“So they banded together on their first day… Vermin!” Lying naked on the bed, Guard Chou Ferk smoked a violet cigar and puffed purple smoke that he then inhaled back from his nostrils.
On the floor lay, quivering, the gorgeous slave woman, also naked, bruised and bleeding. Soon, Guard Chou Ferk will leave and the tavern’s Elite Ranked prisoner manager will give her something to recover before a new patron will seek “entertainment”.
“No rush”. Guard Chou Ferk continued to talk to himself, rubbing his loins with the free hand. The intoxicating smoke from the cigar made him vigorous and giddy, wondering, among other things, if he should blow a purple ring on the slave girl and take her for a second round. “It’ll be bad if she dies”. He pissed himself as his mind deviated from the line of thought. “A prisoner kills and gets punished but a Guard kills and pay with his life…”
It was the system’s way to deter the Guard from going overboard with the prisoners without permission.
“No matter. There are other methods… The girl named ‘Nulivs’, if I recall… Yes! She is quite the looker and younger than the taverns’ whores. She is close to that son of a bitch, an excellent candidate to mess up further his unhinged mindset”.
All he has to do is separate them. However, he doubted Head Guard Umber will let him cause trouble with the prisoners in the foreseeable future, due to losing so much face before them a short while ago. Hence, he will have to do it by using other prisoners as his eyes and hands for the precise time to snatch Nulivs. Afterwards, dealing with Zax will be a walk in the park, as long as he really cares for her.
As for Zechariah, Vimov, Yimin and the rest… Currently, including Zax, there were seven prisoners in the Mortal Enlightenment state in seven different posts Guard Chou Ferk had no means to get to, much less exploit. But it did not matter; Mortal Enlightenment state prisoners for this task were overkill anyway. The Seventh Post’s Middle Sectors’ fifth level Martial Mortals can do just fine.
“Nothing!” Lenrah granted, swinging her arms, striking the spot in the tunnel’s wall with the pickaxe.
She was not talking about Ever Pure Solid. The source of her frustration in the past four days was none other than Zax!
“I don’t know”.
With one, repetitive three words sentence he dismissed every meaningful question.
“What happened to your appearance?”
“Do you remember your name?”
“Do you recognize us?”
“Can you sense your Evolutionary Ascension?”
“Can you discuss your insights?”
And so on and so on… until Giant Havreim asked. “Can you think, then?”
Which Zax followed up with a new answer… “I don’t want”. Not about things that will comprise his fragmentary lucidness.
A meter away from Lenrah was Varinka, also mining, not saying anything in response. It was vexing for her, too, hence she understood the need to vent.
The first week for the Ercas Mir and New Earth’s survivors in the Rakmon Penitentiary came to an end nine days after their arrival, a day plus eight more that comprised one week on the planet.
As everyone found out, meeting the weekly quota was not as taxing as the first day made it seem. Usually, from what they learned, C ranked prisoners were able to fulfill the twenty five grams demand and still have a surplus of half a gram to two.
Zax, however, had to provide double the amount, which was an impossible chore that typical prisoners will have to resort to demeaning activities in the souks to accomplish. Lucky for Zax, he was not alone. Although he did not seek them, Zechariah’s ultimatum coerced them to help.
Thus the first week passed with maybe not everyone purchasing a C rank band, but at least not missing the weekly quota.
“I’m tired”. Nulivs crouched, lying on the ground and in the blink of an eye, or rather a close of it, she fell asleep hugging her pickaxe.
On both of her sides, two men mined in a steady tempo, Zax and Vimov.
It had been three and a half months since they became mining prisoners and nothing changed.
As time passed, when everyone expected, hoped, that now that he has company, unlike in the Lunar Splitter, Zax’s disordered mind will gradually recover, he instead turned even more introvert and no treatment they suggested or actually tried managed to decipher where the problem originating from and wondering if it has something to do with the marks left by the thongs of fire.
Little did they know that their futile attempt resulted from probing the sea of consciousness of an Infernal Heavenly Immortal, veiled by Gods to confuse even Neonate Immortals.
In terms of how he really was, Zax’s behavior was not a symptom of deterioration in his condition, but the opposite…
Through the keyhole view he gained after waking up from Guard Chou Ferk’s punishment, Zax immersed in all sorts of introspection. He was unknowingly urged by his barred Infernal self, the hidden coldness in his dantian and the memories he could not let go.
