The earth was fissured far as they eye could see. Zax was gone. Sister Iaura was gone. Remnant light attribute fluctuations were in the air with Cardinal Northstar and Stelero Mars’s signatures, yet neither was present. Though hurried footsteps and gusts of wind resounded from every direction, Archbishop Silternjan was the sole face to look at in the encompassing vicinity, and his expression was full of anxiousness and trepidation.
Sister Beatriz looked dumbstruck, tried to comprehend what transpired and how, in the name of The Almighty, so many changes occurred without her Peak third level Martial Mortal’s perception noticing.
Her mind worked in such a haste to absorb everything with all of her sense, only after she finished a fraction of a second later, it dawned on her again…
“Sister Iarua is gone!”
Her head spun. All she saw was a colorful mixture of smudges flashing nonstop. The only constant was the hand dragging her and the man it belonged to. She opened her mouth to speak, to protest, but the rapid airflow suffocated the words.
She came up with another idea to get his attention. It took a lot of effort, but gradually she managed to lift her arms, till her hands made it to his wrist and touched.
It was a bad idea. His temperament was awful, unlike anyone who ever treated her, a complete contrast to the most caring and affectionate His Young Eminence.
The moment she made contact, a rush of malevolent intent permeated her sea of consciousness; in an attempt to traumatize her soul just enough that she will not die but still bear a lasting mental injury.
The pain was agonizing, yet just as she lost consciousness a stream of mysterious energy came out of her soul, nullified the foreign intent and sealed the sea of consciousness.
Zax glanced over his shoulder, both suspiciously and stupefied, at Sister Iaura.
‘Light element energy? ’
“Who is she?” Anet welcomed Zax with a guise of calmness over her seething anger while scrutinizing the unconsciousness lass in a sliver robe with and a Luminous Church’s metal plate. She expected him to turn the world upside, if that what it takes to help Niel, and since the earth was not crumbling, the sky not falling and he returned so soon, she was in no mood to entertain thoughts of disappointment.
“There were complications”. Zax admitted, aware that should he try to facilitate the truth, Anet would spot it and will not let it go.
As he anticipated, Anet’s face turned sour and she glared at him in displeasure. “Complications?” Her throat hurt from the stress of lowering her voice. “Then why are you back? Why is this girl here?”
“Archbishop Silternjan could not help, not even Cardinal Northstar and that fellow I told you about, Stelero Mars. I saw it on their faces”.
“So, did you return after killing them and kidnaping this girl?” With every exchanged sentence, every passing wasted second, Anet’s state of mind grew more erratic. The miscarriage of her first pregnancy left a bitter mark on her heart and now the threat hovering above Niel was on the verge of pushing her over the edge.
Zax shook his head. “Though I left turmoil in my wake, I haven’t killed anyone. As for the girl, her name is Sister Iaura. Initially I brought her as collateral and an incentive for Archbishop Silternjan to do his utmost in finding means of dealing with the strain of Godly Retribution in Niel. She seems to possess a special status. I met her a few times in the past and in every occasion she was next to Stelero Mars, kindly cared for by him and all who surrounded her. As you know, in here they refer to Stelero Mars as ‘Young Eminence’, but in the Holy Palace I gather her rank is even more prominent“.
“How sure are you in these speculations?” Anet asked dejectedly.
Zax studied Sister Iaura. “On my way back I detected some odd fluctuations in her sea of consciousness that were very familiar to elemental energy”. His gaze shifted back to his wife. “To begin with I was not completely helpless in trying to solve this predicament on my own, but my level of assuredness was unsatisfactory. This, too, is just a speculation, but perhaps with her I’ll have a better chance-”
“And if you won’t? Is there a risk in trying?”
“If I’ll fail Niel would be okay”. Zax promised.
“And you?” Anet frowned.
Zax sighed inwardly. He wanted to divert her concerns for him, but without success. “I won’t die”. He said somberly.
‘But to what degree would you be injured?’ Anet gave up from asking. Meeting his eyes, she knew she could not sway him.
Using his dark attribute energy, Zax lifted sister Iaura. “Don’t let Niel leave the house. When I’ll be done with the preparations, I’ll notify you to send him to the Large Depository”.
“Yes”. Anet complied as there was nothing else she could do; nothing but hate and curse in her heart the God who inflicted her husband and son, and the wretched who worship him.
The Large Depository was the second underground chamber in the villa. Its interior was similar to a shiny, iron vault with deposit drawers covering the walls. Some drawers contained cultivation materials, others held resources useful to erecting formations and many more kept either general Martial techniques and formations or blueprints of Zax own unfinished techniques and formations.
