“Fine, let me hear your offer. So long that it’s as you say, not excessive and can also benefit me, I’m willing to listen”. That much receptiveness Zax agreed to give Carl.
“Hahaha…” If the two were any closer, Carl would have pat Zax on the back. “You won’t regret it, well… only if you’ll disagree, but that will be after a long time, when you’ll realize your mistake”. Carl phrased himself sensibly to not make it sound as if he was threating Zax and also to plant the seed of doubt in the content of disagreement. This was definitely an acquired virtue to his personality, something that only years of expectance could foster.
“My offer is quite simple. Let’s form companionship in the Savage Cave”. Carl held up two fingers and crossed them, smiling.
“Companionship?” Zax echoed.
“Indeed”. Carl immediately confirmed. “To search freely for ripe Blood Red Grapes, neither of us has the ability to move freely in the cave. Sure, the savages generally should be weaker than us, but they don’t care for fatigue or death and there are too many of them to take lightly. And let’s say that you do manage to avoid clashes with the savages, it is very unlikely that you will find a Blood Red Grape on a random tree. Eventually you will have to look for groves like this one and then hope to not meet an expert already dwelling in them or hope that if there is an expert, then that he or she will show you courtesy”.
“All for the sake Blood Red Grapes? I thought that there was something else that you were interested in…” Zax ate enough of the Blood Red Grapes to know that they may help to mollify one’s temperament in the Savage Cave, but only for a short time. It was not worth it to seek them for a short lived pleasure. Better was to stay in his undisturbed plot and train.
“You have been in the Savage Cave for four months, Zax, but how long have you been in the grove?” Carl asked.
“For nearly the same length of time”.
“And how many ripe Blood Red Grapes did you truly eat?”
“Over thirty”. It was not the exact number, but Zax received the impression that a high number rather than an exact number was what Carl wished to hear. He also did not have problem to honestly answer since despite the savageness in Carl’s eyes, he did not sense enmity or a killing intent from him.
“Then you probably misunderstood something good as your own doing”. Carl said decisively and frowned. “Blood Red Grapes should not be consumed whenever you feel like eating one. Of those thirty that you ate, I suspect that an uneducated guy like you had wasted the real benefits of at least two thirds!” Stating so firmly, Carl grip on his three grapes tightened as if to guard them from the slapdash fellow in front of him.
Seeing Zax’s confused expression, Carl nodded his head and said. “I’ll elaborate to help you understand. In the Savage Cave the greatest impediment is making the soul adapt to the savagery. This becomes even more of a problem the longer you stay in the cave. My soul, for example, a year ago managed to ninety eight percent adapt to the savagery. Since then, however, I did not make any progress. The reason is that over time the savage energy condenses and liquefies and in an even longer period of time… No need to mention the less fortunate. What I’m trying to say is that the ripe Blood Red Grapes, if consumed before exercising adaption methods, will help increase the soul’s durability for a while. In other words, will hasten the time it takes the soul to adapt to the savagery”.
‘If that is true’, Zax suddenly realized, ‘not only I was a wasteful fool, it also explains why I barely made progress this month…’ Unconsciously he began to grip his grape in the same protective manner Carl did. ‘It’s not good to stay here longer’. He came to the conclusion.
“If we’ll travel together to find grapes, what’s your plan?” Carl already proven to Zax that he was unbounded by the savagery, if venturing in the cave, Zax felt that a guy such as him would be an acceptable companion.
“Not complicated at all, as a matter of fact. If the two of us will go together to the other half of the cave, where it’s abundant with grove even larger than this one, and present a united front when facing an expert that already took control on a grove as his training grounds, if we won’t be able to convince him to let us look for Blood Red Grape, at least we will make him think twice before discharging his pent up savagery on us. That’s the focal idea of why I offer that we should travel together”.
“Besides the grapes, there are of course more ways that we could support each other. Dealing with the savages will be less dangerous, and although we train in different refining techniques, we could also exchange pointers. Naturally, when one of us does chose to train alone, the other will keep an eye for him, as well”. Carl stated the pros alluringly. As for the cons, there was only one. But a too obvious one that he could do nothing about and so he hoped that Zax will go along with him if he will emphasize the positive.
Trying his capabilities against a Core Master did sound tempting to Zax and he wanted to do so since he reached the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers. But… “How do I know that I can trust you? Both of us are still in the Savage Cave and unless our souls will perfectly adapt to the savagery, the risk of lashing at each other is too high”.
Discussing the con in the end was unavoidable and with respect to the effect of the savage force of the cave, anyone that just began to adapt to it knew how tricky it was to keep the savagery at bay. Even when the soul a hundred percent adapted to the savagery, if staying in to Savage Cave for a long time, the savagery will still build up the desire to kill, this was why those who trained in the Savage Cave for tens or hundreds of years were dangerous to deal with.
