In this moment, Zax contempt for The Almighty was indescribable and his hatred insufferable. Immediately, he sent a faint stream of dark attribute energy into Niel’s sea of consciousness. The dark attribute energy formed shapes that combined together inside Niel’s soul, creating a closure within a closure for the small imitation of his Inner Panorama and the strain of Godly Retribution lurking in it.
“Niel”, Zax released a stifled breath. He ruffled Nie’s hair and pushed his head down, worried that should his son see his face he will notice a trace of the ferocity he currently struggled to hold off. “Do you want to go adventuring?”
“Yes!” Niel replied eagerly.
“You broke through the second realm, which initially was the prerequisite I gave you; the real purpose of it, however, was to boost your strength to a sufficient level, so you could survive outside Rising City. Right now your cultivation is not yet consolidated. To prove that your attainment is constructive, stabilize your mist energy and then go challenge the Deformed Beings Arena. When you will beat the third stage, you are permitted to appear before me and your mother for our Godspeed. Are you up to the task?”
A smile ear to ear stretched across Niel’s face. He was reluctant to have his leave prolonged, but he was taught to never shy from his father’s tests. “I am!” He creased his brows. “But you better not come up with more excuses afterwards, dad!”
“I won’t. Tell Jingrow that if he wants to join you, he must endure thirty minutes in the fourth stage or five minutes in the fifth”.
The Deformed Beings Arena was a momentous trial for every cultivator in Rising City. It was a tower with nine stages, each corresponding to a phase and level in the second realm of cultivation. The third stage was equivalent in difficulty to fighting an Advanced first level Core Master, the fourth was equivalent to a Beginner second level Core Master and the fifth to an Intermediate second level Core Master.
In each stage resides a two scales Deformed Being, as the opponent to be challenged. A challenger who wins would either keep the Deformed Being’s Pure Core or exchange it for other prizes.
Since Niel and Jingrow’s rewards would be permission to go adventuring, they naturally will not get to keep the Pure Cores or exchange them for something else.
“He is actually back inside?” Anet laughed as she saw Zax coming out alone from the cultivation chamber.
In a way, she knew even better than her husband how hard their son strived for the promised sliver of freedom, whilst had been keen on why Zax was so against it. She found it quite amazing that after the Niel fulfilled his father’s ultimatum, Zax, again, not just managed to prolong his stay, but even got him to continue training.
Then she saw her reflection in Zax’s pupils and the amusement was corroded by an ominous feeling. “What is it?” Her motherly sense told her it was Niel related, and so her question came out as a demand.
“I was finally able to examine Niel’s peculiarity today, as a result of his breakthrough to the Core Master realm”. Zax was not even considering lying. “A replica of my Inner Panorama was passed down hereditarily to the interior of his soul. It is the source for his dark attribute and acute mentality; however… a strain of the Godly Retribution had covertly sneaked along this inheritance”.
Anet opened her mouth, about to utter a cry of distress, but shut her lips in defiance. She somberly reserved her aura, yet failed to do the same with her emotions and a profound killing intent, no less potent than Zax, manifested on her delicate face.
It was a short exchange of a few words and one meaningful look. Zax averted his gaze and turned to leave and Anet watched his back, urging him in her heart not to return before turning the world upside down!
Archbishop Silternjan, Cardinal Northstar, Stelero Mars, Sister Iaura and Sister Beatriz sat, circling a small, round table at one of the lavish gardens between the nuns and clerics districts.
A pleasant atmosphere surrounded the group. A ceramic, flowery pot was placed on the table with a fragrant, sometimes blue, sometimes green liquid inside. Five ceramic cups, filled with the liquid to varying capacity, were either on the table or at one of the revered hands.
Sister Iaura seemed to be at especially good mood as she tipped the edge of her cups lightly to her lips. Stelero Mars also exuded a tranquil frame of mind. Sister Beatriz showed restraint and had yet to take a sip from her cup. Archbishop Silternjan and Cardinal Northstar talked among themselves, and for the other three to listen, about the orthodoxy and its principles, in other words, imparting belief.
Passersby, members of the church, were not allowed to intrude, yet if by chance their path crossed a hearing distance from the homily, the words would keep fly to their ears until they will reach their destination.
Almost miraculously, Nature, too, seemed to appreciate the two elders’ verses. Although it was late evening, light still lingered above the specific garden and grew further livelier the darker it got outside.
