“We drew the attention of the savages”. Carl said. He and Zax left the grove no more than five minutes ago and the savages that roamed the area of the second half of the first Savage Cave, picked up on their scent with no delay.
“Should we fight?” Zax asked indifferently.
In the past month Carl gave Zax a short time to think about the weight of death. In the Savage Cave even the most delicate of beings, whether human or beasts, will sharpen its claws or fangs or talons, and regardless of how much one will preserve, eventually blood will smear the hands, paws, wings and first life will be taken.
Zax was a mere youth in his fourteenth year of life and already killed, sometimes against his will, sometime without even considering it. His conception was to “Kill for survival” and it still was after one month of pondering about it. However Zax did comprehend why it was important for him to look at death this way.
It was not the first time that he noticed it, but in the past month he found a different angle to look at it. When he came up with “Kill for survival” concept, it was to reason with himself that the first lives that he took were not his fault. He saw his big sister kill beasts for their meat as nutrition and so his conception followed his big sister’s example. To kill to sustain the body and to kill to sustain life were both part of to kill to survive. That was how Zax saw it at first. However in this fleeting month Zax realized that it was not the similar actions of his big sister that he sought, but her approval for his.
“Not yet. If we will, more will come in tides. Let’s take care of them in one go”. Carl said. To keep up with Zax he used his mist energy to strengthen himself and even though he was still slower, the savages soon could not keep up and lost them.
“This many are good enough”. Carl announced several hours after the first batch of savages.
“I wonder why they don’t attack each other…” Zax said.
The two stopped on a tall branch and jumped down. Soon after, the savages arrived, a group of twelve, seven beasts and five humans.
“The beasts are mine!” Carl proclaimed. It seemed that he still was pushing Zax on the matter of death and measured that it will dawn on him heavily if he will take the lives of those from his species.
Zax frowned, but Carl already launched himself on the beasts and attracted all seven. “Mindless souls”. Carl murmured. Rather than being attract to him, some of the seven jumped each other and began to fight. The same was with the five humans.
“One Mist Master and four Mist Lords”. Zax stared at the five. “Why they chased if they are gonna fight each other?” The Mist Master looked like a young man. He was being torn apart by a female Mist Lord while the other three, another female and two men, attacked Zax.
The female that was coming at Zax was the strongest of the five, at the Advanced phase of her level. She was fully focused on Zax and when one of the other three hindered her, she instinctively drove him back.
For the first couple of seconds Zax hesitated. The two women were the first that he encountered in the Savage Cave. Two formidable women… he could not help but somewhat see a reflection of his big sister on their faces. What made his heart falter even more was that the expression of his big sister’s reflection was too surreal, not that different from the two women’s.
“Die!” To do what he had to Zax forcefully bellowed. His punches were thrown to the chests and destroyed the hearts of the two women and then the three men. A quick death overall.
When the fifth body hit the ground Zax stopped justifying the need to kill. He survived and that was it. Shaking his hand to get rid from the bit of blood that stained it he looked for Carl.
“What are you doing?” Zax asked. Carl was crouching beside one of the beast that he killed, it had the body of a giant bear, but the head was destroyed during the fight so Zax could not tell for sure.
“Taking a slice of his skin”. Carl said.
“Your loincloth still on, you know…” In their time together, Zax saw Carl skinning a beast only to teach him how to make a loincloth.
“Are you planning to collect and hold the plants in your hands once you found them?”
“Ah…” Zax was lost for words. He actually did not think about it till now, and then he remembered why. “Master urged me to return when I hone my soul and gave me a day to look for the plants… because of how he put it I did not expect to find many…” Zax was embarrassed. When he said it aloud it sounded to him like an excuse of an irresponsible child.
“Little brother Zax, sometimes calling you ‘inexperienced’ is simply not enough…” Carl shook his head and finished making two pouches from the bear’s skin. Since he used his mist energy to clean the skin Carl managed to make two fine carrying tools and Zax gladly and shyly received one.