His interests outside of his little world hazily involved only Vimov and Nulivs. Anyone else was just part of the scenery that came too late to capture his attention.
‘I am…’ He mused at the “TING” of the pickaxe contact with the wall.
‘Zax…’ It was not him answering, but the echo of her voice.
‘Anet!’ He recognized each time and his mind momentarily became muddled each time.
He felt submerged in a sea of emotions, blocked by an impenetrable dam and as long as this dam existed he could not let the water’s flow push him to resurface.
Thus continued the days, weeks and months.
Guard Chou Ferk was a vengeful man, especially toward undisciplined prisoners, but he was also patient. As a Martial Mortal he had plenty of time to conspire and wait for his plans to come into fruition. And from the recent report he received his mood was so wonderful he even spared a trip to his favorite tavern…
“How about it, Vimov, convince Zax to help me for three days and I’ll compensate him with three hundred grams of Ever Pure Solid when the job is done”. A green scaled man with a set of wooden horns and yellow eyes requested. He was an A ranked prisoner named “Sailait”.
“Your request is too excessive and it’s not like Zax need your Ever Pure Solid”. Vimov retorted, disagreeably, despite the difference in ranks.
Ever since three weeks ago this fellow, Sailair, has been pestering him after getting the cold shoulder from Zax.
Sailait did not care for mannerism. What he wanted that made him so friendly toward the survivors group and even fawning over Vimov and Nulivs was to borrow the strength of a cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state for an enterprise organized under the noses of the sector’s few Elite ranked prisoners.
The cause for Vimov’s refusal was beyond the subject of pay… the way Sailair wants to use Zax will involve an extensive expenditure of attribute energy.
“He doesn’t but someday you will…” Sailair pressed. “All of your group! Right now you, over a hundred inmates, are untouchable because a cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state is on your side. But once his Evolutionary Ascension will come, whether he will pass it or not, he would be taken from the Seventh Post, never to be seen again, unless fate will have it and you will also attain Immortality. Then, all the Elite and A ranked prisoners that, at the moment, are leaving you, new ones, alone will show up to suck dry your Ever Pure Solid if not do worse. Having an excess of a few hundred grams of Ever Pure Solid might save you some of those future troubles”.
“Will you be one of them?” Zechariah joined after noting the conversation from afar. Before Sailair could answer, he chuckled and shook his head. “Well it doesn’t really matter. We can simply ask Zax to kill all the Elite and A ranked prisoners prior to his Evolutionary Ascension, perhaps Guard Chou Ferk, too”.
Sailair grimaced upon hearing this. Remembering how Zax almost attacked Guard Chou Ferk and would have if the Head Guard did not stop him, he knew that prisoners, regardless of rank, will have no chance.
Sailair started to get nervous. He waited for Zechariah to laugh it off as a joke, but the man continued to smile as if he thought on a really good contingency plan.
“I- I- Think we got off on the wrong foot …” Sailair wearily smiled back. “Put aside the unpredictable future, in the present I do realize that my offer is a little unfair. How about we sit together and reexamine what I can do for you in return?”
“That would be excellent”. Zechariah affirmed. “However, not today. In two days, after we’ll finish collecting the weekly quota”.
“Then in two days it is”. Sailair agitatedly nodded and hastened to withdraw. He has not given up on having Zax work for him, but the current atmosphere made him feel like one slip of the tongue and he will end like that conning imbecile, Misha.
“Why didn’t you reject him?” Vimov asked Zechariah after Sailair exited the C rank quarters.
“Because as things stand for, he is right. Zax… assuming it’s really him”, since he kept the old man look and did not confirm his name, the optimists could only be certain of his identity by ninety percent while the skeptics by seventy. “One day, maybe tomorrow maybe thousands of years from now, Will be gone. Killing all the Elite and A ranked prisoners is a fine idea, if it was practical. The Head Guard will definitely intervene”.
Evading all prying eyes, Zechariah turned to Vimov, his expression solemn. “We need to prepare, increase our Ever Pure Solid capital and raise our ranks, for if not through Zax then only this way… maybe, in another ‘One day’, the path of Martial cultivation will open itself for us again”.