Cardinal Northstar was in the midst of expounding upon a proverb by a long dead pious believer, when his tongue abruptly halted and his face sunk.
Archbishop Silternjan was second to react, as he was not the one being interrupted. Stelero Mars raised his head high an instant later and both Sister Iaura and Sister Beatriz couple of moments next.
The man, so up in the sky a non cultivator would have only seen a black dot, gaze back at the five. His expression was solemn and presence inspired the nightly darkness to overcome the brightness of the garden.
‘This is not a friendly visit’. Archbishop Silternjan warned the other four.
Stelero Mars clenched a fist on the armrest of his chair. Sister Iaura held Sister Beatriz’s hand to suppress a shiver. Cardinal Northstar glanced with an unreadable look.
As such, in total silence, a minute and then two, three, four and so on… passed.
An onlooker might have assumed that he or she encroached on an intense staring contest, but actually, what want on between the heaven and the earth belonging to the garden was an invisible battle of imposing souls that will confer preeminence for either the invader or the ones being invaded.
Zax was infuriated and wanted to crash Archbishop Silternjan and the rest with his glare, but the latter as well as Cardinal Northstar just engaged in a discussion of faith and enlightenment. Their state of mind was at peak condition especially for this sort of altercation.
Nevertheless, this was not a clash of one versus one or two versus two, but five versus one. Although Zax was inferior in terms of numbers, the general aim of his soul forced Archbishop Silternjan and Cardinal Northstar to collaborate with the other three as a chain.
Stelero Mars had a personal vendetta against Zax. Should they lose this invisible battle, he would suffer more shame and his humiliation would be exhibited in front of Sister Iaura, again.
‘Your Young Eminence!’ Cardinal Northstar sent via Sublime Soul Sense, however it was too late.
Stelero Mars bore deep resentment to Zax for couple of reasons. He could not stand his gall anymore, particularly when right beside him the precious Sister Iaura was giving her best to persevere, yet the villainous Zax was bent on breaking her spirit.
“Enough!” Stelero Mars bellowed. White, light attribute energy flared along the aura of a Peak fourth level Martial Mortal.
The consequences of a link separating from the chain were quickly mended through a quick resonance by Archbishop Silternjan and Cardinal Northstar as they withdrew from a soul pressure conflict and utilized their mist energy to shield the garden, hence retreating to a passive stance.
“Sister Iaura”, Cardinal Northstar hastened to aid her, when in fact his intentions were to distract Stelero Mars from his fixation on Zax.
“Welcome to my Grand Abode, Zax”. Archbishop Silternjan greeted, probing Zax’s volatility.
Zax maintained his silent for a while longer, before opening in a husky voice. “Silternjan, do not test me!” It was a onetime warning.
Archbishop Silternjan creased his brows. Among the leaders of the five powers, he was the first to reach out to Zax, willing to reconcile and inviting him to join Luminous Church. Since then, they had a rather placid relationship. How come, then, now he was detecting a clear readiness from Zax to shed their tacit understanding?
“I truly don’t know what you are talking about”. Archbishop Silternjan replied honestly. He really feared Zax snapping by the weight of incautious wording. “I can see that you are not in a mood to procrastinate. If you can tell me what’s wrong and it is indeed related to me or my Luminous Church, then I’ll make every attempt in my power to rectify”.
“Silternjan you knew about my wife and mine problem to get pregnant from Logan and that nine years ago we finally had a son. Why haven’t you told me that the Godly Retribution can permeate to succeeding generations?!”
The mentioning of the Godly Retribution struck Archbishop Silternjan like bolt of lightning in a sunny day. “Your son was targeted by the Godly Retribution?” He did his utmost to steel himself.
Zax noticed Archbishop Silternjan’s confusion and even the tremor in both Cardinal Northstar and Stelero Mars, who suddenly and stealthily hinged away from the conversation.
‘Did it by chance infiltrate?‘ Zax ruminated. To begin with he suspected and kept to himself the possibility that what meant to be a blessing for Niel, turned out to be a curse accidentally. ‘An Inner Panorama is not something that can be inherited. Niel most likely received it due to the combination of being my direct bloodline and a descendant to Gogenta… Originally it was supposed to be a good thing, but because my soul was contaminated at the date of his consummation, it became the opposite‘.
From Zax’s perspective, regardless how flourishing Niel was now, he was living on borrowed time. And whether he had part in the fault, in hindsight, it was Archbishop Silternjan who drove him to make the oath to The Almighty.