“…Is something that you and I will have to ask ourselves if we are willing to risk”. Carl answered honestly. “I’ve been for a short time and a long time in the Savage Cave… time here is relative to your achievements. A long time, because after six years I was not as lucky as you in finding a desolated grove and so my soul still did not adapt to the savagery. A short time, because in those six years my training had not even begun”.
Zax considered Carl’s reasoning. ‘Put aside the Blood Red Grapes and a Core Master as a training partner, I’ve got between five and a half to seven months before the day of evaluation by Master’s big brother. To be on the safe side, I can’t afford to stay here longer than six months…’
“Is that all?” Zax asked.
“If you agree than there is only one more thing”. Carl said.
“What is it?”
“If we do travel together, then if savages attack us, we can’t interfere with each other. To help, the only thing that is allowed is to attract some of the load off in case there will be many savages. That way our killing intent won’t be directed at each other… By asking are agreeing to form companionship?”
Zax walked closer to Carl and raised his hand.
The two shook on it and a companionship was formed.
It took Zax and Carl four days to cross to the other half of the cave. It was not that the Savage Cave was bigger than most caves in Valgarel, but to cross it without arousing the attention of the savages, those who submerged in the savage force, one could not act rashly.
In those four days Zax learned from Carl why experts chose to train in the Savage Cave.
“You are not a Core Master so you are unaware of it, but the most important thing for Core Masters is to cultivate the soul…”
In essence, the Savage Cave for those that wanted to cultivate the soul was akin to the Essence Cave for those that wanted to cultivate the body. The mere difference was that in the Savage Cave one could practice a soul refining technique of his or her choosing, and the Blood Red Grapes were the counterpart of the herbal liquid Zax soaked in when he practiced the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement.
Zax also got an answer in regards to the plant that he sought. Regrettably, Carl was not familiar with the plants and did not recognize them when Zax drew them and described their colors. On the other hand, Carl told Zax that from what his elders told him, there are roughly eight types of unique plants that grow in the Savage Cave and most of them can be found the closer one gets to the tunnel to the second Savage Cave. At which point, Zax decided to first complete the adaption of his soul to the savagery, since Carl also confirmed his hypothesis.
“The bubble will vanish when your soul will adapt to the savagery… I suggest that you assess its state once every day so you won’t be caught blindsided when it will start to condense”. By the look on his face, it seemed that Carl learned the hard way that the bubble should not be taken for granted.
Zax wondered, when Carl advised him, why Carl’s elders did not warned him about it or if they did warn him but like the bubble, Carl took their words for granted.
“I’ll take three, you’ll take two”. Carl said to Zax. It was their sixth day of companionship and five savages followed their trail, not as a group, but together they came at them nonetheless.
One human, four beasts.
After four months in the Savage Cave, Zax came to understand that pulling punches and mercy could make him pay a hefty price. It dawned on him when he thought back to the green lizard, the first beast he encountered in the Savage Cave. Even with broken legs it still came at him. If it had managed to find and attract other savages to his position before he reached the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers…
‘Killing for survival’. Zax told himself, thought he was content when the human was not among the two the Carl left for him.
Zax’s speed astonished Carl more than his strength. The two beasts were at the Advanced phase of the Mist Lord level and one of them was a panther type beast, not the fastest of the type but still very fast, yet Zax speed was even faster.
Carl mistook Zax’s speed as a result of his cultivation technique, however he was wrong. Zax’s speed was mostly due to his perfect execution of every movement of his body. Nothing was wasted or forced, not even hindered by the cave’s force. And all the credit belonged to his diligent training and breaking through to the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers.
The two killed the five savages and receded their killing intent before addressing to one another.
“When I was young I dreamt of training in a bodily refining technique. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to be accepted as an apprentice by those who follow this method of cultivation, so I had to settle on the training the elders could provide me”. Carl reminisced. “We should leave before more savages will get here”. He said before Zax could comment and an azure aura emanated from his body as he fled ahead first.
“My method of adapting the soul?” Carl replied to Zax’s query. “I visualize a nine points star and shape my soul energy accordingly. When the savagery reach to my soul it passes through the star, its sieve like center thins the savagery to fine feasible threads. Why? What’s your method?”
“I formed a bridge with my soul energy between the savagery and soul, but the closer that I get to a hundred percent adaptability, the less useful the current form of the bridge is and the more complicated it is to create a new suitable one. Nowadays, I can only make progress when I meditate”.
“I do the same, but with the bubble condensing…”
“How about this, you will teach me your nine point star and I’ll teach you the current form of the bridge I’m using. Maybe if we’ll combine the two it will help”.
“Remember, repress the savagery as much as possible and let me do the talks”. Carl said.
