Approximately three hundred meters from the hill, on which Zax was standing with a wide expression of wonder on his face that quickly changed to an expression of utmost sense of achievement, Zetsa was watching her little brother with bated breath.
How long as she being doing it, observing Zax from afar whenever she left him on top of the chosen fourth location? “Since the very beginning” was the answer. Yes, it was not in Zetsa calculation that Zax’s soul was so exceptional that it could develop a Soul Sense. Such strange occurrence has made it difficult for her to estimate when it happened, which is why up until Zax showed the severe reaction to the environmental essence in a cave that was part of the beasts’ territory even he was not fully aware of this ability.
“He actually made it”. Zetsa sighed and with no time to spend she leaped from one tree’s branch to another, toward the hill. “An F level soul that could use soul attacks and has Soul Sense… No! It was within his capabilities when his soul was at the top phase of level G! How terrifying, little Zi, your strong points differ than mine so I can only guess the benefits of naturally breaking through the juncture of level F with your soul”. Zetsa praised her little brother\Tal. “Here you are!”
“Big sis!” For the first time in a long time Zax Jumped on his big sister with the affection of a jolly little boy. His enormous achievement made him forget his sore body and Qi channels. “Hahaha… I knew you were behind me without even looking, hahaha…” Zax cheerfully declared. He was saying the truth, after just advancing to level F the condition of Zax’s soul was at its peak and his Soul Sense extended to a radius of a hundred and thirty centimeters in which his inner mind was aware of every little thing and change in the environment. Because of that, Zax was not surprised to see his big sister suddenly appear from behind him and was even the first to call aloud.
“What was that? You say that you were able to tell that I was behind you?!” Zetsa questioned the words she thought came out of Zax’s mouth and with him hugging her body like a little monkey she unconsciously touched her ears, to see if they were working right.
“What? You don’t believe me? Fine I’ll show you!” Zax got down from his big sister, turned his back to her and walked a few steps. “Do anything that you want, but don’t go too far and I’ll tell you exactly what you are doing without looking”. He urged her.
“Do something? Do what, Zax, stop playing. Your body and Qi channel went through a great ordeal of stress and tension. Come on, I’ll carry you, we are going home”. External appearance was enough for one to grasp the state in which Zax’s body was in. A little probing with her own Soul Sense allowed Zetsa to also figure the state of his Qi channels. Furthermore, what did Zax just ask of her? To entertain the idea that his Soul Sense could extend beyond skin and hair, past one meter!
How could she believe it? A Mist User in the Core Breaker level, even at the peak of the exalted level, can extend his or her Soul Sense at most to a radius of a hundred and five centimeters. Zax took it one big step farther, literally! Zetsa did not accept nor believed that. The benefits of naturally advancing to level F, in regards to Soul Sense, she expected them to be somewhat beneficial, but not to an extent that surpasses the proficiencies of a Mist User in the Core Breaker level!
“I was four steps from Zax when I arrived behind him, roughly the length of one meter. I didn’t hide my presence when I came forward… It doesn’t matter. One meter is still too long and he noticed me before I approached him. How unreasonable is it?!” Zetsa probed the scenes of a moment ago in her mind. “A skill that only Core Breakers can develop, for Zax who now has a soul at level F, a radius of ten to twenty centimeters for his Soul Sense is already beyond my expectations. Fine, let’s test it”.
Zetsa stood exactly one hundred and ten centimeters from Zax. “Which hand am I holding up?”
“Your left”. Zax replied instantly. “I can tell even if you stood a little bit farther. It’s weird, after I divided my mind I could detect, if I wanted, what’s happening around me easily. Even the threatening feeling from before, the one that hunted me…” Although he was already past that uncontrollable sensation that ran amuck through every fiber of his being, addressing it with words or in his inner mind still caused a deep distressing response to his soul, especially now that he could interpret its origins.
“Look here, Zax”. Zetsa bent her legs in a sitting position and with her finger drew a short line on ground. “This is the length of one centimeter”. She explained. “The thing that enables you to sense the environment to a certain degree is called “Soul Sense”. Try to extend the reach of your Soul Sense with the inner mind as far as you can and then count how many lines like this one you can place in a sequential order. Oh, and start from the center, where you are standing”.
“A hundred and thirty lines, big sis”. Using the perception of the inner mind, Zax needed ten seconds to count. He did not have to put any effort to the task, though at the Beginner phase of the F level, Zax benefited in more than just his Soul Sense. The quality of his soul had no parallel within the scope of the F level. To place imaginary lines and count them in a certain order in ten seconds was a plain assignment.
Even so, Zax’s unique soul was not able to process and interprets everything within the radius of his Soul Sense as fast as a Core Breaker, or even an E level Mist User, if there was one who had a Soul Sense. If Zax tried his hardest it still would have taken him at least eight seconds to count all the lines.
