. ‘The second and fabled third Savage Caves?’

    “That is the rough estimation we made at first and most everyone believe”. Gid Chu said in a finalizing tone. His cup emptied, he rested it on the wooden saucer and placed it on the round table. “That is the gist of the accessible information available before Sinister Chain came to be, a raw perception of truths and purpose a great number of experts could tell you and nothing clearer”.

    He considered for a fleeting moment to ask Zax what he thinks, but discarded the thought instantly.

    “The truths about the five powers are that they are not five but three. Luminous Church is a branch of a religious sect called ‘Holy Palace’. ‘Planetary Battalion’, we speculate, is a vessel capable of traversing space. From there the higher ups of Blue Sea and Golden Desert Fort were sent. And ‘Voltic Star’, a planet we can’t decide if situated at the same Milky Way galaxy, is the home world of Blessed Army’s and Violet Scaled Troops’ high command. They all came here as alien groups of scavengers, not instigators who incited Nature thousands of years ago”. Gid Chu spat the last sentence. “This may sound like a minor illumination of the five powers’ background”. He confessed. “However with it we can eliminate detrimental misconceptions on our enemies. Moreover, it’s not all. It must be the most crucial piece of information we ever obtained… Considering the cost…” He said half to himself half to Zax. ”The reason for the geographical distribution of the planet by the five powers isn’t just territorial division. They are in a dispute, the heads of the three major factions behind them, the Immortal powerhouses. Apparently it wasn’t even them who discovered the planet, but their five subdivisions, the five powers. How? I’m not sure since they were supposedly in space. Yurnal thinks that the planet released fluctuations when the catastrophe occurred and they were sufficiently close to detect them. Be it what happened or not, after discovering the planet they reported it, following by receiving orders with a specific goals, first populating the land (don’t ask, failed to found out why), second excavation. As for their Immortals leaders, the important part, why they aren’t here as well. We were told that they are in a stalemate due to the claim for what they are trying to excavate and that none making a decisive move for the concern that escalation will draw the unwanted attention of other Immortal powerhouses”.

    “Told? By whom?” It sounded to Zax like someone or ones from Sinister Chain managed to infiltrate the five powers, get into a position in the know of things. It could not be a native to New Earth; otherwise senior Arial would not have needed him. He also doubted that the higher ups of the five powers were willing to trust those born above the ground, in a world under their supervision. Not to mention the obstructive oaths… ‘What left to weight are the possibilities of traitors in the five powers, or… Did they catch high profile prisoner?!‘

    “Vise Admiral”. Gid Chu answered plainly. “Blue Sea’s fourth level Martial Mortal. We captured and interrogated a few years back”.

    ‘Sinister Chain had the means to capture a fourth level Martial Mortal?!’ Zax could not hide the shock in his eyes, which Gid Chu read with amusement.

    Pointing at the Blue Stone in Zax’s possession. “The owner of this thing, Yurnal, he beat her”.

    “Yurnal!” At last Zax understood why Zechariah and the rest urged him to not be impulsive with snatching whatever item in the Blue Stone or even breaking its soul imprint.

    To intentionally force a fourth level Martial Mortal into submission was much more difficult than killing him or her. When experts on the same level were involved, it required for one of them to have superiority in both cultivation and technique. Yurnal, at the very least, had to be at the Peak of said level while his opponent at the Beginner phase!

    “This Yurnal is a Fifth level Martial Mortal?” Zax was ready to stand and leave if that was the case. He preferred to avoid Peak fourth level Martial Mortals, too, but felt more assured escaping from them than fifth level Martial Mortals.

    Gid Chu shook his head. “Of course not, do you think fifth level Martial Mortals are that easy to come by?” He raised an eyebrow.

    Zax did not answer, just felt relived in his heart.

    “He is a second level third realm bodily cultivator, like I am”. Gid Chu smirked.
     
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 22 – Fate



    “Third realm bodily cultivator!” If he was shocked before, now Zax was utterly flabbergasted.

    As far as he knew about the state of bodily refinement techniques in both New Earth and Ercas Mir, the latter was far behind and the former had only three noteworthy bodily refinement techniques, one of which, arguably the best, was Grandmaster Kartion’s Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. Another, most famous yet in second place, he encountered in the Martial competition, Elijah‘s Scarlet Armor. However neither Grandmaster Kartion nor Elijah had yet to create the third realm phase of their respected techniques, at least it was ridiculous to imagine that they managed to in the relative short span of time that passed since he left.

    “Aren’t you a soul cultivator?” Instead of considering other techniques, Zax concentrated on examining Gid Chu’s physique through his stature and what little he could see of his exposed skin. There was nothing peculiar, to be fair he was not sure that he could find any prominent indications that will expose the man before him as a bodily cultivator, he met very little of them… but not all signs could be hidden, something that would rouse his instincts, should he care enough to pay attention, had to be somewhere. Nonetheless, he still detected nothing and therefore doubted Gid Chu’s claim.

    “Don’t bother”. Gid Chu recognized the scrutinizing gaze in Zax’s eyes. He gave him that same look when he first saw him, only better concealed it. “It wasn’t that I was a soul cultivator as a last resort. I terminated my mist cultivation after reaching the first Martial Mortal’s level. By then my soul on its own was capable of dealing great damage to most Core Masters and my body was honed by the energies of the third realm breakthrough. At worse, I altogether had the battle powers of Beginner third level Core Master”.

    ‘That’s right’. Zax concurred. ‘My mist cultivation is held back till I gather all Black Cores. I had forgotten that Mist Users also strengthen their body with each breakthrough’. “Which refinement technique is it?” On a personal level it was more important for him to know the first bodily refinement technique to pave a path for the third realm, than continuing to discuss the five powers and their Immortal powerhouses.

    “Infinite Transformations Altering Body, Yurnal’s own creation. You, cultivate Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, right? Well this is another Valgarel’s bodily refinement technique and from the mouth of one of the strongest being on this planet, Ozeyn, it’s qualified of being the third best bodily refinement technique”.

    ‘”Ozeyn” as in “His Valor Ozeyn”?’ Zax did not ask out loud, pretty much sure of the answer. Furthermore, receiving a reply to his initial question, the tremors in his heart ceased. ‘It can be ahead of the curve, that doesn’t make it better than Grandmaster’s. There got to be shortcomings in this bodily refinement technique that in my perspective wouldn’t be worth the haste’. Though ego was somewhat involved, the fact of the matter is that if he could go back and choose, Zax would have still preferred to cultivate the slow, even incomplete, yet best, than third or second best regardless how easy and fast they were in comparison.

    “Are you satisfied? If not we can exchange pointers later. Infinite Transformations Altering Body’s third phase might not be better than the subsequent basic tempering the body receives from mist energy when Martial Mortal attains the fifth level, not to mention the whetting from the other superior techniques, but it has its own benefits that should not be underestimated”.

    Zax said nothing in response, nevertheless it was determined that later he will verbally accept Gid Chu’s offer, if anything, to examine how well he can match himself against someone comparable to fourth level Martial Mortal. As for avoiding Yurnal because of the commotion he made and the Black Core he was reluctant to give up, unless the reputed Sinister Chain’s Second Leader will suddenly show up, he will reflect over his options after the exchange.

    “How much of your information did you get from your hostage?”

    “’Prisoner’. We had no intention of giving her back. It was already implausible for Yurnal to grab her before Blue Sea’s Admiral interfered”. Allowing killing intent to ooze out, Gid Chu wanted for Zax to understand the kind of conclusion there is and will be for anyone from the five powers. “She just recently broke through, yet still compelled Yurnal to a desperate situation and took the lives of six members in the process”. He settled down and proceeded to both answer and explain. “Breaking a fourth level Martial Mortal required effort meticulous and radical. It wasn’t that eventually we could make her talk… we isolated her spirit, smashed her soul and amassed whatever we could before the fragments dissipated and her spirit moved on. If she had the resolve to suicide at the time her captivity was imminent, she would have got the chance to exhibit one last act of devotion. In the end she probably deluded herself thinking that her Admiral will save her, which is why you might as well say that she willingly provided us with information.

    “To your query, of all the things we know, perhaps seventy to eighty percent came from her”.

    “So much… are you certain of its reliability?”

    “Have you ever tortured someone’s soul? If your skills are up to the task, the disparity in soul cultivation isn’t significant and the subject did not cultivate a relevant soul technique, then distinguishing results won’t be as challenging as you may think. Would you like me to pour you a second cup?” Gid Chu collected his cup and saucer and got up from the chair, on his way for a refill of his apparently delicious coffee.

    “No”. Zax said and waited for him to return from the kitchen.

    “They like the flavor stronger here, in this part of the world. After getting used to it, finding a decent brand in the Western Continent, back home, even in the eastern and northern parts of this continent is practically hopeless”.

    “I’m fine”. Zax repeated to close of the topic of the coffee. “Why the five powers are a threat and not the immortals behind them? Say that we’ll uproot and exterminate anyone and everyone from the five powers, won’t the Immortals put aside their differences and come?”

    “You are taking the notion of their existence pretty good… It’s a good point. It was a problem that we, too, thought of, but then we extracted a soul fragment that gave us the solution. When the five powers found and arrived to the planet, the fifth level Martial Mortals who lead informed their subordinates, only those who originated from the same place as them and were and reach the fourth Martial Mortal’s level (see why big brother still in the dark?), that only upon completion of the excavation their Immortal leaders will ‘descend’. I suppose they want to swiftly clear what treasure our planet has, and to avoid prolong struggle agreed to come for it only after it would be found. Considering that thousands of years gone by yet other than their attitude toward New Earth’s natives, nothing changed in the workings of the five power nor they were ordered to expedite the excavation, we can assume that time is not of the essence for Immortal beings and therefore we have plenty of it to nurture an Immortal from our own as a backing. That means that if we do exterminate the five powers, we’ll need to do it before they could alert their Immortal leader so we’d actually have the sufficient time to prepare for them”.

    There was it, ‘Sinister Chain’s grand plan’. Zax thought. “Immortals… I’m capable of having the upper hand against third level Martial Mortals; it’s commonsense for me to start and aim higher, which is why I want to ask… Is ‘Immortal’ the name of the realm after Martial Mortal?” Though he knew that the Martial path leads to Immortality, to use the concept freely in his questions without letting Gid Chu suspecting how he knows about it, he had to play dumb for a bit.

    “No”. Gid Chu’s answer caught Zax by surprise.

    ‘Was he misled?’ Although his own knowledge was also limited, Zax was sure that the expert was fully candid in his messages.

    “Calling it ‘realm’ isn’t entirely incorrect, but a better term to call it would be ‘Second Stage’ of cultivation. The first one is Mortality, afterwards comes Immortality. Immortality is also divided to different levels, possibly realms, but this is a subject we know very little on. We primarily got from her the importance of the second realm’s six bottlenecks of insight and that for third realm cultivators to achieve Immortality they must pursue a pinnacle comprehension of an attribute. The first is a prerequisite for the success of the Martial path; the second is a requirement for ascension”.

    Zax sighed inwardly. ‘Maybe they don’t know more than me, but I was just lucky to receive the guidance of the expert. Ultimately joining a large faction, larger than yourself, is truly more beneficial than being a loner’. It was a fact he could not deny.

    “So that’s how it is…” He acted as if he was completely oblivious, for a while silent, seemingly contemplating a thought, an insight. “Can someone really make it, a human or a beast from New Earth, is there someone with the potential to reach Immortality and back those of us with linage from before the great immigration?”

    “There is, two actually. Big brother Ariel and ruler of Valgarel, Ozeyn”.

    “Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn?” The farther the conversation went the more incredulous certain portions of it sounded to Zax. It was actually due to the confident manner Gid Chu elaborated on each matter, but neither could be blamed. “My Master and Grandmaster told me that senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn are equally matched, or at least that is the common belief of New Earth’s experts. But should not senior Ariel be a fourth level Martial Mortal? The five powers not only have each fifth level Martial Mortal, their history, if everything you told me is true, is more abundant. Even if senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn indeed reach Immortality”, he wanted to say “Evolutionary Ascension”, but Gid Chu did not mention it so he picked his words carefully. “It’s likely that each of the five powers will have by then an additional Immortal or more in their ranks. Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn won’t be able to face alone eight Immortals and do you even know how far the current Immortal powerhouses behind the five powers are in their Immortal path?”

    “There are no bulletproof plans, Zax”. Gid Chu emphasized. “Of course we, I, want to cover all aspects of our plan, but not all issues are solvable and to deal with them, to minimize deficiencies, we sometimes need to place bets on ourselves and be prepared to make a sacrifice”.

    “That sounds to me like glorying needless suicide. Why can’t we let the five powers excavate what they want and leave-”

    “Who said that they would leave?” Gid Chu interrupted. “Forget for a moment that they might drain this planet for all of its valuable resources for cultivation, why they populated the planet if not for assimilating it? There is only one occasion in which Nature’s decree that ‘the strongest rules and the week cannot complain for being subjugated’ can be disregarded, and that is when the weak’s life is threatened and there is nothing else to lose. That is our situation. We are oppressed, confined and vulnerable. There is no freedom in compliance, nor opportunity to forge our own path. And it’s not just we who are native to this Earth for countless generations. Those the five powers used to populate the surface of the Earth might be next in line, but in the same boat”.

    “So there is no other choice than objecting them…”

    “Exactly, and fighting back, that is the fate of those at the edge of the wooden board. Otherwise, death”.
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/
    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 23 – Top Twenty



    “Death”. When the word finally uttered from Zax’s mouth, it became a dogged echo in the unbending atmosphere Gid Chu laid out. “Recently I detect the recurrence of dark clouds hovering above my head, and you know what, senior Gid? Always, when they come, I feel my familiarity with the concept a little bit growing, and always, when they pass, they are followed by marvelous changes”.

    Zax evoked in his mind all of his near death experiences since arriving to Ercas Mir. Not all were remunerative as he recounted them, but those that really pushed him to “the edge of the wooden board”, sooner or later, intentionally or not, ensued indispensable reimbursements for his Martial path.

    “I can get along with your plans, but, and forgive this junior for his rudeness, I intend to live a long and prosperous life. So whatever task that requires betting and sacrificing for the ‘greater good’, ‘better future’ or whatever else you have in mind, count me out”. He had enough stupidity to lead him astray and back and it was about time to tune down his recklessness. Taking risks was acceptable, perhaps unavoidable, but unless he is in an impasse, not blindly.

    That aside, he already did have irreconcilable enmity with two high command members from the five powers and was with mind to kill members of the Blessed Army for the smallest grievance, should they cross him.

    “Let’s hope it won’t come to it”. Gid Chu dissolved the stiffening, malicious atmosphere; only thoughts of the five powers could have breed in him, and smiled. Placing his cup on the saucer, he motioned with his hand and an emerald bottle of wine appeared in his hand, out of his spatial ring. Using his Sublime Soul Sense he telekinetically like retrieved from the kitchen’s cabinet two same looking cups as the coffee cups. “Since all been cleared, all for both of us to reach an understanding, we should drink to our pact”. He removed the cork and poured the red liquid to both cups before serving one to Zax.

    “This is Blood Red Grapes wine!” The scent aroused nostalgic memories of his time in the first Savage Cave and the story of how three Supreme Rulers symbolize their brotherhood and sisterhood unification before all of Kingdom Earth.

    By Zax’s reaction Gid Chu could guess the latter part of what he was thinking. “You know why we picked Blood Red Grapes? Experts of high class family in our home below the ground consider Blood Red Grapes wine as the best ‘poor man’s wine’ because after fermentation even mid class and low class people who don’t cultivate can drink it, if they can afford it. Like this we could reach the cultivators’ population who often drink it more than any other wine and the non cultivators’ population who break open a bottle only at the most special of occasions”.

    Zax accepted his cup and said nothing about Gid Chu’s reasoning. He did not remember anyone in his family ever drinking Blood Red Grapes wine, special occasion or not. Maybe since the time of the Supreme Rulers’ pact to his childhood and today, mid class and low class citizens of Kingdom Earth, at a point, resigned themselves to the more affordable selection…?

    Finishing their cups, Gid Chu forced the cork back on the bottle and returned it to his spatial ring. “Our custom is for every cause for celebration we drink one cup”. He did not resume drinking his coffee. Its flavor and the wine’s do not mix well. “You know the truth about the five powers on this planet and the three powers commanding them from space. Do you want to know now their purpose? What takes them so long to excavate?”

    Unlike the coffee, Zax’s taste buds were more inclined toward the sweet with sharp spiciness wine, so much that he slightly regretted the one cup rule. “What resources there are in Ercas Mir and New Earth that they are after?”

    “Many, yet all they can do without but one, their main goal, the inheritance of a super expert”.

    TUMP!

    Zax’s heart beat in his chest while his mind reeled by a turmoil startling thoughts. No. He did not consider the nearly at his grasp Legacy Of The One’s Path, left by the expert claimed to be at the pinnacle of Immortality, being the attraction of the apparently alien invaders. How many years passed since the expert was subdued by the Core of the Plain that made this planet? He could not imagine even those unaffected by the flow of time waiting so long. ‘It can’t be, they don’t know about Legacy Of The One’s Path. It was the five powers who discovered the planet, and they are led by Martial Mortals. Worst case scenario the Immortals behind them should only be aware that there is some Immortal’s inheritance on this planet and nothing of its content’.

    While every instance of shock that accompanied this lengthy sitting seemed long and laborious, for someone like Zax it was as fleeting as a blink of an eye. Even his physical reactions were gone before a drop of sweat could form on his temples. Nevertheless, he was sitting in front of a no lesser expert, which he only managed to deceive due to his cultivated control over his body.

    “A super expert? Another Immortal?” He kept his pretense.

    Gid raised his hand for a pause. “The inheritance of an Immortal, that’s all we… she knew. The leaders of the five powers personally examined everything found in the excavations and the Immortal powerhouses will get involve only after the inheritance, or a specific part of it, will be discovered. So we can only assume they are still searching and can just look onto the places they excavate at”.

    “Senior Gid, the Immortal’s inheritance, is it possibly that it’s at the Savage Caves?”

    “Earthly Crater, Down Ocean, Demirva Ridge, Northern Trident Peaks, third Savage Cave… these are the most probable places where the inheritance might be located. But at the same time, these places are the most dangerous on Earth”. After exhibiting full transparency, even as his mood became pleasant again, Gid Chu chose to refer to the planet as it was for their ancestors and not by the name the five powers gave it. “Some are occupied by Overlord Deformed Beings and the rest are a basin of natural disasters. The leaders of the five powers are careful and patient with those places; however they clearly evaluated each of their steps. The expeditions they send, particularly to Down Ocean, may progress slowly but they got a steady pace”.

    And that was it, the truths and purpose of the five powers, which his senior Ariel wanted him to find out in his stead.

    “What can I do?” At last, Zax sought a new goal to pursue, an active role against the threat behind the five powers.

    “A butt load of things, depending on your skills”. Gid Chu’s meaning was obvious.

    “Take me where it won’t be a problem for me to go all out”. He pulled himself up. “Senior Gid, please don’t mind this junior’s recurring rudeness, but I would like to test how I fare compared to fourth level Martial Mortal or someone as strong, also, see what good is the third best bodily refinement technique”.

    Gid Chu stood up. “In his animalistic form, although I cultivated to his level, Yurnal is a bit stronger than me. Regrettably, as wonderful as Infinite Transformations Altering Body is, I was iota from recovering my dantian after reaching the third realm. Perhaps only at its later levels or next stage of Immortality I will be able to use mist again”.

    An invisible force opened the door to the cottage. “Might as well test your speed first”.

    The two of them vanished without creating the slightest undulation in the air.

    Zax followed Gid Chu’s back as the gap between them gradually, very slowly, was expanding. Running alongside his before arriving to their destination seemed unattainable. Of course, should he utilize dark attribute energy he will overtake him easily, especially after his earning in the Earthly Crater, but all Gid Chu used was his physical traits, so how could he resort to any other means?

    They ran south east for an hour and a half, crossing deserts, then forests and great rivers before reaching to a halt in an opened barren land that stretched to a length shy from a thousand kilometers.

    Zax glance at Gid Chu who kept his back to him while above them stars were brilliantly shining.

    “Here is an example to the black heart of the five powers’ Luminous Church. Do you want to guess the name of this place?” Seeing as he was not answering, Gid Chu said it himself. “’Rockwell’. Sounds familiar, the man you know also by this name thought you were listening when that woman, Beatriz, demeaned him and his kin for their belief”.

    Zax had a vague memory of this incident in Demirva Ridge. It happened right before Rockwell apologized for deciding to abandon him and escape with Riv. He did not blame them, nor was he much lucid to put feelings into it, at the time.

    “This land of Rockwell is bordering the outskirts of Luminous Church’s territory, Onzengvas, where it is forbidden to worship Gods other than their own The Almighty. Those who lived here in the past were groups of immigrants wanting to leave the harsh desert conditions of the center of the continent. The beasts and humans who chose to settle here done so to hide the fact that they could not abandon their faiths and were still practicing their varying religious ritualism. Of course, the fanatics of the Luminous Church were aware of the polytheism evolving in the periphery of their territory, but when it began they were preoccupied with other matters to deal with it. Hence in the span of hundreds of years Rockwell was the only place in Onzengvas where more Gods than one existed”.

