‘A hidden oppression… The Almighty’s!’ Zax concluded. Now that he reconnected the spirit and consciousness, he became conscious to the inconspicuous Godly Retribution bearing on his being. ‘It began to act’. If he had not reached the Mortal Enlightenment state and joined with his spirit he would have remained oblivious. ‘It’s trying to revoke the speck of the sixth bottleneck, cut off my opportunity to comprehend all six bottlenecks!’ The instant he figured, the land, sky and sea of his Inner Panorama reverberated in response to his rage.
The Godly Retribution was invisible and if it was dormant, perhaps he would not have noticed it, but since it exposed its intent, whether fully or not, it gave him the chance to retaliate.
Assisting his spirit get to the sixth bottleneck before it was disposed was impossible, so the only option was to resist the oppression by shielding the speck of dark light with his dark attribute energy and what little of dark element energy he could muster in this conditions.
“Argh!” Zax’s eyes snapped open in a shout and he jumped to a sitting position, in the process frightening Anet back to wakefulness.
“What happened?!” Seeing Zax’s entire body pale as blood gushed out of his seven orifices, Anet alarmingly asked, holding his swaying upper body.
“Noth- cough!” Zax choked on blood. He took a moment to stabilize himself, but he did not improve. Furthermore, the root of his injury was so detrimental; he could not heal like he should have been able to. Worse yet, in comparison to his body, the state of his soul was more terrible.
‘How formidable?! Just making contact with the hint of Godly Retribution is so ruinous! The fact that I’m still alive is evidence to the calamity I passed!’ Zax cautiously examined his sea of consciousness, as he continued to endure the oppression of the Godly Retribution and although it impaired his healing capabilities, only the initial step of making contact carried a disastrous impact.
The protective formation of dark attribute energy was still active, but constantly in a state of construction and deconstruction. ‘It won’t hold forever. If there is more to the Godly Retribution, then I’ll be helpless. Even now, as long as I persist, I won’t be able to divert energy for healing severe wounds in a dire fight, much less treat those I’ll keep sustaining by this resistance’.
As he lamented, Zax kept wheezing blood and despite slowly recovering his complexion and reducing the loss of blood, internally he could still feel that unbearable pain of a God’s might and that was just the beginning of his plight.
‘In the meantime I’ll bear it. Losing the sixth bottleneck means throwing away everything I’ve put up with, before and after learning about Legacy Of One’s Path. I won’t stand for it!’
Having comprehended five bottlenecks of insight, if he will not die prematurely, by the customary operation of Martial cultivation it was a matter of time before the coming of his Evolutionary Ascension. However, Zax was already enticed by the path laid out for him by the expert who claimed to snatch this planet from all other Immortals, in his time, and even reaching the summit of Immortality.
“I’m okay”. He leaned on Anet and straightened, assuring her that he can support himself.
“What happened? Don’t lie to me, Zax, I never saw you winding and oozing blood like this out of nowhere!” She glared, warning him with what she will not stand for.
“It’s the retribution of an oath I made using a name of a God…” Zax opened and narrated the entire ordeal. Since he chose her for his wife he was determined to always answer her resolution to share his burdens.
A long while passed with silence even after he finished talking and the two returned to lie with their gazes on the ceiling of the bedroom.
“If…” Anet’s tone wavered with hesitation. The subject required deeper reflection than she had time to perform and she was worried that whatever advice she will give will deter Zax’s resolve, even if he will not take it to heart. She shook her head. “No. I believe in you!” She kissed him and rested herself on his chest and Zax, too, decided to sleep the reminder of the night.
The following day, Kingdom Earth, Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.
“Martial father”, Zax and Anet greeted Kartius in an atypical manner – hands held, calling together and even recognizing the same eminence.
They headed for him at his abode in the Essence Cave, just as they arrived the residential cave of the Krikitory tribe, interrupted his analyzing of the dark attribute.
“You two…” Kartius was confused for a brief moment, but before he could appropriately respond, a voice already called out in joy in all three’s sea of consciousness.
‘Congratulations! Congratulations! My darling Zax! My sweetheart Anet!’ Laivien praised enthusiastically. ‘Come to my valley, I wish to see the both of you!’
They knew that she can watch them with her violet stone, so there was no keeping their announcement on the down low.
In matter of minutes all members of the Martial family present in the two caves gathered in the small valley, except from Zetsa, Raroen and Shulip – the latter two were on their way, informed by the communicators Zax gifted his Martial family some time after the relocation of his relatives and friends to Green Snow village.
“Wait! Am I hearing wrong?! Forget the marriage stuff; they are together for years, who cares about them announcing that they are planning to stay longer!” Mes tactlessly spewed all because he was too shocked by the second part of the duo’s news, the fight with Horn Kikon and Zax’s breakthrough.
“Dumb snake!” Rarahel berated.
“Viper!” Mes corrected.
“Still stupid”. Simel shook his head.
“All of you quiet!” Grandmaster Kartion rebuked. “Be less senseless, Mes! Are you taking for granted the bond between me, your Martial father and Laivien, your Martial mother?”
“Forgive me, Master, Martial mom, little brother Zax, little sister Anet”. Mes put his hands together in apology, though no one really blamed him.
Only clans have ceremonial customs for union between lovers and in Valgarel the only two tribes qualified for the “clan” status are the Red Rose Beaks tribe and Silverhorned tribe and neither shares those rituals of their counterparts in Ercas Mir. Want to demonstrate commitment? Show it in your affection – this is the way of the beasts in New Earth.
