Book 2 – Black Core, Chapter 1 – Overview

When Zax woke up the Young Mist Users Conference was already over. Actually, it ended two days ago and Zax’s whereabouts were currently in his house, lying on his bed.

The sequence of events after the encounter with the Martinez’s family members went on the following way… For obvious reasons, when Mr. Majid returned to the fifth floor with Zax and met with Jinka, neither she nor the other three kids felt eager to watch the exhibition fights. The four of them were utterly exhausted mentally and physically.

Taking into account the condition of the four, when they expressed their desire to leave Mr. Majid ordered his own driver to take them back to their homes at cave twenty five, that, of course, after he assured all of them that Zax do not require any special treatment but rest and time to heal. He did recommended, before they left, that Zax should receive something called “Three Ways To Heaven” therapy, but did not elaborate what sort of treatment it was, simply asked Jinka to pass his counsel to Zax’s family – in hindsight, he most likely intended it to get to the expert in the family, Zax’s big sister, Zetsa Zel.

Zax got up slowly from his bed. Even though he rested for two days, his soul was the only thing which entirely healed after this time fiasco. His body, in comparison, was sore all over and his Qi channels, which were already miserably small much like any child who never trained in Qi refining techniques, shrunk even more to the point that he nearly forgotten the newfound contact that he established with this aspect of the human body.

“You really should learn how to pick your battles, Zax”. Zetsa sat in a meditative pose, approximately one meter from Zax, but until she opened her mouth and spoken her presence was undetectable.

“Big sis?” Zax ably fended the surprise. Somewhat, he felt contented with himself without knowing why. The reason that he did not dwell about was, in fact, deeply repressed in his mind. His recent escape from death.

When his soul first perceived Gerardo’s intention, as a means to tolerate and defend itself it shrouded its core, the spirit, from the noxious killing intent. This spontaneous effect, similarly to the soul energy manipulation, was not within the capabilities of someone at Zax’s level, or perhaps talent? In addition, this was just a temporary effect that meant to hold for an unknown period of time and eventually compel Zax to deal with the pent up pressure, hopefully, after attaining a better insight of his soul rather than advancing its level.

“Have you heard me?!” Zetsa burst involuntarily. “Jinka returned here with your friends two day ago, and guess what, you were also with them, carried like a bag of potatoes! Do you think that mom and dad cared for an explanation before imagining the worst?”

“What? Two days? Have Serah and Dane told you exactly what happened? It wasn’t my fault!” Zax talked back angrily.

“Would it matter if you were dead?!” Zetsa replied instantly and the two stared at each other unbending. “Come here and sit down in the same position”. She changed her tone to the one she used with Take and lately with Zax, too. She radiated the bearing of a Mor. “Tell me your side of what happened”.

Submissively, Zax obeyed and began to explain in detail his part, above and under the surface… The look on Zetsa’s face did not change from beginning to end, but inwardly she felt as if struck by lightning twice during Zax’s description. Although there were no thunder and lightning storms in New Earth, the old sayings still applied to the local phenomenon of light rays… Lightning did struck today and twice at the same place.

Zetsa’s heart wavered when Zax’s started telling her how he could suddenly sense his Qi, but a bit earlier even more when he told her about how he first nearly reached the realm of outer and inner mind then later tried and succeeded to attack Turan’s soul.

Before, when Jinka told her and their parents the part about the Qi that she saw in her own eyes and the part about the soul attack that she heard from the two men of the Martinez family, Zetsa reacted only to calm her parents and promise them that everything will be fine and that she is familiar with the Three Ways To Heaven therapy. Afterwards, Marco and Laylen, knowing that if Zetsa said so things will be alright, changed their initial distress to sheer excitement for their son’s unparalleled achievements and the benefits that they can supply in his future!

Zax quieted down as there was nothing more to say that he could remember and reading his big sister’s serious expression, was impossible for him, so he waited with anticipation for her response.

“Ahmm… I’ve also investigated the case and apparently neither side twisted the truth to their favor”. Zetsa said in a low voice.

