On the way back from home to cave zero eight, Zax was torn with his decision to leave his family and friends, even though he stopped talking to them, for three years. When he saw his parents’ eyes, Zax traced regret in them. It made him ask himself all the more what his big sister told them to make them agree to let him go. Ultimately Zax kept his questions buried in his wondering mind. ‘Maybe’, he came up with one possible solution. ‘They chose to benefit of the doubt in their decision, by believing that they are giving me what they denied from big sis, when she was at my age, and her Master, in return, gave her…?’
“It will take us around seven days to reach my Master’s cave”. Zetsa informed Zax.
She parked her Sun K-79 at the entrance to cave zero eight. Apart from the clothes he was wearing, Zetsa did not let him bring provisions, not even his wristwatch.
“How many caves do we need to cross before we get there?” Zax asked. Any step closer to their destination or away from home made the decision easier.
“Somewhere along the lines of one hundred and seven-eight caves, all in the beasts’ territory”. Zetsa mused and said.
“That much in seven days? On foot?”
If the caves were paved with proper pedestrian roads, even then it would take a day or two to cross one cave.
“Can’t we go on your Sun?”
“Relax, little Zi, seven days are more than enough. If I was alone then two days would have been enough, three if I took my time. It will take us longer because I plan to carry you with my mist energy and let you rest during the nights”.
“On your back?” Zax timidly asked. He was almost twelve and the seed of manliness and self awareness has already started to sprout.
“Only if you wanna”. Zetsa pinched his cheek, smiling. She was filled with anxiety for she knew what awaits her little brother, and yet happy beyond belief that the relationship between Zax and her was slowly mending.
At the other end of tunnel seventy eight.
“Don’t move”. Zetsa ordered Zax as her hands were suddenly surrounded by her dark silvery mist energy and emitted a glowing aura of the same hues. She drew symbols first on her palms, second on the air, third on Zax’s torso. “This formation is infused with both of our energies, mostly mine, almost none of yours, but it will exhaust you nonetheless”. Zetsa said as Zax’s body gradually rose from the ground until he was twenty centimeters from Zetsa and at eye level with her. “Think of it as advanced telekinesis”. She added as she watched Zax’s eyes widened in astonishment.
“Like in the movies?” Zax asked while waving his arms. His body was no longer bound by gravity and it was even stranger than being inside his sea of consciousness. Any wrong movement could make him flip uncontrollably and the only thing that anchored him to the same place was the base symbols on his big sister. Wherever she will move to, he will have no choice but to follow.
Telekinesis was the term people used in fiction movies and shows. It was different than the ability of an expert Mist User to move objects; it did not require mist energy. They called it a Devine Ability in the movies.
“Like if you train hard then in the future you might be able to use”. Zetsa replied and stabilize Zax. “It’s a bit tasking, but great for extended use of carrying something, or someone, while having to keep your hands free and it makes the object half its weight”. Zetsa shrugged and turned her back to Zax. “Anyway, if your body starts turning, reach your hands and grab my shoulders… or you can just ask and I’ll carry you with my hands”. She smirked and, like an arrow leaving the string of a bow, kicked the ground and shot onto the air in a piercing jump.
In the numerous forests, valleys and ridges that Zax and Zetsa traveled they encountered all sorts of beast. Some, Zetsa explained, did not possess an Earth’s Core and therefore, in terms of ranking, the cultivation of their three aspects was lower than level F. However, because of inborn capabilities, supreme instincts and physique, some coreless beasts at adulthood could contend, by solely relying on their bodies, against Mist Users under the Core Breaker level.
Learning this out only strengthened Zax’s resolve to go through the hell his big sister warned him about.
Apart from learning about the benefit of a strong body, Zax also learned a few survival skills and their current whereabouts in the beasts’ territory.
The caves they crossed belonged to the outer parts of the beasts’ territory and were under the five sovereign tribes – including the cave of Zetsa’s Master. There were around twenty to thirty other tribes of beasts in the outer parts, but only the five sovereign tribes had experts in the Mist Lord level. The strongest beasts in the other twenty to thirty tribes were only at the Core Breaker level. Naturally, all the members of every tribe possessed an Earth’s Core.
Except beasts that resided in tribes, there were beasts which lived alone or in other forms of the word “Pack” but “Tribe”, and those were known as “Wild Beasts”. Wild beasts, such as the Earth Shattering Brown Digger, were the beasts that even if they got a hold on an Earth’s Core, lacked or did not evolve the minimal mentality to cultivate it or could not break through beyond level F or E.
The outer parts of the beasts’ territory were abundant with wild beasts. Though it was not needed – because instincts warned the wild beasts from Zetsa’s presence and even Zax’s Soul Sense as he embed an hostile intent and used it playfully – Zetsa taught Zax of the unique attributes of the flora on their way. She showed him flowers that help disguise one’s own smell, trees with edible bark, harmless insect and small beasts that squirt fluids that were toxic and can madden certain type of carnivore beasts.
