“If I can’t use my Qi, how, then, can I crack the shell of the Earth’s Core?!” Zax shook his head; brushing away the intolerable thought that came into it.
“You won’t”. Zetsa answered plain and simple. With just two words she dropped the anvil on half the fate her little brother had in her. “Arguing about it is pointless and won’t bear any fruits no matter how much you’ll try to bash your head for a way to unclog your Qi channels. Believe me, I tried, Zax”. She said in a harsh, realistic tone, though her words gave the impression of being honest and apologetic. Could she not decipher the look in her little brother’s eyes?
“Then I never will become a Mist User, big sis! If I… If I… If that’s the truth than everything is meaningless! I’ll stay weak, big sis… I’ll never be able to reach you!” There was one other thing which Zax was afraid to say aloud, otherwise the word “miserable” undoubtedly will not suffice to express his standing among all of humanity, maybe among all of New Earth… “If I won’t become a Mist User… there won’t be anyone more useless than me in all of Kingdom Earth!” He said to himself, but salient or to the whole world, the words had the same devastating effect on his ten years old mind.
Zax’s body rattled. Beads of sweat slid down his face. His stomach felt hot, like something was boiling inside of it, will he puke?
“Zax”, Zetsa called for him.
His teeth chattered and his fists clenched. “Ah uh ah uh ah uh ah uh…” Zax endlessly panted. “What is it?! What is it?!” An unimaginable pain pounded in his chest. “I can’t breathe, big sis! I can’t breathe…” Zax forcefully wailed.
“Little Zi!” Zetsa flinched from her Zax’s odd behavior, wondering at first if something was still wrong with him due to his current condition or the Black Core he was talking about, but at the very same moment of shock she straightaway got a hold on herself. She did not have a medical experience, but she watched it on the Screen in various drama series and so could recognize a panic attack if she saw one in real life, and Zax was definitely having a panic attack.
In an instant, before Zax’s last word echoed from his mouth Zetsa sprang into the kitchen and back with a glass of water. “Calm down, little Zi, calm down. You are too stressed, everything is fine, just relax, have some water and calm down, little Zi…” She done her best to soothe him, talking softly and calling by his nickname, but till the end, she was not sure if what she was doing was the right treatment. It was the first time Zetsa encountered a person having a panic attack.
“Water, water…” Zax eyes searched in frenzy. He snatched the glass of water from Zetsa’s hands and drank only to cough at the first gulp.
“Slowly, little Zi, drink the water in small sips”. Zetsa patted his back.
She wished that she could use a technique to help her little brother, however she was warned and forbade by Doctor Nijima not to press her mist energy as a mean of treatment into Zax’s body, for it might cause his Qi channels to rupture, and if that will happen, clogged or not, Doctor Nijima assured her that Zax will die. With regard to helping Zax with her soul energy, Zetsa could only dream to be this good.
Couple of minutes later.
Zax held the glass of water between his hands, his gaze engrossed in the last drop of water he was not able to suck from the bottom of the glass. This small exercise that he came by on his own soothed his nerves and mental pressure.
“Don’t let your inability to crack the Earth’s Core’s shell, use Qi or mist energy discouraged, Zax. Don’t forget that these three stuff represent only one aspect of a living being. There are two more aspects, of which, even of all three, your true forte is your soul. The venture on the Martial path, to become strong, strongest, you can still do so by training just one aspect, Zax”.
Zetsa explanation was on spot and roughly any person on the Martial path knew of what she told Zax and most would even agree. Nevertheless, people on the Martial path did not keep a balance among the three aspects for nothing, and due to a certain two on one fight that Zax participated in the past, a memory resurfaced in his mind and filled him with bitterness. With this vibrant memory playing in his head, Zax was able to figure why it is best to train more than one aspect.
Zax remembered how helpless he was on the day of the Young Mist Users Conference, when he and Masela were the last two to confront Clergyman. When Masela used her Qi explosively and attacked Clergyman, Zax place in the ring was equivalent to that of a third wheel. Yes, he could see them fight, calculate their movements and even cunningly end the fight, but that was simply because none of them pain him attention. That day he was the same on the ring as a sharp pebble in a playground that a barefooted child might kick or step on, and at worse get a little scratch on his foot.
“You want me to only train my soul?!” Zax shot in anger as if he was criticizing his big sister for even brining the idea up.
“Yes”. Zetsa answered apathetically.
It did not come up the way she wanted it to be, yet the manner of which the conversation evolved has led her to sort through the right words she needed to lessen the blow that is the implications of her little brother’s condition on his dreams.
“Your soul is extraordinary to a point where I dare say that there is no one with greater potential with the soul in all of New Earth than you are”. Zetsa said firmly. “You can like it or not but this is your only option. Imagine, if with a level D soul you are able to perform feat that should be several levels above your capabilities… Your soul capabilities are a step from the capabilities of a Core Master’s soul!”
