“This is merely the fourth space mission. Yes, it was more successful than the second and third, but the yield remains beneath our preliminary estimation”. A redheaded, bulky, brown skinned man in a dark blue suit argued. Beside him, several of the good men and women concurred with his point.
“We recalculate and reevaluate our expectation after each mission”. The short Noel Maxim countered. “The results were almost identical in the second and third missions. Adding the fourth mission’s results, we actually got the average closer to what we initially wanted”.
“The Milky Way Plain is vast and we haven’t even scratched the surface of our solar system. As I see it, everything progresses as it should”. A voice of opposition by a blue eyed blue haired old woman was raised against the redheaded, dark blue suit fellow’s comment.
“Anything is possible”. Noel remarked to ease the tension and between him and a crowed, the holographic projection that listed the same information as the tables’ Screens, changed the image to nine three dimensional minerals, liquids and gasses. “These are the nine newly discovered cultivation resources. For the moment, they are being tested to determine their value and safe methods of usage…”
As Noel explained, Zax half mindedly listened and recorded what he deemed as the important parts.
He had not come out of interest or desire as some of the people in the auditorium did. He wanted a rest from cultivation, worrying about Niel and dealing with Sister Iaura. The invitation to attend in the Star Scavenger’s fourth mission report was the excuse he latched on.
After four hours of sitting quietly in the dark room, the lights turned on and everyone began to leave their seats.
“Mr. Zel”, a small group consisting of three men and a woman approached Zax smilingly. The leading person was a teenage looking short man in casual clothing.
“Mr. Lavruer”. Zax recognized the fellow as the new family head of the latest great family in Tongguo. Rufer Lavruer, despite being less than a hundred years old, has attained the second Martial Mortal level two years after breaking through to the Martial Mortal realm.
The rumor goes that at the age of eighteen he became a Core Master, which helped him retain his youthfulness for mostly as long as he wanted. Three decades later he reached the Peak of the Core Master realm and was stuck there until a short while ago, when his family’s matriarch managed to obtain a certain substance that was discovered in the Star Scavenger’s second mission and granted it to the promising talent of the family, Rufer.
After consuming the substance, it appeared as though Rufer had nigh perfect compatibility with the substance. His dantian underwent a qualitative change and a day later he broke through the threshold to the third realm. Most impressive was that even his understanding of the fiery attribute improved to match that of a Peak second level Martial Mortal.
“Unusual seeing you here”. Rufer smiled. Since his explosive rise to prominence, his status skyrocketed as well, allowing him access to some of Kingdom Earth’s high echelon dealings. Now he can frequently be seen in anything related to the Star Scavenger’s missions in hope of finding more of the miraculous substance. “I was told you don’t care about formalities and leave it to the Dauch family to send over the resources you want. Having this chance to meet you I can say that luckily my persistence paid off and today won’t be another loss…” None of the resources gathered in the fourth mission or the substance he wished for.
They shook hands and Zax said. “I always supervise the takeoffs and landings of the Star Scavenger, but disregard everything else. Personally meeting a remarkable genius such as you, Mr. Lavruer, I feel like today is indeed not a waste”.
“Mr. Zel, these are my long time comrades”. Rufer introduced the two men and woman.
They all looked between the ages twenty to forty and had cultivation levels at the third Core Master level. Seeing they have similar pale complexion, black hair and green eyes as Rufer’s, Zax deduced that they, too, are from the Lavruer family, perhaps older generation?
“Hector, Jeuveena and Lou Jer are first cousins and to me they are second cousins. They are two generations older. When I was young I often joined their little group, where they looked after me, for gaining experience in Valgarel or when undertaking the Core Breaker Guild’s Basement Floor’s tasks”.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Zel”, Jeuveena nodded. Around her neck she carried a necklace with a marriage ring and on her finger she wore a matching one but of a smaller size.
“Mr. Zel”, Lou Jer gave a more taciturn vibe.
“You did a service for not just our Kingdom Earth, Mr. Zel, but all of New Earth”. Hector squeezed Zax’s hand with both hands.
“Elder brothers, elder sister, would you mind giving me a moment alone with Mr. Zel?” Rufer asked.
“Sure, little brother”. Jeuveena pulled Lou Jer by the arm.
“We’ll wait for you at the Mir Mar restaurant across the street”. Hector said.
‘So that’s what it looks like when the Martial path is traversed at an equal pace…’ Zax mused.
He perceived the quartet as a reflection of the “might be” outcome he could have had, if his rapid growth did not alienate him from every group he ever accompanied. He did not feel sad or even slightly sorry of how his path turned out, just a sense of appreciation toward who at one point or another were by his side.
‘Am I getting sappy due to my weakened state?’