“Did you expect me to lie?” Zax frowned.

“Of course not, it’s just that the Martinez family really do not seem afraid of the consequences of this incident”.

“Then go beat them up. I’m too weak, but you can hurt them like they hurt me and my friends!”

Zax was not the type to ask for help, but he was consumed with hatred toward any of the three figures that he met who belonged to the Martinez family. Unexpectedly, Gerardo was not the one he hated the most, rather the most insignificant of the three, Turan, the one who made Anet fear so much with the threat that he will cause her pain unless she will give up her seat. In the end, that was what she did, and then she left them.

Although it turned out later that Anet left to bring Jinka, by then Zax was not in a state of mind to distinguish anyone existence apart from Gerardo. Ultimately, Zax will learn the truth behind Anet’s actions, but that will not be from Zetsa.

“Stop spouting nonsense, Zax!” Zetsa rebuked. “Have I not thought you better than this? Say that I’ll take revenge, what will happen then? When adults fall into conflict it’s not the same as kids’ quarrel. There are many things involve that determined which side will suffer less. There are no winners, remember. Even if my Martial powers are stronger than anyone in the Martinez family, they are a high class family with a wide web of influence. When they’ll see that they can’t hurt me, do guess what they’ll do next?” It was not another lesson that she simply tried to install in him. When she will tell him her decision, Zetsa wanted Zax’s comprehension to be right there with her.

“Well… Have you come up with an answer?”

Only allowed on

“They’ll hurt others…” Zax said softly.

“Yes! Right now, the child that you nearly killed – that’s what you almost did and we’ll talk about that later, he and his parents hold great animosity towards you. The father is the head of the Martinez family, a valued high class family in Tongguo. If he and I were impulsive like two kids, he would have hired experts to take get revenge for what you did to his son, and I… I would have done something awful in return”.

When Zetsa saw that Zax attentively listened she proceeded. “If they won’t be able to hurt me directly, they will look for people who are close to me and through them indirectly hurt me. Mom and dad first, other family members, friends, neighbors. They won’t shy from seeking people related to you, either. Jinka, Serah, Dane, Anet… They saw them in the Young Mist Users Conference, right…?”

Zetsa paused and looked at Zax straight in the eye. “Your big sister is strong, stronger than I let most people know”. She sounded as if she revealed a personal secret. Zax sensed a tingle in his heart, rarely his big sister showed weakness in front of him. The handful of times that it happened never caused the atmosphere to darken like now.

“Do you want me to kill those who hurt you?” She asked out of the blue. Her eyes emitted a cold and sinister sensation that reached Zax soul. Right then, he knew that if he will say “Yes”, his big sister will certainly abide.

“N… no…” Zax’s voice trembled. Something inside him was suddenly afraid of the idea to take life, to lose life, to be beside this big sister of his with the willingness to murder in her eyes. He steadied himself and repeated. “NO!”

In compliant with his response, Zetsa closed her eyes. What seemed like a second to Zax was infinite time of domineering battle to subdue her raging murderous craving that she held up till this moment. When Zetsa opened her eyes again, the same warm glint that brightened her face whenever she looked at him emerged. “Continue to grow well, little Zi”. She smiled and rubbed Zax’s head.

“Big sis… What shall we do?” Zax’s temperament regressed to that of a docile nine years old boy.

“Don’t be mistaken, your big sister care for you more than anyone else in the world, therefore this matter has already been solved long before we started this talk”.

“Ah! How?!” Zax’s asked flabbergasted.

“Don’t’ concern yourself with knowing. You gave me too much trouble. I’m not gonna answer that one, just understand that your big sister is almighty”. Zetsa raised her head and mocked with a smile. She wanted to distract Zax by annoying him and readily change the subject. “Here…” she tossed a round colorful object to Zax’s gaping mouth and grabbed his head to close his jaw before he could retort.