“One step from a Core Master…” Zax could not refute how seductive were Zetsa’s words of persuasion. He reflected on them for a while, and then said decisively. “Who could I beat if my soul could do the same things a Core Master’s soul does?”
“That is…” Zetsa sighed inwardly. If the answer to this question was sufficient enough it could have been the key to conclude this conversation on agreeable terms. If only it was… “In a fair fight… you will lose”. Zetsa did not go around the bush and answered.
“It’s difficult to say. If you can perform a soul attack on the same level of skill as a Mist Lord, almost anyone below Intermediate Mist Master, including, can lose to you on contact. Conversely, if a physical attack of even F level Earth’s Core Holder will manage to slightly strike you, you will lose. And there is still the possibility of long range attacks. Only Core Breaker and above can perform them… you won’t be able to withstand them, either”.
“Can Mist Lords… Can Core Master use their soul for long range attacks?”
“…If I choose the Martial path anyway… will I have any accomplishments?”
By “accomplishments” Zax meant, and Zetsa knew, a “Name”, a “Statues”, and “Self Realization” in accordance to his ambitions.
“As a practitioner that rely solely on aspect, there is a high possibility that in the future you will unveil the secret potential of the soul. That will surely affect New Earth, but if it happens, the time that it will take you to achieve it… hundreds if not thousands of years”. Zetsa based her evaluation of time on what she learned from the one she refers to as “Master”.
“Regardless of what I choose, I never will become a Mist User in the true sense of the words and if I insist on following the Martial path, I will live my life in the bottom of this path and most likely will die before achieving anything…”
“If the Martial path is your utmost desire, then you will have me by your side for the rest of such life”. Zetsa promised, she had nothing else to add.
“I… I can’t, then, big sis, Zetsa. I can’t accept that, I won’t!” Zax said in disagreement. The pain in his chest reemerged, a second panic attack was coming and it felt impossible to stop. “The boy who never became a Mist User…” Zax struggled but was determined to speak out his mind. “I will never… ever agree! Big sis… big sis…”
Zetsa helped him through the second panic attack without saying a single word until it was over. She was not willing to show pity to her little brother. In his eyes she could clearly see the two battles that he engaged with. One was to stay resolute with his dreams. Another was to not lose to the panic attack.
Zax lay on his bed, covering his red eyes with his arm. Two salty streams dirtied his face.
Zetsa, standing on the doorstep, looked at him and then averted her gaze. “Rest. Familiarize yourself with the new power of your soul. When you are ready, say the words. I’ll do my best to help you become stronger”.
Like that, Zetsa left.
September sixth, year 5786.
Nearly two years have passed since Zax’s ten years birthday and a tad longer than a year since he woke up to learn that he could never become a Mist User.
During the past year Zax’s life underwent a number of personal upheavals that made him secluded toward society, whether family, friends or strangers. Although things did not escalate in one day, they sure dropped on him one after the other, each one an unending grueling battle, starting with the investigator of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit’s committee that arrived on the very same day that Zax awakened.
Zetsa instructed Zax to answer all of the investigator’s questions, but not say anything about the “Black Core” and the “strange sensation”, as she put it. Her reasoning was that she and their parents already reached a settlement with the event’s committee.
The investigator knew all about Zax’s condition from his clogged Qi channels to his D level soul. During their private conversation, which was more like an interrogation, the investigator coldly asked Zax, what were the detailed steps that he took to reenter the hunting cave? Why did he do so from the beginning? Was he not aware of how rare is an E level Earth’s Core? And so on…
The most difficult question to answer was “What happened to you in the beast’s territory?” Which Zax was able to think for some time, thanks to his D level soul, instead of answering an uncalculated lie, and still make it seem as if his answer was instant. It was doable since both Zax and the investigator were discussing by mostly using their outer mind which had low, or regular, level of perception.
Zax used the smoky mist as an excuse to not remembering anything after entering the cave the Brown Digger “dragged” him into. The investigator, which was an expert on the Mist Master level, heard from his seniors that apart from the Peral metal, Sun Stones and Earth’s Core, there are still many undiscovered\not understood wonders within the boundaries of New Earth, therefore he did not pursue a more elaborate answer from Zax.
After an hour or so the investigator sat with Zax and his family, mainly talking to Zetsa, Marco and Laylen. He wanted to cover the agreements of the settlement and wanted for Zax to listen as well.
First, it was decided to keep the case of Zax Zel a secret, a decision that was made for the benefit of the event’s committee, more so than the Zel family. Why the committee was willing to not advertise the case and publicly punish Zax as a reminder for all, of what happens to those who break the event’s rules, was because there was one more factor in this case which caught the event’s stuff off guard.
Put aside that this case was a first and has the capacity to expose holes in the regulation and organization of the event that will harm to reputation of its chosen committee members, what would happen if people will make the wrong assumption if they learn that the same boy who broke the rules, ended up with a soul two level higher than any other kid of his age?