    Gid Chu turned and gestured at the soil. “One day. One day was all it took for hundreds of thousands to perish as tribute, not for a group of Gods, just one”. Purple electric attribute fluctuations amassed in the air and crackle sounds ensued. “Here is a fine place for battle and war. Peace is not what the dead of this land want”.

    “I realized on the way, even if my refinement technique is better, the disparity still too big, yet I insist. Let me first see how far I can get relying entirely on physical strength and bodily competence”.

    “You underestimate Infinite Transformations Altering Body. Even if we had the same bodily cultivation you would still by a fledgling with over the head aspirations”. He dispersed the electric attribute fluctuations and entered a stance with straight back, left foot front, right foot pointing right and both hands down, front and back, with open palms upwards.

    In contrast, Zax simply raised his fists like a boxer. The bodily maneuvers he was developing with his insight to the dark attribute were his Martial art. However, he will not be able to employ their full extant without also stirring the dark attribute worldly energy.

    Zax threw a left hook, but his hand was not clenched into a fist, rather, it was more familiar to a beast’s paw with fingers as claws.

    SWISH!

    Gusts wind blades formed merely from physical strength. They were not driven by windy attribute, nor were they the essence of the attack. The palm and claw hook were.

    Gid Chu countered with his left hand. Knocking Zax’s hook from below, he actually absorbed the kinetic forces in the collision and flicked a back hand strike to his forehead.

    With his left hand shoved up, Zax reached with his right hand, another open palm, to meet the back of Gid Chu’s left hand.

    BANG!

    Zax felt every bone in his right hand shakes, on the verge of breaking to thousands and thousands of pieces.

    “You can decently channel kinetic energy. Furthermore, I borrowed the strength of your strike. You might say that as far as physical durability goes, yours is at the top twenty in all of Earth”.
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 24 – Shitty Brat



    BANG!

    Gid Chu kicked Zax’s abdomen, sending him flying roughly two kilometers before losing altitude and crushing.

    BOOM!

    Zax stomped and pounced.

    BOOM!

    Gid Chu fractured the ground and launched. “It’s futile. Your cultivation is too low than mine and your technique is cruder. You can’t bring me to reveal the true meaning of Infinite Transformations Altering Body like that”.

    “My technique, bodily maneuvers, indeed lacking. To bring them to full display I must use dark attribute”. Zax confessed in a deep tone, yet his countenance brimmed with excitement. “My Master’s and Grandmaster’s bodily maneuvers, though… see how decent my control on kinetic energy is!”

    He noticed it in their exchange. Gid Chu could absorb and manipulate the Kinetic Force discharged in his strike, but when it originated from his own strike, it was much milder, as his technique was on the verge of comprehending it and then branched to a direction, different from Zax’s.

    “Senior Gid, if you dare, accept this punch head on and then tell me my overall ranking among bodily cultivators”.

    Detecting air currents spiraling around the incoming Zax, Gid Chu’s mien turned brooding as he sensed something he could not properly appraise radiating from his junior.

    “It’s named… Soar With The Storm!”

    Gid Chu received the fist with his forearm.

    BOOM!

    The explosion was so loud his sensitive ears could not hear the cracking sounds echoing from his arm.

    ‘It’s broken!’ A trace of astonishment was distinguishable on his face, right before he could not anymore suppress the force of the collision’s impact and got pushed back nearly a hundred meter while trying to put up a resistance with his footing.

    A dust cloud rose from the two scorched lanes stretched on the ground. Zax squinted to see through it.

    “Was that it?” Gid Chu’s curious voice penetrated the dust cloud. “The fist used to defeat Zechariah and Linor in the Martial competition?”

    ‘His arm…’ Zax was preoccupied with gauging Gid Chu’s condition than answering.

    While his sleeve was completely torn, Gid Chu’s forearm that blocked the punch was ten times the size of its normal appearance. Its skin had a yellow luster and its muscles definition clear to the smallest detail.

    “Congratulations, junior Zax. Whether it was the notorious fist or not you managed to compel me into revealing Infinite Transformations Altering Body’s distinctive execution. Arm of the Golden Steel Behemoth”. He swung his arm back. “Show me this punch once more”. This time he intended to offensively counter Soar With The Storm.

    ‘He barely suffered injuries…‘ From the defined muscles of the giant arm, Zax could perceive a slight depression. Before, upon contact, he felt the throb ensuing from the fracture in Gid Chu’s forearm. Now they were on a course for a second collision and it appeared that the fifth step of Kinetic Force could not leave lasting damage. ‘And he just going to use this arm for a regular fist?’ He could not make up anything special in the Golden Steel Behemoth’s arm other than the animalistic trait of its build.

    BOOM!

    The two fists connected and Zax’s was only big enough to hit Gid Chu’s middle finger. It had an elastic feel to it, which nullified thirty percent of the Kinetic Force, spreading it to the rest of the arm, and overpowering the remaining seventy percent by sheer physical strength.

    Zax drew his arm and bent backwards, releasing Soar With The Storm with a kick up. In the current form of his arm, Gid Chu could not redirect his attack or evade it.

    Zax’s foot hit below Gid Chu’s wrist, but instead of feeling solid bone and muscles, his leg kept rising, sinking into the arm.

    “Armored Squid’s Prime Tentacle”. Gid Chu announced as if intentionally hinting on the theme. His yellow, giant arm lengthened, fingers merging and curved to a peg shape, hardening and graying as the rest of the arm turning pale green and soft.

    “You can reconstruct your body!” Zax gathered from the name of Gid Chu’s bodily refinement technique that it can manipulate the shape of its practitioner but he did not take to heart that it would be to this degree. It looked to his as if Gid Chu’s entire arm turned to a legit tentacle.

    Gid Chu’s Prime Tentacle absorbed the Kinetic Force even better than it was nullified by the Golden Steel Behemoth’s arm, expelling eighty percent of it through the pores on the upper side of the tentacle.

    The tentacle wrapped around Zax, it could not throw a punch at its opponents like the Golden Steel Behemoth’s arm, but it sure could squeezed the life of them.

    Zax had a short window to get free before the squeeze will completely restrain his movements.

    “Ah!” He condensed the Kinetic Force of Soar With The Storm between his navel area and lower dantian and unleashed as a pulse. For a fraction of second the force of the pulse pushed the tentacle around him, allowing him the space jump from its tenacity.

    SLASH!

    The pointy edge of the peg left a deep cut on Zax’s back. It could have pierced him back to front, but that was not the purpose of the fight.

    Ignoring the pain, Zax retreated several hundred meters from Gid Chu, by the time their eyes met his back was healed with only the stains of blood to indicate that it was ever injured.

    “Big brother Ariel has the best comprehensive mind I ever met and even he cannot fathom the insights which led Yurnal into developing this bodily refinement technique”. Gid Chu whipped and his tentacle arm returned to normal. “Each commendable bodily refinement has characteristics unique of its own. I dare say that in all of Earth there is no technique that enhance healing factor, strength and durability like Kartion’s Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement or a profound blood manipulation technique like Elijah’s Scarlet Armor. Infinite Transformations Altering Body is several grades lower on both fronts, but as far as transformation of the body’s skin, muscles, bones and so forward… is concerned, it’s second to none!”

    “I was too cocky”. Zax did not mind admitting. His ego was not interested anymore in a fight solely based on bodily cultivation. “But I wonder how I would have coped if my body was just a little bit more tempered. In a battle without mist energy or attribute energy, you must be consuming tremendous vitality to transform and maintain the change”.

    “There is a downside to everything. Regardless of how much vitality I spend, transforming doesn’t harm my body, while it’s apparent that you had to go through a lot for your body to use this level of kinetic energy at liberty”.

    All bodily refinement techniques have a measure of proficiency in kinetic energy, but it is the characteristics of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement which corresponded most perfectly with it. The rest have to be cultivated to a higher level, in contrast, which is a waste a time for their practitioners, otherwise they are not able to withstand the rampant Kinetic Force.

    “It’s my loss”. Zax was not dissatisfied. His opponent cultivation was much higher. Repulsive heaviness manifested around him. “Now let’s add to the mix our attainments in the worldly attributes”. Black aura shone in the sphere of influence of the gravitational force generated from the swallowing property.

    “Bet everything you got on one hit, no point in prolonging an exhibition”. It also would have been careless of them to make it a battle of attrition, but Zax got the point without delving to further explanation.

    “Everything, eh?” Zax mused and looked up. “Follow me. At the moment I’m not sure how destructive my power is and whether I can prevent it from spreading”. There were herds of Deformed Beings and Wild Beasts he did not want to be caught in the crossfire. Therefore he ascended, heading above the clouds and higher.

    “Isn’t it a sight?” Underneath the soles of Gid Chu’s shoes, purple glow crackled. He and Zax were still in the range of troposphere, but could nevertheless see the mesmerizing arching skyline. “The higher you go it’s even more beautiful. I attempted ascending to space once, however beyond the thermosphere gathering an attribute worldly energy is thousand times harder”.

    “Mm”. Zax nodded, although he already found satisfaction from attaining his contemporary prospects. Of course, that did not stop him from aspiring for greater horizons. He shifted his gaze back to Gid Chu.

    Dark attribute energy filled every limb and fiber, converged and overflowed thirty three spots. His body grew taller, muscular, black and shining like obsidian. Getting to three meters big, his increasing physique halted. Thirty five bridges manifested between the spots across his body, connecting them and drawing, one might say “swallowing”, the converged, overflowing dark attribute energy.

    Zax began to shrink, from three meters to two and a half, smaller till he finally returned to his original size, including slimmer figure.

    “This is my Dark Titan Storm form, second stage, to be precise”. He upgraded it along with the insight he obtained in the Earthly Crater. The immense offensive and defensive capabilities were promoted, but it was a small margin to the speed he successfully retained and improved. He also felt a lot more at ease as there was no strain like in the bulky and coarse first stage.

    “A physique of dark attribute”. Gid Chu’s eyes gleamed as his lips stretched to a happy smile. “Great minds think alike”. Purple electric attribute fluctuations amassed again.

    BOOM!

    Purple lightning emerged out of nowhere and struck Gid Chu. From pained, his expression gradually turned somber, intense, pensive, calm, peaceful, content, happy and lastly excited.

    “Is he…!” Zax voiced in disbelief.

    Gid Chu’s complexion became violet. His body twice as tall, though a more proper word to describe it, perhaps, was “long” as it seems out of proportion with its width.

    His hair turned into strands of pinkish electric currents.

    He raised his hand, or maybe it was always up close to his face? Zax was uncertain as it was one moment down and the next up. ‘Such speed…’

    “It’s my loss”. Now Gid Chu was the one to confess, his voice sounding static. “Your understanding of the dark attribute surpassed mine in the electric attribute”.

    Yes, with further examination Zax could detect things in Gid Chu’s electric form that gave him the impression of imperfections. The bulging veins on his face, neck and arm were an indication of how difficult it was for him to sustain the form, despite how pleased he looked.

    “All roads lead to the same destination…” Gid Chu laughed at himself, at Zax? “This is my original technique, Lightning Marvel. If I stay still I can hold it to ten seconds, should I make a move, one second. I can’t, not yet, transform my body in its current state, but I did use Infinite Transformations Altering Body as the template for it. Since you don’t possess the same bodily faculties, I assume you developed it by your dark attribute’s insights, tsk!”

    “One second. I can’t keep up with you even in this second stage. Come, I’ll do the greeting”. Zax spoke in a mollified voice, yet a non cultivator could only hear explosion coming out of his mouth. It was due to his insufficient control of the Dark Titan Storm form even in its new stage.

    He positioned himself for a punch, much like he did at the acme of his fight against Zechariah and Linor in the Martial competition.

    “Stinky junior”. Gid Chu snorted. Does he not know that it is the junior who should come seek the senior?!

    He took a step, becoming a purple lightning, and struck.

    Zax only saw a flash, but it sufficed for him to shoot his right fist in a straight punch.

    BANG!

    Bright, multicolored light lit the sky.

    A figure fell, smothered in smoke. It was dark and right before hitting the ground, light brown.

    A figure descanted. First looking purple, than clad earth colors tattered robe and short black hair. Blood spilled from his mouth and a fist size deep depression was at the center of his chest.

    Looking down at the passed out fallen figure in the crater it created, he spoke. “Stinky? No, no, no! Shitty brat! You should have told me that your fists carry the weight of a fourth level Martial Mortal!”
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 25 – Bone And Muscle Transformation



    "Little freak, are you awake?" Gid Chu sat on a boulder inside the small crater Zax's crash created. After exchanging pointers, he felt more liberated with the junior and comfortably shed the excessively cordial, elder demeanor. He was not feeling like much of a worthy elder anyway with their strength not that far apart.

    "Yes". Zax replied and got into a sitting position.

    "All lasting damage healed after less than ten minutes, while my chest still throbs with bursts of pain". Gid Chu said miserably. "If Kartion and Yurnal could share and integrate the insights…" He shook his head. That was asking for the impossible as it was already immensely difficult for the two to develop their respected techniques to their current state.

    "Did I exaggerate?" Zax asked apologetically. Understanding from Gid Chu that he has not fully healed, yet, while was back to peak condition.

    "It's my fault for not taking seriously Rockwell's and Riv's report, though with this level of strength I'm not sure why you could not dominate Beatriz, unless…" He preferred to stop talking. For this junior's strength to advance so quickly was partly as a result of luck and partly due to ability capable of disheartening the best and brightest of the same generation. He could only recall one other junior's name with comparable skills.

    They both stood up.

    "In the Earthly Crater I was enlightened and consequently came up with the second stage of my Dark Titan Storm".

    "Let me rephrase, your luck can also drive a person mad! How long have you been above the surface, and yet you still experienced two fortuitous opportunities the rest of us require years by the hundreds and thousands to come by".

    "It did not come easy".

    "You are alive".

    Zax closed his mouth. In this discussion he knew he has no right to complain.

    "So how do you think I can do against Yurnal?"

    "You better not break the soul seal. I already told you that he is a bit stronger than me, but that's not the problem. If you were faster, not by a lot, then you might have had the chance to escape from him with most of your body intact".

    Zax frowned. The third Black Core… does he really has to restrain himself for a while longer before taking it?!

    "Don’t be dejected. Though Yurnal has strange affection and belief for the object inside, he keeps it for his son to use in the future. I gather that if you'll present him a fair trade, there is a chance that he'll accept it".

    'A fair trade…' Zax mused. Depending on how much Yurnal know about the Black Core, it can be complicated obtaining something he will be interested in exchange as its equivalent. 'An Overlord's Pure Core?'

    With heavy heart he grabbed the spatial ring from his pocket and threw it to Gid Chu. "Keep it. I have no reason to stay, so give it back to him for me. Also, tell him that I won't give up on the thing inside, though, if he plans for that baby boy to use it I don't need to be in a hurry".

    "Smart thinking". Gid Chu smiled. Yurnal never told him what so special about the black sphere inside, other than claiming it as the catalyst for him inventing Infinite Transformations, Altering Body. Eventually he assumed it to be a Black Core or something of the sort Yurnal discovered in Valgarel and had yet to figure how to properly use. "In my opinion it won't be long before you'll have the competence to negotiate with him on equal ground".

    "Am I that strong?" Zax laughed, choosing not to let misery affect him.

    "Do you want to know? Your place among the top hundred experts on the planet".

    "Tell me".

    "Not including the Overlords, first in the list are, naturally, the five leaders of the five powers with the strongest being Horn Kikon of the Violet Scaled Troops, followed by Golden Desert Fort's General Beking, Blessed Army's General Logan, Luminous Church Archbishop Silternjan and lastly Blue Sea's Admiral Hamumni. Then, after them, the only other fifth level Martial Mortal on the planet, Mercenary Association's Fifth Ranker mercenary Sheldon. Moving to the fourth level Martial Mortals: Valgarel's ruler Ozeyn and by a small, easily covered disparity, big brother Ariel. Then there are forty or so names that are unimportant, not including mine and Yurnal, of course. Finally, there is you, ranked at the top fifties".

    "Top fifties…" Despite it being a great achievement for someone at his age, and the list of names was not that long, relative to the number of experts in both Kingdom Earth and Ercas Mir, it was not fulfilling like the arching skyline view. Rather, irrefutable testimony of how week he still is.

    "You don't appreciate it?"

    "Are there third level Martial Mortals ranked lower than me?"

    "No".

    Zax sighed. "Then I can accept it".

    "Are you doing anyone a favor by giving your acknowledgement?" Gid Chu criticized. "In terms of age the gap between you and those ranked closed to you separated by at least hundred years. The leader of the five powers, thousands. And luck. You got to be born at the golden age of cultivation, with thousands of roads and guidelines to show you the right direction, paved and forged by the painstaking trial and error of magnanimous elders who could just as well keep their knowledge to themselves".

    "And they have my deepest respect". Zax said candidly to avoid any misconceptions. "But when I think of traversing farther, past the Mortal stage and unto Immortality, I cannot help but feel that my current accomplishments are deficient".

    "That's… not a wrong way to look at it, but you risk the chance of exhausting yourself before ever realizing fulfillment. On this matter I can only advice you to take a break once in a while… the Eastern Continent is beautiful, with all kinds of remarkable places and communities. When possible, mingle in the urban population. You might end up relieving yourself from tensions you weren't aware of".

    “I plan on that”. Zax averted his gaze as his attention was captured by a number of figures he would like to share the world above ground with. He glanced back at Gid Chu. “Till then, is there something you want me to do? I noticed the gathering of many experts when I journeyed to the Eastern Continent. Is something important, like in Demirva Ridge, taking place?”

    “That unexpected occasion…” Gid Chu recalled, wearing thoughtful countenance. “Do you remember the two juniors accompanied by Beatriz in the ridge?”

    “Yes”. How could Zax forget the innocent looking lassie and arrogant young fellow who he used to threat Sister Beatriz?

    “They are a postulant and an Ascended Elite (an exceptional prodigy) of Luminous Church and were brought over by Cardinal (fifth level Martial Mortal) directly from the Holy Palace. Considering the timing of their arrival and immediate trip to Demirva Ridge, we came to discover that the Cardinal was acting as a protective escort, rather than being the leading man”.

    “When I consumed the dark attribute’s essence, the guy I think you mean is the ‘Ascended Elite’ was seriously injured. Is he dead?” Learning that His Young Eminence was actually a prominent figure made Zax wonder if he is now being hunted by a fifth level Martial Mortal nanny, although to his recollection Sister Beatriz and Sister Iaura did help him escape death.

    “It would have been nice, but no. A few of our members are stationed in an approximately close residence to the Grand Abode. From their sources over there they heard that the Ascended Elite survived and doing well, which is reasonable considering the astonishing resources kept in the Grand Abode. That being said about the health of the Ascended Elite, there is a bizarre matter about him. It was expected that after the Event in the ridge he, the postulant would return to the Holy Palace. Not only did they stay, there are sighting of the Ascended Elite and the postulant touring Onzengvas and the southern region of the continent. Because of that, it’s an assumption and also the important part, the Cardinal decided to hold Elite Tryouts for all the experts around the world”.

    “A test for joining Luminous Church?”

    “Yes, in the Holy Palace. The Elite Tryouts take place every fifty to hundred years, depend which of the five power hold them. They are where the chosen ten of Kingdom Earth’s and Valgarel’s Martial competitions will face the second and last phase of the screening to the elite groups of the five powers. Experts from above the ground are also invited to partake, but of course it is organize for separate age groups so there won’t be unfair advantages. Top ten contenders who will exhibit best talent and potential would be received, this time, by the Holy Palace while the eleventh to hundredth runners will have the chance of joining the elite of Luminous Church here on Earth with the possibility, and maybe in the future have the opportunity of going to the Holy Palace”.

    ‘If my path did not hang on collecting the Black Cores and I wasn’t one bottleneck of insight away from for qualifying for Legacy Of The One’s Path than I would have had a lot to lamented about right now…’ Zax ruminated. “Is the absence Yarnus and the many other members of the chain due to the Elite Tryouts? Do you hope to plant someone in the Holy Palace?”

    “Nothing of the sort. There are complicated oaths that are being forced on those who join for such lucrative positions in the five powers. Unless you really intend on being loyal to them or attempt mist detonation, best you forgo the idea of joining”. Gid Chu refuted. “If not for the Elite Tryouts their mission indeed would have been impossible, however it’s in a location much more distanced”. Knowing that he was dragging, Gid Chu directly got to the point. “Yurnal and twenty more members are in a mission to assault Blue Sea’s Deep Sea Navy in the Zenvir Ocean. With Luminous Church, for the time being, having two fifth level Martial Mortals on the continent, Admiral Hamumni, who serves the same Immortal powerhouse as General Beking, relocated to the Golden Desert Fort, temporarily”.

    “Than this is a golden chance to create ruckus for Blue Sea!” If fourth level Martial Mortals are the only menace, Zax wanted to attempt an operation at the heart of one of the five powers. If anything, he could sneak and find something good the steal. There was no need to go as far as causing mayhem.

