Wednesday, two o’clock in the afternoon.
Zax arrived home from school, warmed a light meal and done his homework. He was still in his punishment period.
Inside Zax’s room. Like the day before, after washing the dishes and finishing his homework Zax sat cross legged on the bed, eyes closed. There was only one form of training his parents allowed him to perform once Zetsa explained and convinced them that it will help alleviate the strain on his soul – Meditation.
Following the guidance he received from his big sister, Zax started with some breathing exercises. With every breath he took in he concentrated more and more on the eerie sensation that gradually emerged in his head.
In truth, reaching the deepest aspect of the human being life form was not a deed probable by nine years old children, to say nothing of nine years old coreless children. For Zax to sense his soul was thanks to his time training in the Inner Spirit formation, even if that sensation was mostly vague and still, after eight months, unfamiliar and as a result a bit weird.
Next, Zax had to recollect his last session in the Inner Spirit formation and arouse the small fragments that the Inner Spirit formation’s energy signature left on his soul.
Inside the vast space of Zax’s consciousness, small icy grains began to appear in a spectacle that resembled the ceiling of cave twenty-five at night time, when the Nightly Cover formation is fully activated, but with fewer dots of light.
Focusing on one small icy grain at a time, Zax dismantled the grains using an invisible force that carried his intent. As soon as he finished working on one Zax waited while the grain, which now turned into a blue white dust, merged with his soul and refined it. Each time the dust and the soul touched, Zax’s body temperature dropped significantly. This is why he had to make intervals between grains and why in the span of four hours he only managed to dismantle sixteen dots of light out of the near one hundred that surrounded the distorted blur that was his soul.
Marco and Laylen Zel arrived home together at four o’clock, just like the day before. Due to the severity of Zax’s secret soul training, they decided for the remaining two days to present a united front in their strict approach. It was a mutual effort on their part since neither of them could look at their son’s bright brown eyes for long and not feel his or hers heart softens. To get back home at the same time, in his place of work Marco had to ask his boss an early leave for two days in a row and Laylen had to shorten her clinic open hours and accumulate her paperwork to Thursday.
Because Zax was not allowed to watch the Screen, they went to his room to find them. There, they saw him sitting in his meditative state like a log with its roots deep in the ground. On his desk Zax left for them his finished homework to show that he did not neglect them.
Marco and Laylen looked at each other; both were impressed with their son’s resolve and pleased with his display of maturity. Only a few months ago, if he was punished or reprimanded he would go to sulk in his room. That change of attitude was thanks to his training in the Inner Spirit formation.
Marco and Laylen left Zax to meditate quietly.
Couple of hours later Zax got out of his room, stretching.
“Have you smelled dinner?” Laylen chuckled with her back to him.
“Mom, I’m hungry…” Zax was tired. He pushed himself to move and sit next to the dining table only because he could not stand his stomach growling.
Marco turned off the Screen and sat beside Zax. “Have you prepared your backpack for tomorrow field trip?”
“Yes, dad, but-”
“No buts!” Marco said angrily. “It’s the annual field trip to cave five! Every year only third graders go on this trip! It’s the biggest juncture of every coreless child. You will meet an emissary of our lord and ruler; he will bestow upon everyone in your year a direct blessing from our lord”.
“Listen to your father”, Laylen said while serving roast and mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables to Zax and Marco before joining them. “You can go train when you get back”.
“Fine”. Zax lowered his head to his plate and started eating. It has been three days and he felt well enough to go back to his big sister’s place to renew his training. He did not care about tomorrow field trip because it will just waste his time and that “Blessing” his father mentioned are just the same few customary words every year. He will need to be lucky to return by six o’clock to be able to squeeze a little more than an hour of training before his curfew. Then again, if he will lose track of time again because of the Inner Spirit formation who knows how his parents will react!
“Argg… I wish big sis was here!” Zax thought while being down. “Mom and dad don’t understand at all…”
“In line, everyone, in line!” Mr. Ogler instructed all the forty students in his class. The students stood in pairs and at the front Mr. Ogler waved his right hand to straighten the line they formed. “Good. Follow me to the busses and do not mingle with the other classes”.
Zax held hands with Serah, she was his partner and the two of them had to be together all the time, except when they go to the bathroom…
Looking out from the bus’s window Zax’s head was clear and he was in a good mood despite might losing a day of training. It was all because the meditation he did in the past two days. The icy grains left by the Inner Spirit formation that he dismantled enriched his soul and strengthen its core, the spirit. His senses, as a result, became somewhat sharper by a small but noticeable margin as well.
