“Don’t look at me like this”. Turan smiled disdainfully at Serah and rightfully so. Who was he? What kind of statues and background did he have? Does a simple girl have the right to utter a word of objection against him?
Without a doubt he, and right next to him, his band of little friends, was a self observed little brat. Being at the top ten of his grade last year and receiving the conformation of passing the entire requirements to enroll to the post Core program of fourth grade in Molten Core, intensified Turan’s arrogant attitude toward anyone he deemed below him, especially kids in his age who could not use their Qi.
“Hmm… I have an idea”, Turan’s eyes shone brightly and as if shared a mental message with his friends, the other six, including Dugo who just got up, smiled and moved to his side. “My dad says “Good things come to better people”, and I always followed and believed in his words. So here is a proposal to see which of us is the Better with the right for these Good seats. Agree right now and I tell you the proposal or give up the seats, what do you say?”
Serah and Anet helped Dane up quietly and right after seeing how formidable Turan is, Zax also remained silence. They were the ones who waited bound for hours at the fifth floor, unable leave it just so that they will have good seats during the official exhibition fights. Agreeing to Turan’s sly offer without knowing what it is, none of them believed that even if their side will turn out to be the winner the arrestment from the other side will stop.
“Fine, fine, we agree if it’ll be a fair proposal. You are seven while we are just four…” Dane took his friends by surprise. As the one who was hurt the most they expected him to not search any more troubles. Little did they know how frustrated Dane was. He did not care about being a great Mist User or being one at all, so being counted as strong was not his virtue. But he could not stand it when someone disrespected him or his friends. At the begging he was not more than a foul mouth boy, but after getting punched he wanted to shame the group of condescending s**t eaters in their own game.
“It will be fair, don’t concern yourself about this. If you’re agreeing does that mean you three also agree?” Turan asked and shifted his devious gaze to Zax, Serah and Anet.
“We should not… Serah he’s scaring me”. Anet softly began to shade tears and avert he face from the Molten Core’s group. From her three companions, she was closest to Serah. The two were good friends in class and outside of it. Her friendship with Zax and Dane was only a recent development due to Serah’s encouragement to join and get to know them when she was with them. In a state of helplessness, the person she was familiar with the best was definitely Serah, and so only in her she could confide growing her fears.
“Dane isn’t stupid; he just likes to act goofy”. Serah celebrated her tenth birthday at the beginning of the month. She was a ten years old trying to support another ten years old in a situation she herself was not confident about. She swallowed her anxiety for the sake of her friend and trusted Dane and Zax to make the decisions for them. “When he wants to he can be very reliable, Zax, also”.
“But what if it’ll be something indecent?”
“Anet…” Serah was not sure what to say.
“It won’t be anything like this. And if it will, we’ll give up”. Dane rashly answered and looked and Turan for confirmation, hoping that if he looked down on them so much he will not stoop low to hurt them.
“Oy, I’m giving you a chance here to earn something a poor bunch like you should not have from the start. How long are you gonna make me wait?” Turan did not care for the other side uneasiness. He was a ten years old and they were of the same age. When someone is of the same height as you, it is easier to see eye to eye and if the two sides are in conflict, especially in the case of children, sympathy is out of sight.
“I agree. Serah, Anet, me and Dane won’t let them bully you”. Zax said firmly.
“The b*****d who took me by surprise thinks that he can take on Turan”. Dugo snorted.
“Shut up!” Turan turned and screamed at his minion. The idiot just revealed his intentions.
“You want us to fight you?” Serah asked, perplexed.
Turan shrugged. “I’ll be nice and let all four of you fight me, if you want. Make me submit and the seats are yours, otherwise scram and save yourselves from a beating”.
“He can use Qi…” Anet was shaking. Everyone knew the difference between someone that can control his or her Qi to someone who does not. Remerging back to how powerless Zax compared to Masela not so long ago was a good indication to how much they can get hurt by fighting with Turan.
“Zax…?” Both Serah and Dane looked at him at a loss. Their friend was tough, tougher than any coreless kid in cave twenty five. But if a fight with a capable Qi user such as Turan were to happen, even he, most likely, will not stand a chance.
“I’ll fight you one on one”. Zax stepped forward. He was furious at Turan and furious at his minions. He unwillingly recalled the time he was first called “Earth’s Core Freak” and a premature thirst of blood gushed from his heart to his brain.
Currently, part of the recoil of pushing it to the realm of outer and inner mind left a lingering residue around Zax’s soul, similar to the small fragments of the Inner Spirit formation.
To call Zax “lucky” will be too much of an understatement. Ninety percent of the time in which a person goes above his or her limit will cause dire repercussions. Masela, for example, was part of the majority. After she used her Qi in such a reckless manner she now suffered from a violent withdrawal. The remnants of her Qi were beyond her control, they flocked to her lower dantian and each channel they went through, painfully, temporarily shrunk. Best case scenario she will not be able to utilize her Qi for a week or so and will have to receive treatments for pain relief.