    “You are offering?” Gid Chu smiled. “Don’t presume that by joining Sinister Chain you can instantly take part in any of our missions. Besides, this is a group mission, I won’t have running around solitarily, regardless how much you promise to contribute or not interfere. Even if you’d agreed to work together, you are still a new member who the rest need to assess to satiate their doubts before putting their trust in you”.

    Zax grimaced. Who knows what treasures he could find at the only power to rule an entire ocean?! “Then, if I’m not needed-”

    “Oh, I didn’t say that. The Elite Tryouts, I want you to register as a candidate, make an impression, and before being made to take an oath, get something for me from the Grand Abode”.

    “Senior Gid, do you want me to also ask Archbishop Silternjan for his blessing and see how that sister, Beatriz, is doing?” For knowing he will throw his life by going there and yet still asking from him without elaborating how should do it, ticked off Zax, which is why he intentionally responded like that.

    “It’s merely an identity issue. Here”, Gid Chu retrieved from his spatial ring a communicator and gave it to Zax. “Check out the saved data in its memory. There are two things that should be of use to you. The first is all kinds of computers and programing guides. It would not take you a long time to memorize the essential stuff, but you should find a place to practice. The second is a bodily technique created by both me and Yurnal. Learn it and don’t pass it to anyone! Its name is ‘Bone And Muscle Transformation’, a solution to your identity problem”.

  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 26 – Reinventing Oneself



    “It’s good that your body is so adequately cultivated. It would have been a waste of time teaching you the first segment of Infinite Transformations, Altering Body. Then again, you wouldn’t have been here otherwise”. Gid Chu remarked. He watched Zax holding the earring shaped communicator and expounded on the device. “It’s not your typical violet stone”.

    It was round and its size tinier, which meant that it had a short range, so how could Zax think of it as better than the one he already had?

    “Wear it. I removed the restriction so be sure to activate them after instilling your soul energy”.

    Zax followed the instruction. Placed his old communicator in his spatial ring, at the moment he could only commune with Fengar and his other associates through it, should he get back to the Western Continent.

    The instant the communicator activated, Zax’s mind reeled in surprise. “This range… An A grade communicator! It covers a third of the continent!”

    “It’s not a regular A grade communicator. For safety it was modified so its frequency would be impossible to decrypt, therefore its range somewhat short. Anyway, search for folder ‘BMT’, don’t move”. Gid Chu tapped Zax’s forehead with his finger, “It’s the formation password”. He explained so Zax will not block the stream of soul energy. “Copy and channel it to the folder”.

    Zax was about to retort, ask Gid Chu how he expects of him to erect it without prior practice. Then, the complicated formation sent to his sea of consciousness deconstructed, revealing its entire layout and rebuilt itself. ‘So it’s only a shape’. Zax understood. There were no insights into the way of formations that had to be comprehended before using the one sent to him, only a well deceiving, complex structure with a few hidden features.

    He opened the folder and looked at the file titled “Bone And Muscle Transformation” inside it. In an instantly a flood of information streamed to his sea of consciousness, anatomy pictures of the human body with detailed concentrations, further explanations, elaborated applications and more.

    “This is incredible!” Zax got excited. Aside from the bodily maneuvers, which had a different goal, he never viewed a bodily technique nor considered the manner in which it can be compiled. It was not mystical or had the first impression supernatural vibe like soul and mist technique possessed. It was more… “Realistic” some would have probably said before the discovery of Earth’s Cores. It literally looked like a section of an anatomy book – at least in a first glance.

    “Maybe this is the correct way!” A spark of insight illuminated his eyes as he immediately thought of the results of implementing additional focus on the overall anatomy of the body to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, beyond its three principles of Pain, Destruction and Rehabilitation. ‘Too difficult’. He groaned inwardly. ‘I can sense every cell and fiber in my body, control it, the way it is, perfectly, but I don’t really understand it. Mm?’ He halted the flow of thoughts as he skimmed through the information of the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique and realized something.

    “This technique can only alter a small margin of the body”.

    “What, did you think that you would be able to transform your body like I do? Let me tell you something, transforming the body isn’t as easy as it looks, regardless of the technique. Infinite Transformations Altering Body is the best in the field and even I had to spend long periods of time learning and thoroughly understanding the anatomy of the Armored Squid and the Golden Steel Behemoth”. Gid Chu sneered. “Besides, this is not the Infinite Transformations Altering Body bodily cultivation technique. It’s a technique the me and Yurnal devised so members who aren’t interested or did not have an affinity to bodily cultivation technique could master to disguise themselves by only cultivating the first flexibility segment. Since your cultivation technique isn’t inferior, you can skip the first segment and start right away to learn the Bone And Muscle Transformation”.

    “For disguise… it should suffice”. Zax had to admit that his expectations were unreasonable.

    “It would. You don’t use mist energy to conceal your true self, so there aren’t fluctuation. As long as your blood isn’t being matched, not even those from the Martial competition’s top ten who were recruited by Luminous Church or Beatriz, who know you face, will be able to recognize you”.

    “I suppose. But it will take me a long time to master it to a satisfactory level. Half a year, if I won’t let anything else to distract me”. Zax could tell that the requirements of the Bone And Muscle Transformation were not low. On the contrary, it seems that he will have to compensate the essential lack of flexibility by reconstructing the alterations in his body.

    “It’s enough. The preliminaries of the Elite Tryouts will last about a year and there are still more than two weeks before they start. As long as you’ll eventually appear and give a tolerably rowdy performance, they will give you a chance“.

    “And then? Even if I’ll fool them by disguise, without relying on dark attribute energy, my physical strength can only compare to an Advanced or Peak second level Martial Mortal”.

    “You don’t have to worry about that. As long as you won’t disclose your cultivation technique, it is fine to dominate by physical strength alone; at most they will assume that your mist cultivation and attainment of the attribute are poor”. Gid Chu apparently thought of everything. “Let’s return”. He concluded and made the first step to leave. “You can stay in the cottage or find somewhere else. Zechariah and the others are staying in different hotels in the city. You can join them if you want to”.

    “What about the thing you want me to retrieve from the Grand Abode?“

    “It’s not a pressing issue. While practicing the Bone And Muscle Transformation, see folder ‘C#100’ about computing. You won’t be able to help me before understanding particular thing and you best learn everything, anyway”.

    ‘Computing…’ Zax examined the content of the folder. ‘Interesting’. He grew up in a fairly modern society and in cultivator’s time it was not long ago that he was playing computer games with his friends.



    It was early morning. Vendors began to open their shops for business and the streets were being cleaned before the early rush hour and the rise of the hot burning sun.

    Up front of Zax was a five storey building, ”Sanctum Oasis’s Desert Palace”, a hotel shrouded by a Soul Sense obstructing formation.

    ‘Linor, come out here’. Zax munched on a prickly pear he bought from a greengrocer in the price of a Splinter for two and contacted her via his new communicator. It was Gid Chu who told him where she and Zechariah are staying.

    Soon, a seemingly muscular figure of a woman unhurriedly exited the main entrance of the hotel. Looking at her, Zax wondered about the nature of love and how it could bring two people so different together.

    As a woman, ignoring her frame, Linor was not top beauty or anything close, and though Zax noticed that there were less than when he first met her, the scars on her face and arms were still obvious. As for her temperament, on the outside it was aloof, made it hard for others to approach her, when staring into her eyes a sense of sharp coldness would fill those beside her.

    Zechariah’s background was far different than hers. He was a son to one of the three biggest families in Kingdom Earth, descendant of Gid Chu himself. At a first glance, when he was being casual, he gave the air of an apprentice scholar. He was polite, affable and even possessed the qualities and descendant of a leader. It was only when he held his scythe that others would recall his exceptional talent as a Martial cultivator.

    ‘The fierce loner of the Basement Floor and the bright heir of a prominent family’. It sounded to Zax like a cliché love story, yet one that he will not dismiss. He missed Anet.

    “You became a member of the chain. Welcome”. Linor first greeted. Her tone not the warmest, but those how were familiar with her, knew that behind the veil laid by her profession was a kind woman. “What do you want?”

    “Gid Chu gave me a task, but it would take a while before I’ll be able to commence it. So until then, I want you to teach me your craft”.

    “You want to be an assassin?” Linor revealed no particular emotion, but Zax felt like was on the verge of turning away and leaving before he will get the chance to explain.

    “I need to disguise my identity. Senior Gid showed me the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique, but I also want to change my fighting technique, otherwise I’m afraid I’d still be found out”.

    “Is it about the Elite Tryouts?” Linor guessed.

    “Yes, to partake and later steal something from the Grand Abode”. Zax did not mind telling her. If Gid Chu him to keep it between the two of them he should have told him. Beside, after sharing the fighting stage a sense of fondness sprout in the hearts of at least him and Zechariah’s for the other two. It the type of fondness that Zax was willing to put his trust in, to a degree, and feel fine making a request from.

    “You are a brawler, if assassin is north than you are south, on the furthest side of the spectrum. I cannot help you”.

    “On the stage your technique didn’t differ from mine by that much”.

    “That because my attacks are eruptive and face to face I don’t find the reason to hide them. It also wasn’t an assassination”. She said as if it would have made a different.

    “Well than, Zechariah and I were lucky”. Zax joked to ease her outward temper. “I would still like you to teach me, if anything for future references. As for using it on the stage, I’ll decide what I want”.

    There was a mixture of appetizing aromas in the air. Bakeries took out the first trays of pastries from the ovens and put them on the display and even the hotel kitchen was in the midst of preparing the breakfast buffet.

    Though he was not feeling hunger nor had the need to eat, it has been a long time since Zax got to smell the scents of fresh food in the morning.

    “I want omelet, sausage, bread and sweet pastry for dessert”.

    “What?” Linor was confused.

    “I haven’t had a proper breakfast in a long, long time”. He passed her, heading to the hotel. ‘Zechariah, come down, I’m joining you and Linor for breakfast’.

    ‘There is half an hour before they open the dining room. By his voice Zechariah apparently was aware of Zax’s visit. ‘Wait at the lounge’.

    Seeing that Linor remained quiet and followed him, Zax assumed that she and Zechariah were communicating since his arrival.



    “Don’t worry, he is one of us”. Zechariah reassured the young woman and her baby boy, Savir and Yimin.

    Zax also did not expect to meet the pair. He thought Lenrah and Duthur accompanied them to their hotel. Nevertheless, he felt bad for frightening her, almost as much as he felt for not taking the Black Core. “Please accept my apology. I returned the spatial ring to senior Gid”.

    “Elder Master”. Zechariah interpreted.

    “Him”. Zax confirmed in a better mood than he thought he would have after learning so many disheartening from Gid Chu. “They are opening the dining room. Zechariah, will I have to pay?”

    “No, with the increasing number of cultivators stopping in the city, the hotels and inns make an exception for those have reservations and want to bring no more than one guest, but I suspect that they won’t make a scene even if a large group of cultivators will barge in”.

    “Can that happen?” Savir asked meekly.

    “Even if it will, no one will dare to bother you and Yimin”. Linor said firmly.

    Savir nodded, seemingly more confident beside Linor than Zechariah.



    They found a round table near the dining room’s glass wall, which viewed the fountain and small garden at the east wing of the hotel.

    The food was oily and fatty but extremely tasty. The ingredients were good but not as cultivation resources or stuff that only cultivator could consume since most of the diners were non cultivators.

    “Bone And Muscle Transformation…” Zechariah did not conceal his envy. He placed a mantle around the table so nobody would hear their conversation or be able to read their lips. “The first segment of Infinite Transformations, Altering Body is the minimal requirement for practicing this technique, but the shortest time it took someone, other than Elder Master and Second Master, to complete the first segment is seven years, the average is forty. You are really lucky for already being a bodily cultivator”.

    “I know, but it’s still not enough. I need to change my fighting style to avoid arousing the slightest suspicion; otherwise even applying kinetic energy to my attack will be dangerous”.

    “You can learn better things”. Linor insisted in a moderate tone.

    “It’s not about what I can learn, but whether if you are willing to teach me”. Zax persisted.

    “Fine then”. Zechariah declared, attracting an unhappy look from Linor. “You don’t need to initiate him. Show him basic techniques, teach him the principles and leave the rest for his perception”. He knew she hated to cut corners, so he simplified the request as compromise.

    “Okay”. Linor said after deep consideration. “I’ll give you one hour”.
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 27 – Returning Home
    Spoiler:



    They were flying above Sanctum Oasis city, Zax on his own while Linor and Zechariah utilized a duel technique in addition to extending their mist energy around Savir and Yimin. They intended to find a remote place for Linor to teach Zax, somewhere in the more secluded parts of the city.

    They landed on a patch of sandy land, where one to two storey houses stood vacant. Before being abandoned thoroughly, this distanced small neighborhood was recently part of the city’s slums. Nowadays, its former residents either moved to areas closer to the center of the city or converged in parts with more available public utilities. Now, unless the mayor’s office will sanction a project to reform the neighborhood, it is only a matter of time before some rich tycoon will demolish it and build a resort or something in its place.

    “We don’t have to use mist or attribute”. Linor stated, meaning that since they will not produce fluctuations, no attention would be drawn to their activity.

    She and Zax proceeded a bit farther, toward a square with a monument of some desert bird type beast. Meanwhile, Zechariah found a shade for him, Savir and Yimin under the cover of an old restaurant.

    “Lenrah said that she will come early noon to the hotel…” Savir reminded Zechariah. He and Linor were supposed to stay with her for the night and morning since Lenrah and Duthur had something to do which they did not elaborate in front of her.

    “We will be back by then”. Zechariah assured her. He used a gale of mist energy to cool the air. “You and nephew Yimin shouldn’t stay cramped day by day until Second Master’s return”. He retrieved a basket with foods and drinks Savir prepared before their departure.

    Although they did not expect anything amiss to happen if they left them at the hotel, Zechariah and Linor decided to bring the pair of mother and son along. She was the young human wife of their beast Second Master and he was the miraculous tot born from the unification of two species. Such birth was the rarest in Ercas Mir and unheard of in Kingdom Earth.

    From prior instances of both species’ child that were publicized, it came to light that should the mother be the human, the child will retain a human form until adulthoods and only then will develop mild animalistic features. As a cultivator, the child’s innate talent would be determined by the type of beast the father was.

    Should the mother be the beast, the child will look like a variant of her species and inherent her type as a beast. When the child will cultivate to human form he or she will share great similarities to their human father and his affinities on the Martial path, depend on his level of cultivation.

    Hence, after Zax brought attention to the former residence of the mother and child, Zechariah and Linor, as well as the other four, agreed to safeguard the pair from close proximity until Yarnus will return.

    “Follow my directions”. Linor told Zax and began to execute a set of foot technique.

    Zax mimicked her movement step by step as they both only used their physical strength. Though at first the form of her technique appeared basic, it took no time for Zax to discover that Linor did not provoke the most minuscule of ripples in the air. It was as if she moved through a parallel dimension with her reflection noticeable, only because she allows it. Another extraordinary aspect of her foot technique was its short distances speed. Despite having to maintain extreme softness when stepping on the ground, Zax felt that should he go all out it can produce speed equivalent to the best his body can reach with no other supplements.

    ‘But there are drawbacks in her foot technique’. Zax thought and believed that Linor also was aware. ‘The movements are too intricate. Keeping them up for a long period of time will put a strain on the leg muscles. Being a bodily cultivator is an advantage in this case. The other problem, or maybe I ask for too much…’ He knew. ‘Unlike the bodily maneuvers, even the old ones, this set of foot technique cannot contribute to cultivation and unless I wanted to change my style, I would have been better off sticking to the bodily maneuvers’.

    Twenty minutes passed and Linor finally halted, drenched in sweat.

    Looking at her from afar, Zechariah creased his brows. In the end she demonstrated for Zax one of her advanced technique, rather than something basic. ‘You are too considerate’. His countenance resumed its calmness. ‘There will come a day when I’ll make your inner self feel safe appearing on the outside’.

    “You are a bodily cultivator”. Linor told Zax as a matter of a fact. Unlike her, much less a drop a sweat, even his breathing was stable. “Practice this set of foot technique. It can be helpful both in and out of the stage”.

    “I will. Thanks”. Zax was pleased. Now that he was clear on two things, appearance and movement only one remained, assault. “Should I get a weapon?”

    “No”. Linor disgraced the gratitude and answered. She settled her breath and asked. “What do you think are the two most important things in my profession?” She refrained from saying anything related to the word “assassin”. Savir was peacefully sitting within an earshot and though he was still too young, Yimin could blabber his first word any moment.

    Zechariah erected a mantle and blocked its fluctuation from spreading.

    They could speak freely.

    “Not getting detected and making a swift kill”.

    “No”. Linor shook her head. “Staying alive. Assassins don’t die for others’ reasons or causes, soldiers do. It’s best if you don’t get detected and better if you kill the target unobstructed, but if these two points are annul, what left is deciding whether to escape or proceed to frontal confrontation. Since you plan to go on a stage, Assassins’ frontal confrontation is the method of fighting you need to know and having a weapon is a matter of preference”.

    “Can you teach me a barehanded Martial art?”

    “Not in forty minutes, or a day. The foot technique I showed you is enough, if you employ it correctly. For attack you just need to memorize three rules. First, restrain your killing intent and be a part of the surrounding even if you are in plain sight on a flat stage with nowhere to hide. It creates an unsettling atmosphere, if done right. Second, be deceive, aim for the kill in each blow. It’s not about investing all your strength, but using sufficient amount of it for the attack to go through. Third, evade instead of defend. Let your opponent assume that despite being a bodily cultivator you lack in defense, and then give them an opening to wound you and in exchange take their life”.

    Thinking of her fighting style, Zax wondered how Linor apply these rules in assassinations. He did not ask.

    “I’ll not show you how to combine the three rules in a fight, there won’t be a need if you grasped them and have the capacity to visualize yourself in fighting scenarios, but I did say an hour so I am willing to give you pointers”.

    Zax raised his hand and smiled. “Thank you, Linor, but if it’s just that I’ll manage the rest on my own”.

    Zechariah removed the mantle. “It’s not ‘just that’, it’s ‘just enough’, for what you need. If you finished we should return”.

    “I won’t be coming with you”. Zax said. “There is time before I’ll have to make my appearance in the Elite Tryouts and I kind of like to return home”.

    “To Kingdom Earth?” Both Zechariah and Linor were taken aback, though on the latter it less showed.

    “Right”. Zax nodded. “I gave my word to my loved ones that I won’t roam the world above ground longer than two years. Preparation for the Elite Tryouts interlocks with my appointed date of return home”.

    “You’ll have to run it by with Elder Master”. Zechariah reminded.

    “Only because I agreed for taking the mission. I neither need help to enter the passageway home nor am I full fledged member of the chain who must get senior Gid’s permission for every little thing. My agreement with was that I’ll join while retaining the privileges of an outside contractor”. It was not a secret, nor a decision that would be difficult for Zechariah and Linor to understand, which is why Zax was open about it. “But of course I’ll inform him, even if I did not accept the mission”.

    Zechariah sighed inwardly. Till now, as much as he was sure about Zax as a worthy compatriot, considering his history, he was not sure how Zax will respond to authority.

    “At least you’re sensible. Moreover, the five powers think that you are dead. You’ll have to conceal yourself and ensure that those you’ll see won’t divulge your return”.

    “I know“. Zax said as a sudden, inauspicious feeling dawned on him. “Were my parents and everyone in Kingdom Earth told that I died?”

    His severe reaction made both Zechariah and Linor hesitate about their next words.

    “We don’t know”. Linor said. “Elder Master might. We heard that it was senior Ariel who handled your affairs-” She barely finished the sentence and Zax already vamoosed as a black streak, faster than they could only dream to catch up.



    Gid Chu was waiting outside the cottage. If his Sublime Soul Sense did not detect Zax approaching, than the unbridled dark attribute’s fluctuation gave him the indication that a second meeting about to occur with the new recruit.

    Reading Zax’s expression, Gid Chu held back the frown and waited for him to descend and speak his heart.

    “Do they think that I died?”

    “They do”. Gid Chu said solemnly as it took him a fraction of a second to interpret Zax’s meaning.

    “I’m going back, now! They need to know that I’m alive, they must! I’ll return to for the Elite Tryouts” It was not a subject for debate. Gid Chu will have to rely on him while he will have to fathom the consequence of the five powers finding out that he is alive.

    “I’m counting on you”. Gid Chu said and when Zax was already too far for him to hear him. ‘See me before the tryouts’. His sent via the communicator.



    “Are you mad?! Retract your fluctuation or he will enter a craze state again!”

    “Who is that? The attribute fluctuations issuing from him are insane but there are no mist fluctuations. Bodily cultivator?”

    “Dammit, don’t drag us with you!”

    The moment Zax entered the Earthly Crater a cluster of angry cultivators berated him in subdued voices. Sadly, in spite of recent enlightenment that improve his understanding and accomplishment in the dark attribute, Zax still could cross the Seer Don Ocean or Nidbuk Ocean through the undersea wall of whirlpools or above sea gravitational force without risking it, and he did not want to waste time due to a peril. Thus, he could only turn to the Earthly Crater.

