Thirty one days of vacation in the month of August were given to every boy and girl as a respite between the school year which ended and the next school year which followed.
After the graduation ceremony Zax got back home with his parents, already planning to spend the whole month at his big sister’s place, training in the Inner Spirit formation.
To his great disappointment, Zax’s parents had a different idea in the matter of how he should spend these precious vacation days. There was no chance that they would have let him shut himself in for a whole month. Regardless to the kind of training that he practiced, the support the he received from their eldest daughter and the unique attributes that even they could see in him… As adults and parents to the boy, in their opinion it would have been unhealthy and irresponsible to let a nine years old engage in a closed doors training for the length of thirty one days. If by training in Zetsa’s methods his soul will be refined, then by having a proper child’s life his social values will improve and his personality will blossom to those of a decorous member of society.
And so Laylen and Marco struck a deal with their son. Zax will be allowed to train everyday up to ten hours, which was the equivalent of a long school day. The remaining fourteen hours of a day he will have to devote to reading, at least one hour of the day. Another two hours to catch up with his friends, better if he will go meet them. At least an hour in the company of his parents, which will be in the late evening, after the both of them will get back from work. And the rest of what was left of the day he will spend sleeping, or in Zax’s case, performing a Somnolence Meditation.
August fourteen, year 5784.
A few days back Zax received an invite from Serah to join her on a trip to cave nineteen along with her mom and two others of their friends. The main destination of the trip was to the Young Mist Users Conference that was held annually in either cave nineteen in El-Eden, cave one hundred and seventy one in Tongguo or cave four hundred and ninety nine in Shitou.
The Young Mist Users Conference was a prestigious event that was meant for the high end of Kingdom Earth’s coreless population to attend. Generally, high class children who were about to enroll to the first year of a post Core School would come and have the chance to present themselves in front of the scouts of great schools, receive guidance while having the opportunity to sample cold and hot Martial weapons, obtain pointers and advices from visiting experts, watch demonstrations of advanced techniques and even participate in mock battles with professional fighters from the Earth’s Core’s showdowns competitions, which were advertised by the Strong Arm League.
Naturally, such a big event was something that middle class families, such as Zax’s, his friends’ or any other family from cave twenty five , could not afford to buy the tickets to and provide their children this exclusive opportunity. But as it turned out, sometimes luck can very well make up for lack of money.
Three days ago, cave twenty four, restaurant Fourchettes Et Couteaux.
“Jinka! Where is Jinka?!” A short bearded man in a purple suit entered the restaurant, passing the reception desk as if it was not there and headed to the restaurant’s kitchen. “Jinka?” he called as he entered the scorching kitchen.
“Here, owner Mitchello”. Being the sous chef of Fourchettes Et Couteaux, Jinka, along with the rest of the restaurant’s staff was accustomed to owner Mitchello frequent surprised visits, as well his gauche manner. Nonetheless, owner Mitchello was a cheerful man with a successful business and a capable staff; therefore it was a habit of his to treat his workers during their birthdays or personal special occasions.
Jinka was currently diligently preparing a duck as the main dish of a three course meal. In her job, there were very few things that could make her drop her knife, being addressed by owner Mitchello was indeed among them.
“Chef…” Abandoning the dish was still wasteful and Jinka had to bother the first person that could actually determine her every action in this kitchen. A young woman, Fourchettes Et Couteaux’s chef, sighing for the fourth time since the appearance of her boss, replaced Jinka.
“Thank you, Alinor”. Owner Mitchello thanked from afar. Knowing how bleak his chef’s temperament can get when the wheels of her gourmet machinery are interrupted, he waited for Jinka to come to him.
“How can I help you, sir?”
“Not much, not much at all”. Owner Mitchello laughed. “Let’s talk here for a moment”. He entered the chef’s office and closed the door behind Jinka.
“Can it be kept for later, sir? It is the rush hour of the restaurant…” Jinka pleaded. In all her years working in Fourchettes Et Couteaux she was called only two or three times to talk privately with the owner, all for different reasons, sometimes for small matters, other times for subjects related to her job. If now was one of those “small matters” times, for the sake of a smooth work day, she would rather tend to the meals that she has to prepare.
“Is your daughter and husband, well, Jinka?” Owner Mitchello waved off her appeal and probed.
“They are, sir, our Serah graduated this July from her post Core School”.
“I thought so. This is for your fillette, then”. Owner Mitchello took out from pocket in his pants an orange envelope with a golden red seal. “My grandchildren are too young and Alinor’s twins also a few years off”.