“That’s wonderful, little Zi”. Astonished from the conformation, Zetsa lifted her brother from the ground and held him with hands stretched. “My little Zi is so magnificent!”
“Haha…” Zax laughed.
“You’ve done well, little Zi, much better than me, I must say”. Zetsa took him close to her bosom, ready to depart from the hill. “Are you well?” She asked.
“Yes”. Zax replied with a soft smile and drained face. A warm and fuzzy feeling radiated from his big sister’s body, entered his body and slowly relived its soreness like a strong sedative.
“Then say goodbye. We won’t return here in the near future”.
“Goodb…” Zax murmured, relaxed finally and with closed eyes.
Zax woke up after sleeping soundly for twelve hours. “So GOOOOD!” He exclaimed when he realized that his body, Qi channels and soul were no longer aching, as he was already used to due to the constant anguish and forgot how it felt to wake up peacefully.
“Grughghg!” Zax’s stomach growled. “I want to eat!” Huge appetite suddenly overtook him. “Meat! Eggs! I want to drink orange juice! Mom! I’m hungry! Make me something big to eat”. He ran exited to the living room. “Mom!”
“Shhh… Quiet down, Zax”. A silent voice whispered from the living room. “Mom and dad are sleeping”.
“Sleeping?” Zax turned his head to the source of the voice, but it was dark in the living room. Actually with was dark all over the house and even outside of it. “Big sis?” Using his soul sense he made his away to the living room and the sofa on which Zetsa lay.
“Zax, are you up?” The lights in the living room turned on. Marco and Laylen stood next to each other in their pajamas.
“Make me something to eat, mom, I’m hungry!” Zax pleaded. It was night and he spoke aloud, but he really was hungry, too hungry to pay attention to the sleepy faces of his parents or slightly care.
“Zax?” Both Marco and Laylen were surprised at their son change of attitude that they continued to stand, holding each other. “Are you really hungry, do you want to eat?” Laylen asked gently, afraid of sounding imposing, afraid to scare away the spark she had not seen for a long while and now, all of a sudden, returned to her son’s eyes.
“He is well, mom, dad, Zax finished this long session of training. He got back to his usual self. His soul advanced to the level of a F level Mist User”. Zetsa informed their parents with an apologetic smile.
They returned home around ten o’clock at night and at that time their parents were already asleep. Zetsa decided to wait until the morning, but now was as good time as ever to tell them that their little boy “resurrected”.
“Will you make me something to eat?”
“Zax!” Laylen burst into tears and grabbed her son tightly between her arms. “You are okay, Zax, my Zax, my Zax. Sure honey, anything you want, mommy will make anything for you”.
“Laylen…” Marco eyes reddened. Was it not worried about his son? Was he not worried about his wife? He was. The cool head of the family, lenient in times, strict in others. He carried himself day in day out with a firm disposition for his son to turn to, for his wife to lean on, for his daughter to speak unrestrained.
At last, the pretense was no longer necessary.
Massaging his forehead and eyes, Marco exhaled heavily once, as if released from a great burden. “Our son, a coreless boy, has reached level F with his soul, Laylen”. He spread his arms around his wife and son. “Did you ever think that it will be possible… for our son, without an Earth’s Core?”
“It’s not important, Marco. Zax his back, look at him, look at his eyes”.
“And his stomach, mom, don’t forget the stomach! I’m hungry!” Zax added.
“Sure, I won’t dare. Let’s make a feast for all of us to enjoy. But don’t make too much noise. It’s still night”. Laylen laughed, clearing the streams of tears on her bright face.
After the midnight meal, Zax took a warm shower with Zetsa while Marco cleaned the dishes and Laylen prepared new sheets for his bed since the old ones were dirtied by his sweaty and dusty clothes that he wore since his last session of training and went to sleep in.
The next morning Zax woke up around seven o’clock in the morning. He was not tired, but he felt that if he allowed himself he could sleep for the fun of it for days.
“Don’t gobble. Eat slowly”. Zetsa served him a bowl of hot porridge.
“But it’s tasty!” Zax said with a full mouth.
“Your body consumed small portion of food for almost two months. If you’ll force too much too fast you’ll harm your body”. Zetsa educated, afterwards Zax’s eating pace slowed down a little.
“What are we gonna do today? Are we going the grandpa Ger’s farm?” Zax asked.
In three days he and all the other ten years old kids of cave twenty five will depart to the place where the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit will occur and even though he reached the goal of his soul training, he was a little bit anxious and did not want to simply wait at home for the awaited date.
“No, we’ll go to my place. You don’t have enough time for a new training session, but don’t you want to learn some cool techniques that you can execute with your Qi?”
Outside the abandoned construction site which was Zetsa’s incomplete apartment building, what was meant to the receiving lawn by now sprout into unruly greenery.
