Zax swept his hand and the little blood from his last kill was erased. ‘In the end I’ve gotten sloppy…’ His tone possessed a hint of criticism. His business here was over and he left back to his Master’s place.
Rarahel was safeguarding the cave’s entrance the same way she did when he left for the Savage Caves. As she saw him her poised countenance turned to shocked. In a few months the atmosphere of the boy underwent multiply changes of growth.
Rarahel was not oblivious to what was the first Savage Cave. She had been there herself. But no need to mention Rarahel, the third youngest in rank of her Master’s eight apprentices, even her most talented eldest Martial brother did not manage to surpass the savagery in such a short time. And when Zax left and she checked him out with her Soul Sense, at the time, she could not determine his soul’s level, but treasures? She could tell that he clearly did not have on him.
“Big sister Rarahel!” Zax happily greeted her most welcoming face, even if it carried a stupefied draconic expression. “Big sister Rarahel”, he lowered his head a little. “Please forgive me for taking your warning for granted back then, when I left for the Savage Caves. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for looking up for me!” He said courteously.
On the receiving end, Rarahel kept arranging her thoughts and Zax’s apology and gratitude were a side note in what was going on in her head. Her mouth opened and all she could do was blubber. “What happened to you?!”
As the question reached his ears, Zax’s smile faded and he solemnly responded. “I’ve been to the Savage Caves”. There was nothing more than this to elucidate, nor did he want to say further. “I’ll see you later, big sister Rarahel”. He left straight to his Master.
In his return Zax did not pass by the Krikitory village. In a short time span he arrived to the base of the mountain where his Master punched the ground and opened an underground tunnel to the Essence Cave. By now, however, the tunnel was sealed again, and so Zax imitated his Master’s left and right.
Despite knowing that the entrance to the Essence Cave is shrouded by the most dangerous concentration of smoky mist, Zax was curious to test his bodily improvements and decided to risk it by venturing inside without the support of his Master’s mantle. At worst he would retreat back to the tunnel and look for the assistance of his Martial elder brothers and sisters.
First Zax let his hand in the smoky mist and it tickled. After a few seconds the tickles began to itch and his hand reddened. Zax pulled away and his hand returned to normal.
Assessing the distance he had to go with his Soul Sense and how deeply his hand got hurt, Zax smirked. “It’s just an area of eight hundred meters or so. Nothing much”. He jumped in.
Two things that escaped Zax’s calculation were the pouch and loincloth.
Practically two steps into the Essene Cave, the smoky mist incinerated the pouch and loincloth and Zax’s glory was fully presentable. Luckily, the plants that he brought were fine and unharmed.
Zax breathed a sigh of relief. He was used to his Master’s Mantle as the means for transportation in and out the Essence Cave. Also, when he trained in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement his clothes were also being soaked in the herbal liquid, it was the sole way to preserve them outside of the protective formation around his Master’s cabin without the mist energy mantle.
‘I should have tested a piece of cloth… at least the most important thing, the plants, are fine’.
“Zax!” Laivien’s voice rang in his head, full of delight and immense surprise. Her familiar and warm voice filled the emptiness left by in Carl in his heart and Zax mood improved greatly. “You entered on your own?! So impatient! I was about the tell him… Never mind. Come to the cabin, I’ll tell big brother to meet you there”. Laivien said in a hurry and her presence left his consciousness.
“Big brother?” Zax was startled. It was the first time he heard of it. Was the voice in his head his Master little sister?! ‘Ah! Almost thought to ask Master for explanation… better wait for Laivien to tell me that it is okay to let him know that we converse sometimes’.
Kartius was standing still on the terrace. Zax saw him from afar, waiting expectantly for his Martial son. As he saw him, the expression on his Master’s stag head changed from happiness to surprise to bewilderment.
“Master!” Zax dashed to Kartius. He stopped a meter from his Master and greeted him. His body was shaking; he truly missed his Martial father!
“You have grown”. Kartius place his hand on his Martial son’s head. “And you are naked…” He did not need to guess why, Laivien already told him in an amused tone.
“That is…” Zax was embarrassed. His Master’s remark made him feel indecent by being exposed, even though his Master did not wear clothes either and almost none of the humanoid beasts his saw. On the other hand, they had no need for clothes in any other form than their human one and it only now dawned on Zax.