Zetsa taught Zax to use his Soul Sense not just to make his strength clear to aggressive beasts by embedding his intent in it, but to also assess the content of fruits and body parts of beasts, once they were sliced open and before he ate them, to check if they were not contaminated by their own poison at the moment of death.
Drinking water was the most difficult thing to find in the beasts’ territory. Above ground rivers and lakes were in one out of four caves and they were usually dominated by packs of territorial wild beasts or were shared or fought over by the tribes. If one wanted to drink water in the beasts’ territory the options were to either risk it in the rivers and lakes or find a common type of plant called Blue Bark tree, which was filled with bitter sweet water.
Seven days passed in the blink of an eye and the last tunnel on their path to the cave of Zetsa’s Master was a few hundred meters ahead.
“Remember what I told you, Zax”. Zetsa meant her explanation about the beasts in her Master’s cave, which by the way was not numbered. “Try to be as you are… as you used to be at home. Putting aside how strict my Master is, my Martial uncle and brothers and sisters”, they were her Master’s other apprentices and younger brother, the one she told him that found him. “They are good natured and receiving. I’ll introduce you to the ones that are currently in the cave, since there are always few outside, you won’t get to know them all at once, but you still should remember… of my fellow apprentices three are my seniors, my two elder Martial brothers and my elder Martial sister. Aside from them I have four juniors, two younger Martial brothers and two younger Martial sisters. Two of my seniors are always outside, so I’m not sure who you’ll get to meet first, either way you should act respectfully to each and every one of them without exception”.
”Although we will be the only humans, the intelligent of my fellow apprentices is not inferior to any human of the same level of cultivation!” Zetsa made a point to herself to insert this information to Zax’s head every once in a while.
“Afterwards I’ll introduce you to my Martial uncle. Over a year ago he started a session of closed doors training and a month ago he finally came out. The position of my Martial uncle is second only to my Master’s, but in terms of personality… sometimes they seem alike but it’s easier to get along with my Martial uncle, just be extra respectable toward him since he was the one to-”
“To find me…” Zax finished. He asked her once about who they will meet when they will reach her Master’s cave and the answer kept replaying every day. “Are you going to tell me again about the Krikitory tribe?”
The beasts of the Krikitory tribe are the original dwellers of her Master’s cave. According to what Zetsa taught him, the Krikitory made up their name to sound similar to her Master’s name out of their veneration toward him. Outside her Master’s cave the Krikitory are formally known as the Deep Water Bear tribe, but inside of the cave it is better to refer to them by their own chosen name, otherwise thy will get offended.
The beasts of the Krikitory are herbivores. By Zetsa’s description they are a peaceful beast tribe. An adult Krikitory is a meter and fifty centimeters tall and has the same facial features of the ancient Black Bear – like the one in pre New Earth animal books. Their fur, on the other hand, is a mix of blue and brown. What makes the Krikitory special and give them their formal name is that when their fur gets wet, it hardens and take the shape of small scales. Due to this, the Krikitory are excellent swimmers and can stay under water for hours per each breath that they take.
On the scale of mental evolution the Krikitory are quite behind. Only the members who surpassed the Core Breaker level have an intelligent which is almost equivalent to that of a human – on a side note, if it were not for Zetsa’s Master, the Krikitory never would have found a method to cultivate beyond level D, which is the reason for their deep feeling toward her Master and why they serve him.
“Cheeky brat!” Zetsa pinched Zax’s cheeks.
In the past seven days she noticed that as her little brother got closer to his first teenage year, he become more impudent and almost every time dared to speak his mind freely. Other than that, she also discovered new changes in her little brother which were to her liking. His eyes, for example, no longer had the pure look of a child, when she taught him in their journey a glint of seriousness was easy to see in them. His intuition was also sharper, actually years beyond his age. When he asked question about stuff that she taught him they always were on point and usually one explanation was enough for him to understand. Most of all, Zetsa was impressed with Zax’s calm and collected attitude when she showed him how to dissect a beast’s cadaver and let him try to cut one on his own.
“Nearly there, at the tunnel’s entrance, that is”. Zetsa said.
They traveled in the last cave, both of them on foot, since early morning, though it was difficult to tell because the beast’s cave they were in, or former ones, did not have a Nightly Cover formation.
“Big sissster Zetsa!”
A shout from down their path caught Zax off guard. In this beasts’ territory he was used to hearing all kind of communication sounds, but words that he could understand were nonexistent.
From out of nowhere a slim and tall figure appeared before them, a humanoid beast with purple scales, a long tail and a snake head with a penetrating golden gaze.
“Ohsss, isss that tender one your little kinss?” The lizard type beast spoken in a hissing voice.
“Mes! Are you looking to make trouble for us?!” Zetsa scolded. She held Zax hand, so she felt the cold sweat forming on his palm. It was not why she scolded her little Martial brother, Mes, but because he did not bother to conceal his oppressing Mist Lord aura.
“No waysss, I know better, sissster Zetsa. I was jussst eagerly waiting for your return to show you my recent breakthrough. Pleassse forgive me and don’t tell Master!” Mes pleaded like a scared child.