    “Grrr!” An ominous snarl reach Zax’s ear and a sense of instant death swept him.

    ‘The Horned Eel!’ He momentarily halted, then clenched his teeth, transformed to the second stage of the Dark Titan Storm form and proceeded across the third ring, unconcerned by when the Overlord of the sea finished its stalemate with the Four Wings Stork, its current temperament or what happened to those who broke his decree by going past the second ring. ‘Don’t aggravate me further!’ He dared not expose his thoughts, but was ready to act upon them, should the need arise and no other choice will be.

    “ROAR!” The Horned Eel howled but remained situated in the first ring, presumably guarding or keeping it to itself.

    The spectating experts were both aghast and relived. The Horned Eel was not infuriated, but the passing young expert insight to the dark attribute was in an unfathomable level!

    “Humph!” Zax snorted after exiting the Earthly Crater and returning to his normal form. He could not maintain it if he wanted to be at peak condition if he will encounter a problematic enemy. Nevertheless, the days it will take him to arrive to New Earth, whoever stands in his way will not be spared!
    Spoiler:
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/
    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 28 – Coping



    Two and a half days, from Sanctum Oasis in the Eastern Continent to Selivereb in the Western Continent, was the passage of time that took Zax to reach from one destination to the other.

    If he was not in a hurry or preferred to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to himself, then there were additional matters he would have liked to handle, such as taking a detour to Monivore city and visiting its Mayor Deg and his Dewgong family or looking for Blessed Army's posts to flatten.

    'Curators'. Zax noted the five. Four were in the vicinity of the passageway to New Earth. One was farther away, preoccupied in a battle against an adolescent Black Chrome Alligator, most likely to pass time.

    They were Peak third level Core Master and Zax could not count on himself escaping at least one of them detection, even if all they could perceive was an inconspicuous ripple in the air.

    He twirled his index finger, swirling Kinetic Force and compressing it to an orb. His palm shook a bit, the orb was unstable, but it was also his first experiment creating it as a new form of long distant attack he could maybe use as distraction against capable foes in the Elite Tryouts, a skill that will not require utilization of dark attribute.

    He extended his five fingers and the fifteen centimeters in diameter orb shot like a living bullet, evading the Titan Kapok Trees vegetation to a distance of three hundred meters than hitting the ground and issuing a muffled boom.

    'Good'. Zax thought as the boom got the attention of the five and they rushed to investigate, but that was not the only reason for his satisfied look. 'The kinetic energy was absorbed in the ground and dispersed without making much damage'. It meant to be a destructive attack, but in this instance he did not want to make a large commotion, so finding out that should he want he can manipulate in advance the resulting feedback of Kinetic Force upon impact was literally a resounding success.

    He entered the passageway without any of the five Curators noticing, soon to be home.



    Kingdom Earth, cave two, Eden Formation.

    "Senior sister Anet, senior sister Anet, you've been secluded in the Soul Tempering Chamber for six days. All of us thought that you're still in Valgarel, in the Savage Caves. You should've at least told Don Mor that you are back, you know that superintendent Ten won't bother".

    A young girl with shoulder length hazel hair, hazel eyes and white skin, wearing white and golden uniform and a black ribbon on her left arm, reading: “Student Council Class", greeted the refined looking woman, shorthaired blond woman, Anet.

    Her school uniforms were worn and she did not look anymore like the friendly and gentle person she was when Zax departed. There was a vacant gloom in her blue eyes and a hint of ferociousness in the manner she carried herself.

    The news came couple of months ago, or maybe it was a year, maybe a day… time seemed vague when she had no days to count for his return.

    "I was engrossed in cultivation, Nikita. I'm planning to reenter the Soul Tempering Chamber, please apologize for Don Mor in my name for nothing coming to see her". Anet's voiced wavered.

    Since she was informed, after nights and days of bottomless sadness and a downpour of tears, she discovered an ounce of solace by sinking into unyielding, restless cultivation.

    Nevertheless, with all her efforts, it was not an easy endeavor for her to cross the last threshold of the soul to the second, Core Master realm and she was struggling with it longer than the news came. So she turned to drastic measures, the Soul Tempering Chamber and the first Savage Cage.

    Nikita pouted. She was nineteen years old and roughly the same height as Anet, but her face retained hints of her former childish features. "You promised that you'll help me pick a soul technique in the Summit three week ago and still did not keep your word. Why do you have to be like that, you need to move on". She forced her opinion.

    Anet bit her lips, caging whatever she had to say. The first to thirtieth time she snapped at those who told her to forget him. Afterwards she stopped counting until she was tired from repeating the arguments and decided not to respond at all.

    "You are so young and almost a Core Master! Who knows, maybe in forty, no, thirty you'll actually breakthrough the final bottleneck! If I were you, yes I would've mourned, but in the end it was not even a long distant relationship". Nikita continued as if it was a rehearsed conversation.

    Anet silently pretended to listen, as she already knew Nikita's real motive in coming to see her, and proceeded toward the new school's building of the Soul Tempering Chamber.

    "Tell Don Mor what I said, and tell Him to find someone else to court". She quickened her pace, forcing Nikita to jog.

    "Tsk! My cousin's feelings are sincere. He is among the youngest graduate of Crescent Arms, not much older than you are. He is handsome, I'm not embarrassed to say, and his cultivation is nearly at the second Core Master level. Don't even let me mention again his status and place in the family! Why won't you give him a chance?"

    "Because I don’t' want and won't want to. He can't replace him".

    They reached the Soul Tempering Chamber. It was a squared building, four meters by four meters, situated right next to superintendent Ten's old maintenance building, who was not present at the moment.

    The light above the chamber's steel door was green, indicating that it was empty, which was expected since due to the harsh conditions inside only Advanced grade students were allowed to use it, and in the hour and a half that passed since Anet was compelled to take a rest from her six days' session no one had yet to notice that it was free for use.

    "Cousin Grent doesn't want to replace him. He simply liked you for a very long time, since seeing you in the Martial competition. You don't deserve to stay melancholy for the rest of your life and if anything, he just wants to make you happy". Nikita insisted.

    Anet ignored her, ignored the urging of her parents at the back of her mind, pleading with her to let go of the grief, that it pain them seeing her like this, again. There were also the voices of his parents – not his sisters, though – telling their son's beloved that being a cultivator does not matter, she is young and she should not submerge in sadness, he would have not wanted for her to remember him like this. His Martial family did not comfort her, for them he was a nephew, brother and a son and he was not the first that they lost, so acceptance, for some, was slightly easier to come by. Last voices in her head were of their shared friends. There were not many and among them few might have felt a pain as great as she does.

    Placing her hand on the steel door, she channeled her soul energy for the mechanism to determine her cultivation. The door opened and she entered, closing it behind her without a second of further concern to Nikita.

    "Ouu!" Nikita muttered and stomped. "Cousin Grent, you suck! Why did you have to put such difficult demand? Nothing I say convince senior sister Anet! I'll never get the Sky Blooming Orchid!"



    Cave twenty five.

    They did their best, for her, the youngest. The oldest was coming home less and less. The life of a parent who lost a child was something they never imagine they will experience.

    "Liz, come. Dinner is ready". Laylen called. "Turn off the Screen, or you won't get to continue to watch after the meal. Marco, did you hear me? If she doesn't get to watch then you also won't".

    "We're coming, mom!"

    "We're coming, hon!"

    The two dashed to the dining table the moment their Screen privileges were threatened, Liz bursts out laughing when Marco lifted her because she was too slow and Screen…!

    Watching the pair while carrying a bowl with steaming mash potato, Laylen's eyes were glittering but she managed to hold back the tears.

    'We have to strive'. She reminded herself. It was the deal she and Marco made together. Instead of letting what was lost break them, they will use what was left to solidified their bond.

    The table had only four chairs around it. There used to be five, but one was removed along with the decision to move on, the vacant remained in case Zetsa might return.

    Thinking about their eldest saddened Laylen almost as much as thinking about Zax. She was finally opening up to the idea of a relationship, perhaps by the constant nagging of Anet. Then she surprised them by agreeing to one date with the son of an old acquaintance, Habul Majid, who she once promised to give a chance. Regrettably, the hope they had for their daughter to not abandon her womanhood, at least recall it in their lifetime, eventually did not come to fruition.

    With Liz they had less to worry about. The little girl was seven years old and when Zax left she was barely six. She asked questions, same questions repeatedly even after being answered, time and time again, and was moody when they did not correspond with what she wanted to hear. Nevertheless, her young age was her blessed advantage, as her ingenuous mind was simple to distract, mostly. Therefore, Laylen and Marco elected to took a sabbatical from their jobs and concentrate on Liz for half a year, a year time. Financially they were secured despite refusing the compensation for their son's supposed "service to the kingdom", even Don of the great Dauch family could not them to accept, regardless of their reason.

    Dinner was mash potato, roast lamb and salad, which no one was absolved from eating!

    "Tomorrow we will go to grandpa’s and grandma‘s farm. Your big sister also promised to be there. We’ll have fun picking corn and then make a barbeque".

    “Big sis Zetsa will come?” Liz called excitedly. “Would she bring Krikitories? Can Shulip, Rarahel, Mes and everyone also come?!” Not long ago she might have expected it to be an unreasonable request, but these days, not just her parents, everyone were good and caring to her. “Anet told me that she is busy and only next week she will take me to the capital cave”. She sulked as she remembered.

    “Whoever will be there, will be there, sweetheart”. Laylen softly said.

    “Liz”, Marco hesitated before heaving a deep sigh. “If you want, Zetsa will take you to meet your Krikitory friends”. One left their sight and he will never return, another constantly appearing and disappearing that they do not know anymore what to expect. Thinking of letting Liz go, even to a short trip with her capable sister or Anet, bred emotional turmoil on their nerves.

    Laylen gave Marco a meaningful look. In her opinion he should not have said this to Liz. First, it was not certain that Zetsa will take her for a day trip. She would probably extend to longer than they would want. Second, a day alone with someone else in the beasts’ territory was entirely different than in Kingdom Earth!

    “I want to go with big sis! Mom, after we eat, help me make a bag!”

    Laylen grimaced. She was well aware that they are spoiling her too much, but as long as they felt that it was too early they did not have the heart to redraw boundaries. “We will take care of it tomorrow, before going to grandpa, but you must finish everything on your plate”.

    She and Marco wished to have the strength to handle the situation like responsible parents, but the blow broke them and the fragments that were holding required their utmost effort to not collapse, even if it was what they needed.

    Suddenly…

    DING!

    DONG!
     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 29 – A Family Reunion



    "Hm? Did you invite someone, Laylen?" Marco asked in surprise, it was uncommon for them to keep guests past the evening hours and it was already getting wait.

    "No, I haven't. Maybe it's one of the neighbors".

    KNOCK!

    KNOCK!

    "I'll go see". Marco placed the knife and fork on the table and got up.

    "Maybe it's big sis Zetsa!" Liz threw a guess.

    "Zetsa said that she will return tomorrow. Don't eat and speak at the same time".

    "Mm". Liz nodded and stuffed her mouth with a spoon for mash potatoes.



    Waiting on the other side of the door, Zax could hear the discussion inside the house, the slight fatigue in his parents' voice and the meticulous gentleness in their tone with Liz. It was why he paced himself instead of rushing in, declaring that he is alive. He feared that the tragedy he caused to his parents, coupled with his sudden rise from the grave will be a blow to their physical and mental health.

    The door opened without being asked "who's there" and he could see his father's silhouette gradually growing. He moved his hand, extended his index finger and poked his father's forehead before he could react.

    The gap was wide enough to cross in. Zax's figure flashed, appearing next to the dining table. Waves of longing and the urge to embrace his father, mother and little sister surged in his heart, but he restrained himself, poked the foreheads of Laylen and Liz and exited the house.

    The streams of soul energy meant to pacify the imminent shock, as best as they could without imposing on the three's souls.

    Marco glanced on the person outside, his eyes and thoughts struggling to synchronize from reasons too many to mention.

    "Za…" He was about to fully pronounce in uncertainty only the shut his mouth as the image of his wife and daughter sitting in the table not far behind surfaced in his mind.

    "Marco?" Laylen tried to peek beyond his tall figure, yet failed to see past it. She did not question why, out of the blue, she felt calm, mildly uplifted like she had not being in a long time.

    Marco did not respond, his eyes still adjusting as they observed and retraced the features of the son he thought he lost.

    "Father", Zax spoke in a soft tone, not rushing to hug him or supplying a hast clarification. "It's me, I did not die ". His voice was not loud but neither quiet, so his mother and sister could hear him, too.

    "Zax…?" Laylen's startlingly got up and cautiously advanced to the door.

    "Zax…" Liz was the slowest to comprehend and even when the name sounded familiar she had yet to make a response, other than stop eating.

    "Fa-" As Zax was about to repeat himself, Marco's wavering hands garbed his arms and squeezed hard as if to assess that his mind was not playing tricks on him, to make sure he will not disappear, again.

    At the same time, Laylen also arrived. "Zax! Zax! Zax! Zax!" Her voice resonated mournfully, disbelievingly. The person at the doorstep looked closely to how she remembered her son, only a bit less muscular and overall big as he was, though slightly maturer with a compassionate look. "Zax!" She crushed into him with an overflow of tears running down her face.

    Zax hugged his mother, not sure on the words that he should say, at least not in this particular moment.

    Marco stepped back. The only way that he could get to his son was obstructed by his wife, and he was afraid that he will not be able to contend with her.

    Zax walked in whilst Laylen caressed his face and looked at him with glistened, red eyes. "Why did you go? Why we were told that you died?"

    "Mom, dad…" He reached out for Marco, his father, perhaps was not the most filial son, nevertheless he could and wanted to hug them both. "I'm sorry for worrying you". Inwardly he was astonished by the willpower he had to invest for his voice not to crack.

    "You are back, all fine, my son is back!" Marco dropped the last shard of forbearance. Children meant to outgrow their parents and fathers are allowed to enter their sons’ embrace.

    Zax's heart trembled, his countenance, which he did not let them see, was ugly. Only after holding them both did he understand how frailly they carried themselves in comparison to his initial speculation. If he had not used soul energy prior to showing himself… imagining the severity of what could have happened to them as a result amplified his guilt.

    “Mom, dad, I’ll explain everything, I promise, I’m here and nothing can take me away, so please…”

    They had their eyes on his face and they traced the gestured his chin made. It was pointing at the alone Liz in the dining table.

    Reluctantly, their grip loosened as they gathered their bearing and then parted ways.

    Zax breathed in. How come confronting with the tiniest of them all anxious him the most?

    “Hi”, finding the words for a seven years old child happened to be a task more complicated than excusing the fact that he is not dead to adults.

    Getting closer and closer, Zax stopped next to Liz’s chair. Her neck tilted up with a passive expression. She opened her mouths but whatever was about to come out was so slow, on the verge of getting stuck in her throat.

    “Did you forget me?” Zax jokingly suggested with a tender smile.

    Her little fingers withdrew into two hesitant fists. Her lips closed tight. She stared longer than was felt comfortable to and cut the eye contact by replying with a negative headshake.

    Zax was relieved. It was one thing to leave for two years when she was five and another to reunite after she was taught and convinced that she will not see him anymore.

    “I missed you”. He said, landing her a hand. “Stand up on the chair”. She stayed still and he recalled that she was not allowed. “Mom and dad won’t be mad”. He would have lifted her up himself if he was not scared that she will flinch.

    “Sweaty, don’t be afraid of him, your big brother Zax returned home”. Laylen encouraged Liz as she was tacked in her husband’s arms.

    Shoving her plate, Liz used the table as support and stood up all by herself. The top of her head about as high as Zax's sternum. Either she remembered or felt tense, a gleam in her eyes indicated an impending torrent of tears. Zax hoped it was the former, and that he will be able to hold back his own.

    "Are you happy to see me?"

    She nodded her head.

    How much he will have to keep asking from her before she will open up?

    "Can you say it out loud?"

    "Yes". Was not exactly "out loud", but it was her voice.

    "Can I hug you?" The deciding question, her response will determine if she see him as the brother in her memories or a stranger.

    Nibbling on her lips, she faltered for a second before deceivingly delving into his torso. Her forehead bumped his chest, there she buried her face, while her arms tried to encompass as much of his as their short length could.

    He caught her, her weight on his arms, in his heart, so immense he was forced to kneel down.

    "Big bro Zax".

    He heard a nearly inaudible chirp, but thought that he was just wishfully imagining it.

    "Big bro Zax". She repeated. The second time Marco and Laylen heard it, too, including the minute hint of a wail.

    "Big bro Zax". They were only three words, but they were filled with boundless emotion. "Aaaaaaah!" The wall in her heart, the dam of tears, they both shattered and she burst crying.

    Zax stooped as his heavy shoulders shivered and the voice of a little girl made him surrender to the tears.

    At a point her voice began to dim and her clasp weakened. It was a late hour and outside the Nightly Cover Formation darkened the cave and rekindled with an array of starry dots.

    Marco and Laylen did not interrupt the brother and sister reunion. When Zax sat down on the couch with Liz still in his arms, they sat at the opposite side, quietly watching, till she fell asleep and cuddled up in his embrace.

    "You have to promise not to speak a word of what I'm about to say to anyone". Zax agreed to divulge the details of his venture above ground to his parents, but knew he had to stress its confidentiality.

    "Zax, if you can get in trouble by telling us then I don't want you to take a risk". All that Laylen cared about was that her son was home and well.

    "Tell us". Marco insisted. "Someone one came and told me my son did good for the kingdom and now is dead". He was infuriated, his complexion turned fiery and it seemed like his eyes were about to tear up again.

    Zax complied. He thoughtfully surveyed a radius of the apartment building. Not only he had to be careful with what he says, he also had to make sure no one that is not supposed to will find out that he returned to New Earth, much less alive!

    There were no suspicious figures in the vicinity of his Soul Sense, not even someone with the capacity to notice it.

    Lastly he checked if Liz is really asleep or just resting herself. She slept.

    "I traveled to the world above ground". He opened in narration.

    It was a long night, brimful with exhilarating accounts done by fairytale like recitation. From concerned parents, Laylen and Marco turned to attentive listeners, not wanting to miss the smallest of details, especially one there were proofs presented right in front of them, taken from nothing short of a magical ring!

    The line of events constantly evolved and transformed across the emotional spectrum. Although Zax tuned down the scale of violence involved he still drew a vivid picture of hurdles and dangers. His parents were not naïve. Any citizen of Kingdom Earth, be they cultivates or not and regardless of class, knows about the dangerous of the "beasts' territory". His parents were not the exception, yet they allowed their eldest to take him there, whole years for his sake, at the time… Replacing Valgarel with Ercas Mir did not make much difference to them in terms of worriedness.

    Naturally, subjects like Sinister Chain and other secretive matters Zax refrained from mentioning. The most that he said was vaguely how he removed the Curator’s Mark and illegally reentered the passageway to New Earth.

    Funnily, the things that were most easily accepted were the descriptions of Zax's powerful feats. Marco and Laylen were already used to their children's Martial talent. Heck, Zetsa in her teens earned the sublime honorific of "Miss" after winning an intercave fighting tournament. That being said, they were still greatly moved, that is, by the little they could comprehend.

    They still would rather for their children to have steady, secure jobs and settle down, perhaps even give them a litter of cute grandchildren. Sadly, the chance of this ever being the case was smaller than betting on a random person of their pick to attain Evolutionary Ascension.

    "Let this be all". Marco asked and Laylen silently agreed. Beads of perspiration were visible on their faces and necks and their close stuck to their bodies. "The world you and your sister live in… is strange to me and your mother. We can't support your resolutions in fear that our lack of understanding will cause only harm". He lamented. Happy as he was to see his son, excited as the stories of above the ground made him feel, his inability to fulfill his fatherly duties were a stain rarely shown to others.

    "Zax, you said that in half a year or so there will be a competition in Ercas Mir". Laylen noted somberly. "What does it mean about your stay? You… You can't leave again for years… not anymore! If not because the protection I and your father want for you, then for Liz’s sake… I won't allow you, or Zetsa, the opportunity to traumatize my little girl!"

    Stroking her smooth long hair, sensing the warmth of her cheeks and the pulse of her heart, Zax could not help by think of the day she was born and how fragile she still is.

    He had to return to Ercas Mir, it was inevitable. For one reason, the five powers know that Ariel led him out. Until he will have the strength he cannot suddenly show up after making them think that he died. For another reason, also related the five powers… they pose a threat of undetermined degree to the people of this planet, be they below or above ground. If he had to, for his family safety, he will gladly and honestly trade his life.

    ‘But I don’t want to hurt her, them anymore’. He was resolved to stand by this words. ‘Power! I must get stronger!’
     
  • edited December 2017
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 30 – Barbcue


    “I won’t leave again for extended periods of time”. Zax resigned to his mother.

    Besides, back then two years were chosen because he did not have the strength to go and come whenever. Now he did and the next goal to accomplish is to have the capital to do so right in front the five powers!