“This?” Jinka rubbed her hands in her apron and received the envelope with gratitude. She did not pondered over what was in the envelope. Owner Mitchello, a high class individual such as him, was known to be a generous man. If he questioned her about her family and claimed to consider her daughter’s age in advance, who can imagine how beneficial his intention could be for her.
“Open it later. I may see you there. If that happens then introduce your fillette to this grandpa as thanks”. Owner Mitchello gestured for Jinka to leave first the chef’s office and snatched an unguarded dessert plate before leaving himself.
Only when she arrived home Jinka opened the envelope, and along with a short introduction were four child tickets and one adult pass to the Young Mist Users Conference.
August fourteen, year 5784.
The group of five rode for two and a half hours and exchanged four buses before they arrived to the marvelous, top class, cave nineteen. Due to the low population of Kingdom Earth, cave nineteen of El-Eden was a huge underground resort with countless attractions. The biggest event of the year, the Young Mist Users Conference, was a hosted in enormous the Lutlua compound.
The group of five supervised by Jinka counted, besides the one adult, Zax, Serah, Dane and Anet. The four minors were in shock from the moment they crossed tunnel forty six to cave nineteen. It was not the first rich cave they visited, but the caves in New Earth were so big that a person could spend a life time in the one cave he was born and never venture outside.
All five stood at the entrance of Lutlua compound, surrounding them was a sea of young and old who also were attending the conference.
“This guys look from a rich school…” Dane pointed at a group of twelve kids, seven boys and five girls, seemingly their age. They all wore impressive uniforms, a fashionable white blouse under a blue jacket. The boys wore blue linen trousers and the girls wore short blue skirts.
“Look at them…”
“Look at them…”
Serah and Anet said simultaneously and stared with sparkling eyes on another group, not too far away, of nine girls wearing stylish uniforms in different shades of garish red.
“So many rich people…” Zax also had to admit. There is a difference between a strong soul and maturity. Zax soul training only slightly affected his personality. Therefore, he, too, was captivated by the exalted bearing of the so many people who were streaming into the compound.
“Enough, enough, enough!” Jinka repeated herself three times and pushed the four children to the compound’s entrance. “You four acting rudely in the presence of strangers. Imagine what they think! Do you want them to criticize you? Come on, some already looking at us standing aimlessly, let’s go inside”.
In cave nineteen the Lutlua compound inhabited one of the biggest areas. A row of five buildings, each ten stories tall, approximately eighty meters in height. The length of each building was nearly one hundred and fifty meters and the width was almost twice that size. As grand as the Young Mist Users Conference is, it still was an exclusive event with limited number of invites and so only occupied a fraction of the Lutlua compound.
The conference was held on the first five floors of building number one. The first floor was arranged as the reception of the event, after entering guests exchanged their tickets for golden red badges. Afterward, they could wonder around, view in the huge Screens, which were hung on the walls, the event’s program for every floor. Enjoy the delicious food of a luxury catering. Have a close look at the big names as they arrived – some even had the audacity to stop them for autographs and such… which with accordance to their profession and status were supposed to take part in the big event.
The second and third floors were divided to lectures and viewing halls, along with imposing booths for esteem post Core Schools and Qi examination area.
The fourth floor had display booths of prestige manufacturers that revealed that day their new high class Martial clothes lines and hot and cold weapons. The weapons booths’ operators provided whoever checked their merchandise a chance to try them according to the event’s guidelines. As long as the manufactures brought at least a C level Mist User to oversee the free trials, even children were allowed to have a go at any weapon that was to their liking.
Lastly there was the fifth floor of the event. The fifth floor had most of the commotion for two reasons. First, in it, eight fighting rings, twenty five meters long and wide, were arranged in four rows. Second, the rest of the fifth floor had a designed press area that ordinary visitors, the likes of Jinka and the four children, could not enter.
Jinka allowed the group of children to walk around without her as long as they remained in the same floor. Quickly though, the differences of interest between children and adult made the condition a tad difficult.
On the first floor, as a proud sous chef in a respected restaurant and as a cook in general, Jinka marveled from the quality of dishes and meticulous arrangements the catering invested. She probed and sampled a bit of everything and even took the liberty to discuss with the nearby chefs on the methods that they have used.
On the other side of the spectrum, Zax, Serah, Dane and Anet were satisfied right after they ate their fill and then some. The four kids were more occupied with when they will be able to go to the upper floors.