The round object was at the size of a baby’s clenched hand and had a rough surface which tasted terribly bitter but because Zetsa forced Zax’s mouth shut he could not spit it. Zax grabbed his big sister’s hands and tried to push her away but the difference in strength between a talented coreless child and a talented level B Mist Master was the same as the never forgotten heaven and the ever surrounding earth.

“Ignore the taste, little Zi, this pill will help you to get back into full shape”. Zetsa said. With one hand she pulled Zax to her bosom and with the other she covered his mouth.

Unable to move or open his mouth, Zax stopped fighting and listened to his big sister. After all, Zax was not like any other coreless kid, his soul was at the Advanced phase of level G, for that he was slightly more mature than other kids in his age and had an eccentric quick mind.

“Good boy… This Three Ways To Heaven therapy pill cost me a few favors, little Zi, you know that I don’t work. See, I meant that when I said that I care for you, you should appreciate your big sister more, little Zi…”

Zax rolled his eyes as the Three Ways To Heaven therapy pill slowly melted in his mouth and a strange gas that formed spread throughout his body, his dantian and his consciousness. Somewhere along the way of Zetsa explanation the strict Mor totally vanished and the overly loving big sister with a little brother complex rubbed her cheek against his head.

After half an hour Zetsa asked. “Are you still feeling the gas?”

Her hand was still covering Zax’s mouth so the only way for him to answer was by nodding his head.

“Splendid. Now listen closely, Zax, for seven days from now you are prohibited from training or execute yourself in any from or way. The Three Ways To Heaven therapy takes about a week to achieve its full effect. If you’ll hinder it by training, more than half of its healing properties will dispersed. Understand?”

Zax nodded again, yet his eyes shown with inconvenience.

“Avert this obstinate gaze. You are in vacation till the end of the month, go play with your friends. You have progressed so well, if you’ll become aloof because of training I’ll get mad…”

Zax lowered his head, not feeling like nodding again he let out an unintelligible voice. “Mmaay…”

“Good. Let’s talk now about the fights that you had, the soul attack and perception of Qi”.

Zetsa deliberately did not query about the forced attempt to reach the realm of outer and inner mind, it will naturally manifest when his soul will reach the beginner phase of a level F Mist User. Besides, she already heard about it, including the soul attack and display of Qi when she went to see that man… Now she wanted to hear it from Zax’s perspective.

She sat Zax down in front of her but before she phrased the next sentence she casually remembered three promising words, “leaps and bounds”. Those were the words she used to describe him his improvement pace in the near future not too long ago. Reminiscing, the memory resurfaced on its own and caused Zetsa to smile and sigh silently.

“Let’s start with the Qi. What was it like when you first sensed it?”

“Mmm…” Zax Pondered. He was at a frantic state of mind, constantly bashed by Gerardo Martinez’s Mist and the dominating pressure that oozed out of him. To survive he had to rely solely on his control over the awareness of his soul to gourd him from the agonizing pain like a cocoon.  Therefore he did not remember much. “I just recall it feeling natural. Now also, but you said not to train… Can I show you just a little-”

“No! Don’t make any use of your soul or Qi and don’t strain your body for a week as I said. And don’t ask again, just listen!” Zetsa reverted to her strict mien and when she finished lecturing she softened again. “If you say that it felt natural then it’s all I wanted to be sure of. Now tell me about the soul attack”.

Zax nodded and opened excitedly. “That was even more amazing! It was difficult controlling it, really difficult! It happened during the fight with that Turan kid. I suddenly felt that the soul energy moved according to my whim much smoothly than ever before and could extend to wherever that I wanted in my body and even out of it, thought this was the difficult part. Did I cross to the Advanced phase of level G, big sis? I think so. I definitely feel that apart from better control, my soul also became a lot stronger!” The effects of the spontaneous progress were abundant, nothing like before, more than just sharpening the senses and Zax was ecstatic.

“Let me see, but you are probably right. Just by looking at you I can tell that your soul is not the same as last time I examined it”. Zetsa said and by making eye contact with Zax she infiltrated his consciousness with the power of her own soul, extending it as he defined, there she assessed the transformations in the black space and the distorted blur as best as she could without a proper soul testing technique before retreating out.