The bus drove past the fields and farms of cave twenty five and crossed tunnel seventy seven to exit the cave and enter the nature reserve, cave twenty three. From there to the next, more industrial, cave twenty, was only one road that forced the passers to encircle a vast lake. On the other hand, the sights of massive rocks spread around like tiny mountains and the great forest of cave twenty three was a spectacular sight the children of cave twenty five hardly got to see.
“This is where my uncle works!” Serah pointed at a nearby steel welding factory. The bus was halfway through cave twenty and other children also were excited to watch from the window on the different places they passed. Some, like Serah, had family members who lived in the neighboring caves, but due to the enormous size of each cave they visited them only on special occasions.
“Everyone, please sit in your places and quiet down!” Mr. Ogler stood between the two rows of seats and raised his voice to dispel the talks. “We are stopping for a fifteen minutes breakfast. Boys who want to go to the bathroom come to me after we find a place to sit. Girls will join Mrs. Char Lynn’s group and return immediately to our group when you are done!” Mr. Ogler instructed and the bus parked at the designated rest area, which was part of an artificial park.
Since all the classes were next to each other, Dane, two other boys and one girl from his class joined Zax’s and Serah’s wooden table for breakfast. Zax knew the names of the three children who accompanied his friend. The fat boy was Merly and the taller one was Danka. The girl’s name was Mi. The three were pretty cool with Zax, not calling him “Earth’s Core Freak” and willing to share their snacks.
For the most part, Zax was pretty cool with them, too. But with them still being “kids from other class”, he did not converse much in comparison to Serah and after five minutes remained silence until Mr. Ogler ordered everyone to get back into the bus.
After another two hours the bus finally arrived to tunnel forty nine that was connected to their destination, cave fourteen.
Tunnel forty nine, like all the other tunnels that were connected to cave fourteen, was a tall and wide slope of a few hundred meters.
Cave fourteen was the lowest cave within sovereign Ariel Dauch’s region, El-Eden. Its ceiling, though, was as high as the ceilings of all the other caves, which together with its width made it the biggest cave in El-Eden and the capitol cave.
Right from the entrance of cave fourteen, huge skyscrapers, botanical gardens, headquarters of multiply companies, high class restaurants and hotels… In the eyes of the students, teacher and bus drivers of cave twenty five, all of this grandeur of just the outer part of the cave was so awe-inspiring.
As the bus continued driving, on the streets of cave fourteen the scene of the people kept changing. From the suits wearing businessman and women, high class visitors and their personal advance Mist Users guards, to the common population of cave fourteen in their lavish residential area where twenty storey buildings or more were erect with their own gardens and pools and over the top community centers, shopping malls, distinguished pre Core and post Core Schools were at every four to five blocks.
The ride came to an end when the bus parked in front of a eighty meters tall, a two hundred and ten meters wide and a hundred and fifty meters long building. It was the Historic Centre Of New Earth.
Maybe thousands of third grade students were arranged in different groups of many pre Core schools from all over El-Eden on the plaza of the Historic Centre of New Earth.
The order of entry has been determined in advance. There were eight schools before Zax’s, and in his school were three third grade classes. Zax was in the middle one, B-3. After three-quarters of an hour of waiting in line, holding hands with Serah, his class finally got to enter the ostentatious eight storey building.
Right after registering his class in the Historic Centre’s reception, Mr. Ogler led the way, following a red rope, to the first that introduced the beginning of more than five thousand years of history. To relate the time and story that each room signified, some rooms had representatives of the Historic Center to describe their history, others had varieties of art exhibitions such as sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, enormous Screens showing short films and more… The most interesting rooms were the ones with extremely tight security. Starting with rooms that exhibited cold war weapons used by the first corps of Core Breakers, rooms with old broken parts of Victorious to one with inactive two types of reassembled Victorious. The more guarded ones were five rooms with authentic scrolls of the first formations that were kept behind an impenetrable glass cases that was fused with Peral metal’s fragments. And then there was that one room that everyone waited impatiently to enter, whether it was their first time or the hundred in the Historic Centre of New Earth and regardless of their age.
The Hall Of Earth’s Cores. A “Hall” was an exaggerated way to describe the nine meters wide, seven meters long room. It was the only room to have outside of it two heavily armed guards with two visible firearms and one sheathed sword. Inside the room there were two extra guards but as soon as Zax’s class entered The Hall Of Earth’s Cores all eyes were drawn to the one display they were all waiting enthusiastically for.