“What?” Carl said when he saw Zax glance surprisingly at the pouch in his hand. “You think that only you interested in treasures?”
The two journeyed to where Carl believed was their highest possibility of finding rare plants, the entrance to the tunnel that lead to the second Savage Cave.
On their way they passed some groves that were too outrageous in their size. Because beasts kept attacking them, Carl was afraid that they will disturb the experts in those groves and so chose to divert their path more often than he wanted to, to not get close to the groves. Better them being the target of hundreds of savages than for them to be the occasional outlet to the pent up savagery of one of the experts, which for tens or hundreds of years trained in the cave.
As they ventured deeper into the cave, the hills and forests dwindled and were taken over by meadows and mountains. To reach the cave’s walls Carl and Zax had to climb the mountains that were the dwelling places of many winged beasts. Among all, a Three Beaks Vulture was the dominating predator of the high terrains. To fight him in his natural habitat was akin for Zax and Carl to dealing with another Core Master, and when the Three Beaks Vulture dived, his speed was not slower than Zax’s.
To pass the mountains unhindered, the two went through ravines and only when their path was blocked did they climb as swiftly as they could.
A week after they left Zri and his grove, the two arrived to the cave’s wall. The terrain was hundreds of meters higher than their starting point, and to find the entrance that leads to the second Savage Cave, or at least its area of influence in the first Savage Cave, what was left for them was to look left and right and choose a direction.
On the high terrain the Blood Red Grapes could not grow, and as a result, to replenish his strength Zax hunted the winged beast, eating tens kilos of beast’s meat every sitting, five times a day. Carl, on the other hand, sustained himself quite well with just his mist energy. He explained to Zax that once one reach to the Corer Master realm, then just by circulating the mist in a certain manner, it will replenish on its own. Of course, there are techniques for Mist Users in lower levels, but they are less affective.
Zax sure envied Carl, but since nothing could be done for his clogged Qi channels he said nothing and continued eating.
A day time later the two detected a force that they did not recognize, foreign to the first Savage Cave. The force had a peculiar energy signature that Carl picked up with his mist energy. Afterwards, both he and Zax crossed an invisible boundary that exuded an immense gravitation force.
“Carl!” Zax shouted.
The gravitation force was thirty to fifty times stronger than outside the invisible boundary. To Carl, who had to fortify his body with layers of mist energy, the gravitation force transpired too abruptly. A moment of unbalance subverted his control and his layers of mist energy dispersed instantly.
Carl’s knees sunk into the barren soil. A mouthful of blood spewed on the ground and his body crushed completely.
Seeing this alarming scene, a realization and fear of his only friend, his brother, about to be lost unless he act, befell on Zax. He rushed to Carl’s side, picked him up and carried him outside of the invisible boundary.
“Thanks… cough… Little brother Zax… cough”. Outside, Carl found his footing, however leaned on Zax for support. “How frightening… cough…” Blood still spilled from his mouth. “…Now I see why the savages stopped following us… cough…”
“Enough talking, Carl”, Zax scolded. “Can you heal?” He asked worriedly.
“Amm…” Carl closed his eyes and surveyed the damage to his internals. “Yes. The gravitation force broken the outer layers of mist energy, but you dragged me out before the inner ones slumped. My body is just in shock. Let’s wait for a day and reenter”. After speaking he sat in a meditative position and closed his eyes.
Zax also said nothing and quietly waited for a day to pass.
“Are you ready?” Carl asked Zax. He and Zax were a step from the invisible boundary, about to cross it again.
“Inexperienced brats are not qualified to ask”. Zax teased.
“What’s that?!” Carl was genuinely angry at himself for providing Zax the opportunity to tease him in his words.
“Don’t force yourself if you have troubles hearing”. Somehow, after the experience of almost losing him, Zax ended up more open and attached than before to Carl. He laughed and crossed first.
