Before talking about how long it takes to a practitioner to master the third stage of the Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique, a word of warning must be said. From the four stages of this lurid technique, the third phase of the third stage is the most dangerous! Roughly one out of a one hundred thousand practitioners will have the natural affinity to practice and not suffer the disastrous consequences of this technique.
So how long it takes to master the third stage? Regardless of the practitioner’s Martial talent, the period of time it takes to complete this stage is bluntly unknown. Even the prodigy Zetsa could not avoid being among the remaining ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine who lack the natural affinity. The results were she being stuck at the last phase of the third stage for more than eight years, and the only thing that made her exceptional in her group was her unique dexterity in handling the chaotic mist energy that will settle down once she will advance to the fourth stage.
Lastly there is the fourth stage of the Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique, The Endless Path Of Fire And Ice. Once reaching this stage the sole aim of a practitioner is to the convert the properties of either hot or cold to his or her mist energy\aura, then enrich and intensify them.
At that point, there are countless methods of training and the Martial path is never ending. But that was something that Zax was still too immature to comprehend.
The Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique is a top tier as well as extremely rigorous among the Qi refining techniques, therefore one that should not be exercised recklessly and without an expert instructor which at least reached the fourth stage.
Zetsa, with all due respect to the great talent that she is, being in the last phase of the third stage could not be considered an “Expert” in the Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique. Yet, there were two reasons that made her confident enough to teach Take this technique. The first was her control over the chaotic mist energy which allowed her to interfere in case Take’s Qi will backlash forcefully against his Qi channels. The second was Take’s lack of talent in the Martial way that he could only make up by practicing a high level technique.
Holding Take’s hands Zetsa helped him balance his body’s temperature. That was the little help that she could provide him whenever he was about to exhaust himself. Supporting him sooner could have hindered his attempt to convey the characteristic of heat to the Qi and waiting too long could have resulted with Take too tired to continue for four to five days.
Take unconsciously held tightly his Mor’s hands. What followed was as if the two extremes that were pushing against each other inside of him have suddenly settled, and an undefined harmony was created. Rather than “Support”, what Zetsa provided her Tal was simply a break from his taxing training for as long as they would hold hands. The moment she would let go, Take’s endeavor to pass the first phase would resume until he will succeed or halt for this session. If he will choose the latter, a small backlash to his Qi channels will occur and for the next three days Take will be bedbound. On the bright side, his Qi channels will be tempered a bit by the characteristic of heat, so in his next training session he will be able to hold on longer on his own.
Allowing Take to resume his training, Zetsa returned to Zax. His outward appearance seemed like an ice statue of a young monk, cool and serene. His skin was pale blue and emitted cold steam.
“Surprisingly he is doing better than he claimed”. Zetsa thought to herself, impressed. “Another hour or two will be his outmost limit, though. I will let him keep going and assist him dismantling the rest of the grains so tomorrow he could have another go at the Inner Spirit formation with me by his side. I will use this chance to also check the protection formation I implanted in his body. It must have taken a great tool afterwards…”
After the first hour of which Zetsa kept a watchful eye on her little brother and Tal, she was visited by governor Edomachi. Knowing how secretive an expert can be with his or her teaching, the governor came alone, carrying a small folding table, two folding chairs and apologetic stare.
“Will you please join me, Miss Zetsa?” Governor Edomachi revealed a Jade Wine bottle and two cups out of his breast pocket.
Hiding her frown, Zetsa nodded and sat on one chair, while Governor Edomachi opened the table and sat on the other, purring first cup to Miss Zetsa.
“I’m sure that you are aware of my Martial achievements”. Governor Edomachi said.
“You recently made a breakthrough, congratulations, Xingze, a D level Earth’s Core Holder”. Zetsa raised her cup and with a “CLING” the both of them drank.
“Many thanks”. Governor Edomachi lowered his head and purred the second cup. He knew quite well that in front of Miss Zetsa, a B level Mist Master, there was nothing for him to bluster about and he did not mind. “But I would rather thank you for the great improvements you have made with my son. Honestly, my boy being able to materialize his Qi… Thank you, Miss Zetsa, thank you, thank you!” He rushed to salute her but Zetsa nimbly placed her hand over his cup.
“Xingze, there are three parties involve in your son improvements. I, who follows our contract, Take, that doesn’t neglect his exercises and make up his lack of talent with great determination and effort, and You, who first approached me and convinced me to take your boy as my Tal. Thank me once by words and that should be enough. You have already fulfilled your part of the contract and then some”. Zetsa drank first and purred the third cup herself for both of them.
