Zax banged his punches against the white and silver mantle of the canines’ formation. He threw tens of kicks and punches since the canines retreated to contain him until reinforcement will arrive.
The mist energy of the canines depleted faster after his attacks and the wave of energy did not have the power anymore the shove Zax back.
“Hold!” The wolf boss commanded the members of his pack.
“Boss, this is too insane!” One of the canines responded.
“Boss, is that boy truly a human?” Another asked.
“It’s beyond what I heard about body refinement techniques!”
“Of course it is!” The wolf boss answered. “This human trains in the most powerful body refinement technique! Now, enough talks! Conserve for the formation!”
Just as the boss wolf finished talking, Zax follow up kick broke through the mantle and hit one of the canines in his rib cage. Crackling sounds came out from the canine’s upper body and blood sprouted from his jaw.
“Spread out!” The wolf boss had no choice. The instant a link in the formation broke the time to repair it was long in comparison to the time it would take for Zax to escape and the cost of mist energy will be spent for nothing.
Zax dashed out of the formation. Turning around he saw the canine he kicked lying on the ground, somehow still conscious. The other canines created a blockage, this time around the cave’s entrance and Zax was in between.
Zax interest in his ability to contend against the canines subsided. “Previously you didn’t let me in, now you don’t let me out”. He was amused.
The wolf boss lowered his stance to what seemed to be preparation for attack or escape and his pack members done the same.
“That’s it for me”. Zax announced, turned his back to the canines and idly strolled into the long tunnel.
The murderous gaze of the wolf boss watched Zax back in fixation. His intention was to stay and wait for reinforcement, even if it meant prolonging this dangerous battle. However if the human boy chose to enter the cave, that will be good as well.
‘How long it will take, we wait for you human, and then let’s see if your body refinement technique can stand against a captain!’
Zax mood was excellent. He had his first real fight and dominated his enemies to the level of his satisfaction – letting out his pent up frustration also contributed for his good mood.
The tunnel was over a kilometer long. For ten minutes Zax simply walked and reviewed in his mind the battle against the canines. What he looked up at was mostly ways to improve his control of the body since he realized that it was correlated to the bodily maneuverers he trained. In the fight his breath and movement were synchronized, roughly on the same level as his proficiency in the bodily maneuverers. The thing that was the problem was the rhythm.
“If it’s that, then I should just keep training in what Master taught me”. Zax reached to the conclusion. The bodily maneuverers and the breathing sequence were harder to execute than the intuitive movements in the battle with the canines, training in them will improve his overall form.
In the remaining seven hundred meter or so of the tunnel, Zax let loose his eagerness of reaching the other side, to the first Savage Cage, and ran the rest of the way.
Stepping out of the tunnel Zax’s mind went blank for a second and in the following moment his body was midway to hit the ground. An invisible force penetrated Zax’s mind and raised tidal waves in his sea of consciousness. Zax felt the force taking over as if it was a part of him that he had no means to fight back, much like the sensation that drove him to the Black Core, multiply by thousands. Agitation built up in his soul and its blurred appearance began to shudder. Immense savagery materialized to the shape of a bubble that encompassed his mind.
“Graah!” Zax cried, barely holding up his awareness. He opened his eyes and saw everything in red. ‘Savage Caves…’ were the only two words his mind could produce. He now understood what made the name so suitable.
“Graah!” Zax’s cry changed to roar. The bloodiness in his eyes augmented the savage desire.
Zax crawled up to his feet. His control of the body felt like he was walking in water. The bones and muscles opposed every move he wanted to make, turning him slow and clumsy. “Grrr!” An irritated growl left Zax’s mouth and he tossed his fur coat. He tried to get a gist of the environmental essence, but his soul sense was confined to the bubble of savagery in his head.
With a soul at level C and the capabilities of a Core Master all that was left within Zax’s power was to keep contact with his actions. Little did Zax know that for anyone else with a soul below the Core Master level, even a minuscule trace of self would not remain.
“Grah!” In an attempt to release himself from the mental shackles of the cave’s savage force, Zax coordinated with the insane savagery and bashed his head and body in the ground and the surrounding rocks and trees. Nothing was sturdy enough to not break or crumble after Zax bashed himself against it, but due to his speed, the moment of impact painfully stung as if he fell twenty storey to a pool of shallow water. Still, it was either go with the flow of savagery to the extreme or to fight with it and achieve nothing.
When he settled down, blood ran down from all over Zax’s body, the wounds, however, were already in the process of healing and closing. Zax sat as if he was meditating, but it was completely the opposite case. Though his body seemed calm, Zax felt his head about to explode. The savagery was overbearing. Zax’s fingers dug into the ground, seeking for something to tear apart. He was no longer in a state of even making up words in his mind. To stay sited took everything he had.