“One day, brat, I’ll show you my true form and we’ll see who have troubles hearing…” Carl followed with a grin.
“Fine, little bratty brother Zax, let’s go see how far is the scope of this boundary from the entrance to the other cave”.
“There!” Zax pointed a short time after they crossed the boundary. Ahead of them, nearly two and a half kilometers from where they entered, was the entrance of the tunnel to the second Savage Cave and as they got closer to it so did the gravitation force became more oppressing.
“I thought that the gravitation force is a byproduct to the proximity to the second cave. So it’s actually leaks from the other side…” Carl said. “We should stay away from the entrance… this far from it”, he stopped Zax four hundred meters from the entrance. “Should suffice”.
“Carl…” Zax turned to him with baffled look in his eyes. “I can’t release my Soul Sense… did you try to release yours?”
The soil within the area of influence that the invisible boundary contained was barren and covered by a carpet of sand that was sharp as glass. Still, Zax did not doubt what Carl told him before they left the grove; that the energy from the second Savage Cave supplements the most unique plants in the first Savage Cage and that by getting close to it they will find them. But he did ponder how in a place like this any plants supposed to grow and it occurred to him that if not above ground than beneath it they might be thriving. Thus, Zax used his Soul Sense only to discover that it cannot leave his sea of consciousness.
Carl followed his elders’ tips and before searching for the plants he assessed how close he can get to the entrance to the tunnel. Only then, he was told to start looking for treasurers. Therefore, unlike his inexperienced companion, he did not use his Soul Sense until Zax mentioned it. “The gravitation force probably represses it”. He also failed to release his Soul Sense. “Never mind it; the plants should not be too deep in the ground. We can dig to our heart’s content to find them”.
Zax sighed. The distance the walked from where they entered the invisible boundary was nearly two kilometers and five hundred meters. If this was the scope of the boundary from the entrance to the tunnel…
“Tsk! This soil is actually leaving white marks on my hands!” Zax complained. “The glassy sand is sharper than a Beginner Mist Lord’s claws attack”. Since he mostly fought beasts in the Savage Cave, Zax compared the sand to the attack most familiar to him.
Carl was using the Assault Of The Leader Martial technique to tear up the ground, but beyond the sand, his claws could only dig through the soil a few centimeters at a time. ”You are looking for a certain type of flowers, right?” He spoke without halting or giving Zax a chance to answer. “What are you complaining about when I search for a certain type of root? Don’t forget, anything that grows here is considered a treasure, and treasure cannot simply be pluck from the ground!”
The two labored for hours. One patch of earth after the other they dug and more.
“A red stalk… Found one!” six hours after they started Zax yelled in delight and Carl rushed over.
“Hahaha! Little brothers do suck the luck out of their elders!” Carl laughed.
It was the stalk of the flower with the seven white petals. “Look at that!” Zax shoved the sand and was aghast. The flower was not buried deep in the ground; it was laying on it covered by the sand with only the stalk and the roots planted.
“The gravitation force causing it to grow lying down and the glassy sand hid it”. The two of them took another look on the barren soil and the shiny sand. “Who knew that this place was so sly?” Carl exclaimed.
“If the other flower Master told me to look for also hidden underneath the sand, then all I need to do is to sweep a little”. Zax’s lips stretched to a smile.
“Now that’s truly unfair!” Carl sulked.
“Hehehe… Don’t worry, I’ll help you dig, even though you can just change to your animalistic form and make it easier for both of us”.
“Nope, staying in my human form. And since I consider what you said as a promise I’m not going to care, either”.
“You are happy, aren’t you?” Zax could tell, after finding the flower he himself definitely was.
“Of course I’m. I can’t call you ‘little brother’ as a figure of speech. Between us there is already brotherhood”. His sincerity emanated strongly from his eyes, and Zax who was a youth closer to his child then his adult years, averted his gaze.
Suddenly it struck Zax; it was not a momentary thing, he truly did see Carl as a big brother.
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