Neither a smile nor a word of agreement, Governor Edomachi washed his throat with the wine quietly. Three parties were indeed involved, but one overshadowed the other two in an unparalleled way. As wealthy as his family was, as high as he sat himself in his position of a Cave Governor, Xingze Edomachi still could not afford enrolling his son to El-Eden’s top Martial school. There were other Martial pre Core schools, as well, that could have help Take cultivate his Qi, which were the second most common choice for high class families. But due to Take lack of talent he would have most likely graduated them with nearly zero results, and these schools were not cheap either.
His approach to Zetsa was a bet he had nothing lose at. A famous name that, as luck had it, resided a tunnel away. Even convincing her was not the trouble that he expected, merely a thirty months contract that was nearing its end and a payment that he already cleared.
“Miss Zetsa”, Governor Edomachi turned his cup after the fourth cup.
Recognizing his tone, Zetsa did not follow the same gesture but kept her cup empty. It was about time for Xingze to say his true motive for coming over.
“In a few months, this year Great Earth’s Core Pursuit will take place, after which Take will relinquish the term “Qi” for “Mist Energy” and he will be officially recognized as an F level Mist User”. Governor Edomachi stated. “Shortly after, thanks to his training, he will be able to break through to the next level and become an E level Mist User. If he will achieve that before the age of twelve, his future prospects will surpass even mine”.
“An E level Earth’s Core Holder at such a young age will probably manage to become a Core Breaker by the age of forty”. Zetsa commended.
“That will surely advance our family name, Core Breaker…”
For a short few minutes the two watched Take, engulfed with his Qi around his drenched hands.
“Miss Zetsa”, Governor Edomachi clenched his fists, his own dark brown mist energy covering them, he looked at his son. “I beg of you to agree… Two and a half months from now is the date for the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. I ask of you as the father of your Tal and as a man who holds you in great esteem, agree to go as the representative Guardian of cave twenty five and take with you my son. Even if it’s a long shot, a hopeless longing, I beg of you the fair chance for Take to pursue a high quality Earth’s Core and to protect him from illegal obstructs…”
“Xingze…” Zetsa was lost for words. Usually when a cave does not have a native Mist Master at the Core Breaker level, or have one who is unwilling, the cave’s Management Office will hire the essential Mist User from the Core Breakers Guild of Kingdom Earth – the process is the same whether in El-Eden, Shitou or Tongguo. Old high class families, however, tend to hire Mist Masters for unimaginable sums to volunteer as Guardians for the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and help their progeny in finding quality Earth’s Cores.
Legally these families are allowed to hire the services of outside Mist Users and volunteer them to the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit as long as these Mist Users are at least C level Core Breakers, since regardless of their reason to volunteer, they are obligated to the same responsibilities as the official Guardians – Guardians that are hired by or part of a cave’s Management Office – and in case of peril to the young participants they must protect them without discrimination or personal preference.
The problem is when a participant finds an Earth’s Core that seems to have the qualifications of an acceptable Earth’s Core for these volunteered Mist Users’ benefactors. They might act quickly and snatch it before anyone, especially the participant who found it, can notice. These cases are hard to handle mostly because no one wants to slander a Mist Master for a child’s word and the fact the more the often the complaint received after the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit is over for that child and from the start he or she could never evaluate the “vanished” Earth’s Core…
“Miss Zetsa, I heard that even among the F level Earth’s Cores, E level Earth’s Cores and D level Earth’s Cores there are variations noticeable only by Mist Users at the Mist Master level. Take doesn’t need much, even a proper F level Earth’s Core will do him right. He can find it on his own, but please be there to watch over him!” For his son’s sake, for the family’s future, Governor Edomachi was willing to grovel if needed.
“You put me in a tough position, Xingze. If others will know about my involvement with you and our agreement, more annoying people will ask for my services. My comfortable life style will be disrupted…” Zetsa sighed. “But for Take…” She whispered and recalled. “In Master perspective the relationship between a Martial teacher and a Martial student should be that of a parent and child. Could I abandon Take if he was my child? Of course not!”
Zetsa turned Governor Edomachi’s cup and purred their fifth cup to the brim. “For Take I will see myself joining as a Guardian in this year Great Earth’s Core Pursuit”. Zetsa raised her cup and drunk in one gulp.
“I will be forever in debt to you, Miss Zetsa”. Governor Edomachi muttered and with one gulp drank his cup of delicious Jade Wine.
After Zetsa and her drinking partner, Governor Edomachi, finished the whole bottle of Jade Wine, the Governor left her to continue his daily commitments. Zetsa sat for a while, enjoying the sweet and dry after taste of the wine and examined the two boys’ progress.