    “I will, now and then take trips, but they won’t be over three months. Is that acceptable?”

    Laylen deliberated. She wanted to say “of course not”, but there were subjects to argue and subjects to compromise. “As long as you won’t break this promise, and you have to compensate your sisters, that poor girl Anet and the rest of the family for every time you make them miss you!”

    “Fine”. Zax nodded. He felt relived in his heart, not for complying with his mother, but because he, too, wanted to be there with his loved ones. Now that his mind is set, he will no longer be troubled by the issue.

    Laylen smiled. She and Marco held hands and her grip tightened with great strength as the knowledge that she finally regained her son invigorated her.

    “Oh, right! Zax, come with us tomorrow to visit your grandparents at the farm”. Marco said. “Zetsa will be there and your grandpa Ger… ever since we told him and grandma that you died, grandpa’s spirit weakened and his health is on the decline. The doctor said that he doesn’t have anything and that the symptoms of deterioration are due to depression”.

    Ger Zel has quite a few children and grandchildren, but for the old man who appreciated Martial cultivators only two infused him with rejuvenating pride. When he heard that one perished and that his body cannot even be retrieved, in addition to the anomalous concept of a grandparent burying his grandchild, the robust grandfather nearly collapsed from sadness.

    “Okay”. If it was not for his grandfather’s health, Zax would have not agreed and it was obvious in his mulling tone. “Grandpa Ger, grandma Ney, Grandpa Shi Chin and grandma Shi Oh, other than them, big sis and the people in this room no one else in the family can know that I’m alive”. He drew a line. “And apart from Liz, if you think that in this group there is someone we will struggle to keep this secret, then for the time being they can’t know“.

    After everything he told them about his venture and encounters, about the powers who rule the planet and the laws they enforce, Laylen and Marco could understand his demand.

    “We will invite my parents to grandpa Ger’s and grandma Ney’s farm. Tomorrow we will meet up and explain them, slowly, everything you told us. You can trust them. As for Liz, we planned to give her time off school”. Laylen looked at Marco.

    “We promised that she will have fun. Naturally, we have to follow through with it”. Marco said.

    Laylen continued. “We will make sure she understands that she cannot tell anyone about you. She is a smart girl, always was, but not the child you remember”.

    Zax lowered his gaze to his little sister. No matter how mentally mature she is, he did not believe that he will ever see her as anything but a fragile treasure he must protect.

    “I’ll send Anet a message to also come”. Laylen attracted his attention back to her, arousing a strange ripple in his heart. “Her Caller is mostly off or out of range but she always write back within twenty four hours. Hopefully it won’t take her long to read this one”. She then proceeded to write Anet with her Caller while Marco prepared for bed and Zax carried Liz to her room.


    “Don’t tell them anything, yet, Liz, okay?” Laylen said.

    Marco parked next to the farm’s truck and they exited the vehicle. Laylen’s parents received a late evening message from her and gave their confirmation of coming early in the morning.

    “Hahahaha! Big sis Zetsa!” The moment Liz saw Zetsa in the terrace, already waiting for them, she yelled, let go of her mother’s hand and dashed.

    Seeing her so happy Laylen was both happy and a bit worry. Due to her excitement, whether Liz internalized what they discussed on the way and during breakfast was completely up to fate more so than her understanding little mind.

    “Liz”. Zetsa lifted her up. On her face was a smile but beneath it was a shadow of an aching heart.

    “Big sis, mom prepared a bag for me, so can I come with you to Shulip and everyone?”

    “Let me speak with mom, sweetie”. Zetsa put her down, rubbing her head. “Go see grandpa and grandma; they need help moving the food to the yard”.

    “Okay, there is something very good I want to tell everyone!” She giggled and ran into the house.

    “Hey, dad”. Zetsa maintained her smiled as Marco followed Liz in.

    She had no suspicions over what her little sister wanted to say to her Martial family, as their parents spoiled her with all kinds of things that she would boast about.

    “Sweetheart, go to your mom”.

    Laylen waited by the vehicle, and, for some reason, when she looked at her, Zetsa had an uneasy feeling.

    “Zetsa, come here for a moment”. Laylen called.

    Zetsa got down from the terrace and walked to her. “What’s wrong, mom?”

    WHOOSH!

    She barely finished the sentence when she felt a warm breeze at her back. Someone appeared, moreover faster than she could perceive, and she was a Beginner second level Core Master!

    Since she received the news about her brother, Zetsa dealt with the grief by drowning herself in cultivation and refining her Martial art through constant battle with both beasts and human in Valgarel. It was as if her temperament regressed to the rampant girl she was before to the monumental events that changed her life, the day her Master accepted her as his apprentice and the birth of her brother.

    As a result of her behavior, she made a number of enemies, but none gave her the impression of taking their feud on regular people.

    A ferocious glint reflected in her eyes, her aura surged, about to burst, she was ready to turn around and strike.

    “Big sis Zetsa“. A voice whispered in her ear and she felt a jolt running through her spine. She choked.  Her aura dispersed; suddenly she did not have the power to muster it. She lost the sensation in her legs and stumbled into her mother’s support when an additional pair of hands grabbed her arms from behind and balanced her.

    Through the touch, Zax sensed the turbulent fluctuations of soul energy in her sea of consciousness.

    He thought that she will be stronger than their parents. He was wrong.

    Channeling soul energy, he attempted to calm her soul. “Big sis”, he helped her turn.

    “Little Zi…?” She muttered half absentmindedly. She was only tall enough for the top of her head to reach his collarbone. She raised her gaze as glittering pearls descended her cheeks.

    The features she that were etched to her mind and those she saw were all too much alike that she doubted her sanity. “Is that really you, little Zi?” She asked, plead for a Yes.

    “It’s me. I didn’t die, only made it seem like that to hoodwink some people. Regrettably, you were all informed false information, though not by ill intent”. He explained concisely.

    Strength returned to her arms. She raised and curled them around his neck, wishing for a hug.

    He leaned for and drew his back up, lifting her. With her head next to his he heard her trying to muffle her weeping voice.

    “I’ll say to you what I told mom and dad, what I decided”. He spoke in a straight, determined tone. “For now on, I won’t leave home for as long as I did. No matter what I’ll obtain the strength and exceed all those who currently can threaten this promise”.

    “Mm”. She nodded. Knowing almost nothing of what happened to him above ground, at the very least she could understand the harsh entanglements of the Martial path.

    “Zax, honey, let’s get inside. We still have grandpa Ger and grandma Ney to see, and then my parents, when they’ll arrive”. Layen whipped the tears from her eyes and reminded.

    “Big sis, go ahead with mom. Talk to them before I’ll appear. I’ll help their souls a little to relax. Good timing! Grandpa Shi Chin and grandma Shi Oh approaching. They will be here in less than five minutes”. Zex detected with his Soul Sense. Zetsa, too.

    “I’ll let you go… for now”. Zetsa grudgingly separated from him. She regulated her breathing, a feeling of happiness budding in her heart. “That rascal, little Liz, actually fooled me!”


    Marco, Laylen and Zetsa took their confuse parents and grandparents to the living room, whilst sat on a Rattan Armchairs, drinking juice with a straw and watching the seven as if they were in a family therapy show.

    It paid out for Zax to have his parents and sister prepare his grandparents. At first he swiftly moved between them, channeling soothing streams of soul energy to their sea of consciousness. Manipulating others’ souls was not his expertise, but it was useful with his parents and sisters so he kept applying it. Next, he waited as time and time again his parents and big sister sought the proper words to answer their elders’ questions and assure them that they are not misunderstanding. Ultimately this patient process allowed Zax’s grandparents digest the fact that he is not dead, furthermore, will shortly arrive in person to prove them.

    “Grandson!”

    “Zax!”

    “Boy!”

    The moment he entered the living room the four elders greeted him with radiant faces.

    “Grandpa Shi Chin!” Zax hugged with a laugh the first to approach him.

    “You gave us a scare, Zax, you, you, don’t frighten us anymore”. Grandpa Shi Chin’s old bones shivered. In contrast to his daughter’s in laws, he and his wife had only two children and four grandchildren overall. His second daughter also lived in a distant cave and visited only in special occasions. Mentally, he and his wife could not afford losing any of their descendants.

    “Release him, let me see my child!” Grandma Shi Oh scolded her husband. “Boy, look at you!” She grabbed his muscular arms and assessed his physical state. “You got so thin”. She remembered his much bulkier. “Is there nothing to eat above ground? No matter, we are having barbecue. I’ll make sure you stuff yourself well”. Her joy seemed restless, but in fact it was moderated to a degree in which she could express her excitement without affecting her blood pressure.

    “Get up Ger, your grandson returned”. Granma Ney helped grandpa Ger to his feet. He was well capable of standing up on his own, but his heart was coping with both the thrill if seeing Zax and the depression that assimilated so deep since the initial news…

    “Move, Ney, I’m still running this farm daily!” Grandpa Ger made an angry face that could not deceive his wife.

    “Fine, old fart, show off to your grandson!”

    “Hahaha! Grandma Ney called grandpa Ger ‘old fart’, hahaha!” Liz laughed outloud.

    “Little girl, laugh at your grandfather and I’ll burn all your food later”. Grandpa Ger pointed at Liz.

    “No! I don’t want burnt meat!”

    “Then who is an ‘old fart’?”

    “No one”.

    “Good girl. Grandpa will grill his best hamburgers for you. Zax, come to your grandfather”.

    “And your grandmother”. Grandma Ney joined, not wanting to be the last to hug her grandson.

    “Tsk! Do you have solid iron transplanted in your arms? What level of cultivation you reached? Your sister, and that is a secret in the family, has already become a Core Master. Core Master! Not sure why her father’s talent so poor. It can only be that my passion skipped a generation and morphed into a worthy talent”.

    “I’m talented too!” Liz rebuked.

    “You are dear, shame you don’t cultivate to prove it”.

    “It’s boring and I fall asleep”.

    “Enough! No more talks about cultivation”. Grandma Ney granted. “If you have nothing better to say, Ger, let me peacefully see Zax”.

    “Wait, I haven’t even hugged him yet. Come here, boy!” Grandpa Ger pulled him. Luckily he was a tall man so not much effort was required.

    “I’ll tell you later about my cultivation, grandpa”. The old man’s stubble and cologne never changed, forever a signature of his grandpa Ger. Zax was happy to see the grandparents whose condition worried him the most exhibiting early signs of recuperation.

    “Am I last, Zax, or did you forget your grandma?” Grandma Ney dragged him down to her height and showered him with kisses. “Child, life were good to our family, both families. We have a shortage of nothing, but it doesn’t mean that our grandchildren can go before us. There is a line, and you better not skip your place!”

    “I know, grandma, I’m sorry”. Her pain resonated in her severe words and pinched at him.

    They all got to greet him without interruption. The four grandparents finished hugging and examining their grandson and everyone left to the yard. The matter of not sharing his return from anyone else was mutually understood. Thus, the barbecue began with the hope for one more guest to arrive.

     


  • edited December 2017
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 31 – His Beloved Anet



    The door to the Soul Tempering Chamber opened abruptly. Nikita who waited outside, pondering if she should stay or go as nothing else that was not related to obtaining the Sky Blooming Orchid seemed worth doing, jumped in fright and stumbled backwards.

    “Senior sister Anet?!” She looked at her hastily departing figure. “He training session isn’t over. Did something happen? Should I tell cousin?” She picked up her Caller and typed the number. She might not be able to tell Grent where Anet left to, but there were only so many places she used to hang out at. With his contacts, Grent will not have difficulties locating her in Kingdom Earth.

    “Damnable brats, do you think this Soul Tempering Chamber belong to your father?!” Superintendent Ten’s yapping voice resounded from his maintenance building.

    “Err…” Nikita’s complexion paled. “It wasn’t me!” She yelled and ran away.



    Though it was a habit resulting from the frequency of her absences, this time it was intuition that pulled Anet out from her meditative state to check the messages in her Caller.

    The sender's number was familiar, His mother, but the message was strange.

    “Please come tomorrow to the Zel’s farm. It’s important, can’t be talked to on the Caller, had to be done face to face!“

    It was not Laylen’s typical writing style. In previous dialogs she phrased herself patiently via extended wording and with repeated interest to her health and daily activates, as if she actually was her daughter in law.

    Anet had a Sun K version, bike like vehicle that was particularly made for the rough and woodland terrain of Valgarel. Its top speed could match a Peak phase Mist Lord and was sustainable for seventy two seconds. Because of its extremely expensive, quickly depleting energy source, she drove it only when leaving for the distant Savage Caves.

    That strange gut feeling she had from Laylen’s message made her uncomfortable, goaded to see her as soon as possible. Nevertheless, she did not dare speculate what matter was so pressing. She feared that beneath the deception of wishful thoughts she will find yet another painful tragedy.



    Zax watched from the side as Liz munched the meat of a sauced, short rib. She and grandpa Ger seemed most enthusiastic for having barbecue and surely intended to eat for their hearts content. As for him? After his mother notified him that Anet on her way, he had no appetite, for the sake of it or otherwise.

    “You’ve been through a lot above ground. So many challenges and discoveries, yet I feel that you haven’t told us everything”. Zetsa came, offering a plate spicy sausages and wings.

    “I still don’t want to”. Zax refused.

    Zetsa shrugged and began to eat on her own. “In Master’s cave I hope you tell everyone all that you experienced and not feel like there are things to hide from us”.

    “Be at ease. I also brought a few things to aid your cultivation. Shame I could not find anything to strengthen the physique of non cultivators…” Although there were natural treasures to improve the physique of people in the lowest level of cultivation, they were not easy to find and those on the market, either in New Earth or Ercas Mir, had requirements for before and after consumption.

    Glance at their parents, grandparents and little sister, Zetsa released a deep sigh. “If grandpa Ger was younger… I tried once to diluted the juice of a certain medicinal plant that wild beast eat to prolong their life, though it’s not my a lot. Grandpa could barely handle one drop of it and in the end I had to help him circulate his mist energy to spread the nutrients of the drop. Eighteen hours passed before he got better and to this very day I’m not sure the distilled drop did anything to his lifespan”.

    “It’s complicated”. Zax said and lowered his voice. “When I’ll return to Ercas Mir I’ll ask around. There are some people who might be able to help”. Gid Chu is one. “She is coming!” The Soul Sense he used now and then in waiting for Anet, at last detected her.

    She just crossed the tunnel to cave twenty five and if his perception was not in enhance state; by the speed she was driving he would have seen her with his own eyes within couple of seconds.

    “I’m going”.

    “Be subtle. It’s a Sun K-RV2. If you’ll startle her she’ll lose control of it”.

    “Don’t worry; I won’t let anything happen to her”. Zax said impatiently and vanished.

    “I know, stupid”. Zetsa said, talking to herself. “But this Sun K model is pretty pricy”.



    Her driving speed was alarmingly fast, yet when he showed up next to her, it was as time stood still.

    ‘She changed haircut’. She loved her long hair, he loved it too and he loved the new cut just the same. ‘Mm? This troubled intent…’ He touched her hand and sensed the burden she carried by the undulation of her soul. It was massive, weighting more than his parents', Liz's, grandparents', even Zetsa's. ‘I wrong her’. He channeled his soul energy, just as he did for his family, and let go.

    Time gradually resumed its standard pace.

    Anet felt an air of enigmatic calmness blowing on her face and her Sun K-RV2 slowing without her using the brakes, till it reached a stop. 'Am I out of fuel?' It did not seem the be the situation, but how could she, a Peak Mist Lord could sense the attribute energy of the world, specifically dark, holding in place her vehicle?

    She lightly frowned, realizing that something is wrong. 'It's stuck'. Could not be that she was being pranked by a passerby Core Master, right?

    TUMP!

    A strong throb pulsed throughout her body. A foreign energy intruded into her sea of consciousness and by the time she noticed it already encompassed her soul. Despite that, instead of being disturbed or alarmed, she sunk into familiar comfort.

    TUMP!

    A second strong throb derived from the revelation. 'What is this energy? Why is it feels like him?' The comfort waned as doubts arose and she suddenly found herself submerged in what have been all her bottled up emotions, as they were in the midst of swelling, about to explode.

    TUMP!

    A third strong throb issued an indescribable hunch to check the surrounding, with no reason she could pinpoint why. She released her Soul Sense and it could not reach far, just enough to appease herself when she discovered nothing in the farm fields around, at best a few inconspicuous worker, yet not fully to pacify the obscure hunch.

    'What am I missing'. She bit her lips, not knowing that he was waiting in plain view, yet evading her perceptive abilities until the barrier around her heart will begin to crack and it would be possible for him to enter it again without harming her.

    TUMP!

    A fourth strong throb heavily knocked against her chest and it hurt. Something, perhaps the soothing foreign energy, wanted her reminisce, confront and surpass, not ignore and suppress.

    A figure flashed at the depth of her mind, mute as always, someone it pained her to think about, yet could not escape or expel.

    "Zax". Her voice uttered in aggravation. She leaned on the handlebars, wondering why now the dam had to burst. Was it because of the message? Its urgent tone? The sender? The immovable Sun K-RV2? The feeling of presence, his? Something else entirely?

    She bent her back and rested her head as tear flowed. The more of them raining down from her eyes the greater was the relief that followed.

    "Zax". She called once more, longingly, a last attempt for her voice to reach him, his figure in her mind, and he will answer back.

    "I'm here". A hand appeared, almost out of the ether, hanged about and then landed on her shoulder. "Not dead. Alive. Had needed to deceive some people and inadvertently caused a grievous misunderstanding".

    She cried, listened and felt the weight of his hand, had yet to decide if it was her imagination or reality. She did not want to shatter the illusion, should it be the former, which is why she was afraid to check.

    The tension in her muscles revealed to him her thoughts.

    He squeezed on her shoulder. "I'm here, Anet, please, raise you head so I could kiss you".

    She was tempted. The clasp pressed and her clothes stretch, but he said all the things she would have wanted to hear and admitted of deceiving… how well she could deceive herself? Maybe the immobile Sun K-RV2 was also her fault? Could the message be, too?

    "You don't believe me?" He stood beside the Sun K-RV2. His hand slid to her right shoulder and another touched her left. "If you still love me, don't resist". He said resolutely.

    She did know what he meant, but the touch of two hands and the rub on her back made him feel that he is more real than ever before.

    WHOOSH!

    He hoisted her off the Sun K-RV2.

    She did not jump and she could not deny him anymore. Excitement erupted inside. She opened her eyes and looked for his face. "Zax!" He was so much real that any resentment that might have been was washed away and all she cared was to embrace and give the kiss they both yearned for.

    He pulled her, accepted her hug and everlasting kiss. He controlled the dark attribute worldly energy to conceal them both, actually did so from the moment he detected her arrival, to preserve the intimacy of their reunion from the field workers.

    “Zax”. She cried as lips kept pushed against his. “Zax, Zax…”

    He kissed her cheeks, every millimeter of them. “Anet, my beloved Anet”, warmness spread from his chest, boiled his blood and made his head spin from ardor. “Stop crying. I’m here, alive and nothing can kill me”. He kissed her more in between the gaps of each word.

    The passion for one another outweighed reason as they both were about to succumb to bodily desire.

    Their one room loft was a few caves away and he was oblivious to the current situation over there. Nevertheless, there was another place he could always count on being void of people, especially now, Zetsa’s apartment building!

    “Hold me and don’t let go”.

    “As if you have to tell me!”

    WHOOSH!



    The place was just as abandoned and incomplete as Zax remembered it. Still, it was reclusive and by utilizing dark attribute energy he could supply all the comfort needed.

    What was fortunate, Zax’s family, who expected that they are together, did not call or message, acknowledging their necessity for time alone.

    And so, just like that, hours kept on passing…



    “Sir, a few hours ago tunnel seventy six’s high speed cameras caught the miss’s vehicle crossing cave twenty four to cave twenty five and by the amount of time that passed, it’s feasible that she was heading to one of the few known destinations in cave twenty five and not Valgarel through tunnel seventy eight”. The driver voiced said from the intercom of the long, luxury, eight wheels golden vehicle.

    The man sitting at the back, which looked in his late twenties due to achieving high cultivation at young age, wore an olive pinstripe suit and had white skin, brown hair and green, piercing eyes, which intimidated those weak minded who dared to stare at them.

    His lips gave the indication of a perpetual smile. He crossed one leg atop the other and stacked his hands on his knee. His smile grew genuine as he opened his mouth. “Find where she went. If it’s her home, get there immediately. If it’s a place related to Him, call for reinforcement. I don’t plan to intrude or impose, but if His sister be there again, I’d rather be prepared. Last time’s humiliation I was willing to forget, for her. If she doesn’t want to give me a chance, yet, fine, I’ll leave, but on my own terms”.
     
  • edited December 2017
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 32 – Scary Voice

    Late afternoon. The family consisted of Zax’s parents, grandparents and sisters put aside all unrelated business they had and were idly enjoying each other company in the farm until their beloved son, grandson and brother would return.

    “Mm…” Liz mused with a smile while putting her elbows on the picnic table and holding her cheeks up.