“Wait a moment on the paved road”. Zetsa told Zax.
Examining the open at the front of the apartment building, Zetsa shifted her gaze to a sufficient area for what she had on mind and gracefully raised her hand in a waving motion.
In the blink on an eye, silvery particles of mist energy created a wave of cutting wind that trimmed the greenery to a fine length of one centimeter tall in a space twenty meters long, ten meter wide. Right after, another gust of wind blew away the remains of the cut vegetation, leaving a nice and open field fit for an outdoor training.
“Whoa!” Zax called out, full of awe. The hasty gardening was too fast for him to perceive. In his eyes the scenario was divided into two parts, Zetsa waving her hand followed by a sudden explosion in the greenery. However it played, it still was amazing to just see the foliage rise to the air, as if the earth burped it out.
“Here is good”. Zetsa took off her shoes and walked barefooted on the trimmed and tickling grass. “Come here, little Zi, take off your shoes and socks, as well”. Zetsa invited Zax with a smile on her face. In a way, it felt like they were on a lovely picnic without anything but a lawn available to lie on and the company of each other.
“Let’s sit down for a bit, little Zi, before I’ll teach you the Qi utilization techniques, though, don’t expect much, you should finally get to know why I chose to train you in soul refining techniques instead of Qi refining techniques”.
“Isn’t it because the soul is harder to train and so the benefits are also bigger?” Zax asked quizzically.
“Close, little Zie, not “benefits”, but for just one “benefit””. Zetsa pointed up a finger. “Do you know what are the changes that convert a regular person to a Mist User after absorbing an Earth’s Core?”
“Hmm… We learned about it last year in school. After absorbing an Earth’s Core, through meditation a person needs to form the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell. When that happens, a person will then become a Mist User starting at the lowest phase of the lowest level. Our teacher also explained to us that after becoming an Earth’s Core holder of the lowest level, no matter whom, anyone will be able to perceive the existence of the merged Qi and mist in the body, which will be a level higher than a regular person, and similar to the Qi, the soul will also advance a level”.
“Exactly!” Zetsa shouted. Excitedly she asked Zax another question. “And if you are already in that “higher level”, what then?”
“Then…” Zax repeated, still dumbfounded from his big sister’s autistic behavior. “Then…!” He said again and his eyes widened abruptly. “Are you saying?!” Zax exclaimed.
“Yes!” Zetsa lips twisted to a broad grin. “Now that you have reached level F with your soul, after you will absorb an Earth’s Core and form the first crack in its shell, your soul will instantly advance past the bottleneck of the next level, it will reach level E!” Zetsa laughed. “And that is not even the kicker, hahaha, unless it’s a medium quality Earth’s Core, or having above average talent, even if you reach level F with your Qi, you will still not advance to the next level after absorbing an Earth’s Core! Hahaha… see why your big sister is so proud of you? See why I pressed you to train in soul refining techniques even when you were on the verge of collapse?”
“In just a few days I’ll become an E level Mist User, hahaha! That’s awesome!” Zax jumped on his feet.
“Your soul will reach the level of an E level Mist User, little Zi, in terms of mist you will still be at the lowest level”. Zetsa did not want to spoil Zax’s joy; however, misleading him would have wronged him even worse. “Nevertheless, the difficulties of wholly advancing one’s level are tied to the level of one’s soul. The soul is the nucleus of a living being, it cannot maintain control over the Qi or mist even if it’s just a level higher than it. Yet, if the soul’s level is the one which is higher, then it can support the cultivation and advancement of the Qi or mist up to it matching its level”. She hastily added.
In truth, even if Zax’s soul remain in level F, advancing the next two levels still will be far easier than naturally breaking through the bottleneck of level F. Until he will reach the bottleneck of level C, it is safe to say that the road ahead of him was paved neatly.
“Now that you understand, let’s proceed to the next matter in hand”. Zetsa got up and Zax, who was already on his feet, eagerly clenched his fists and dug into the earth with his toes.
“First, the one and only principle of what you are about to learn. What I’ll teach you shouldn’t be taken as a formal technique of any sort. To a coreless boy who didn’t even scratch the surface of this abundant aspect of himself, there is no way for you to learn in time any real Qi related Martial technique. To do that you will first need to follow a Qi refining technique, or in the future, mist refining technique. What you are going to learn are superficial survival tricks”. Zetsa clarified and made sure that Zax also understood.
Seeing his consenting node, Zetsa’s eyebrows tensed. “Good. Keep your legs steady, close your eyes and try to feel the Qi that flow through the Qi channels in your body”. Zetsa instructed.
“I feel it”. Zax said after but a few seconds.