The air inside the first Savage Cave was very hot and humid like the steams in the belly of a volcano. Hundreds degrees high. As a result, sitting steadily as Zax did quickly became intolerable.
It took a day for Zax to get used to the imposing savagery and another day to estimate how much control he had over his body, sixty percent.
The sound of leaves parting came from behind him. Zax opened his eyes and dashed forward as out of the bushes a two meters long green lizard with bulges on its back emerged with the intent to jump him. Its eyes were the same color as Zax’s, blood red. The lizard did not halt when its ambush failed and sprang at Zax, which avoided its first attack by a hair’s breadth.
The lizard burrowed its claws in Zax’s skin, but could not break past it. Its eyes turned redder, it raged and rolled with Zax on the ground as its dark white aura frantically burst out of its body.
‘This lizard is berserk; it completely lost it to the savagery!’ Zax deduced.
Since he was a bodily cultivator his output of strength depended on how much he could generate it from his muscles. With an overall control of the body at sixty percent, the strength that he could use was of even lower percentage!
“Get lost!” Zax kicked the lizard that used the momentum of the kick to jump over a tree and attack him again.
‘How can it be so strong?’ Zax could not understand.
Though he mostly saw red, Zax could still somewhat distinguish colors due to his eyesight improving with the rest of his body. By its color, the lizard was a Peak phase Core Breaker in terms of mist energy. Its soul level, Zax could not sense, but it clearly was not stronger than his. And in terms of bodily cultivation… there was not even a need to mention it.
‘Its power surpassed that of the Core Breaker canines’ by a great margin and even some of the Mist Master!’
The lizard was eccentric and Zax just spent two tiring days to gain partly control of his body.
‘If one more troublesome beast will appear I won’t have the energy to fight it… I must retreat and look for something to nourish my body’.
Zax clashed with the lizard for a bit longer before he managed to break its leg and escape. The lizard, even with broken legs, tried to chase after, but its speed dropped substantially and it could not keep up with Zax.
Anything and everything inside the Savage Cave seemed to emit the color red in more dominantly than the original colors. Zax realized that it was mostly because of his eyes. He picked his fur coat when he escaped from the lizard and neither it nor the color of his skin was supposed to be red. Nonetheless, he looked at himself and at the fur coat and red resided everywhere.
“Fruits!” After running for a while Zax found an accumulation of trees with long branches not far from him. Growing on the branches were oval shaped flowering plants. His stomach rumbled, he was hungry and preferred meat, but was not planning to be picky. He picked up a fruit and bite voraciously.
‘Not delicious but better than nothing’. Zax finished the fruit in five bites. The fruit was bland but had the texture of an apple and was bursting with fluids.
Reaching out for the third oval shaped fruit, something flashed in Zax’s field of vision. Zax hastily moved away from the tree. He caught up to the speed of the creature that moved so fast just as it stopped, clanged to a branch fifty meters or so away from him and locked eyes with him.
‘A person…!’ The creature was actually a human.
Up until Zax noticed him, he moved cautiously from branch to branch, making his ambush. However, that moment it has been discovered a golden savage aura exploded as he launched at Zax and it screamed in a chilling shriek.
“Wait!” Zax cried. A human? Was it really a human? He saw one among the hunters when he journeyed to the cave, and here appeared a second one, a middle age bright skin, and dark hair man in tattered garb.
The man ignored Zax’s plea. He was actually was an Intermediate phase Mist Lord and by the redness of his eyes, his soul completely submerged in the savagery.
The man moved faster and hit stronger than Zax. Lost in savagery, the imposing force of the cave did not impede him and so, even if in normal circumstance Zax could handle an Intermediate Mist Lord, in this current situation he ended up being in a disadvantage.
“Wait!” Zax called out again. His tough body could withstand the attacks of the man so long that they missed his vitals. “Wait!” Even though he evaded and tried to escape, the man obstinately kept coming after him.
Zax knew that it was not the man’s fault, that he was under the savage force, he felt it himself! For that, and because he did not want the hurt a human, Zax held himself from hitting back.
‘There must be a way! There must be a way!’ Zax brainstormed of what he can do to help the man gain his senses. ‘The cave entrance!’ It was several kilometers from them and near the spot where he fought with the green lizard, but nothing else came to his mind.
Zax avoided a punch that raided him for above.
He was struck by a wave of golden mist energy and lost his footing.
The man’s hands were shaped like claws and with his golden fingers he slushed at Zax.
“Stop!” Despite the savagery telling him otherwise, Zax still only defended.