Watching this bizarre scene of a Mist Lord humbly lowering his head to a Mist Master awestruck Zax for the first couple of seconds. However, Zax quickly remembered what Zetsa told him and collected himself.
“Greetings, senior Martial brother Mes, this one is Zax Zel, nice to meet you!” He lowered his head to pay his respect to the beast before him, using the same exact words his big sister made him memorize.
“Ssss, tender one, Zaxss, it’s a good thing for us to meet. But I, who might be your future elder Martial brother, presenting you with this embarrassing first impressionss… Big sisster Zetsa, do these two right and forget seeing me here”. Mes worked his kindly words and the introduction to slide around his actual mistake of shouting in a sensitive area.
“If you’ll remember not to show off again in the future, I’ll forgive you”. Zetsa conceded. “Now go back and inform everyone that I’m back with a new addition to the family”.
Grateful, a bright golden light emitted from Mes’s golden eyes and his figure disappeared.
“A Mist Lord…” Zax murmured. Mes was the first Mist Lord that Zax laid his own two eyes on, not to mention the first intelligent humanoid beast! “He is a Mist Lord and he is younger than you are, big sis?” He asked intently. He and Zetsa were striding in the kilometer long tunnel to their final cave destination. “Beasts are sure amazing…”
“Mes is not younger than me, little Zi”, Zetsa replied amused. “He has tens of years over me. The reason that I’m is big sister is because of two things. One is the word of our Master since he decided it, seconds it’s because that on the same level I’m far more stronger than Mes. It’s just that our methods of training are different; mine a lot harder to comprehend and achieve advancements”.
They spent around fifteen minutes walking in the tunnel, hand in hand. Zax felt his head spinning from excitement, more thrilled than the day his big sister agreed to train him!
“That’s it, my Master’s cave…” Zetsa pushed Zax forward in surprise.
Stumbling on his feet, Zax walked a few steps and raised his head to meet the rural landscape.
“Amazing!” Zax uttered.
From the cave’s entrance to couple of kilometers ahead grew fields of flowers in rainbow like colors. There was a sort of a path right from the entrance through the fields that led past a forest, into a mountain range, to a place far away onwards…
At a certain point the path split westwards, right before the first trees of the forest, up a small and wide hill to a distant village.
“They are waiting for us at the village”. Zetsa said and bypassed Zax.
“Ah… yes!” Zax joined her at his own pace.
The scent of the fields was intoxicating and beside it was the sound of flowing water, left and right, like a melody of creeks.
It took them a hour before they finally made it to the village, by then Zetsa told Zax that the tribe has six more villages spread within the cave and that this one belonged to the fields workers. As she explained, Zax himself was also getting use to the sight of the field workers Krikitories. They industriously collected any flower in full bloom and threw it inside big baskets on their backs. The Krikitories workers were not disturbed by the pair of humans and a handful waved their paws to Zetsa.
“Utotive! Utotive!” Tiny members of the tribe, children Krikitories, fifty centimeters tall or so, ran to welcome Zax and Zetsa with wooden cups of water. “Utotive, wamp! Wamp!” They pushed the cups for Zetsa to take and drink them.
“Big sis…” Zax said helplessly. There were over twenty young Krikitories and six of them forced their cups of water on Zax, calling… “Bukibi, wamp!”
“Wamp, Zax. They knew we were coming and came to greet us. ‘Utotive’, ‘Blue Olive’, is what the small ones find easy to call me. ‘Bukibi’, ’Light Brown’, appears to be your new name… anyway, ‘wamp’ means to drink. Pick a cup and drink the water”. Zetsa said and picked one of the offered cups.
The young Krikitory seemed overjoyed as she – the females were distinguishable by the braids that were embroidered to their fur – ran back to her mother’s arms, forgetting the cups with Zetsa.
The other disappointed fifteen to eighteen young Krikitories glumly moved to Zax. “Bukibi, wamp! Wamp!”
Seeing how the young Krikitories got sad and mournful because they were not picked, Zax felt a pinch in his heart. It was the first time for him to be in a situation where the happiness of those younger than him depended on his actions. In his eyes the young Krikitories reminded him of his younger cousins or first graders in his last year of school. Now a bunch of them looked for his affection and he could give it to only one of them…
“Fine”. Zax surrendered. He could not pick one Krikitory over the other so he chose to accept all the cups that were offered to him.
Looking at him drinking cup after cup, Zetsa pouted. “Little Zi, you can’t pamper them like this, otherwise they’ll come to you whenever they want to get praised by their mothers”. She said, yet when the young Krikitory that gave her water returned for her cup, she ended up accepting more of them, mostly for Zax’s sake.
“This will be the last time”. Zetsa told Zax. “These guys are about the same age as two or three years old humans. They don’t know how to stop and their mothers won’t stop them either since the grownups admire anyone that Master allows into the cave…”
The two left the young and the adults to their business. Zetsa led Zax to a large wooden pavilion on the outskirts of the village. Inside the pavilion five figures were waiting for them.