Zax and Zetsa traversed the wild caves of Valgarel like two gusts of winds.
Zetsa stared wide eyes at Zax. Witnessing how much he evolved as a Martial cultivator, she found it difficult to compare him with the little boy that she left with her Martial uncle. What shocked her most was that even though she ran at her top speed, Zax effortlessly followed next to her.
“Little Zi, you are the first and only apprentice Martial uncle ever accepted. In just three years I can sense that your cultivation in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement has reached the sixth gate. This is unprecedented! What kind of training Martial uncle put you through?!”
Zax had a faint smile on his face but he did not laugh. There were so many things that contributed to his growth and his current achievements, some, though, were painful to reminisce.
“A lot had happened, big sis, but if you want to know I’ll tell you”. Zax said with eyes ahead and a mixed expression of forced elation.
And so he told her every detail of the past three years.
Zetsa’s response was completely flabbergasted, even more intense than Rarahel’s, due to her learning only now that her little brother ventured to the Savage Caves.
“Zax…” Was the one word that sneaked past her lips, more than that nothing came out.
With their speed, the two covered the distance from Zetsa’s Master’s cave to Kingdom Earth’s cave twenty five under ten hours. As the wildness got replaced with residential neighborhoods and the beasts with humans at every turn, Zax’s hearth tightened from how estranged he felt by the scenery.
“You can’t go like this to the hospital”. Zetsa stopped on a roof of some building and said to Zax. Her eyes were pointing at the beast skin garments and the disheveled hair on his head.
“The clothes at home probably no longer fit me and dad’s clothes are still too big. Besides, does it really important?” Zax was used to the way he looked. In Valgarel no one ever judged his sense of fashion. In his point of view, if the clothes were comfortable enough to train in, they were good enough for everything else.
“Our grandparents, family members, mom’s and dad’s friends are in the hospital, so I would say yes. Take this”. Zetsa threw at him a small key. “Go home wash yourself. I’ll go quickly to buy you something proper to wear”.
Zax sighed. On one hand he was still fine with the way he looked, on the other hand, in front of those who knew him and he cared about, he did not want to look like a buffoon.
“Fine”. He said and left home.
Entering the house, Zax had an odd feeling as if the air became thicker and a familiar taste filled his mouth. Urges to fall on the sofa in the living room, to turn on the Screen and his computer, to open the cabinet and take out a snack, bubbled in his stomach. In just a few seconds he acclimated anew to the old environment of his home. Standing at the entrance inspired a sense of tranquility, time, however, was short and he could not allow himself to dwell on the moment.
A quick shower was Zax’s reason for stopping by.
Not long after they parted, Zax finished cleaning and fixing his appearance and Zetsa returned with two clothing bags.
“Hurry”. She told Zax, after helping him cut his hair and handed over the bags.
The figures of the Martial experts, brother and sister, flashed inside the corridors of the hospital, avoiding the people that were waiting or that could hinder them. The two wanted first and foremost to see how their parents, especially their mom, were doing.
Using his Soul Sense, Zax detected many familiar faces, but he and Zetsa did not have the capacity of dealing with them right now. Their mom was in a room with their father, a nurse and a doctor. The way it looked, it seemed as though they were preparing for her to give birth.
“Stop. And stop using your Soul Sense”. Zetsa brought her and Zax’s haste to an end behind a round corridor, not far from the room their parents were in.
Zax understood her intentions, that if suddenly he will appear after three years while his mom gave birth it will startle her and danger the baby. As for canceling his Soul Sense, besides Zax’s interest in whether he is about to get a baby brother or a baby sister, anything that went in that room was too much for him to bear…
“Mom”, Zetsa stepped into the room a minute after her father returned from spreading the great news of the new and healthy baby to the family and friends that hanged around in the waiting area of the floor.
“Sweetheart”, Laylen’s eyes were shining and her face had a distinct glow. She was half sitting half lying on the hospital bed while holding the baby as Marco was leaning by her side.
“Come here, Zetsa, come see your little sister”. Marco waved his in invitation. He, too, had a certain glow of a new father around him.
Seeing her parents so blissful, Zetsa knew for a long time that despite how much she and her little brother were loved by their parents, the couple still longed for a child they could nurturer and raise exemplary without falling short to his or her brilliance.
“A sister?!” Zetsa momentarily froze. Holding herself from going to meet her new sister, she said. “Mom, dad, I’m not alone”.
“Oh, you brought someone with you from the waiting area?” Marco asked.
When Zetsa got the call about her mom and dad going to the hospital, she was in Kingdom Earth, and so quickly arrived to see how they were doing. When the doctor said that even though it is early, they might accelerate the delivery, the last thing Laylen and Marco saw was their daughter, leaving for the waiting area.