When they finally arrived to the second floor, things preceded quite the same. The moment post Core Schools scouts approached Jinka to peak her interest with the program for fourth graders of the schools they represents, the curious mother was following to the parent’s seat like a moth to the flame. It is not like she deluded herself thinking this is the chance for her to find the perfect school to Serah. Financially even the cheapest school in the Young Mist Users Conference was way too expansive to a middle class household. But still, she used the opportunity to learn about the different scholarships her daughter could try to get, since enrollment and switching schools were available until a month after the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.
It was then, on the second floor, that Jinka could not take the nagging, of mostly Serah’s for obvious reasons, that she gave the kids some pocket money for the snacks and souvenirs that were sold on all five flours and agreed to let them go wherever they want and meet her four hours later near the rings at the fifth floor, when the preliminaries for the exhibition fights will start. In case of an emergency Jinka instructed them to call her through the reception’s Caller that each floor had.
The group of kids swept through all the second and third floors, mainly because Serah and Anet wanted to see the flamboyant girls’ uniform of every school. Dane complained at the beginning but covered his mouth after the two girls glared at him. Zax was milder and for knowing better than his friend decided to bear with it.
“No way!” Serah protested. The group was over with the third floor and were prepared to check out the stuff everyone were looking for, the new Martial uniforms none of them would probably have the chance to buy or measure outside the Young Mist Users Conference and the hot and cold weapons that even they, a bunch of children, can try, here in the event.
Unfortunately for them, the fourth floor was packed with visitors. Any piece of clothing, any type of weaponry had lines of visitors waiting to try them. Even the food stalls and gift shops were crowded with overbearing customers.
Zax and Dane did not respond to Serah’s remark or were stupid enough to accuse her and Anet for getting late to the fourth floor. “What do you want to do now?” Dance looked at the two girls. It was silently agreed by him and Zax, since it was Serah’s mom that supplied the tickets and that Anet was closer to her than the two of them, that they should follow whatever the two girls want to do first.
Neither Serah nor Anet had an idea where will be the least bad place to start, which made all the voice on par.
“Is anyone still hungry or want to buy or try something here and willing to wait the long lines?” Zax asked. Although he showed less, he was still Earth’s Core Freak. Only now, as a result of refining his soul, he seemed the most cool headed in the group which also affected the frequency his detestable nickname was used.
Serah, Dane and Anet shook their heads. None of them felt like waiting in the long lines.
“Then how about we’ll head to the fifth floor and save good seats for the fights? If there won’t be anything else to do there, we can go down to the lower floors…” Zax suggested because he read on one of the programs that were distributed that all the blue audience’s seats could be personally assigned by waving the visitor’s badge over the Screens at the bottom of the folding seats and therefore could be saved. The only exceptions were the reserved green seats at the first rows.
“Okay”. They all settled and left to call an elevator.
There were barely any people on the fifth floor. In the press area just a few news crews set their equipment instead of covering the other floors of the big event. The last two parts of the events were the fights and then the main interviews, and like the audience’s seats that surrounded the eight rings, it was also first come first served in the press area.
Around the rings were enough people to save nearly all the first and second rows of seats. After about ten minutes Dane managed to find twelve unsaved seats in a second row, around rings seven. He and the other three quickly assigned themselves four seats.
“I wish the chairs in class were comfy as these seats!” Dane leaned back and raised his feet to the air. If he stayed long enough he could fall asleep and wake up to the roars of the crowd when the fights will start.
“It doesn’t matter now. We graduated”. Anet pointed out, yet still felt like trying her seat prior to the fights and fantasize.
“So in our new school”. Dane proclaimed with close eyes.
“Keep dreaming”. Zax pulled him off the seat. “Come on, let’s see the rest of the floor. Some guy over there practicing on ring one”. The moment that thirty something tall man leaped onto the rings, Zax’s was eager to know if he is one of the participants.
Almost all the people on the fifth floor gathered to see the intense warm up of the man that piqued Zax’s interest. The man was shirtless with bulking muscles, an impressive expert to the untrained eyes and inexperienced viewers. He moved from one side of the ring to the other with one step, and jumped to the floor ceiling with a second before he landed and continued the exercise with kicking and punching, though never used his mist energy. No doubt the man was capable for much more and only the confinement of the ring’s size limited his performance.
Through the murmurs of the growing crowd, Zax and anyone else who was clueless for the identity of the man could learn that his name was Chapel Doloris and a Top phase, D level Mist User. His nickname, people said, was an ancient one, Clergyman, since whenever he was about to win a fight he began to reshape his mist energy to cover all of his body like a cloak and then stared at his opponent with an expression of absolution, that was his signature at any successful fight.
“You!” Clergyman suddenly shouted at one of the viewers, a fat middle aged man with shiny ring on every finger who stood beside a boy who looked like a smaller version of himself.