“All of it. Once you grasp it, it is not as simple as the soul. The Qi isn’t accumulated in one place like the soul, but spread throughout your body. Take your time; verify that your consciousness reaches every nook and cranny within your body. With the level of your soul you should be capable of doing it, just don’t be rush. Even to an Earth’s Core Holder it can take hours to form full connection with whole of the mist in the body”.
Nearly two and a half hours later, Zax concentrated face gradually relaxed and a serene expression appeared in his eyes. “When I felt it before it wasn’t like this, tangible to this extent…” Maybe only in his explosive first time, though back then he definitely was not in control.
Zetsa watched him and slightly nodded with approval. “Being repeatedly pushed to the verge of life and death has bestowed many advantages upon you, Zax”. She said to herself.
“It’s the deference between grasping a portion of your Qi and all of it”. Zetsa opened. “Remember to reach this proficiency whenever you use your Qi or soul energy. No matter which aspect of your being you utilize, you should not treat it halfheartedly. When you’ll return from the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, this will become your first method of training before proceeding to mist refining techniques”.
“Okay, big sis, what now?” Zax took to heart Zetsa’s teaching and awaited for further instructions.
“Now, Zax, you will observe and imitate what I’ll do. Move back a little and don’t use your soul sense no matter what!” After saying so, Zetsa followed her own directives ostentatiously in order for the steps to truly be engraved in Zax’s mind.
A silvery thick misty aura immerged from Zetsa body instantly. Distortions in the air signified the vast power Zetsa withheld. “I’ll use my aura to help you visualize the process, but I’ll do so only once so pat attention”. Spreading her arms to the sides she kept saying. “This is a hundred percent usage of my mist energy, gashing out from every pore of my body. Try it yourself”.
Zax watched and obeyed. Spreading his arms in the same manner, the best that he could do with his Qi was let it flow throughout his body as it did before, while this time maintaining a thread of consciousness for instant take over.
Five minutes had passed. Zax’s calmed demeanor began to frown has time passed. Even though he extended only a thread of his consciousness, it was difficult to wield over time.
“You can stop”. Zetsa said, yet she kept showing of her aura. “The quality and amount of Qi you possess is insufficient for a prolong usage. Rest for ten minutes, let your Qi channels recuperate”.
Ten minutes later.
“Times up. Get a grip on all of your Qi again”. Zetsa said since Zax ceased the thread of consciousness.
This time it took Zax two hours to gain full awareness to all of his Qi.
“Arms to the sides”. Zetsa said and spread her arms also. “The first time was to let you realize that even if you don’t execute a profound Qi or mist technique, it’s still hard to maintain for a long time. Qi is energy, any usage of it, and basically any action count as a usage, spend your Qi. But it doesn’t mean that you only have a limited amount of Qi to spend in your entire life.”
“Let me simplify it. Think of Qi and Qi channels like an extension of your body. If you run for a long time the body gets tired and weak. What then you do? You rest and nourish the body to renew its strength. Excessive use of Qi, in cases like yours even a little usage, will reduce the Qi in your body and tire the Qi channels, to recuperate what you do?”
“Rest”. Zax answered involuntarily, but he began to feel tired again and wished his sister will hurry.
“Much like what you do when the body is exhausted, you rest and nourish the Qi by nourishing the body with healthy food. Just so you know, there are other ways to nourish the Qi, but they aren’t easy to come by. Never forget, exhausting completely one of the three aspects of a living being, soul, body or Qi will result in certain death! ”. Zetsa talking pace stayed indolent.
Two minutes after.
“You can stop to rest. After ten minutes, repeat the exercise”.
Two hours and fifteen minutes later.
“Watch clearly and try to imitate the movement of my aura with your Qi”. Arms to the sides, Zetsa’s aura began to move slowly from her left side of the body to accumulate only in the right side.
Imitating his Mor, Zax controlled the Qi in his body and allocated it to only the right side of his body.
“Excellent. On to the next step”. Zetsa complimented and shifted her aura only to the upper right side of her body.
Once again imitating his Mor, it took Zax a few seconds this time to concentrate his Qi only in the upper right side of his body.
“You are doing well, Zax, two more steps”. Zetsa said. Her full aura then moved to cover only her right arm. The great concentration of silvery particles made it seem as if Zetsa’s arm was made out of pure silver.
“Urgg…” Zax shrieked. The more Qi he accumulated onto one place and the smallest that place was, the more it felt like filling a half a liter bottle with a greater and greater amount of water.
“Remember this feeling. That’s your current limit”. It was already within Zetsa’s predications and a good lesson for Zax. “If you’ll try to concentrate your Qi in an even smallest space in your body, your Qi channels may tear apart. Helping you then, even I don’t have the confidence, so don’t push yourself!”
“Okay, big sis, last step, last step”. Zax winced.
“The last step”, Zetsa smiled and decided to spare the surroundings. “Punch the ground!”
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