There were no tables or chairs in the room, not even a rug to stand on. Zax laid Sister Iaura on the hard floor and sat cross legged.
‘It’s still lingers’. He touched Sister Iaura’s forehead and sensed the undulations of light element energy blocking his probe. ‘It’s only logical for it to be a bit different. Thinking that attribute and element are the same is like comparing turbid and clean water’.
He controlled both dark attribute energy and dark element energy, so he was aware of the exciting differences and similarities between the two, but he chose to verify again now that he encountered yet another type of element.
‘I can’t use soul attack to harm her, but can I use a physical one?’ He wanted to test how extensive were Sister Iaura’s light element defensive measures, what would it take to trigger them and how long will they remain active.
‘Careful’. He warned himself to stay cautious, so he will not unintentionally kill Sister Iarua or her defensive measures would suddenly turn offensive.
Pressed his hand on the Luminous Church’s metal plate on her chest he started off gently. Then, the weight of his hand increased in small increments.
‘So there is something…’ It emerged just as Sister Iaura’s ribs could not resist the pressure anymore and showed signs of cracking, a pulse followed by a tide of light element energy surging from all cells in the little postulant’s body.
‘I can’t break it, not even with my dark element energy’. Zax deduced. ‘Only Immortals can implant an elemental energy in others. I, at least, can’t and I’m far more capable than most in the Mortal Enlightenment state…’
Zax resigned the notion of checking Sister Iaura’s dantian. He grasped the extent of her defensive measures.
Still pressing her chest, he placed his other hand on her forehead and exuded force on both ends.
Like this, time trickled as every breath was drawn to what Zax perceived from seconds, to minutes and finally hours. He could not fathom the depth of his own little amount of dark element energy, so figuring the mysteries of the light element energy in Sister Iaura was a task tens of thousands times more arduous.
The entire passage of time, which felt like forever, circulated a full hour when Zax decided to conclude the experiment.
‘The light element energy can weaken, but it recovers quickly. It also exclusively stayed passive’. The second observation was the crucial one. It meant that he can lower his guard and be less apprehensive, should he try to make use of her.
Contemplating for a while, Zax frowned. To his resignation, he could not force Sister Iaura regain consciousness.
He withdrew his dark attribute energy, got up and erected a formation around Sister Iaura.
“Wake up soon”. He commented and left for the cultivation chamber where Niel was.
“Dad, I was in the middle of consolidating my cultivation. You told me to work on it and yet you come to bother me after a short couple of hours?” Niel was peeved. “You promised I can go adventuring when I’ll fulfil your conditions but now you are sabotaging me!”
“Stop whining”. Zax scolded. “I told you to take a break from meditating and rest your mind so I could determine your rate of improvement now that you entered the second realm”.
“Fine”. Niel said sullenly, doubting his father but unable to disobey.
The moment Niel’s mindset settled down, Zax put his spirit in a dormant state. He did not need Niel to cooperate. If he wanted to, he could do the same thing fluently to a second level Martial Mortal, against his will. But Niel’s had a portion of the Godly Retribution in his soul and even if Zax could act before he noticed, he could not gamble on the Godly Retribution keeping inactive.
Looking at the replica of his Inner Panorama and locating the strain of Godly Retribution, Zax mused defiantly. ‘I’m not as I was a decade ago’.
Retreating to his own sea of consciousness and manifesting his naked body atop his Inner Panorama, Zax concentrated on the view that endured change during the past ten years.
The earth was littered with fissures like a messy spider’s web. The black sky was split as if cut by a knife as far as the eye could see and rumbling clouds were sucked to the void. The sea roared with tsunami wave that got swallowed by numerous whirlpools.
The view was a complete contrast to Zax’s general temper and it has been like this for the past couple of months, since his spirit, driven by yearning, exerted itself to a distance of three steps from the spark of light which represented the sixth and last bottleneck of insight.
In response to his dear accomplishment, the Godly Retribution that was kept at bay since its altercation with Gogenta’s soul fragment began to bluster. It dispensed fractious ripples that stirred the vista of Zax’s Inner Panorama in an attempt to collapse it.
At the time, Zax thought he was doomed, but to his surprise when his spirit reached the three steps mark, not only did he discover his control of the dark element energy more abundant, it was also more affluent and complemented smoothly his dark attribute energy.
The Godly Retribution was incessantly stimulated and pushing forward for another step seemed like it would induce further provocation no better than committing suicide, but on the other side this advancement improved his strength exponentially, well beyond the common belief of the Mortal Enlightenment state’s limit, the Mortal realm’s limit!