The residues Zax dealt with, on the other hand, were blessings in the form of broken shells that gathered around his soul and engulfed it time and time again, forming a transparent layer which nurtured his soul when he slept and even after.
Zax was in top shape for a fight and his soul was brimming with newfound energy!
“Haha… Good, you have balls!” Dugo laughed.
“Don’t be disgusting, Dugo, and there is no need to speak with these kids if they already agreed”. One of the three girls from the Molten Core’s group commented. “Let Turan Ram show them his amazing strength”. The girl referred to Turan with the honorific title “Ram” after his name which meaning was “Exalted” and purpose to emphasize her of admiration toward him.
“A one versus one fight. Good”. Turan approved. “We can’t fight here, though. Come after me, now”. Receiving compliments from his minions and the chance to show off his strength boosted Turan’s ego by several levels.
“We can’t leave the floor”. Zax stated when Turan led them to the door before the building stairwell.
“You think that I don’t know that or trying to deceive you?” Turan complained. “We can’t fight here. They are getting ready to the fights. We’ll fight in the stairwell’s corridor. Don’t go down the stairs and you won’t have any problems, besides, are you hearing beeping?” Turan opened the large door with a bit of Qi to increase his power and closed it when the last person entered the corridor.
“I give you one minute to prepare and then be ready to feel sorry for ever excepting this agreement. Oh, and if you, guys, interfere I will beat mercilessly”. Turan’s temperament suddenly conveyed ruthlessness and a real intention to cause harm, as if the true nature of Molten Core’s one of the top ten of third grade finally revealed itself.
“Zax, you can still renounce the fight. These kids are from one of the three big schools. All of them can use Qi…” Anet tried to sway his mind. She had the least confidence in him. She did not want to see a friend getting hurt, or do something that will make the other side more hostile.
“Shh… Anet, let Zax decide”.
“But I can’t stay here… Let’s just give them our seats!” She burst into tears.
“Might be the right thing to do. Okay, for your crying sake here is a new offer”, Turan pointed at Anet and then gestured at the stairs. “One of my friends will go to your seats and in thirty seconds you will go down a few stairs, when your badge will stop beeping my friend will assign your seat and return the confirm it to us, and then we’ll allow you to leave without getting beaten up. Or, you can stay and be the next victim after your friend”.
“You said one on one” Dane protested.
“Yes. First this one, then her, then you and then her”. Turan said with the order of Zax first, Anet second, Dane third and Serah fourth. “Loser boy, loser girl, loser boy, loser girl. This is the order of one on one”. Behind Turan the three girls covered their mouth as they giggled and the four boys blatantly laughed.
“Fine, I’ll give you my seat”. Anet was straightforwardly too fragile heart. Even at the ring against Clergyman, in an activity designed to be an amusement, she left after the first attempt.
“Excellent choice. See, am I not a good guy? ”
“You don’t have to”, up till now Zax thought the Serah’s words were enough to calm Anet, at this moment, for the first time, he also tried to convince her.
“I’m sorry…” Anet meekly answered.
One minute later Turan allowed Anet to leave, after the girl he sent came back with a smile on her face, and was ready to start the fight with Zax.
“Stay near the door. If his friends will try to escape beat them and forcefully take their seats”. Turan gave his last command before the fight and an outburst of Qi was released from beneath his legs.
“I’ll start with sufficient use of soul energy to see his movement in a speed that I can evade”. Zax prepared himself. He could not be the first to drain his energy.
“He is coming!” Zax saw Turan lift himself from the floor with a jump. His legs were the only body’s parts his Qi covered.
Too be precise, Turan’s Qi, much like every other living being, flowed all over inside his body at any given time. To better describe how it behaved when Turan leapt toward Zax will be sufficed to say that most of it, or a great amount, simply accumulated in his legs.
“Too fast!” Zax promptly determined and prepared himself to receive the blow.
It was either turning his head with the blow to lessen the impact or trying to force a standstill by turning his head against it.
Zax clenched his teeth and chose the latter. Turan punch was exposed, that is, was not covered by his Qi and although he came at him in a speed that his whole body could not match, moving just the head was quite another matter. With the speed of his head turning Zax was no slower than Turan, and with the toughness of his jaw he even held a slight advantage over the exposed fingers that formed the fist of a kid in his age.
After the first blow Turan’s left hand moved by a reflex to hit Zax’s face. Only when the second blow landed he noticed the pain in his right hand fingers, and then the pain in his left hand fingers.
Since Zax’s perception was higher he saw the second blow coming and realized that Turan was not aware of the first encounter’s consequences. He was did not waste the opportunity and strained his neck’s muscles to collide with Turan’s left hand with greater force than before.