In truth, that was when Zetsa decided to bring back her little brother. The doctor gave an estimate time of nineteen to twenty four hours before the birth and it was just enough to bring Zax back.
A minute ago, when Marco informed everyone in the waiting area, his head was with his wife and his newborn daughter. In his excitement he barely looked at those that waited before returning to Laylen and the baby. Because of this, both he and Laylen thought that Zetsa was in the waiting area and asked the nurse’s or doctor’s permission to enter the room alongside someone else, one of their parents, possibly.
“I did, but not from the waiting area”, Zetsa said.
Marco and Laylen seemed confused at first but reading their daughter’s behavior a thought popped in their heads and both, for the sake of the baby, had to restrain their reaction.
“Enter”, Zetsa turned her head and called out.
“Zax!” Marco’s and Laylen’s voices echoed faintly. Abruptly seeing the son they were convinced by their daughter to send away “for his own good”, stimulated their tear gland and streams slid down.
“Mom…” Zax’s gaze was first locked on his mother who was half lying on the hospital bad. “Dad…” He called for the two of them from the entrance of the room. Not a day had passed since he met his big sister after a three years separation, now his parents were before him and what to say, what to do, how to feel… he was too overwhelmed to make up his mind.
“Mom, Dad, I brought Zax back”. Zetsa repeated for their parents to realize that no, it was not a dream. She grabbed Zax hands and brought him closer.
Laylen held the baby and could not get up, but Marco could and he did. “Come here, Zax”. He called calmly.
With his chin down, Zax walked around the hospital bed. His body was stiff, harder to control than in his first days in the first Savage Cave. A hand fell down on his head, a gentle touch as if it was made out of cotton.
Marco rubbed Zax’s head as if to get a sense that his son was really there. When he had enough to satisfy his uncertainties, his hand fell to the back of Zax’s neck and pulled him to his chest.
“I’m sorry”. Zax’s muffled voice broke though the enclosure of his father’s wide structure. His arms wrapped rightly around his father as the aloof child that he was when he left to Valgarel returned to apologize to those he pushed away. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve being, for taking everyone for granted, for isolating myself even from you”. His words meant for everyone, his mom, his dad, his big sister.
In that moment, Zax pressure was a bit stronger, and made his father fall back to the chair that he was sitting on. Zax also fell, but to his knees, sobbing on his father lap.
It was after a certain passage of time that he regained his poised demeanor.
Zax sat on the hospital bed, the room was quiet. With his mother’s help Zetsa passed him their little sister from her hands.
“Have you chosen a name yet?” Zetsa asked.
“We did. We thought of two names, one for a boy and another for a girl”. Marco said.
“Liz, Liz Zel is her name”. Laylen said with a smile.
“Liz…” Zax whispered the names. She was small, too small and fragile. But she slept soundly in his arms, breathing softly with a repetitive sequence and a paced rhythm. Outside she was barely moving, but inside Zax could feel her lungs expanding, could hear heart beating and her blood circulating. She was perfect.
‘Ah!’ Zax’s eyes flung opened. Her little body suddenly sent a shiver through his arms and without prior notice she began to cry.
“Give her to me, honey”. Laylen said. “Honey, give me your little sister”. When Zax did not comply the first time Laylen repeated.
‘Amazing! How a body so small can generate such a reaction from me?’ Zax was rather astonished from the tiny shiver that alerted him moment before Liz, his little sister, started crying. His mind was completely absorbed with the harmony that a baby, not even a day old, had. So much that he was ignorant to his mother’s request.
Finally, Marco took his baby daughter from his son’s hold and Zax awakened form the submerge state of mind, raising his head and questioning his dad.
“Why are you taking her?”
“It’s wonderful that you feel so connected to your little sister that you lose track with the world around you, but your Liz needs her mother now”. Marco replied. “Let’s leave the girls and come see who didn’t go home after my announcement. We stayed too long that whoever stayed probably think that we forgotten about them, also no one will expect to see you”.
“That’s right, Zax, other than mom and dad no one knows yet that you returned. If you feel anxious, better meet everyone early in one go”. Zetsa said.
“Do they know how long I was gone?” Zax asked. “Where I’ve been to…?”
“We told everyone who asked what Zetsa told us and made out the rest…” Marco said, leading Zax outside of the room.
“To get into the subject we had to tell everyone who asked about your Qi channels, but we didn’t elaborate. Everyone recognize your big sister’s talent, so we told them that she has a great Mor that accepted you as a Tal and decided to take you for a three years of secluded soul training. Many big schools allow their students to go home only once to twice a year, so it was not difficult for them to understand. Other than that, the only thing that I and your mom knew and kept to ourselves was that your big sister’s Mor resides in the beasts’ territory”.
‘So that’s the story…’ Zax thought and left the room together with his father.