“It seems that you are no longer at the Intermediate phase of level G. By the look of things you are quite near the Top phase, maybe after a month of training…” Zetsa confirmed, though the last part she said loud enough only for herself to hear for two reasons. One, she did not want to goad Zax when a moment ago she forbade him to train. Second, she could not be a hundred percent sure without a soul testing technique. Beyond that, Zetsa also confirmed her assumption… “There aren’t many examples, but the breakthrough to the Advanced phase increased his internal sensitivity to the point of perceiving his Qi”.

“Then how many can my soul withstand now?” Zax leaned forward with a devilish smile.

“Withstand what?”

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“Waves, big sis, if you test me now can I go past twenty?”

“Oh… I can’t tell for certain without testing you, but above twenty waves might be possible. However, little Zi, this technique of testing, the Soul Pressure formation, lost its effectiveness”.

“Why? By me reaching the Advanced phase?”

“That has nothing to do with it. Typically this sort of soul testing is sufficient up to the top phase of D level Earths’ Core Holder. The reason is the bottleneck of the Core Breaker’s level. When a Mist User can perceive the Core Breaker’s bottleneck the soul starts to go through some profound changes. When the process is over it promotes the foundation of the soul, making it more radiant and bestows the Mist User unfathomable clarity in comparison to the former level“.

“One of the gains is the ability to extend soul energy outside of the consciousness to perform a soul attack. From that point on, to determine the level of a soul, a more precise techniques than the Soul Pressure formation are necessary. Simply put, since you are able to execute a soul attack, even though you are at the Advanced phase of level G, testing your soul with the Soul Pressure formation will provide inaccurate results”.

“If it’s something possible only at the Core Breaker’s level how come I can extend my soul? And does big sis know other technique to test my soul?”

“Of that I have no clue”. Zetsa answered in all honesty to the first question. She tried to associate Zax’s abnormal feat with his training in the Inner Spirit formation, but even if he had perfect affinity to the principal behind the Inner Spirit formation and soul refining techniques in general it still seemed farfetched that a boy, not even at the lowest Earth’s Core Holder’s level, could possibly perform a soul attack. “In regard to other soul testing technique… There is another one that I’m familiar with, but let’s put it aside for a moment. More importantly, we haven’t got to you nearly killing a boy for a stupid seat!” Getting to the subject, Zetsa switched to her serious tone and release a baleful silver aura.

“T… That…!” Zax stuttered and his heart missed a beat.

After a variety of colorful reprimands, needless to say Zax learned his lesson and would never attempt a soul attack for a second row seat. EVER!

Cave eleven, a day ago.

Within a private villa at the southern high edge of cave eleven, two figures faced each other. They were in the villa’s dojo as one of the two was seating with folded hands on a rook with flat surface and the other straightened up after a slight bow.

“This is a meditation room, my dear. Etiquette should be reserved to formal occasions. I’ll not address you with the same courtesy; otherwise I would have met you in a more suitable place”. Habul Majid, the owner of the private villa, was wearing a gray robe and was surrounded by a light golden glow.

“You saved my little brother, Habul Ram, how can I not be courteous?” Zetsa Zel stood with a look of gratitude toward Mr. Majid.

Mr. Majid sighed. The lass was more imposing and stubborn than even his youngest and only daughter, Masela. She even called him “Habul Ram”, which was out of respect for him saving her little brother and his friends and had nothing to do with his superior Martial accomplishments. “Maybe monsters can only recognize other monsters?” In his age of more than three hundred years there were not many mysteries left in this world for him to solve, he believed. Among the few that he still could not figure, the mindset of those with great talent still mystified him.

“How is he, Zax?” Mr. Majid accepted Zetsa’s way of conduct, yet he also stuck to his.

“Thanks to Habul Ram’s counsel he will briefly recover”.