Feeling both of his hands numb and then a surge of penetrating pain in his fingers startled Turan. He retreated while looking at his hand without being able to understand what had happened. “How tough is his face?” He pondered and looked at Zax. The looser boy who could not use his Qi actually stood there with an unyielding expression. “Did he not feel anything?”
“Why did you stop?” A kid from behind Turan, one of his minions, asked.
Not sure how to answer, Turan shifted most of his Qi to his hands and left just enough on his legs to remain slightly faster than Zax.
With a WUSH sound of his hands shooting, Turan attacked Zax once more.
Zax barely kept up with Turan. He no longer tried to counter. The steaming air around Turan’s hands and the drop of his body’s speed indicated that he changed his strategy.
“Did I make him fight me seriously?” The fast fists coming at him carried more than increase in speed, they were covered by a layer of Qi and moved in an intimidating rhythm. The thought of receiving one blow pushed Zax to his physical capabilities, luckily, they were more than decent for a boy of his age and by going all out with his soul he was able to assess and keep four steps ahead of Turan.
As one in frustration waved his arms and punched through the air, the other started to feel a sense of ecstasy. They were going at it for five minutes, five whole minute in which Zax had to execute swift maneuvers relaying on his physicality. Sweat poured down on his body like water, but the feeling was not that bad. Instead of being distracted by the extreme strain on his body, Zax was more immersed with his soul and the strange phenomenon that it went through and generated the sensation of euphoria.
“That’s it!” Zax had a revelation. “The Advanced phase of level G!”
Somehow, after exhausting himself and surpassing his limits against Clergyman, nurturing his soul with the residues and then commencing in a much malicious fight against Turan, where he could not afford taking one blow, Zax breached the boundaries between the Intermediate phase of level G to the Advanced phase.
“Hahahahaha!” Zax could not stop laughing in his mind. The feeling he had was intoxicating, far above what he expected. In comparison to before, the limits he crossed to get closer to the realm of outer and inner mind were now his basic capabilities and by forcing himself at this point he might be able to enter the Top phase of level G and scratch the bottleneck he had to cross to reach the anticipated level, the first level of a Mist User, the Beginner phase of level F!
“What’s that?” Zax discovered something strange, or rather incredible. As he withdrew the soul energy he no longer needed, the flow of energy was smoother than before and a lot easier to handle. Like a stream that was set in motion to any direction he willed it and could extend outside of his consciousness. The only setback was, the farther he extended the soul energy from his consciousness to the rest of his body, the harder it was to control it. Similar to a thin stream turning into a tyrannical river.
“How about you stop dancing and see if your face can block my fists again?” Turan provoked Zax. He did not know how come he could not land one blow on him even though he clearly was the faster one and it infuriated him!
The rest of the Molten Core’s group were also in a state of disbelief. Who was Turan to them? One of the top ten of their grade? Any of them could tell if Zax had used Qi to enhance his speed, yet he definitely did not. How come, then, he could keep up with someone none of them, Qi users, could?
“Uwhaa…” Serah and Dane watched in amazement at their friend. It has been nearly a year since they last saw him in a fight. “Was he then so agile and strong like now?” They were not aware of Zax’s rigorous training; therefore they could not have been sure.
“So weird…” Despite the situation, Zax’s attention was entirely concentrated on the streams of soul energy he experimented on. He wondered what kind of effect the energy will have on his muscles, but it seemed to be pointless. No matter how much he accumulated to one area, it ended up staying the same.
Turan as finally managed to make contact with his right fist, hitting Zax’s left shoulder. The pain was excruciating, so much that Zax pulled back unsteadily.
“And here is…” Turan momentarily froze in place, as if he was out for a split second. “Ah… Hope it’s broken”. As he came back to and saw Zax’s grabbing his left arm, his nasty way of conduct resumed.
“Do the right, Turan!”
“Teach him a lesson, Turan Ram”
Turan’s minions cheered.
“Got to move, move, move!” Zax pressed his body to evade. A single moment in which he stopped to catch his breath and the built up fatigue almost brought him to his knees. His first priority was to not get hit again!
“Something happened to him after he hit me, what was that?” Zax felt that he missed something and so replayed in his mind the last seven seconds. “Could it be?” An idea came to him and a desire to execute followed. “But it will suck…” Failure would cost him the fight, but there was no other way for him to win, either.
Changing the pattern of his movement, Zax attempted to suck the overconfidence Turan to his pace. “Now!” Zax evaded a punch and stepped forward, centimeters from Turan’s chest.
“Fool!” Turan smirked and sent a left hook. Zax raised his right arm to block and defend his head, while moving his sore left hand like a whip toward the right arm of the unsuspicious Turan.
A disturbing sound was heard from Zax’s right arm, the sound of breaking bone. Ignoring the miserable shape he was in, Zax sent a stream of concentrated soul energy from the palm of his left hand, inside Turan’s body, to his consciousness, where his soul resided.