Grandpa Zal had the loudest reaction when Marco arrived with Zax. Swelling up as if about to burst from exhilaration he actually yelled. “A granddaughter and a grandson in one day! Hahaha!” His boorish laughter made the nurses come over and ask to leave or lower the voices.
Plenty of people were remained in the waiting area. The residents of cave twenty five possessed a strong communal bond and any joyful occasion was a cause for mutual celebration.
The family and friends remembered Zax as the ten or eleven years old boy that they last saw. Now what they saw was a young man waking next to his father with a well built physique and a dauntless demeanor years beyond his age and status. Even if Zax was not in the mood, the atmosphere he fostered in Valgarel and gave off was already an inseparable part of his being, embedded too deeply to remove.
Among everyone, grandpa Zal was the one most interested in Zax’s growth as a cultivator of the soul. He still remembered the shock his grandson gave him a few years back. When he heard about the case of his Qi channels, no one in the family, other than Zetsa, knew more than him what sort of loss it was for a boy so talented. However, then came the news that an expert accepted him as a Tal, and for grandpa Zal, at that time, it provided a peace of mind that there is still someone who has not given up on his grandson.
Zax received the welcome backs, answered some questions, got updated and at a certain point, when the company stopped being so talkative and oppressive, allowed himself to open up.
“Marco, now you have two daughters and one son while I have a two sons and one daughter”, a short stature blond man that came to the hospital with his wife to visit the Zel couple called. “One of my boys already married and the other doesn’t have to spunk to ask Miss Zetsa out. Your son and my daughter, on the other hand, are not far apart in age, she is only older in a year. How about it? Should we tie them together?” The man had a grin on his face.
Although Zax did not reveal his soul level – which had no impression on anyone since people were interested in what goes down in the dantian – or the fact that he practices the legendary method of a bodily refinement technique, for the personal lives of the common people, status as a Mist User meant nothing compared to a matchmaking with a family they were in good terms with. After all, only in stories an expert Mist User will ask for the hand of a girl with low cultivation and a mediocre class.
“What are you talking about, Melik? My son is not even fifteen years of age-” Marco said but then was cut.
“That’s right, Melik, your daughter is too old. Marco, bring your family for a dinner this weekend, my daughter celebrating her fourteenth birthday in two weeks, far more appropriate match to your son!” Another man said.
On his behalf it should be said that apart from his demeanor, Zax grew up to be a fine looking young man. What could be better for these men than a spouse with a steadfast bearing that can take care of their daughters and give them cute grandchildren?
Following the second man, many offers and jokes were thrown on Marco and his flushed son. He thought to surprise his family and friends, but ended up speechless himself.
“Let’s go outside. Mom and dad gonna have a rough night”. Zetsa said.
The family got back from the hospital several hours ago and the Nightly Cover formation had already darkened the bright ceiling of the cave.
Liz’s crib was placed in their parent’s bedroom. The three were currently asleep, but Zetsa experienced the homecoming of one baby and was not fooled by the present tranquility.
The two sat idly on a bench not far from the building.
“How are you feeling?” Zetsa asked Zax.
“I don’t know. Calm, contented, scared…” Zax played with his fingers, cherishing the darkness of the night that was absent in the Essence and Savage Caves he spent nearly all off his time in while in Valgarel.
“Are you thinking of your friends?”
“I think that by morning Serah, through her parents, will be the first to know that you returned. They haven’t been in the hospital, but they called mom…”
“…It doesn’t matter. I need to return for your Master”.
“You can stay a few more days, enough to meet your friends”.
“It won’t be harder than meeting mom and dad. It only seems like it because you already faced them”.
“It almost has been three years. I don’t know where they are, if they have time, if…”
“Here”, She took out her Caller from a pocket in her pants and showed it to Zax. “You know where Serah’s parents are. If she is staying in dorms or sleep at home you can find out by simply calling or going to their home”.
Zax’s hand hovered above the Caller. He did not take it.
“I’ll go to their home tomorrow morning. I’ll catch her or her parents before they’ll leave”.
“Fine. Want me to tell you at least where Take is?”
“In the advanced post Core Martial School, Mist Breaker. It’s here in El-Eden and he is staying in their dorms. I still teach him now and then, but the extended Edomachi family wants him to be taught by the experts in this prestigious school”.
“So what? You are not good enough as a Mor for him anymore?” Zax became a bit cranky.
“He and his parents don’t think so, but the rest of the family do. The Edomachi family is a very exalted high class family. Take and his parents are merely a branch that carries the fruit a little bit farther from the trunk”.
“If they want the support of the main family they don’t have a say in the matter and I don’t blame them. Most certainly, you don’t get to judge them”. Zetsa reproached him.
“Thanks for telling me where he is… I should go see Take, too”. Zax retorted.
“Anything else to talk about?”
“No. Let’s just enjoy the serenity of the night”.