    “What is it, sweetheart? Do you want me to cut you into squares another watermelon?” Noticing the youngest of her grandchildren daydreaming blissfully, Grandma Shi Oh tried to bribe her into telling her, as she eats, what is on her mind.

    “No, grandma”. Liz shook her head and straightened up. “Mom, I want to go to school tomorrow!”

    “Eh?” Both Laylen and Marco, who were walking, sometimes just standing and mostly viewing the visage of the farm, were surprising upon hearing Liz yelling and the content of her words. A second later they understood why the sudden exaltation and nodded happily.

    “I’ll help you prepare you bag when we get home”. Laylen said. She was far more excited than Marco as it first came to her mind that she rather have her youngest daughter go to school than journey with her big sister to the beasts’ territory. Before she will go to sleep tonight and tomorrow morning, though, she will have to remind her once more to keep the fact that Zax is alive a secret.

    WHOOSH!

    A figure dashed from within grandpa Ger’s and grandma Ney’s house. Zetsa stood on the lawn with a frown on her face. “This basted spied after her, again!” She muttered angrily.

    “Big sis”, Liz jumped from her seat. “Tomorrow I-”

    “Mom, dad, grandma, get inside with Liz”.

    Marco, Laylen and grandma Shi Oh confusedly stared at Zetsa as they slowly registered her words, actions and countenance.

    “Enter the house”. Marco came back to his senses. He pulled Laylen after him and together they helped grandma Shi Oh and Liz to follow them in without delaying.

    Short minutes after the door to the house was closed and Zetsa remained the only one outside, a long, golden vehicle, accompanied by another, black, larger vehicle, drove to the farm and parked at its front.

    The backdoor of the golden vehicle opened and a gorgeous man who looked just as old or young as Zetsa exited the vehicle, while the driver along with whoever was in the black vehicle stayed put.

    “Why are you here, Grent?” Zetsa stared at him like a predator leering at another predator who invaded its territory.

    CLACK!

    Grent shut the vehicle’s door. His eyes surveyed the surrounding as if searching for something, before landing on Zetsa. “Beastwoman”. He whispered in a voice only he could hear. “You know why I’m here”. He was not about to play around.

    The first and last time he took the woman in front of him for granted, he came to learn that though both of them are second level Core Masters, when her cultivated physic is added to the mix even an Intermediate third level Core Master will find it difficult to suppress her. Fortunately, for this trip he managed to prepare in advance support, at least as escorts riding in the black vehicle, in the form of two figures from the family that together can give a headache to any Intermediate third level Core Master who confronts them.

    “Oh, I do indeed know. But you know what, this time it’s only a secondary issue”. Hints of blazing and freezing mist energy oozing from Zetsa’ body revealed the hastiness in which the exchange of few words could escalate to a fight. “You actually dared to bring your goons to my family’s property!” There were not Soul Sense obstructing formation on the black vehicle and she obviously did not miss the chance of observing who is behind the blackened windows.

    Grent creased his brows. He was not a mere scion of a high class family, nor a graduate of just top Martial school. To his name was one of the great families of Shitou and his Mor was a reputable teacher of none other than Crescent Arms, one of the three best Martial schools in Kingdom Earth. Nevertheless, his family, great as it was, and is Mor, lofty and mighty as she was, all warned him of the power behind Zetsa, a younger woman than him who never enrolled to school other than pre Core one, and her family, save from her deceased freakish brother, was the most common a middle class could be.

    Detecting the discreet sign they instructed Grent to use only at the chance that a battle might occur, the black vehicle’s backdoors opened and from each side of it came out the two figures.

    They both appeared as middle aged man and woman. The black haired, brown skinned man wore a red robe while the tallest, blond haired, brown skinned woman wore an everyday jeans and tight sleeveless shirt.

    “How long is it going to be, Grent. I told you that I have plans for today and your uncle also wants to return to his meditation”. The blond, tall woman feigned an irritate demeanor and excuse for her and the black haired man to exit the vehicle.

    “Forgive me, aunty Navida. Soon I’ll be told what I want and we’ll be on our way”. Grent said apologetically and turned to Zetsa, less amiable. “You misunderstood. These are my uncle and aunt. Both are great expert of my family and I simply wanted to introduce them to Anet. If either of them see what I see in her agree to receive her as a Tal it would be far better fortune for her than staying the Tal of Eden Formation’s school principal”. His expression turned somber. “But that’s none of your business, and though I’m reluctant to drag this to a fight like before, I don’t mind telling you to your face, if you stand in my way, I’ll go through you”.

    Zetsa’s aura intensified, the roots of her hair rising, turning fiery as her breath turned cold.

    Her feud with Grent was not due to him pursuing her brother’s girlfriend, no. At the time she thought Zax is dead, though she never spoke of it with her, in her heart she hoped that Anet will not sink in the depression, even if it means forgetting Zax and finding new love. In this context, her problem with Grent also was not the sincerity of his feelings toward Anet, since they were apparent in his eyes and voice when he spoke her name and how he patiently responded to each of her refusals.

    Her deal with Grent was his constant attempts to not just draw, but distant Anet from her family, as if they were the obstacle preventing him from reaching her heart. Moreover, she always detected a trace of contempt from him, which she somewhat was under the impression that its cause in Grent’s mind was the idea of them not worthy for someone with high standing and future such as Anet.

    Perhaps his behavior was simply him being overprotective; perhaps it was his upbringing, in the end it did not matter. She was fine with her parents persuading Anet to visit them less often, if it pains her, but it was whole other matter handing her to this prick.

    “Young lady, please restrain your aura. We didn’t come here to create a scene. Our nephew invited us to see the woman who captured his heart. That is all”. Grent’s black haired uncle stepped forward, by his side Navida. He spoke of self control but seemed both capable and ready for the worse.

    “Zetsa, answer me that and we’ll leave”. Avoiding a seethed conflict was still the best choice and so Grent attempted to mitigate. “Was Anet here? Was it you or someone else in your family that made her halt her training session and come here?” He figured that Anet was not present because he did not see her Sun K-RV2 and he assumed that they might be the cause of her coming to cave twenty five since his intel indicated that she has not left the cave or added to her parents’ home.

    “I am not obligated to answer you anything, Grent, now get lost from my grandfather’s farm!” Zetsa barked. Finding out that Zax is alive did not diminish her flightiness in the least. In this particular matter she was now even more viscous with her intentions.

    “These are easy questions to answer. Are you bent on staying stubborn?”

    “Humph!” Zetsa snorted. Sadly the revelation of Zax being alive had to be kept a secret, hence she had to maintain her typical aggressive approach toward Grent instead of once and for all shuttering his dreams.

    “If that’s your decision…” Grent turned to return to his golden vehicle. “Uncle, aunty, sorry for wasting your time, but will you be okay with us staying parked in this farm until Anet arrive or leave the cave?”

    “Of course, Grent, if it’s so important for you that we’ll meet her”. Navida coincided.

    “It is! Very much important!”

    “Rest in your vehicle, nephew.  The two of us would rather appreciate the rustic scenery”. The black haired man said.

    “I think that you will like it, uncle Jeve. I, on the other hand, saw enough of it, so please forgive my rudeness”.

    “Hey, this is private property. I will not say it again, leave!” A thin layer of frost emerged on Zetsa’s exposed skin. Grent ignored the threat in her tone and returned to the vehicle.

    “They refer to you by ‘Miss Zetsa’, correct, young lady?” Navida tied her long blond hair. “At your age I was called by the same honorific, too. However, if I’m being honest, I was not as strong as you seem to be at your age. Luckily I and Jeve met. Our compatibility is seamless. Together we have been to many adventures, risky situations, always coming out on the upside. How about you chill down, sit and I’ll tell you some of them”. She imposed herself with flowery mannerism.

    The coldness reached Zetsa’s pupils. She nudged her arm, concentrated the combination of both heat and cold mist energy. It was a quick movement, which alerted Navida and Jeve and brought them to stand together.

    “Miss”, Jeve’s voice was amplified and reverberated like distant thunder. “Will it be smart to actually start a fight?” He gestured with his eyes at grandpa Ger’s and grandma Ney’s house. “Will you be able to bear the consequence should a stray attack hit it?” It was a reminder as well as a subtle threat. “We will. The great Lenma family will, even at the face of the great Zoearth family”.

    Like Grent and even better, Jeve and Navida were aware of the capabilities of the Valgarel’s power known as Kartion and those of his family. That war, several years back, which involved almighty tribes and third realm entities did not evade the intelligence of the major families of humanity’s Kingdom Earth. Jeve and Navida preferred not to taunt Kartion, but there was limit to their servility. In their calculation, should push comes to shove, so long as they will not kill or ruin Zetsa’s cultivation, Kartion will not take the risk of invading humanity’s territory.

    Zetsa squinted her eyes, her mist slowly dissipating. For her family’s safety she could do nothing but surrender to their terms.

    “Good girl-“ Navida’s mouth hanged open as she barely could finish the remark when a deep voice bombarded her ears.

    “Good?”

    One word that sounded from everywhere, hammered the heads of Navida, Jeve, Grent in the vehicle and the two drivers.

    Instantly all five vomited mouthfuls of blood and their complexion paled.

    Inside the golden vehicle Grent leaned forward, his arms struggling to support his back. “Wh- What!” He coughed some more blood and, felt like his inwards were squeezed by an invisible force. A crisis of life and death hovered above his head.

    With their knees on the ground and the metallic taste pushed down their throats, Navida and Jeve instinctively skimmed the surrounding, looking for the source of the terrifying voice.

    “Se- Se- Senior”, they regulated their breath and begged.

    “Senior?” A second word, another invisible ripple that struck viciously.

    Dread was plastered on Navida’s and Jeve’s face and inside the golden vehicle, after its driver and the driver of the black vehicle, Grent was about to be the third to lose consciousness.

    “What make you think that you are qualified to speak to me?” The sentence rang loud in their ears, but it no longer possessed the harmfulness of the previous two words.

    Navida and Jeve shivered. They wanted to say something, admit their wrongs, whatever the hidden senior would like to hear, but being taken the right to speak they could only pray in their trembling hearts while wondering whether it is Kartion himself in the shadows or one of his formidable elder apprentices.

    “The puny Lenma family dared to trespass and bully non cultivates, eh?” The voice snarled and without them realizing, Navida and Jeve found their forehead grovel so low, they were in contact with the ground.

    They did not sense soul or mist fluctuations, which scared them even more. Regardless of the gap in the cultivation with the hidden expert, even if he was at the third realm, if he directed his assault at them they should have been able to discern it. Yet, they did not. For someone to so easily dominate them without figuring how, not even the four old patriarchs and matriarch were capable of such feat!

    “Get up. Get lost. From this day forward all five of you are banned from entering this cave. Oh yeah, and if you seek revenge, or rather, if anything happen to the people living here, it is your lives I will take”.

    The voice faded out and Grent, Navida and Jeve as well as the two drivers felt their bodies lightening as the invisible pressure disappeared.

    As one azure streak and one dark streak Navida and Jeve ran, leaving cave twenty five, not bothering with the black vehicle or concerning themselves with the brat who almost got them killed.

    “This relationship cannot be permitted!” Jeve gritted his teeth. “This Anet’s and Grent’s feelings are mutual, if this expert is against it, regardless of reason, who can tell if the patriarchs and matriarch will be able to handle him”.

    “Precisely”. Navida clenched her fist. She truly planned to have some fun today with old friends in one of her favorite high class establishments, now she was far from being in the mood from even leaving her bedroom. “Grent, this incompetent punk! His talent and place in the direct line got to his head!”

    Jeve sighed. “It’s not his fault. Do you think that he could discover in his investigation an expert of this caliber?” He shook his head. “Poor child. He should not have put his aim on the girlfriend and family of that man. Even if he’s dead, it was always probable that his family was protected by former friends and Martial family”.

    “I don’t want to discuss it anymore. Let’s hurry. Banned from this little cave? Hell if I care. Next time there is business to be handled in El-Eden, find someone else!”

    The two were gone, most likely never to return. After them, in hot pursuit, followed one golden, one black vehicles.

     
  • http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 33 – Meeting The Martial Family

    Eyes red, veins protruding. Grent’s hands clenched, pulled and ripped the expensive padding of the golden vehicle’s seats. “That bitch actually invited one of her beast friends!” He resented Zetsa, despised her family, envied and hated a dead man. “Hahahahaha!” He abruptly burst in laughter, throwing his head back, not minding the taste for blood in his mouth, or the red stains on his lips and cloths. An image of a young, beautiful woman emerged in his sea of consciousness. “Anet… Anet… Back when I first saw you your beauty was not the best that I’ve seen, but your features were exactly my type so I naturally found myself attracted to you”.

    He recalled the instant in the Martial competition, in which he eyes were casually drawn to a minor commotion between two schools. When he saw Anet in but a second he was captivated by her looks and that was that. Later, finding that she has a boyfriend, moreover one of the prominent figures in the competition, he chose to act reasonably and forget her. Whatever she had in his eyes that others, more beautiful did not, was indeed rare, but with plenty fish in the sea, not unattainable.

    “He died and I got my chance, hahaha!” A bit of misery could be heard in his voice. Initially his attraction spawned from her external features, then, the more he learned about her, there were portions of her personality and assessment of future prospects that deepened the allure. “Alas, he still in your mind, his detestable low family in my way and now even supreme experts get involve”.

    As a second level Core Master he could determine his undeniable inferiority to the hidden expert and the amount of trouble he will bring his family by insisting on continuing to pursue Anet, should the expert be hell bent on interfering.

    “I… I’m… I’m weak”.


    “Sorry”. Anet apologized to Zax.

    Up above the farm he formed an invisible platform of dark attribute energy from them to stand on as he threatened and scared away Grent, Navida and Jeve. Needless to say that he was furious.


    In the midst of compensating for the pain and time apart, couple of hours, actually, after he left his grandparents’ farm, Anet’s Caller rang with the frantic Liz on the other side.

    Moment after being told to get inside the house with her parents and grandma Shi Oh and then seeing the familiar golden vehicle of the mean man, the little girl picked her mother’s Caller from the living room’s table and called the one she remembered the mean man would listen to.

    There was no time for her to explain to Zax. Knowing his temperament, Anet just asked him to spare Grent and his company, murmuring that it is her fault to begin with.


    “I’m sorry”. She repeated, glancing at the golden vehicle, hoping she will not have to deal with the one inside, that after Zax’s conduct his resolved will shatter indefinitely. “His name is ‘Grent Lenma’”, she elaborated in spite of being aware that he heard enough to get the picture. “Of Shitou‘s second great family. He began to pursue me shortly after news of your death spread around the circle of the elite families with connections to the last Martial competition. I rejected him, but mostly ignored him, which is why I say that it’s my fault that he ended up pestering your family. Instead of being explicit that I don’t have any feelings for him, by disregarding his affection he became more persistent”.

    “Enough, Anet”. Zax did not want to hear. Though he would have liked her from the start to tell Grent off in a definite manner, it irritated much more that his family got involved.

    He held Anet’s waist and together they descended.

    “Zax, so it was really you…” Zetsa was surprised seeing him landing. The domineering voice that influenced Grent and those of his company sounded different than his regular speaking voice, so she could not recognize him; only speculate to whom it belonged.

    “Mom, dad, everyone you can come outside”. Zax called after nodding to Zetsa. He did not want to frighten his other family members and used dark attribute energy to block the sound waves from permitting into the house. He let Zetsa hear him to avoid confusion during the abrupt capitulation of Navida and Jeve.

    “Big brother!” Liz dashed outside upon hearing him. “Big sis Anet!” She made a sharp turn and jumped to her embrace. “You told the mean man to go? You told him not to come again?” She was stressful. When last time she saw Zetsa fight Grent and slightly getting hurt, despite winning, her subconscious attached to her mind an image of him she was afraid of. That time the mean man left only when Anet came and told him to.

    Zax picked Liz from Anet’s arms. “That person will never return to cave twenty five and in the future, if you see him, he will never dare to scare you. It’s your big brother’s promise!”

    He helped her calm down with a thread of soul energy. It took her a moment, but eventually she nodded and gave him a hug without saying further words.


    “She is asleep”. Zax came out from Liz’s bedroom.

    When the Nightly Cover formation at the ceiling of the cave started to darken, they return home from the farm.

    Anet, Zetsa, Marco and Laylen sat in the living room while Zax put Liz to sleep.

    “Zax, you intend to go to your Master’s cave?” Marco asked.

    “Yes, tonight. There is a lot I have to talk with him, apart from letting him know that I’m alive. The longest that I’ll be away would be three days. I’ll come back home right after”.

    It took effort, but Marco, along reluctant Laylen, finally nodded in agreement.

    “I’ll be joining you and Zetsa”. Anet got up from the couch.

    “I also prefer that you will. There are thing I want to share with you alongside my Master, big sis and the rest”.

    Still on the couch, Zetsa had the impression that Zax holding back an important matter. She was about to ask but decided to save it to when they reach Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.

    “Take my Caller, Zax”. Laylen offered. “So we’ll at least be able to communicate with you”.

    Hesitating for too short for them to notice, Zax decided to comply. “I might not be always at range, so don’t get worry if I don’t answer. In three day I’ll definitely be home”.

    He could have given them his spare communicator. It had much better range than most Callers in Kingdom Earth. He decided against the idea since it was foreign technology and even if he could count on him parents to hide it, on this regard he chose to stay safe than sorry.


    It was a long and short trip. Two hours in Anet’s fastest pace, eternity for his perception as it reabsorbed a familiar path, bustling wildness and flora.

    “Grandmaster’s cave”.

    It was not guarded; there was no need for it since the conflict with the Black Horns tribe concluded.

    “I’ll head on first”. Other than Laivien, Zax was not worried about the reactions of the rest of his Martial family to his “resurrection”. As shocked as they may be, their hearts were cultivated along each of the three aspects, and therefore he did not have to drag the process like with his family.

    ‘Grandmaster is in his Blue Tower, Master and Martial brother Simel are with him!‘ Besides the three, Zax’s Soul Sense discovered Laivien, still in her valley, had yet to give birth, and his eldest Martial sister Hagen, cultivating in one of the peaks close to the Blue Tower.


    At the second floor of the Blue Tower three humanoid beasts sat in a triangle formation while between them was a clear ball of ice with all kind of engravings.

    When he heard that his one and only Martial son died in the world above ground, Kartius, for the fourth time in his life, wailed from the bottom of his heart. To say that he was sad and mad was an understatement. He was devastated and frenzied.

    Grandmaster Kartion had to restrain him with the assistant of his apprentices, as Kartius planned to visit His Valor Ozeyn for help to go above ground. They could not let him show up rowdy at the doorstep of Valgarel’s ruler, neither rush to an unknown, dangerous territory. In the end, he calmed down after submitting to Grandmaster Kartion’s ultimatum for leaving… cultivating as a Mist User to the Peak of the second realm and achieving the first stage of the second realm as bodily cultivator.

    Now, between the three, the clear ball of ice was a model of the soul on which they recorded their insights and enlightenments for fashioning the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s second phase’s second stage.

    “Kartius, Simel!” Grandmaster Kartion’s eyes snapped opened from his contemplation.

    “Big brother!”

    “Master!”

    Simel and Kartius simultaneously called alarmingly. They felt it, too, an overbearing Soul Sense sweeping them, not bothering to conceal itself.

    “They are here!” Grandmaster Kartion deduced that the person or persons already arrived and were at the entrance of his Blue Tower.

    “Who is it?” Simel asked. His Soul Sense was obstructed by an even stronger Soul Sense.

    “Follow me!” Grandmaster Kartion’s Sublime Soul Sense was also blocked.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    The three hastened down to the entrance of the Blue Tower, whoever arrived knowingly waited them outside.


    As he expected… utter silence.

    WHOOSH!

    Wind blew from behind and a great, Double Pupils Hawk flapped her giant wings, maintaining her position in the air.

    It was hard, reading emotion from a beast’s face. In comparison to the rest, Simel was the easiest as he was from the ape family. Then again, after spending years under his tutelage, in their presence, how could Zax not discern the disbelief, amazement, grief and joy?

    He first bowed, not by much, to his Master. “Martial father, sorry for making you worry”. He proceeded to raise his head, look at Grandmaster Kartion, Simel and Hagen. “Marital uncle, Martial big brother Simel, eldest Martial sister Hagen, Zax is back”.

    BUMP!

    Simel was the first to make any sort of reaction as his knees became weak and he fell on his butt. “H- Ho- How?” His voice gradually rumbled as his facial muscles crooked to a look of ecstasy. “No! No! Don’t answer! My little brother is alive, hahahaha! My little brother, hahaha!”

    Since Tularg’s sacrifice and death the bond connecting the living grew stronger, especially for those who were the eldest, Raroen, Hagen and Simel. Their loss of a younger brother, blood or Martial, and their inability to save him weighed on them days and nights.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    Zetsa who kept pace with Anet made it together.

    “You came back…” Grandmaster Kartion said in a low voice as he gained his composure.

    “Master”, Zax’s line of sight intersected with Kartius’s.