“Mr. Zel, I hate to impose…”
“I have free time, Mr. Lavruer, and you already got my attention”. Zax had a positive impression of Rufer and his companions, so he was open to indulge him.
“Thank you, Mr. Zel, however, let’s not discuss here. We can talk privately at one of the adjacent rooms”.
The room they moved to happened to be an occupied break room.
“I’ll erect for us a formation for privacy”. With this sentence, the staff on break took the hint and hustled to leave, while those who waited for opportunity to converse with Zax after Rufer, detected a trace of threat in his tone.
“I’m in need of your assistance”. Rufer opened at the completion of the formation.
“Right off the bat? Fine, speak”. Zax entertained.
“You heard about me, correct? How I reached my current level of power”.
“Obviously, your achievement made you famous”.
“In that case, you probably also know why I persistently trail anything and everything about the Star Scavenger’s missions”.
“It’s, too, not a secret”. Zax affirmed.
“It’s a lie”. Rufer admitted derisively and proceeded to clarify in response to Zax’s inquisitive stare. “Everyone assume that I became enchanted by the Scorching Stellar Fumes and now obsessively waiting for another portion to be rediscovered, but they are essentially wrong. Indeed, I would like to obtain all the Scorching Stellar Fumes available, but there is something else I dearly desire to see underlined discovered in the report of every concluded mission, however I fear it will never ensue”.
Interest! Rufer caught the glint of it flashing in Zax’s eyes, along with suspicion.
“Who are you?” Zax’s voice thundered in Rufer’s ears and sea of consciousness as he studied him in and out with an intense glare and his Soul Sense. ‘How can he possibly know about the things in outer space that haven’t been discovered yet?’ The question passed through his mind when he suddenly dropped it and his expression turned grim. “You are neither human nor a beast!”
Rufer’s face stifled. A force that he could barely make as dark attribute energy confined and slowly smothered him. “I- I am human!” He hysterically yelped, cursing at himself for how his caution actually produced such an adverse effect. His admission lessened a bit the crushing sensation. “My physiology, all three aspects, had changed because of the Scorching Stellar Fumes”.
Zax let him loose.
Rufer stooped, panting. Cold sweat dripped from his forehead. “How did you know?” He was inwardly terrified. The man before him was beyond his expectations. “Supreme Ruler Trey could not tell, not even the strongest Supreme Ruler Ariel…”
With the emergence of rare, otherworldly cultivation resources, the high level experts of Kingdom Earth benefited greatly. Nevertheless, even the strongest expert after Zax, Ariel Dauch, was jammed at the Peak of the fourth Martial Mortal level in terms of understanding of the attribute.
“Fifth level Martial Mortals can’t see through me, unless… Moral Enlightenment state?!”
“You even know about this…” Zax looked down at Rufer.
The Moral Enlightenment state was not public knowledge, simply because it meant nothing to those below the fifth Martial Mortal level. Those who knew of it were either in special position working for the five powers or the few Zax shared his experience with.
“I can answer all of your questions, but I ask in return that you will keep everything I’d say between us. I promise, nothing I’ll say is detrimental to anyone but me!”
Composing himself, Rufer straightened. “The Scorching Stellar Fumes that believed to be bred in space, as a matter of a fact, are blood. The evaporated blood of an extraterrestrial being called Zizamber, to be precise. I know this because I received part of its inheritance, along some obscure memory fragments, when I absorbed the Scorching Stellar Fumes. As I gradually interpret the content of the memory fragments I learn a lot about the Martial Path, the Zizamber and the details of its inheritance…”
As Rufer narrated, even though he did not show it, Zax was increasingly astounded.
The Zizamber whose blood became Scorching Stellar Fumes was an Immortal being at the Neonate stage. Its death was a mystery to Rufer and from the memories he cracked in relation to it all he acquired was a phantom of resentment and one word, “Larzar”.
‘Larzar! Was it killed back then by Senior Gogenta in a contest for this planet?’ From Gogenta’s earliest message Zax learnt that his goal and the goal of many was the Core the Milky Way Plain fashioned for itself, the Star named today Ercas Mir.
“The instant my physiology transformed I was informed by a shred of intent that the inheritance is divided to twenty three portions of the Senior Zizamber’s blood and one portion of bone marrow. Altogether there can be twenty three heirs, however since there is just enough bone marrow for a single person, a struggle for the complete inheritance is unavoidable. At the moment, I can tell that there is no other heir than me, whether on this planet or outside of it. While I can keep absorbing blood portions to get stronger, even those of other heirs, without the blood marrow my Martial path is at a stop and at a risk of being severed”.
Rufer dejectedly clenched his fists. “This may be an excessive request, but I have no other option… Please, permit me to take the Star Scavenger for an independent mission!”