“It’s fine, big brother Mes. I’m not mad”. Anet chuckled.
“Compensate those vocals in your wedding gift”. Zax teased.
“It’s a deal!” Mes promptly agreed. “See, Master, everything is fine. We can now move on to the subject of little brother Zax’s insane breakthrough”. Evidently he did not give up.
Rarahel rolled her eyes and some shook their heads.
“I, too, want to hear, Martial son”. Kartius said in a serious tone. “You mentioned an alternative path that to strode onto you ultimately chose to risk abandoning your past accumulations”.
“And it was the smartest decision I’ve ever made on the Martial path. My entire being, three aspects and spirit had a qualitative transformation and I can now perceive the sixth bottleneck of insight”.
“Sixth bottleneck?” Kartius was astonished. “Wait, don’t say anymore. This taboo subject can no longer be of help to some of us, and those who still struggle should reflect on their own”.
In the Core Master Realm, each level has two bottlenecks of insights, overall six that are corresponding to the five senses and an element. The order in which they appear is random. This is why cultivators find it meaningless discussing them and even deterring to their personal efforts of perceiving and comprehending them. As for how those who have not perceived and comprehended all bottlenecks can know what they symbolize, well… it is not hard to assess. Those who gave on them do not mind to converse between themselves. With the first five bottlenecks appearing in no specific order, a group of Core Masters can easily list them. The only issue is the sixth bottleneck, which will keep eluding unless someone will comprehend the previous five and take a step beyond sensing it to perceiving.
“Before, you claimed to equal at your best a Beginner fourth level Martial Mortal”. Raroen recapped. “But after your breakthrough you were capable of one hit killing an Overlord Deformed Being and with body strength alone withstand the blows of the strongest fifth level Martial Mortal, Horn Kikon. Maybe these realms are beyond our current achievement, but considering the information you disclosed with us, your rise in strength sounds inexplicable”.
Raroen’s behavior was always genial toward the members of his Martial family, but he picked up couple of notions from Zax’s recitation that urged a degree of concern in his heart, which he hoped his youngest Martial brother could elucidate as he inwardly struggled to decipher on his own.
Zax imagined that Raroen made similar connections in his perception to those he made in relation to him at the time of his closed door training. However, after he achieved the breakthrough, the previous realizations were further illuminated. It was a sort of new insight that was not harmful, yet produced sadness nonetheless…
“I… was able to achieve elevation after discarding my old path because it is the only available way to perceive the sixth bottleneck of insight. If I hadn’t met the requirements of comprehending five bottlenecks and reaching a certain threshold in my understanding of the dark attribute, should I have attempted to exchange my attainments for the unknown, I would have definitely ruined my future as a Martial cultivator and even previous development”.
“Then my choices…” Raroen turned glum.
“You have nothing to feel sorry about, Martial son”, Grandmaster Kartion interfered. “As Martial nephew Zax said… misjudgment is total devastation of Martial cultivation, yet you still possess yours, while your soul and mist energy are already at the first Martial Mortal’s level”.
With the assistant of Pure Cores, the Martial family had four of its members progressing swiftly to and through the Martial Mortal realm. These four were Kartius, Raroen, Simel, and Hagen. Among them, Kartius was the sole one to reach the second level.
“My soul and mist, even my physique, grow stronger, but due to the path I brazenly elected back then my understanding of the attribute is lower than my younger Martial sister and brother”.
“You let your sorrow plug your ears!” Grandmaster Kartion reproached.
“You are referring to the ‘requirements’, Master”. Raroen showed that he listened. “That for my breakthrough, I mostly likely still have conditions to complete. But how long has it been since I encountered this bottleneck? Little brother Zax-”
“Not even I compare myself to him!” Grandmaster Kartion scoffed.
Everyone silently nodded. Although they seemed to diverge from the subject, it was for the sake of a family member. Therefore, everyone kept waiting as a Martial father and Martial son had their talk.
“Maybe it’s time… for me to grant my children the liberty to leave”. Grandmaster Kartion’s next words stirred each and every one of his apprentices. “To seek your way in Ercas Mir”.
“Martial father, you mean on our own?!”
“Without a time limit?!”
Up until this very day, Grandmaster Kartion allowed his apprentices to venture to Ercas Mir only at the company of the strongest member of the family, Zax, and not farther than the periphery of Selivereb. Expect from Mes, neither wished to be babysit, especially by the pipsqueak of the family, regardless by how much his strength outgrew all of them.
“With your youngest brother attaining the capital to stand at the summit of the world above, I’m sure new arrangements for the independence of New Earth’s inhabitants are pending”. Grandmaster Kartion guessed.
“Actually…” Zax smiled and told them his demands from Horn Kikon to pass to the other four powers.
“In this case, at the very least I don’t have to worry about anyone of you unjustly being chased by the five powers”. With that, Grandmaster Kartion gave his consent.
“Then… Master, I-”
“Don’t be rash, Raroen”, Laivien cut in. “Wait for little Zax to confirm the cooperation of the five power”.
“When will you do it?” Hagen, in her favorite animalistic form enquired.
“Within four days I’ll go to personally meet each of the five powers’ leaders”. Zax said with a confident smile that stunned everyone. “First, though, I’d like to make a trip to the Red Rose Beaks tribe. There is something over there that is long overdue for me to take”.
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