    Kartius’s chest went up and down as he gasped and from the nostrils of his stag head currents of hot air came out. “Zax”. Although he was tensed, the lucidness of his eyes indicated only moderate restlessness.

    The blowing wind from behind stopped. Hagen landed and transformed to her humanoid form.

    “Everyone”, Zax suddenly said guiltily, more guilty than he already seemed. “There is much I have to say, but let’s not do it here. There is still someone I must apologize to...”

    ‘Laivien’. He thought of her name.

    Probably the hardest to see in his Martial family, even more than his Master, was her, for Zax knew what he his Martial brother and sisters meant to her. The motherly love to the child she was not able to birth due to the injury she received early in her pregnancy, she poured in abundance at her Kartion’s and big brother’s apprentices.

    He found her resting in her valley, not using the violet stone to commune or inspect the lives in the two caves, so she was unaware of his arrival.

    “Give me just a bit more time”. Zax asked and vanished before their eyes.

    “He disappeared”. Simel was stunned. He was not able even to follow Zax’s shadow or perceive the fluctuations in the air. It was as if he teleported.

    “Kartius…” Grandmaster Kartion glanced at the half muddled Kartius, saying in a deep, a tad wavering voice. “Strong. Your Martial son got terrifyingly strong”.

     
  • edited December 2017
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 34 – Incredible Realization

    She saw him, emerging step by step from the far off distance, the encompassing smoky mist of the Essence Cave, advancing toward her, like a dream turn reality.

    Almost like a mirage he seemed to walk slowly while in fact each of his steps crossed ten or so meters.

    “I’m back, Laivien”.

    “I… was told…” She answered back but it sounded like she talked to herself.

    Her heart throbbed strongly. She was afraid… that she one more imagine him, like when they told her of his death and when Tularg died.

    “Zax”. Her voice was barely audible, her eyes moist and her mind wondering… is she going to cry because her eyes and ears play tricks on her, like they so often do these days, or for he truly came back, alive and well?

    She had to confirm, even if it will draw all her effort, she had to stand up and go to him herself before he will go and vanish.

    “Wait”.

    In another stride he appeared right next to her, under the pavilion. He placed a hand at the side of her back, both letting her feel him and stopping her from getting up.

    For an instant she was startled, from the speed she completely failed to follow, and the sense of touch that gently pressed against her fur.

    “You… You…” Tears began to cascade from her eyes. The words she wanted to say all stuck in her mouth. She dropped her white doe head, nuzzling it at his much smaller head and upper body.

    Soon they were joined by Grandmaster Kartion, Kartius, Anet and everyone else who followed from the Blue Tower.

    Laivien continued to cuddle Zax with her head as she glanced sideways to her Kartion and big brother. “He returned to us, Zax is here”. She shoved him closer to her body, to not leave her motherly range of control.

    They came forward, Zetsa, Anet, Simel and Hagen behind Grandmaster Kartion and Kartius, both stags in their animalistic forms in front of their dear Laivien.

    “I’m not going, Laivien”, Zax caressed her neck. “Master… Martial father, Grandmaster, please comply to my request and sit. I’ll tell you everything now”.

    “You better will!” Simel emotionally charged. The big Silver Skin Gorilla was only second to Laivien in revealing his excitement.

    “Master, Martial uncle”, Zetsa asked their attention. Neither asked her anything on the way to the valley as they rather have Zax, the one who left and return, answer their questions. “Little Zi just return home a day ago, please listen to what he has to say”.

    “Not just them, everyone”. Zax corrected Zetsa, including Simel, Hagen and Laivien. “Later eldest Martial brother Raroen, big sister Rarahel, big brother Mes and big sister Shulip, too”.

    Nodding, Grandmaster Kartion and Kartius settled close to the pavilion.

    “Martial son”, Kartius turned to him, his mind and heart he peace and like it not been in a long time. “Tell us what you encounter and how your journey was, but if there are parts you cannot mention, for whatever reason, that is fine, too”. He knew that Zax happened to be involved with Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch of Kingdom Earth, and assumed that there were more figures on the same scale that he had met and perhaps dealt with. If any such figures preferred that Zax will keep their dealing a secret, Kartius wanted him to know that he was fine with it.

    “Don’t worry, Master”. Zax smiled. It indeed was easier to reveal himself to his Martial family. “Actually, it’s not just words that I brought to you, but before anything else, I’ll let them come first…”

    And so it began… the retelling of his venture in Ercas Mir along with all the details he omitted or distort from and for his parents.

    As he narrated, now and then Zax answered questions for the surrounding humans and beasts, sometimes repeating himself to elaborate certain stuff or emphasize that they really occurred.

    Two and a half hours into his tale some new arrived.

    Mes, who traveled in Valgarel returned to find no one in the first of the two caves other than the Krikitories who lived there, which bewildered him since he knew that his Master will not leave the cave without leaving someone in charge. Confused, he went to the Essence cave, to seek and ask Laivien, there he nearly shed his skin when he saw Zax.

    After giving Mes a short explanation, Zax proceeded with the narration, and three more hours after that, he finished the story.

    “This… this…” Simel struggled to sentence his thoughts. “Little brother Zax, third realm expert?! You actually encountered so many and actually fought them?!”

    The most difficult to believe portions of the story were all related to his encounters and incredible descriptions of survival and battle against Martial Mortals.

    The question on the matter by Mes, Simel, Hagen and even Anet and Zetsa were so frequent that at a certain point Grandmaster Kartion demanded  quiet until Zax would finish, whilst making sure to remember his own questions for later.

    “Are you blind, Simel?! Have you not seen his speed?! Even I could not follow him! And aside from that, have you not heard him?” Kartius berated his Martial nephew. “Do you think he obtained his strength in a stroll? The five powers, Mercenary Association, grand cities and clans, oceans, Deformed Being who are born to rival Martial Mortals, Immortals and Gods…! If the Martial son of I, Kartius, had to go through all of this and fail to rise above than the person before you is only an impostor and all of us are fools!” His raving tone and harsh words had narrowly masked the immensity of the thrill and pride he felt for Zax, alongside the tinge of fear that spawned from the slight peek outside the well of New Earth.

    “In the family, big brother Raroen, big sister Hagen and uncle are the only mist users in the third Core Master’s level. Apart from them, Zetsa has a long way to go before reaching the Peak of the second Core Master’s level. Considering the aptitude of the rest of us, I, Shulip and Rarahel are even farther behind on out Martial path. And yet… the youngest of us, smallest in the family, in such a short period of time, has gotten so strong, only the likes of His Valor Ozeyn and the Supreme Rulers of Kingdom Earth are his betters?!” Mes murmured to himself. He, too, wanted to go to Ercas Mir at Zax’s departure, but Grandmaster Kartion forbade him due to lack of knowledge about the world above ground, which now, although it felt like a loss, seemed to be the correct decision. As for his comparison of Zax to the Supreme Rulers and His Valor Ozeyn, that was his own conjecture and perhaps nothing Zax would say will make him believe that he honestly reached their legendary level of power.

    “So I must pick… either the icy or fiery attribute”. Zetsa ruminated, inwardly feeling in an impasse more so than a junction.

    “Five levels of Martial Mortal… six bottlenecks of insight…” Hagen mused, feeling complicated. Evidently she exhausted a speech technique that enabled her hawk head to speak outloud, rather than transmit her voice. Anyway, not just she, but in fact, they all were astounded by learning the true importance of the bottlenecks of insight and the approximate division of power in Ercas Mir, with respect to Martial Mortals.

    None of them would ever dare think before today that when venturing in the world above ground they will meet such an abundance of experts. That in many occasions first level and second level, even third and fourth level Martial Mortals would be in attendance! To say nothing of Valgarel, in all of New Earth there were probably ten or so Martial Mortals and if experts like former Supreme Ruler Gid, Supreme Ruler Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn are at the fourth level, then at what level the rest could be that hold meaningfulness above ground?

    Even more shocking was the revelation of the six bottlenecks of insight! The Martial path was, according to Zax, divided to Mortality and Immortality. For a cultivator to transcend, or attain “Evolutionary Ascension”, to Immortality, he or she has to perceive and comprehend, at the very least, four bottlenecks of insight before reaching the Peak of Mortality and praying to Nature to bestow fortune on them for a fraction of opportunity.

    Comprehending four bottlenecks of insight?! Any cultivator who broke through to the Core Master realm and cultivated in it for while would have his and her eyes pop out of their sockets upon hearing this.

    In succession of accomplishment, the six bottlenecks of insight become tens, hundreds and thousands of time more difficult to perceive and comprehend. Even for Zax, although his progression seemed fast and steady, there is virtually no one in New Earth whose soul was more built to the task and enhanced by the tempering of the clone of the Black Core’s previous owner. Furthermore, his heightened soul by itself was not enough to excavate the real usefulness of the bottlenecks of insight in the short time he did. It was all thanks to the doses of dark attribute’s essence he received from the two Black Cores and God Demirva’s perfect dark attribute's essence that his understanding of the dark attribute energy, via the five bottlenecks he comprehended, was accelerated. Moreover, he had yet to reach the limit of understanding achievable by five bottlenecks and the effect of those entire dark attribute’s essences wore off shortly after absorbing them.

    With Zax being the exception, most cultivators, be they those who know or do not know the importance of the bottlenecks, succumbed to the initial three bottlenecks of insight – it is compulsory to comprehend no less than three to get to the Peak of the second realm or break through to the third - and then skip the rest for quick cultivation.

    “Fortunately, fortunately…” Hagen shook her hawk head. ‘I comprehended three bottlenecks of insight and skipped two which at the time I felt I have no hope of perceiving and comprehending. Fortunately I haven’t come across the last one. My Martial path is secured. big brother Raroen is the same’. Even if four were the minimum requirement and there was still a long road ahead, it sufficed to ensure A future for her as a cultivator striving for Immortality.

    “So you did, actually nearly die…” Anet stared at Zax, biting her lips in agitation. To the sound of her voice and choice of words everyone became awakened from the six bottlenecks’ stupor only to fell into silence.

    “Yes, I did”. Zax confessed straightforwardly. “As I nearly died many other times, before, in New Earth, since a very young age”. He was not just excusing his near death experiences… “Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten as strong as I am now”. They all knew that it was a fair exchange, but every so often someone had to say it outloud.

    RUMBLE!

    RUMBLE!

    RUMBLE!

    The ground suddenly started quaking.

    “Master?”

    “Grandmaster?”

    “Big brother!”

    “Kartius?”

    Everyone called in surprise.

    His long, stag head bent down while his entire stalwart physique trembled with the earth beneath it.

    “Mm! Mm! Mm!” A pleased, muffled hum reverberated from his sealed lips. “Hahahaha!”  He pulled his neck opened his mouth. “HAHAHAHA! Thank you! Thank you, good nephew! Hahaha!” Grandmaster Kartion erupted in an outburst of laughter and happiness so rare on him, everyone, including his Laivien, gawked at him dumbfound.

    “Hahahaha! Little brother, Martial daughter Zetsa, the two have you also deserve gratitude. If not you, bringing and nurturing that little child, he would not have grown into the man who so generously assumed the role of a catalyst to all those bottlenecks I struggled with for years and years, hahahahaha!”

    “Big brother”, Grandmaster Kartion straightened his neck excitedly. “You had a breakthrough? You broke through another bottleneck of insight?!” He was both delighted and confused. Grandmaster Kartion’s soul broke through to the third realm a long time ago, logically it should not be possible for him to meet more bottlenecks of insight or revisit those he skipped.

    “Eh?!” Grandmaster Kartion’s stared and then waved his antlers as he shook his head. “No, little brother. Sadly those two I gave up will never return”. Despite stating that depressing fact, his elation did not diminish. “Four is enough, hahaha! To say what those bottlenecks meant will take too long, the most important, though, I’m finally satisfied with it! At last I perfected it! It cannot be any more flawless and the next step not that obscure…”

    “Perfected?” Simel seemed to think about something and a particular matter dawned on him. “Master, you mean!”

    “Yes, clever son! The Three Stages Of Hyper Physique, the first stage is now indisputably DONE!”

     
  • edited January 6
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 35 – Back To The Savage Caves




    “Three Stages Of Hyper Physique?” Zax asked and before getting answer a notion came to his mind. “The Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s second phase!”

    “Right, Martial son”. Kartius.

    Grandmaster Kartion got up on his four hooves. “Martial nephew, since I finished the creation of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique’s first stage, began to cultivate it and envision the second stage, I had a constant sense of dissatisfaction that something crucial for the first stage, the foundation to carry the second and third, is lacking a component I could not pinpoint. That problem is now behind me, as I realized what eluded me and managed to use it to amend the first stage and formulate the correct template for the next one”.

    “Kartion, congratulation!” Laivien brimmed with happiness. She was well aware of her Kartion’s setbacks in his work.

    “Big brother, that is wonderful news!”

    “Congratulation, Master!”

    Though among those present only Grandmaster Kartion, Kartius and Zax broke through the second realm of bodily cultivation, and while there were few who did not cultivate at all their physique or ceased training in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, they all were extremely ecstatic.

    Zax could not help but feel a surge of adrenalin flowing in his body as his blood boiled and all his hairs stood erect. ‘I haven’t had the opportunity, yet, but now…  Grandmaster could not have a more perfect timing’.

    What was the thing he needed more than anything now that he, little by little, engaged more frequently with the true apex of Ercas Mir’s Martial world? Means to get stronger!

    Zax knew that Grandmaster Kartion was arduously laboring for the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s second phase. For a while he had watched and been part of the process, with not much contribution, though. So he was mildly familiar with the first stage’s degree of growth in strength. At the time he thought that compared to the disparity between the seven gates of the first phase it was not as exponential.

    ‘If Grandmaster was able to improve on it…!’ He hoped for only one thing… the competence to contend against anyone below the fifth Martial Mortal’s level.

    “Grandmaster, when will it be possible to cultivate the first stage?”  Zax eagerly asked.

    “Good Martial nephew, don’t be impatient”. There was slight resignation in Grandmaster Kartion’s voice. “Although I know what my Three Stages Of Hyper Physique was lacking and confident in adjusting it, it would still take me a long time before I could put it to the test.

    “I don’t mind telling you in advance, the correction I was able to realize was related to the energy of the world I previously made use of. The aspects of the world we are exposed to by the bottlenecks of insight were what I believed until today the right propellant to draw upon, in order to cultivate the second realm of the body. When you said that as your insights and understanding grew you were able to manifest and make better use of a worldly dark attribute energy, I had an epiphany that drove me to reexamine my own understanding of the dark attribute and its encompassing worldly energy.  In spite of having, probably, less than meager understanding I was still capable of analyzing the new concept in my Inner Panorama and conclude it as success”.

    “Master, the obscure dark attribute energy is perhaps beyond our perception, but we can attempt using dark attribute’s essence from the second Savage Cave”. Simel suggested. Of his fellow apprentices he was the most versed in their Master’s work.

    “I can head out right now”. Hagen transformed to her animalistic form. She was a cultivation fanatic and did not care that her accomplishment in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement were deficient, her real interest lain in the marvelous attribute worldly energy. If her Master can develop a way to utilize it, then maybe their Martial path will expand faster, regardless of comprehending four, five or six bottlenecks of insight.

    “I’ll go!” Zax raised his voice. Gesturing with his hand, showing his spatial ring a collection of unique objects appeared on the ground.

    Pure Cores and a liquefied attribute’s essences inside varying size vials.

    The amount was not great. The few vials he found with the Splinters in the spatial ring he snatched from the Dewgong’s deposit box. The one third realm Pure Core kept in his Blue Stone before his spatial rings were stolen and the four Peak second realm Pure Core he gathered on the way from the Eastern Continent.

    Seeing everything appear out of nowhere, everyone looked at the ring on Zax’s finger with admiration. In New Earth if someone wanted to store valuable in a mobile and comfortable to carry space, the sole solution were Blue Stone. The problems with Blue Stones were that most tower sizes, which they transform into, were rather small and that retrieving or placing objects inside had to be done manually, unlike doing so with a simple thought with spatial rings.

    “This is a third realm Pure Core from a rather young three scales Deformed Being. It should help in getting to the Intermediate or Advanced phase of the first Martial Mortal’s level. The rest will take you to the Peak of the Core Master realm. They are why the number of expert in Ercas Mir is so huge. Anet, take this”. He gave her one of the four Pure Cores.

    “But… I can’t, Zax”. A quick and smooth ride to the Peak of the second realm? Anet did not have the shamelessness of accepting the Pure Core when there was clearly not enough for everyone. “My Martial talent is good. One day I’ll definitely breakthrough to the second realm and Don Mor always say that I’ll eve surpass her, but next to everyone here… it will be a waste for me to receive a Pure Core. Even if my cultivation speed will improve, I don’t know how long it would take me to perceive and comprehend the bottlenecks of insight”.

    “Take it, girl”. After today Grandmaster Kartion viewed Zax in a new light. If his Martial nephew brought a few gifts for the family and wanted to share them with his companion, too, he will express nothing but support.

    “Anet”, Zetsa tapped her shoulder. “You are not valued less or more by having a worse or better talent. Besides, it’s only a Peak second realm Pure Core, it won’t do much for Martial uncle, big brother Rar, eldest Martial sister Hagen and big brother Simel as they all in the third Core Master’s level. As for the rest of us… Martial sister Rarahel and I both in the second Core Master’s level and toiling over our third bottleneck of insight, which now it seems we cannot pass. Master and Martial mother Laivien cannot cultivate mist. Only ones remaining are little sister Shulip and little brother Mes which can each take a Pure Core and we are still left with two”.

    Forced to accept the Pure Core along with Zetsa’s arguing, Anet stop being reserved and took the Pure Core from Zax. “Thank you”.

    “Silly, you don’t have to thank me”. Zax was enjoyed seeing her trying to restrain the glow of happiness.

    Watching Anet receive a Pure Core and seeing how everyone approved of Zetsa’s argument, Mes clenched his fist and gathered his resolved. “Master, little brother Zax, can I get the second Pure Core”. He was stuck in the first Core Master’s level for years, even though he skipped and comprehended one bottlenecks. He felt ashamed, but there was nothing he could do about those feelings of jealousy.

    “Grandmaster, we shouldn’t be conservative. There are plenty more of even the third realm ones in Ercas Mir. In the future it won’t be an issue getting them”. Zax said instead of answering Mes.

    From his story, Grandmaster Kartion understood that Zax have plans to return to Ercas Mir. As such, there release was no need to rethink too much who and when receives a Pure Cure, except, maybe, to third realm one.

    His used his soul telekinetically to send a Pure Core to Mes. “That is not an easy path that you had gained. The perseverance that you now have in excess, use it to comprehend at least three more bottlenecks of insight. It no longer matters which if you’ll develop understanding of your attribute”.

    “Yes, Master!” Mes replied elatedly, took the Pure Core and actually shoved it through his mouth down his stomach, in his human form!

    “Stupid, viper, don’t be so gross!” Simel rebuked him while Zetsa and Hagen glared at him.

    They were used to his habit of swallowing his personal belonging since he kept his Blue Stone in his stomach, but when he did so in human form even beasts thought it looked weird.

    “Huhuhu!” Laivien was amused by the four.

    Mes snorted at the three. “I only did it to make Martial mother laugh”.

    “Well then, thank you, little Mes, huhuhuhu”.

    “Good, good, Martial son, see what joy did you bring”. Kartius said in gratification; however his tone turned strict for his next words. “Big brother, little sister, your Martial brothers and sisters, Martial niece Zetsa, Anet, your family in Kingdom Earth… Make sure not to frighten us like this ever again!” He got up on his hooves, as well. There were many insights to reflect upon, traces of profound enlightenment among them that he would like to explore. “Big brother, give the third realm Pure Core to one of your three eldest apprentices. Martial son, before you leave to Ercas Mir visit me. I would like to personally experience how well you had grown”. He finished, stamped the ground and departed in a soaring jump.

    “Grandmaster”, Zax stood up. “I intend to go to the second Savage Cave and verify if there is really a third”.

    “Is it because that Earthly Crater you mentioned?”

    “Because of it, and because I want to gather dark attribute’s essences, to see if they can expedite the cultivation of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique’s first stage”.

    “That would also help me a lot”. Grandmaster Kartion concurred. “You said that former Supreme Ruler Gid had broken through to the third realm in his bodily refinement technique, yet still could not repair his dantian…” He mumbled to himself, turning to leave, collecting the Pure Cores in vials to a Blue Stone on his person. “Beloved, in the coming days there will be much for me to contemplate”.

    “I understand”. Laivien nodded.

    “Simel, we go back. Hagen, Mes, Zetsa, meditate about what Martial nephew told us. When your Martial brother Raroen and Martial sisters return send them to me immediately”.

    “Yes, Master”. All four replied.

    Hagen and Mes left alongside Grandmaster Kartion and Simel.


    Exiting the Essence Cave together with Zetsa and Anet, Zax reassured them that he will not tarry and be sure to stand by his promise of returning within two and a half days.

    Disregarding the tribes whose beast kin guarded tunnels and requested tribute for passing, Zax traversed the way to Savage Caves, while practicing the set of foot technique Linor taught him and the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique. As a result it took him longer than he should have to make it to the entrance of the first Savage Cave.