Some may forget entirely that from the start the boy was known – later, that is – to possess an already F level soul and others may ignore the fact that by breaking the rules he lost the possibility of ever becoming a Mist User. Now, why would people still be willing to risk not becoming Mist Users? Well, from the simple truth that unless one select a path which require the use of Qi or Martial skills, for most everyday vocations, a strong soul will be more beneficial. To prevent future Rules Breakers, the second thing to be decided, agreed upon by both parties, was keeping Zax’s soul level a secret.
The following two subject of the four parts settlement were a bit more sensitive. The first one was Zax’s condition. Though Zetsa told Zax that he may never become a Mist User, she was merely preparing him to the respond of the committee in regards of finding treatment for his Qi Channels. As she predicted, the investigator delivered the same conclusion of Doctor Nijima.
“None of the doctors and scientists that we approached can unclog Zax’s Qi channels”.
With one sentence and without further explanations, the event’s committee demolished Zetsa lost hopes for her little brother.
The last matter to be discussed was how to announce Zax’s condition to the general public. One thing that both sides knew that they could not prevent was the public finding out that a ten years old boy from a certain cave in El-Eden has clogged Qi channels and is still alive. The scheme of how to let the public learn of it without uncovering the Zax Zel case came from the event’s committee.
It was quite a clever idea. The event’s committee will come out with a statement that a boy – personal information was censored – who participated in the event of year 5785, during the last phase of the event, has been found that he was born with a rare syndrome that causes his Qi to liquefied and clog his Qi channels. After the initial shock of the public, the committee will than come out with a second statement, stating that although life threatening, the boy’s condition was discovered in time and was treated by experts on the path of medicine. However, the experts were only able to remove the risk from the boy’s life, but not unclog his Qi channels. Henceforth, the boy will not be able to become a Mist User. Lastly, the committee will ask the press to not trouble the family and child.
Marco and Laylen nodded after hearing the investigator narrating the committee’s proposal and Zax, from start to finish, remained quiet on his seat.
Zetsa, on the other hand, mentioned that there are a few people who witnessed Zax using Qi in the past. In response, the investigator only asked the list of names of these people, and got them from Zetsa and Zax after promising that no harm will come to several of them.
Thus, the case of Zax Zel was officially closed and sealed within the archives of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.
Next order of business was the struggle Zax had to face, following the settlement with the event’s committee, finding a post Core School that would accept him.
By the fourth year of school, the administration of every post Core School cannot treats its student as mere children anymore. Whether in a Martial program or not, any child that enrolls to a post Core School should be considered and treated as a F level Mist User.
Never in the past had this principle presented a problem. Never in the past, since the rule of the Supreme Rulers, there was a child who did not become a Mist User after participating in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. In the past year, however, there was such child who tried to enroll into the next year of a post Core School, yet was not a Mist User.
The response was mutual and all the same humiliating among all schools toward Zax and his parents.
“We are very sorry… Our school cannot accept your child”.
Zax’s identity as the boy with the clogged Qi channels was not known and it was not like the various school principals could guess his condition on sight. But, since it was inevitable that Zax will need to reveal his condition if he wanted to enroll into a school or get a job in the future, the committee of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit prepared a document for Zax’s parents to show to any school’s official they will meet.
The document stated the condition of Zax’s Qi channels, a formal recommendation from the said committee and a warning that the information in the document should not be disclosed to those who are not authorized to read it, and if such thing were to happen, a thorough investigation will be carried out and the culprit will suffer the appropriate punishment according to section 1.583 of law 87, “Child Care”, of Kingdom Earth.
With that, the schools’ officials that met Zax and his parents could not tell anyone about his condition. Yet, it did not mean that they had to accept him.
Their excuse, which was fairly reasonable, was that they are not equipped with the necessary resources for a special case like Zax’s. They said that there is a reason why coreless children and Mist Users children are in separated schools. Children’s activities can sometimes be rough, a coreless child cannot contend against a Mist User child, and if the two get into a fight…
“We are sorry. We don’t know of any other school to recommend for you. Our best advice is homeschooling”.
And it was not just the school that made it hard, mostly for Zax’s parents. Zax, too, opposed his parents. He did not want to be surrounded by people he will never be able to reach. He did not want to be in the company of others. He solely asked to be left alone, and when he was not, he ran away to all the places he knew others will not bother him in.
Eventually it took a very long talk between Zax’s and his parents. Regardless of his changed rebellious attitude and the condition of his Qi channels, his parents were unwilling to let him abstain from proper education.
Six months after he awakened, Zax reached a compromise to be homeschooled by his grandma, Grandma Shi Oh, and in return his parents will not hinder his desire to train his soul as much as he wants to or force him to meet his concerned friends.
Zax’s friends… avoiding them was his most painful struggle of the past year.
Psst! Psst! Click here and join our YouTube Channel