Behind a black rope, inside a glass case with countless invisible protection formations carved on it, and on a white, silver and golden pillows laid three Earth’s Cores.
The Earth’s Core on the white pillow was the common and most easiest to find, a low quality Earth’s Core. The one on the silver pillow was much more difficult to find, one out of ten thousand, a medium quality Earth’s Core. The last one on the golden pillow was the near impossible to find, one out of at least a million, high quality Earth’s Core.
The three Earth’s Cores looked the same to the untrained eyes of the students and teachers. Only Mist Users at the Mist Master level can truly appraise the density of the mist inside an Earth’s Core, which is the factor that determines its quality. It was thanks to the distinction in color of the three pillows that they all could understand how much staggering two of these treasures were and keep staring at them with lustful eyes.
On a two meters tall, one meter wide silvery metallic plate, above the Earth’s Cores’ glass case, a description in bold black letters was engraved.
In our world today the levels of a Mist User are as follows:
Azure mist, Core Master – S
Gold mist, Mist Lord – A
Silver mist, Mist Master – B
White mist, Core Breaker – C
Brown mist, Earth’s Core Holder – D, E, F
White pillow F level Earth’s Core. This standard Earth’s Core, when absorbed to the lower dantian, will advance the average person’s capabilities to those of the lowest, F level Mist User, Earth’s Core Holder.
Silver pillow E level Earth’s Core. This rare Earth’s Core, when absorbed to the lower dantian, will match the future prospects of the average person to those of a Seed holder and advance instantly the Earth’s Core Holder’s rank to E level Mist User.
Gold pillow D level Earth’s Core. This legendary Earth’s Core, when absorbed to the lower dantian, the future prospects of even the most lacking person will become second only to the Supreme Rulers and advance instantly the Earth’s Core Holder’s rank to D level Mist User.
Reading what they already knew, the crowed of forty plus gasped with wishful thoughts in their minds.
“We are moving on”. Mr. Ogler lowered his head first and addressed his students.
The tour inside the Historic Centre of New Earth continued for another thirty minutes in a few more rooms with great exhibits and concluded in a separate building, which was the actual BIG hall of the Historic Center.
Upon thousands of seats sat all the students and teachers, anticipating the appearance of their sovereign Supreme Ruler’s emissary. Murmurs and whispers from thousands of mouths made the hall rumble like the inside of a Ten Tusks Elephant’s stomach. Attendants of the Historic Center tried to silence the crowd to no avail, there were too many people and too much excitement.
A sudden explosion distorted the air in the hall. All those present wrinkled their brows and pressed their ears with the palms of their hands.
On the stage, in front the thousands blue color seats, a man wearing a traditional black robe suit stood. The man lowered his hands and a smile spread across his face. His voice resonated far more strongly than the clap he just did, yet was soothing to the ears and charming.
“It is my pleasure meeting you today, third graders of year 5784 and honorable teachers. My name is Mortimer Dauch, ninth son of Supreme Rule Ariel Dauch”. The thirty something man introduced himself.
“Supreme Rule’s son?”
“Blood of our lord and ruler!”
Once again, thousands of voices began to murmur and whisper, students, teacher and the Historic Center’s attendants alike.
Mortimer Dauch struck his hands a second time and when the echo passed, peace returned to the hall.
“Each year the class of third grade from all over El-Eden is gathered here in the Historic Center Of New Earth, much like in the Historic Center in Shitou and the Historic Center in Tongguo, to witness our history in the best manner possible and afterwards receives\ the Supreme Rule’s blessing. This tradition akin to a communal “Coming of Age” ceremony between you, the pre Earth’s Core children of our kingdom, and the kingdom itself. And so next year, when each and every one of you will earn your Earth’s Cores, you will all be supported by the martial teaching of Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch and recognized by all of Kingdom Earth”. Mortimer took a break and smiled. There was a complete silence. Although most of them were too young to understand the full meaning behind them, everyone concentrated and internalized his words. “This year, however, I was granted the honor to bestow upon you my own ideology, way of seeing how one’s life should be, rather than my father’s, and for that reason I appear before you today”.
While to the young students the last sentence did not mean too much, the teachers and Historic Center’s attendants were stupefied. Since before the establishment of El-Eden, the pre Earth’s Core children of Kingdom Earth were guided by the words of at least one of the Supreme Rulers. It was the pillar that supported the growth of many and the belief of all. To suddenly alter that rite, even by the blood of their Supreme Ruler, how could they, as their teachers and seniors in life, accept that on the expense of their own students?
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