    ‘Due to my bodily control, in a short time my proficiency in Linor’s foot technique had risen to rivaling the demonstration she gave me’. Zax determined. ‘On the other hand I doubt what she showed was her limit in this foot technique… forget it! I’ll keep training for future references’. Who could tell if learning assassin’s steps will not save his life one day? “I still need months before having meaningful achievement in the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique. I wonder… will it be easier to practice if I’ll cultivate the first stand of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique?”

    He crossed the tunnel leading to the first cave, its savage force was ineffectual but a good reminder of its scary influence on the soul and that no matter how strong he is in comparison to his past self, he should not be complacent and prepare for his first stride in the unknown of the second Savage Cave.
     
  • edited January 13
    http://www.lonahora.com/

    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 36 – The Hurdle Of The Second Savage Cave



    Those who succumbed to savagery were ample in number as usual; poor soul who will either perish in the first Savage Cave or by stroke of luck will regain their sanity. The former was more probable.

    The Blood Red Grapes’s groves were occupied as expected. Zax did not care much about their occupants, but neither he disturbed them when he passed through some for an invigorating unripe Blood Red Grape, which he developed a taste to during the old days...

    ‘The gravitational force’. Zax noted when he got to its sphere of influence around the entrance to the tunnel leading to the second Savage Cave. ‘So it’s actually the same like in the Earthly Crater. Rather than originating from an earthly attribute, it’s the operation of a dark attribute’s swallowing property. But what is the source of the savage force?’ He wondered. By figuring half the truth, the other half became more intriguing.

    ‘Let’s test it’. Zax walked inside the tunnel, allowing the gravitational force to weigh on him out of interest to measure the estimate distance a Beginner first level to Peak third level Core Master could endure. As for the savage force, its effect was less than negligible, for now.

    The tunnel was few hundred meters long, not a round number but shorter than four hundred meters.

    ‘So a Beginner first level Core Master can bear the gravitational and savage forces all the way to the second cave’. Zax was a tad surprise.

    To maintain an ounce of clarity in the first cave a cultivator’s soul had to reach the Mist Lord level or have an equal strength. The bare minimum requirement to enter the second cave was for the soul to break through to the Core Master realm.

    Seeing the great opening at the end of the tunnel, Zax’s attention shifted to the terrain of the second Savage Cave.

    It was a barren land, dry earth with fissures all over. In here, other the attribute’s essences, every herb and plant that could survive and thrive was a natural treasure tens and even hundreds of times more rare and superior to those at the first cave. The only issue was finding and then carefully uprooting them without losing their peculiar properties.

    Previously Zax thought that to hasten his bodily cultivation he would have to rely on those natural treasures of the second Savage Cave. As it so happened, in the end he got his fortune elsewhere, via other means. Then again, by what Grandmaster Kartion said about the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique, he apparently done a full circle…

    Past the tunnel Zax stood with a pensive mien. ‘Somewhere in this cave it is believed that an entrance to a third Savage Cave is located. Weird… I somehow have the feeling that even I won’t be able reach the other end of the second cave yet others are so sure of the existence of a third… Is it because fifth level Martial Mortals found it in the past,’ he glanced up. ‘Or speculation of those who know that there should be more to this place, which is roughly below the Earthly Crater?’

    Zax lowered his head and squinted. The other side of the cave was in the range of twenty kilometers away. His cultivated vision, even further boosted by dark attribute energy, at best could vaguely make up the fuggy layout of the distant cave’s wall.

    ‘Whatever. If I can’t get there it doesn’t matter if I see the entrance or not’. It was a momentarily relaxation for soon after he initiated his entry to the cave he got struck by an annoying realization. ‘My Soul Sense… I can’t spread it farther than ten meters, a hundred or so when amplified with dark attribute energy’. This made things more difficult in finding attribute essences, much less a factual indication that this cave has more than the eye could see without taking the chance of attempting to go all the way to its other side. ‘And the farther I’d would the more of its radius will shorten’. He decided not to bother with it at all. ‘Even if it’s not much, I might as well conserve every bit of concentration. Who knows what other dangerous lay in here…?’

    Five meters in… seven meters, eight, nine…

    ‘Eh? Ten meters is the limit a Beginner first level Core Master could cross to every direction from the entrance of the second cave. In this distance there is hardly anything to find. One can only turn to excavation in hope of finding an underground source of attribute’s essence or natural treasures. But the ground of the second cave is much tougher than regular earth,’ he could tell by stomping it, ‘and impervious to Soul Sense’. He let out a sight. ‘Being weak in a treasure trove must be frustrating’.

    As barren and lacking as the land of the second cave may appear on first impression, it was not that impossible to locate with the eyes several of its valuables. With a simple scan, Zax’s field of vision captured a decent collection of plants, ponds and attractive minerals. It was only a slight problem getting to them. The closest to the entrance of the cave were in the ninety meters mark and did not amount to much.

    Zax continued to walk. For now he paid no mind to those attractions. Only if he will come empty handed will he pick them on his return.

    Fifteen meters in… twenty meters… forty… eighty… a hundred and ten…

    ‘A hundred and thirteen meters is the limit of Peak third level Core Master’. It was akin for mist and bodily cultivators alike. Even if bodily cultivators could resist the gravitational force for a longer distance, they would still yield to the save force in the hundred and fourteen meters mark.

    ‘Supreme Ruler Ar Yen and that yellow fox, Ginlin, got their dark attribute fruit and liquefied fiery attribute around this area’. Zax determined and a sort of chuckle escaped his mouth. ‘Weren’t you the lucky one, Ginlin, ah? With the scarce quantity of these shallow ponds it is barely feasible to fill a shot of liquefied fiery attribute’s essence, yet you managed a whole canteen!’ Zax guessed that in all likelihood others had kept coming since then, which is why there was not a lot of fiery attribute ponds. ‘The fact that they did not dry completely is a sliver of hope that the ponds, perhaps, can slowly refill themselves’.

    Going beyond the threshold of Peak third level Core Master, Zax started to assess the limit of Martial Mortals, still bearing the growing pressure of the gravitational and savage forces without utilizing dark attribute energy.

    BANG!

    His foot sank three centimeters into the ground and a couple of tears formed on the soles of the shoes he “borrowed” Sanctum Oasis after also “borrowing” a pair of clothes.

    ‘One hundred and fifty seven meters… unexpectedly that’s the limit my soul can withstand’. His eyes reddened a little and a sharp pain invaded his sea of consciousness, hammering at his soul.  ‘The savage force is actually even more dangerous than the gravitational force. If it will enfold my soul I might get stuck in this cave until I’ll come across a chance for a breakthrough’. Although when employing dark attribute energy his soul was comparable to a Beginner fourth level Martial Mortal, it was essentially near the Peak of the second realm. Why Zax was not well disposed toward the idea of breaking through, was because he did not want to give up on the last bottleneck of insight. ‘My body can continue a bit farther, though overall the difference isn’t that significant. For a Beginner third level Martial Mortal this should be the limit for both mist and soul’. He straightened his back, pacified the tides and cloud around and above his Inner Panorama. ‘Now, for my real limit’.

    Using what he learned from his enlightenment in the Earthly Crater he controlled the dark attribute energy to repel the second Savage Cave’s gravitational force, virtually canceling its influence on him.

    Transforming to the second stage of his Dark Titan Storm’s form was also an option, but in this instance it would not have been the optimal solution. The gravitational force would have still remained and after a while not only his transformed form could find it hard to bear, he will also lose the energy to sustain it.

    Weakening the savage force was trickier. Zax did not have the means to terminate it. Much like in the Earthly Crater he could only strengthen his with dark attribute energy and advance until he could not anymore, in the process figuring the limit of a Beginner Fourth level Martial Mortal.

    One hundred and sixty meters… One hundred and seventy… two hundred…

    ‘That’s it’. Two hundred and fourteen meters. Zax did not dare to take another step. ‘I’ll not lose myself to savagery by advancing a few more steps, but there is no point. The length of the cave from its entrance to the other side is about twenty kilometers and all I could do was traverse past one percent of the distance by a whisker’.

    Zax was depressed. If a fourth level Martial Mortal could only get this far, how much farther a Peak fifth level Martial Mortal will get?

    ‘The previous owner of the Black Core and the creator of New Earth claimed for being in the pinnacle of Immortality. Maybe only Immortals can reach the other side…?’ It was both a discouraging and alarming thought. ‘If that is the case then there is a chance that the Immortals behind the five powers will come here first, the moment the opportunity to leave their bases, unnoticed by other Immortals, will present itself’

    There were a multitude of thoughts flowing in Zax’s head, all sort of queries related to the third Savage Cave.

    ‘Considering all this stuff when I’m incapable of verifying is just a waste of time’. Evening planning to revisit the Savages Caves in the future, after his Evolutionary Ascension was overreaching for his current self.

    Looking sideways and back he resorted to the only he could do, searching and gathering attribute’s essences, occasionally picking a herb or plant that he happened to find or small mineral that looked like a gem, pretty enough to gift Anet, his mother or sisters.

    Zax did not care if those were minerals could be refined into something constructive. He was not interested in formations’ tool or forging a weapon.

    Fortunately the spatial ring allowed the separate organization of even liquefied materials. Zax collected ninety percent of the attribute’s essence he found, leaving ten out of kindness for others, and arranged them cautiously since attribute could not mix, otherwise they will corrode.

    All in all Zax managed to amass in two days of tedious laboring six kilos of dark attribute’s essence fruits and two kilos light attribute’s essence fruits, evenly three kilos of liquefied fiery and icy attribute’s essence and eight hundred grams of windy attribute’s essence leaves.

    The lightning and earthly attribute’s essences or so scarce, put together there was less than twenty grams, so he gave up on them.

    He also had five kilos of herbs and plants he did not know and elven kilos of minerals, most of which he assumed had nothing particular to them other than looking pretty.


    Upon his return to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave, Zax only stopped for a few minutes in the Blue Tower, handing his spoils to Simel.

    “Master is revising the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique‘s second stage. You can wait, but I estimate that it would be four days before he will take a break”.

    “Then I’ll come in four days, big brother Simel”.

    Had had nine hours for his three days promise to expire. On his own it was more than enough to return with hours to spare.

    “Mom, dad, Liz, I’m back!”

     
  • edited January 20
    http://www.lonahora.com/
    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 37 – Testing The Limits




    Four days after his return home.

    Zax sighed and lowered his head in resignation as he proceeded to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.

    As it turned out, promising to come back from Valgarel every three days became a compulsory routine.

    His mother insisted, his little sister persisted and his father, recognizing the safe side, just went with the flow.

    ‘These four days I spent at home were great, but mom and Liz now want me to match every day I’m in Valgarel at home’. The higher his cultivation gets, the longer his training sessions are. If their behavior is an aftereffect to the anxiety and shook he put them through or just remnants of them, he had to find a way of dealing with them, quickly!

    ‘If I’ll ask Anet for advice she’ll probably tell me to spend more time home… big sis not really in the position to take their side, but she didn’t cause as much pain as I did… only ones left are Eldest Martial brother Raroen and Laivien’.

    The motherly Laivien for obvious reasons and Raroen due to his position in his tribe... He had responsibilities as the son of one of the Silverhorned tribe’s leaders, yet more often than not he chose to stay in the company of his Master.

    As for asking his old friends, grandparents and other members of the Martial family, including his Master… as a result of his current “status” he could not take the risk of showing up in front of his friends. During the four days at home he visited grandpa Ger and grandma Ney and the pair seemed to share a similar opinion to his mother’s. Of the rest in his Martial family, Zax could already guess what each of them would say. His Master will take a lenient approach for the sake of his blood family and Shulip, after the emotional turmoil she had been through post Tularg’s death, will tell him upfront to go home, probably stating that except from Zetsa all his other family members are  non cultivators and the day they will pass away is sooner than he thinks. The remaining members of the Martial family will either tell him to concentrate on cultivation or take it easy – Mes – enjoy his freedom.

    Crossing the tunnel to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave the sight of adult Krikitories working the fields and young Krikitories play uplifted his mood. ‘Grandmaster’s presence really helped this small tribe to maintain its peacefulness in the wilderness of Valgarel’.

    “Little brother Zax, you came back! Excellent, follow me to Master’s abode”. A long, green scales dragon with purple mane, two silver horns and green eyes greeted Zax from up in the air.

    “Big brother Raroen!” Zax joyfully soared to meet him.

    “You can fly?” Raroen was surprised. “You sure became more impressive in the little while you were away. Come, Master told me, Rarahel and little Shulip everything. Everyone is waiting since yesterday”. Raroen transformed into streak and left toward Grandmaster Kartion’s Blue Tower.

    “Waiting? For what?” Zax confusedly shot after him.

    Below, on the ground, young and impish Krikitories ran while cheerily shouting. “Ra! Ra! Ra!”


    “Why is everyone here?” Zax asked whoever was willing to answer from the members of his Martial family who stood outside the Blue Tower in humanoid or human forms. Only Laivien was absent.

    Raroen resumed his humanoid form and landed with an eager smile beside Kartius. “Martial uncle, haven’t you guys told Master that little brother Zax is here?”

    “We did. He will be out in a moment. Martial son, come down”.

    “Master-” Before Zax could finish call him, a blue haired woman in blue feathery tunic pounced at him with a hug. “Big sister Shulip…” Other than that Zax did not know what more he can say. He returned to hug and waited for her to relax and let go.

    “You made us worry”. A familiar voice and a fiery crimson scaly hand grabbed his shoulder from behind. Rarahel who chose to stay in her humanoid form spoke in an accusatory, mildly hurt voice.

    The blue haired Shulip pulled back. “Never mind”. She said to Zax and Rarahel. “He isn’t dead. That’s what important”.

    Rarahel’s lizard’s lips twitched. There was a tacit understanding in her silence, even though she had more to say to Zax. Only her grip tightened. She was less open with her emotions than Shulip, especially when there were others watching. Her unyielding hold possessed the desire to hug which she could not frankly express.

    “Shulip, Rarahel”, Grandmaster Kartion exited his Blue Tower. “You said what you had to say to your youngest Martial brother?”

    “Yes, Master”. They replied unanimously.

    “Good. We are going”. He nodded, gave the order and took the lead leaving.

    “Master, what happened?” Zax asked Kartius, as everyone, even his big sister Zetsa, kept quiet, seemingly restraining some sort of excitement and hurried along their Master.

    “You’ll now when we get there”. Kartius gave him a rare grin, change to his animalistic form and took the lead next to Grandmaster Kartion.


    Since they all were going it was not possible leaving the two caves unguarded. Enemies living or dead, Grandmaster Kartion never allowed the chance of anything happens to his Laivien and no one being there to help her. He did not put much faith in the abilities of the Krikitories attending her.

    Thus, their destination was the nearly secluded, adjacent Essence Cave.

    TAMP!

    TAMP!

    Grandmaster Kartion stomped in his Brown Stag animalistic form. His Kinetic Force discharged an impulse that dispersed the smoky mist of the Essence Cave in a radius of five hundred meters. “Martial nephew, come!” He called in a rumbling, somber voice.

    Zax instantly frowned. While everyone were merely watching from the side, Grandmaster Kartion was summoning him provocatively.

    ‘He wants to fight me’. The thought struck his mind. ‘But to what purpose’. His line of sight intersected Grandmaster Kartion. Something was comprehensible in the Brown Stag’s eyes, rather than hostile intent there was zeal reflecting from them.

    ‘So that is the case…’ Zax finally understood, half smiling.

    His expression showed Grandmaster Kartion that he is ready. The might Brown Stag opened his mouth, “I would like to ask that you will go all out, but your growth is simply outrageous. Do that, use the strength of an Intermediate first level Martial Mortal and keep increasing it until I won’t be able to fight anymore”. Not a hint of withdrawal could be heard in his voice.

    Zax nodded. “Alright, Grandmaster, but… are you testing me, yourself or the perfect first stage of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique?”

    “All of the above”. Grandmaster Kartion said. His muscles bulging, feral atmosphere manifest around him.

    BOOM!

    The earth on which he stood exploded, the issuing force blew the dust from the battlefield before it could hinder their vision – not that it would have mattered thanks to their other kin senses.

    Facing the great antlers, aimed, speeding toward him, Zax stood motionless in wait. The ground shook and the surrounding spectators distanced themselves farther and farther after each tremor.

    He loosened his muscles. There was no threat that entitled him going all out. Yes, Grandmaster Kartion was at the second realm of bodily cultivation, as he was, and unlike him was already cultivating the first stage of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique, but up until a week ago that first stage was flawed and with the enchantment of the Black Core to each of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s breakthrough, while Grandmaster Kartion, a Chaoyue beast, had the equivalent strength of an Intermediate first level Martial Mortal when using Kinetic Force, Zax by solely relying on physical strength was a fine match to an Advanced second level Martial Mortal.

    BOOM!

    Zax evaded the onslaught of the giant antlers and threw an open palm at Grandmaster Kartion’s head.

    ‘Tough’. Zax was forced to admit that even a Peak first level Martial Mortal would not be able to split Grandmaster Kartion’s skull, at least not in one hit.

    “Tsk!” Grandmaster Kartion clucked his tongue. ‘I have to be careful, I nearly lost consciousness’.

    The downside of fighting a bodily cultivator, who is using the same refinement technique and is on the same level, is that the innate physical capabilities of either side do not matter anymore. The refinement technique bridged the gap in innate talent and placed them on the same scale. Mist cultivation is more intimate, includes other factors, which is why such problems typically do not occur in similar situations.

    Grandmaster Kartion flung his head, pushing Zax up, rose on his back hooves and thrust. Zax tried to agilely escape the antlers once more but without using Kinetic Force or dark attribute energy, he had to maneuver himself by a short touch in the antlers for balance.

    BANG!

    His arm lobbed back, his body spinning uncontrollably. The antlers were shrouded by Kinetic Force. Grandmaster Kartion saw that Zax was momentarily incapacitated, trapped in his caging antlers, and swung his brawny neck!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!


    Zax was repeatedly struck.

    BANG!

    He was sent flying two hundred meters, but by the time he hit the ground he already stabilized himself and landed cleanly.

    ‘Fighting on the same level can be awful lot of fun’. All he did was entertaining himself a bit by examining Grandmaster Kartion’s moves; therefore there was no effort invested in the technique that got him entangled and toyed with a moment ago. ‘Let’s put some more weight in these fists!’ He raised his power by an increment and got a little more serious in his technique, though not by much. He was meant to help Grandmaster Kartion, not exhibit his skills and strength.

    WHOOSH!

    His speed matched an Advanced first level Martial Mortal. Six of the tense spectators managed to follow his silhouette, three made up of it a humanoid shape and one felt he could have still react if it came at him.

    Grandmaster Kartion was relatively at the same boat as the spectating Kartius. He squinted, attempting to guess from which direction Zax will assault, where to channel his Kinetic Force to defense and whether the fifth step would be enough to withstand.

    Zax appeared at his left flank, drawing his arm back in the initial motion of a punch.

    ‘There!’ Kinetic Force erupted from the left side of his ribcage just as he received the punch. Grandmaster Kartion strived to maintain his hooves in contact with the ground, but was still shoved tens of meters.

    Zax stood, waiting for him to regain his footing. The first punch was for Grandmaster Kartion to familiarize with the increase in strength, since what to follow would be a whole torrent of punches and kicks.

    Realizing Zax’s intentions, Grandmaster Kartion made the best use of the time to assess the damage and how well he can still bear it. Feeling prepared he looked at Zax. “In the past four days I used two kilos of the dark attribute’s essence you gathered to cultivate the improved first stage of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique”.

    “Two kilos?” Zax was taken aback.

    Attribute’s essence is basically a sort of condensed form of the worldly energy of its matching attribute. It is not as easy to use or gain insights and understanding from because its properties were slightly modified, but when consumed, a kilo of attribute’s essence is worth a month of relentless absorption of attribute worldly energy, at least to someone with Zax’s level of understanding, which is roughly equal to a Peak fifth level Martial Mortal’s.

    Generally there is no reason to absorb either attribute’s essence or attribute energy, unless it is necessary requirement of a cultivation or refinement technique. However when they are needed, two kilos should be quite a lot.

    Why Zax was startled is because he did not get the impression that Grandmaster Kartion is much stronger than someone who just broke through the seventh gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, relative to the amount of dark attribute’s essence he absorbed for the succeeding stage.

    “Don’t stare at me”. Grandmaster Kartion himself was baffled when he absorbed the two kilos and did not feel greatly different, so naturally he could tell what Zax was thinking. “First, think of your body as a lake. The more attribute’s essence used the more filled it get, the higher its chance of becoming an ocean, like those you talked about. Second, though it isn’t even worth to be called a ‘grain of glimpse’, when I refined the two kilos of dark attribute’s essence with accordance to the first stage’s system, a foggy indication of something… ‘more’ was present. I don’t know if it is related to the understanding of my dark attribute, but in the future I would like to test if by directly absorbing dark attribute energy it will be further definite. Now let’s end the chatter and raise your strength, I’m about to get serious!”

     
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