On Take’s part there was nothing she could do except to remind him when to stop and rest since breaking through the first phase of the third stage of the Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique was something he could only do on his own.
Zax’s exercise was quite the opposite, offered her a little bit more flexibility with what she can and cannot do for him and the question about “How it will influence him?” did not concern her that much. Zax was at the earliest of stages in regard to soul training and some interference, when done at the right moment, could help him strengthen the base of his soul and save time.
It was either helping him it the grains or checking the protection formation that she left on him. Zetsa preferred to deal with the protection formation tomorrow at her place since even if she will interfere with Zax’s exercise and create a shock to his soul, by the next day he should feel fine and better prepared for their weekly test of his spirit.
Much like when she supported Take, pure silver mist energy shone like almighty aura, wrapped around Zetsa’s right hand as she laid it on Zax’s head, one finger at a time and lastly the palm.
Zax was immersed in dismantling the tens of grains which circled the distorted blur that was his soul. Each time he finished working on a grain the amount of blue white dust that formed disappeared faster and seemed less than a cold breath after ten pineapple popsicles. Dismantling the grains was physically and mentally exhausting, even if in the beginning it was easier than the previous two times. Like absorbing time, after time, after time the blue white dust was the same as working on a muscle that got tired early on during an exercise yet still should be capable of making more effort.
How long his big sister did want him to go on? Or if he will stop before she tells him how disappointed of him she might be? Were two bothering questions that Zax pondered about whenever he thought of a break.
Zax’s attention shifted to a distant spark in his consciousness.
Another spark, close enough to hear as it set off a grain, lit his consciousness with silvery light.
TING! TING! TING!
One after the other the tens of grains were hit by an alien mist energy wave and burst almost in solidarity inside of Zax’s head. Before he could utter a word of surprise, the vast space of Zax’s consciousness was overflowing with blue white dust, like the scenery of the few natural reserves steams caves.
“No! No! It’s gonna be too much!” Zax was alarmed. If so much blue white dust will merge with his soul in one shot it could freeze and shatter!
Zax’s fears were realized as his thoughts went rampage with helplessness. As he predicted, the insane amount of blue white dust swirled around his soul as if it was in the eye of a towering cyclone. To better prepare himself, Zax spread his awareness as far as he could across the accumulating cyclone of blue white dust. He noticed that in the center streams of the blue white dust were flowing to his soul in an increasing rate. Zax did not dare to break his meditative state, if he did, then the terrifying energy of the cyclone would probably tear his soul. He had to concentrate on not fighting with the streams of blue white dust and allow his soul to sallow and merge with them as fast as it could while coping with the frost that began to cover it.
“Silver?” Thanks for enlarging his awareness Zax was able to detect a moment sooner the silver wave that passed through his consciousness. The silver wave pressed on the cyclone from every direction, from the outside making it shrink, but from where Zax’s soul was, the eye of the cyclone, the streams of blue white dust at least doubled in size.
“Anottther wavvve iss ccominggg!” His thoughts were freezing along with more than half of his blurred soul. The second wave did not press against the cyclone. This time it passed through it and struck Zax’s soul. In mare moments the frost began to break into blue white dust and merged with the soul.
“Silver light, silver waves… Big sis doing something to me!” Zax figured. “She helped me dismantle all the grains and now pushing them to merge with my soul. Ok, then I won’t worry about the cold and the amount of dust and just concentrate on drawing it in faster! ” He was now resolute and with no more hesitation used his intent to increase even more the size of the streams.
Gushing rivers of blue white dust poured over and merged with Zax’s soul, causing it a sequence of minor transformations. One hour, two hours… After six and a half hours Zax finally opened his eyes. In front of him stood a young maid, as if she waited for him the full duration of his training to finish and awake, but Zax, with a tranquil facial expression, could discern that the maid just arrived and it actually was her etiquette that made her pose as if she was always there, waiting for an order. Apart from the maid, before uttering any kind of word, Zax sensed and felt himself and his surroundings more than he ever could. His body was weak and tired, like he was stuck inside an iceberg for a thousand years and now out and gradually coming back to himself. The sense of smell, sight, sound and touch felt like that of a new born baby, from emptiness to once again, gradually, intensifying and discovering the world around them.
“Pah…” Zax released his first breath and breathed in again. He repeated the process several times before stabilizing his breath and turning to that maid who silently waited.
“Where is my big sister?”
“Master Zax, if you are fit then please come after me”. The maid politely spoke and although she offered her hand to Zax he got up on his own.