“Come inside, I have a few beast skins. Cover yourself and sit with me”. Kartius pulled Zax to the cabin. “I sense that many changes occurred in you and I see that you found the plants, although I’m not sure that they are of use to you anymore… Regardless, let’s first enter inside. Tell me of your experiences in the Savage Cave and then I will decide what to do with them”.
With the delicate control of his mist energy, Kartius made a pair of pants and a shirt whilst Zax told him everything about his time on the way back and forth from the Savage Cave and his time in the cave itself. When he shared the parts about Carl and the things he learned or partly learned from him, his temperament became morose.
Kartius listened assiduously to every word without raising any question. Most of what Zax told him did not faze him, but a few parts were too shocking that his hand clenched and his aura was struggling to get free, wanting to express the wildness he restrained.
Zax finished at killing the canines and leaving back from the entrance of the Savage Cave.
‘She was right’. Remembering how Laivien persuaded him to let Zax go, Kartius now admitted to himself in her favor. “You have managed to surpass my expatiations, Martial son, even for a human your growth cannot be described as anything but stupendous…” Kartius’s gaze fell on the lower area of Zax’s stomach, his dantian. ‘How much of it is thanks to you…’
“Master”, Zax said anxiously. “Everything that took place… your decision to send me to a place such as the Savage Caves, those canines that wanted to capture and kill me, the things I learned from big brother Carl, the discovery that he actually was related to the canines, Can you further explain it all to me?”
Gauging his Martial son pleading countenance, Kartius sighed inwardly. “Of these enemies you will learn everything soon enough. For now, it is good that you did not leave anyone alive”.
“As for the one that took you under his wing… I’ll say a these words. That Carl was in league with the tribes that seek to detriment my big brother. However, even in those tribes there are some, few, who are not interested in creating enmity with big brother. Carl, as I believe, was one of those few. Furthermore, knowing that you follow a bodily refining technique, he probably suspected or did not want to take the chance that you have relations to big brother, for that he refused to show you his animalistic form. He chose to trade our conflict for your friendship”.
“Big brother Carl…” Zax felt a lump in his throat and his eyes revealed a hint of red. ‘So that was his reason… if he wanted to…” If Carl used his animalistic from when he first learned of Zax method of cultivation, he could kill him effortlessly just in case. ‘But he did not care who I was even when we just met…’ It was fine if he wanted to ignore a possible enemy of his tribe, but to refer to him as brother… How could his place in Zax’s heart not grow?
Kartius clapped his hand. The sound was akin to something exploding between them and sufficient enough to bring Zax back from his grief.
“There is still some time before the end of the three years, though I’m sure that you will receive big brother’s approval. In less than three years you broke through the fifth gate…” His voice went silence. “Zax”, it rose again with a resolute tone. “You asked and as your Martial father I’ll provide you the knowledge”. Kartius sounded ambiguous. Nevertheless, he proceeded.
Zax rubbed his eyes and released a pent up breath of sore emotions. He steeled his demeanor and his ears perked up attentively.
“We should start at the three forms that beasts have. The three are ‘Animalistic’, ‘Humanoid’ and ‘Human’. Every beast has these three forms but not every beast can freely transform between them. The prerequisite that determine the beast’s ability to transform are the beast’s class and level of cultivation”.
“Zax, this matter is something that you should have learned in a system that was built to impart this knowledge on you… it starts simple, but considering Martial niece Zetsa’s experience when she learned it from big brother, it may become confusing since this issue extends beyond the format of differences not only between beast and beast, but also between beast and human and Nature intervention. Us, beasts, have our instinct and profound connection to nature which helps us to acquire this knowledge, but not in a way that can be emulated by a human”.
“Before I’ll continue, I’ll be honest and say that if you’ll return to Kingdom Earth just to attain this better understanding, it will be a lot more helpful than me explaining”.
“Please, Master!” Zax persisted.
Did his Master just suggest that he should go to school? Otherwise, which other system he meant that will provide this knowledge, or any Martial related knowledge for that matter? Either way, of human’s schools Zax, no doubt, knew a multitude more than his Master. It did not even require him to think before insisting that his Master should continue.
‘Use my words’. Laivien voice resonated in Kartius’s head.