“You are exaggerating. I kept an eye on the boy since he entered the ring, apart from my Masela, of all the other children who were present, he was the only one exceptional”.

“The ring?” Zetsa seemed confused.

“They did not tell you? Most likely not. The Miss was not in the fifth floor during the fight and the children must have forgotten after the unfortunate encounter…” Mr. Majid gestured for Zetsa to seat on a similar rock four meters away. “Try it. I got this Hot Rock from an outer cave in the beast’s territory. Its volcanic attributes helps with cultivations and quite soothing, but only Mist Master or above can handle its high temperature. If you noticed, the dojo’s flooring is also unique-”

“Misty Wood…” Zetsa displayed her knowledge out of discomfort. He little brother was recuperating in home and she has yet to perceive the full picture of the day before.

Misty Wood? The kind of wood that can only be found in the outer beasts’ territory and can concentrate all the heat around it to a single point… That and the Hot Rock she saw countless of them, quarries and whole forests.

“Very keen eye”. Mr. Majid praised but was not surprised. Many Mist Users, when reaching to the Mist Master level, seek to overcome the challenges of the beasts’ territory. Many even see it as a personal initiation rite, and those who prevail discover the immense benefits of life and death tryouts.

“Then, Habul Ram, please, may we…”

“Very well, very well”, Mr. Majid was also a sharp observer and could tell that the lass before him had little to zero interest in his peculiar meditation room. He proceeded by telling her of Zax and Masela fight with Clergyman. How the boy, her little brother, aroused his curiosity. He even shamelessly told her how he watched from the side when Zax faced Turan’s and then Gerardo’s assaults, though he noted that he did not interfered simply because “With every push the boy astonishingly demonstrated a new level of proficiency”.

Learning what happened from seemingly a neutral source, Zetsa assumed that only two things were needed for her to conclude this incident, none of which depended on her.

The first was to wait a few hours for the assimilation of material which forms the Three Ways To Heaven therapy pill. It was done by a renowned pills maker in Shitou. To have the pill ready as soon as possible Zetsa had to pay a hefty price.

The second was Mr. Majid’s consent to be the mediator between Zetsa and the founder of the Martinez family, Gerardo Martinez, since Zetsa was not convinced that she will be able to reach an agreement with the head for the family, Em Martinez.

“I already interfered, so of course I won’t mind. Besides, I would rather deepen my bounds with you and young Zax, haha…” Mr. Majid laughed.

“You flatter me too much, Habul Ram”. Zetsa bowed.

“Not at all, hahaha…” Mr. Majid got up from the Hot Rock, escorted Zetsa out of the dojo and slickly moved to a more pressing subject. “A lass like you would be a perfect match for my fifth son, he is strong and smart and fairly good looking, what do you say, Miss Zetsa”, he said so less than half comically more than half earnestly as he held her hands. They left the dojo and right now he escorted her as the master of the house, so etiquette was both customary and obligatory. “I offer my fifth son because my eldest four already married and frankly too old. My fifth son, however, is in his thirties. Currently my great grandson acts as the head of the Majid family, but if you will agree to tie the knot with my fifth son I won’t mind letting you take over”.

Zetsa was momentarily shocked. “I can’t marry a person that I’ve never met”. She said hurriedly and apologetically. “And I’m preoccupied with my training to start a relationship…” In all honesty that was too abrupt. Zetsa had a troubled look on her face. “Will Habul Ram take back his consent to be the mediator?” The thought circled in her mind.

“No need to answer now, my dear, training and cultivation should take first priority to any Mist User on the Martial path”. Mr. Majid reassured her.

“Thank you for understanding”. Zetsa bowed for the last time. “Then I take my leave”.

Mr. Majid responded with a smile as the two parted, repeating to himself solemnly. “Such a terrifying lass… In the future a calamity is likely to befall upon your family, Gerardo. At that time, I trust you will follow your own lesson and blame only yourself”. He chuckled.

Zetsa had another destination before getting back home, cave four hundred and seventy in Shitou. “When Zax wakes up we will have much to talk about”.

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