After eleven days of traveling they found their first grove in the second half of the Savage Cave.
“Okay”. Zax said and the two walked past the boundaries of the grove.
“Leave!” It did not take long for someone to appear and shatter their hopes of a desolated grove.
It was actually a human that welcomed Zax and Cal, a tall and muscular geezer with pale skin and white braided hair. His body was covered by a beast skin Cloak and nothing more.
“A moment of your time, friend”, Carl step forward.
“Leave!” A vast azure aura burst from the geezer and his red eyes turned redder.
“As you wish”. Carl said and took Zax by the hand as they left.
Several kilometers from the grove.
“That’s it? You said to let you do the talks and after two words you retreat?” In the name of the Supreme Rulers! Carl’s instantaneous turn around left Zax angry and stunned at the same time.
“You are inexperienced so you talk nonsense”. Carl shot at him. “Remember that I told you about those guys that train here for years? Well… that guy was one of them and with exceedingly low tolerance for civilize communication!”
“Fine, but won’t all those we meet will be the same?” If what Carl said was acceptable as a reason to leave as they did, then they will not be able to convince anyone to negotiate with them. “Why are we traveling together if no to give the impression that we are no pushovers?” Zax argued.
“Our companionship is exactly so others won’t take advantage of us! But among those who did not lose to the savagery in this cave, there are many experts that can thrash us with a single hand. You are inexperienced because you can’t judge who is an expert that we can deal with and who isn’t. Practically anyone on this half of the cave has adapted to the savagery. That already put their capabilities a step above ours, which means that the previous guy was also staying in the Savage Cave for training and not bound to it like we are. Furthermore, that guy possesses a grove on the latter half of the cave, even if on the outskirts of the latter half that should still indicate something about him. Now recall how quick his eyes were to redden, this should tell you that he has been staying for a very long time. Hence, not someone that we can deal with. And as I told you, I don’t, and neither should you, pursue an early death”.
“That should be…” Zax said.
“The ninth”. Carl continued.
“At least we are not short on groves”. Zax sighed.
To nine groves they have been to in two months and from nine groves they turned their backs with empty hands. The only bright side in their journey was the few random findings of ripe Blood Red Grapes, which the two equally shared, the progress in practicing the bodily maneuvers for Zax and the two percent for Zax, over one percent for Carl in the adaption process of their souls to the savagery and the good company that each of them perceived from the other.
They entered the grove and Carl released his aura to attract the attention of anyone who might dwell in it.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…” Short moments later a beast in a humanoid form crossed the trees in a fly and clicked its tongue. It was a bird type beast, a male by his physique. His body was covered by elegant blue, red and green feathers, his arms were two folded wings and his head was that of a parrot. “Don’t come in, don’t come in”. The parrot head repeated in shrieks and stood afar from Zax and Carl on a branch.
“Marvelous friend of the Zuzubare tribe”, Carl apparently recognized to which tribe the bird type beast belonged to and used it to open with flattering.
“Leave at once, leave at once!” The Zuzubare tribe member shrieked, his eyes reddened and an azure aura exploded from its feathers as his wings spread to the side in a hostile manner.
‘Great…’ Zax thought to himself. ‘”As you wish”’. He quoted Carl frequent phrase in despair.
“Why so imperious, friend?”
“Ah?!” Carl’s words almost caused Zax to stumble. “Carl…?”
Carl ignored him, instead…
“Friend of the Zuzubare tribe, for quite some time me and my little brother here traversed the Savage Cave. In our journey we fended many of the savages. Sadly, none could challenge us. Please forgive my insolence in advance”. Carl’s aura exploded, his legs kicked the ground and his body shot toward the Zuzubare tribe member. “Allow me to exchange pointers with you, friend”. His last word reverberated.
‘What’s going through his head?’ In the time that they traveled together, Zax came to know Carl pretty well. His personality was frank, most of the time, and lies never seem to leave his mouth. Cunningness, however… Zax chose to stand and watch.
Carl’s left foot kicked the Zuzubare tribe member who defended with his wings and tens of feathers scattered. “Admirable!” Carl praised joyously.
A punch, slicing the air, followed the kick.
Brilliant dark golden aura and mist energy burst out as the Zuzubare tribe member defended himself and was thrown thirty meters, toppling the surrounding trees.
“A Peak phase Mist Lord!” Zax stared in puzzlement. “A moment ago this parrot head beast emitted the aura of a Core Master, now it’s a Mist Lord?”
Carl heard Zax’s inquiry, however said nothing and turned to the lying in the dirt Zuzubare tribe member. “You teach me a lot, friend, here I come again!”
“I yield! I yield!” Shrieks of surrender were uttered pleadingly.
As the dust dissipated, the Zuzubare tribe member was bowing with its curved beak to the ground.