“Very well, Zax”, Kartius complied with Laivien and began to quote her word for word. “Before our three forms, much like you humans, we beasts are first classified by three classes that are innate and not something that can be influenced. The lowest class is ‘Shenghuo’, life. Beasts of the Shenghuo class are the least intelligent, but among beast, if given the chance, their cultivation is the fastest. Shenghuo beasts, if smart enough, can transform to their humanoid form right when becoming F level Mist Users and to their human form once they reach level C in their cultivation. Wild beasts and beasts of small tribes like the Krikitory tribe are classified as Shenghuo”.
“The following class is ‘Zhihui’, wisdom. Beasts of the Zhihui class are fairly intelligent, compared to the Shenghuo class. They are also the second fastest cultivators among beasts. In the outer territory of Valgarel, only one out of the five sovereign tribes is populated by Zhihui class beasts, the Silverhorned tribe of your Martial sister Rarahel”.
“The canines that chased you to the Savage Caves and their whole tribe are also of the Zhihui class of beasts. With regards the three forms of Zhihui class beasts, to transform to their humanoid form the prerequisite is for them to reach level C in their cultivation and to their human form they must break through the Core Master level”.
“As for the highest class of us beasts, that is the ‘Chaoyue’, transcendence. Beasts of the highest class are intelligent as humans from birth. Though as cultivators they, we, are the slowest, our existence is the one that rules Valgarel!” Kartius took over and burst out proudly.
‘Big brother!’ Laivien rebuked.
‘My Martial son should know who is Master is!’ Kartius said back. ‘Go on…’ He submitted himself to her words once more.
“Even among the strongest tribes in the inner territory of Valgarel, very few are born as Chaoyue. It takes more than two beasts at the Chaoyue class to procreate a Chaoyue offspring, but when one is finally born; his statues in the tribe will be second only to the tribe’s elders”.
”I, big brother and his three eldest apprentices are of the Chaoyue class. That is why our enemies’ actions against us are moderate despite them great in number”. Kartius again intervened and after saying what he wanted, relayed Laivien’s explanation.
“Chaoyue class beasts can transform to their humanoid form once they break through the Core Master level, and to their human form…”
Laivien consulted Kartius for her next words.
“When they reach the level of the man you saw coming out from the second Savage Cave. As to what his level of cultivation should be, we will get to it later”.
“Master”, Zax raised his voice, he had something in mind which boggled him. “If the Chaoyue class is the highest, what other than intelligent it has that superior to beasts of the other two classes? They, you said, are faster cultivators…”
“Beasts’ cultivation speed is relative to the beast form… a Shenghuo that cultivated beyond the Core Master level and a Chaoyue of the same level, generally have the same cultivation speed. Besides intelligent, what makes a Chaoyue beast superior to the other two classes, is our body. In a manner that might be easier for you to understand, the body of a Shenghuo beast is only slightly stronger than that of a human at the same level of cultivation, while the body of a Zhihui beast is a level tougher than that of a Shenghuo’s and a Chaoyue’s body is a level tougher than a Zhihui’s. The purpose of bodily refinement technique is to even to odds between two classes of beasts. Though even as bodily cultivator Chaoyue is to slowest, but the reason which slows the progress is different than the one that slows a mist cultivator”.
“The more superior your body is, the greater your consumption to the refined extract of medicinal plants and other means of bodily cultivation is. And you, Zax, due to the modifications of the Black Core, have gained a body with an even higher consumption than that of a Chaoyue beast, which is why Martial father is ashamed to admit that even I envy a little my Martial son”.
The explanation ended up being a mixed of both Laivien and Kartius words.
“These are the differences between beasts and the prerequisites that enable beasts to change form. The differences between beasts and humans are what come next”. Kartius said and Laivien began to recite.
“Nature cannot be unfair to any of its creations. If beasts possessed strong bodies, great instincts and a stronger connection to nature, than humans possessed a greater insight as cultivators and are not bound by the shackles of natural instinct. This interpreted not just in the frightening cultivation speed of humans, but also in their ability to invent and create numerous cultivation techniques, Martial techniques and formations. This is why every new generation of humans grows faster than the previous one. At birth they are granted the fruits of hard work of their predecessors. In Valgarel it’s much rarer and there are probably less than ten beasts that can compare themselves with humans’ unique properties, big brother is among them!” Last sentence belonged to Kartius.
“However, being fast cultivators and innovative is only one thing. The freedom from their natural instinct is what truly made beast appreciate humans, it is why beasts made the pact with humanity Supreme Rulers to end the war between two species. Zax, beasts rely on humans to pave the way to the world above the surface of the earth!”