The man was insane, but Zax was not. Moreover, he was human. Zax did not believe that a beast life weighed less than a human’s. But he himself was a human and he grew among humans in an environment where Killing was the most heinous crime. Killing a beast… that he could do, his sister done it, but only for preservation, for food. That was also why he did not kill any of the canines, enemies or not, it was not something that he could bring himself to do.
The man hands waved wildly, leaving golden streaks in the air. No matter what Zax said, the savagery had a greater hold on the man’s mind.
Zax attempted to outrun the man. The cave entrance was his only solution, salvation, and it was not far.
The two collided and their bodies flung on the ground. The bright skin man landed atop of Zax. The man swung his golden claws, penetrated Zax’s fur coat and ripped to shreds. Zax grabbed the second claw that was headed to his throat and was amazed by the force behind it.
‘Is that an Intermediate Mist Lord?!’
Zax’s hand slowly receded, his other hand pushed the man’s face, but the man was thirty centimeters taller than his hundred and seventy centimeters. His hand could only stretch so far and there still was the man’s other arm that clung to his elbow and tried to crush it.
“Grah!” Confronting the mad man that poured his killing intent over him as if it was a raging river, the savagery Zax subsided these past two days, lashed out in a roaring retaliation.
The redness in Zax’s eyes intensified. His left hand squeezed and crushed the right hand that pressed it. His right hand clawed at the bright skin man’s face and the pressure cracked his cheekbones.
The man stayed irrepressible and unbothered by the pain. His golden aura emanated from his body in its maximum potency.
“Grr!” Zax shifted his hand and hurled the man off of him. “Grah!” He wanted to kill, to slice him up, the savagery steered his body and his strength peaked above its level, but his awareness was not entirely lost. “Grah!” Zax soul repressed the savagery, it was within his power, however it took a lot of time and soul energy to finish and the man already recovered his stance.
The internal warfare put Zax once more in a weakened position. The man was coming at him as his aura bolstered his assault and the heads of two golden lions appeared where his hands were.
Zax knew that if he will let go a second time he will truly be submerged by the savagery like the man and the green lizard. His control of the body diminished to fifty percent after the boost from the savage force. It was just like a drug that the more one takes, the ghastliest its aftereffect and the greater its control the next time.
The two tyrannical lion heads were close enough to deliver death decree when Zax instinctively sidestepped using the bodily maneuvers his Master taught him.
His body fluctuated with several after images.
Though the bodily maneuvers were not meant to attack or escape, Zax discovered that while executing the bodily maneuvers, he was able to generate more power and move smoothly. The drawback was that under the climates and mental pressure of the cave, the bodily maneuvers exhausted him twice as fast.
The two lion heads followed Zax, yet either missed or were slapped away. Zax could tell that the longer the battle would be dragged, the more likely he would lose it or lose to the savage force.
‘If I’ll stop the lions will definitely hit me, but this way I’m not moving any closer to the tunnel!’
He completed one cycle of the six sequences and somehow could keep going despite the great amount of energy he was depleting. Zax was baffled over from where this vitality emerged and it would have continued to stupefy him if not for the unavoidable end that will occur the moment he will spent it.
One lion hand exploded and a bloody mess replaced the right hand that made it.
The man cared nothing of his lost hand and splashed his blood as he constantly waved his arm along the remaining lion head.
‘No!’ Zax exclaimed. The struggle of his soul required most of his concentration and his breathing became disoriented, the sequence was broken!
His back was bent and his eyes faced the ground. The golden light of the lone lion head flew in a straight line to his face and all Zax could perceive was the sharpness of its teeth and the sound of its roar.
‘Move! Move! Move!’ Zax shouted in his mind. The power of the strike was similar to that of an Advanced phase Mist Lord and sufficient to shatter his skull!
Due to his unique soul, his inner mind could keep up with the speed of a Core Master, plenty of time to bellow tens of times for his body to… “Move!”
The savage force of the cave rammed the soul energy and dispersed it. A curtain of blood obstructed Zax’s vision. His body dodged and the lion head passed above his head. Zax’s body curved, his right arm arced from the ground and the five fingers of his right hand clenched into a fist.
Zax felt something hard break like an eggshell and small, tough pieces of it along with a hot liquid covering his hand.
The shock of what might have happened reawakened him and a surge of soul energy brought him back to sobriety.
The curtain of blood turned transparent. Zax saw his fist rinsed by a hot liquid and redder than his other hand. He looked to the side. ‘Did he escape?’ He thought that maybe the lion head also got destroyed; together with the bright skin man’s other hand.
Zax watched in disbelief. The man lay dead. And his own hand was covered by the bony pieces of his skull and blood.