“Silternjan, I acknowledge that my ignorance plays a part in inviting this predicament, but now that it also befell my son, I will have you, too, take responsibility”.
With that, Zax made his move.
“Protect His Young Eminence and Sister Iaura!” Archbishop Silternjan shouted for Cardinal Northstar. He saw Zax approaching toward him in speed that his body could barely follow.
In a blink of an eye, Archbishop Silternjan complexion turned holy white and eight majestic wings sprouted from his back as he transformed to his light physique, Angelic Emissary form. Gesturing with his hand, a long barrel gun emerged and with the sole motion he could achieve so promptly, his eyes took aim and the trigger clicked.
A light bullet shot in a straight line, not to kill or even injure, Archbishop Silternjan was not delusional, but to deter.
“Zax, we can find a solution!” Archbishop Silternjan yelled alarmingly. He could not take on the opponent and employing the defensive measures of his Grand Abode required time.
“Your God inflicted my son”. Zax roared in a deep voice, his skin shimmering in black. “MY SON!” He smacked the bullet with the back of his hand, shattering it to dispersing fragments.
Archbishop Silternjan paled at the sight of his concentrated attack so casually dismissed.
Cardinal Northstar and Stelero Mars, who by some luck stole a glimpse of the situation, were shaken inwardly; instantly deducing that unless they will aid Archbishop Silternjan, buy him enough time to activate the Grand Abode, the entirety of Onzengvas City might suffer the aftermath.
Cardinal Northstar grimaced and used his own Angelic Emissary form. Somewhat reluctant, he clenched his fists and a pair of thin, white gloves covered them.
Shining white aura engulfed Stelero Mars and from his spatial ring came out a plain looking wooden staff. A layer of white veins made his skin glow; his incomplete light physique transformation had only one pair of wings and other than the mask of veins, his skin tone remained the same. Nonetheless, the extent of his light attribute energy outstrips that of the two fifth level Martial Mortals.
“With me!” Cardinal Northstar called Archbishop Silternjan and Stelero Mars, ready to take the vanguard as the current strongest power of the church in Ercas Mir and perhaps the third strongest cultivator on the planet. He was certain that with a proper combination, even without the Grand Abode, they will be able to fend off Zax.
The same thought he shared with Archbishop Silternjan was that although their opponent attained the Mortal Enlightenment state, he still could only equally match Horn Kikon. From their experience, the latter was the strongest being beneath Immortals and yet, even he will not treat their combined force lightly.
Regrettably, the ensuing events did not play out as they expected.
Just as a collision that should not occur so close to the surface seemed imminent, Zax’s vanished from the line of the three’s line of sight an reappeared at the center of their small formation.
His speed was beyond comprehension, something that should not be possible below the Immortal realm.
He stood there loftily, holding the barrel of Archbishop Silternjan’s gun, which at some point his hand seized.
Meanwhile, the three were just commencing the process of turning their heads.
Squeezing, Zax could not break the material of the barrel but his strength was sufficient to deform it. “My son”, he spoke just fast enough for them to perceive his words.
A fist coursed in a trajectory for his waist. The glove on Cardinal Northstar’s right hand contained boundless amount of light attribute energy that momentarily amplified Cardinal Northstar’s assault to a degree that made Zax pause.
“Humph!” Zax snorted and casted the long barrel gun at the fist with a wisp of dark element energy.
Cardinal Northstar was thrown back uncontrollably from the garden, beyond the Grand Abode’s zone and outside Onzengvas City.
“I’ll try to treat him myself, if you can’t help”. Zax continued to say. Noting the movement of Stelero Mars’ staff, he impatiently flung his arm aside, striking Stelero Mars and sending flying tens of kilometers with who knows how many broken bones.
“But I’m not confident and even fearful”. Seeing that Archbishop Silternjan succumbed to the fact he is way more powerless than he thought, Zax took a step, vanished and reappeared again.
Sister Iaura and Sister Beatriz were unable to keep up with his speed and seemed frozen in time. He caught the collar of Sister Iaura’s silver robe.
“She is important to you, all of you, right? Even more than that Stelero Mars”. Zax pulled Sister Iaura to him and Archbishop Silternjan gasped in horror, as if he witnessed the dirty hands of an infidel beggar touching the holiest of lights bestowed by The Almighty.
“Should something happen to my son, however big or small, I’ll kill her”.
Zax proclaimed, and left with a kick to the ground that sent quakes through not just the city, but the entire Onzengvas domain of Luminous Church.