Book 4 – Conflict, Chapter 18 – A Few Hours

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“Now, now, now, now”, it was Don who reacted to Zax’s apology. She got up from her tall backrest chair and proceeded to stand beside Zetsa. “If you understand, than it is good enough to settle this issue here”. With one hand one Zax’s shoulder and the other on Zetsa’s, Don was slightly taller than the two and gave the impression of a mother placating her children.

“Zetsa?” Don asked for her response.

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“I said… all I had to say”. The tears stopped falling and Zetsa wiped the two salty trails from her cheeks. Her hand reached for Zax’s and she made him turn with her to face Don.

“Thank you for taking care of us, Don Ram”. Zetsa bowed her head and Zax followed suit.

“I’m sorry for the way I’ve been when I barged into the school and I’m sorry for offending you, Don Ram, the vice principal and the students who tried to calm me”. Zax added. He did not want for his big sister to bear the apology for his misconducts, so he bowed his head a bit lower.

“You, two, are exaggerating, hahaha”, Don chuckled and shoved the siblings to straighten their backs. “Conventionalisms are unneeded in present company, hahaha… Young girl Zetsa, you waited patiently for two days so that young Zax could heal himself entirely. It seems to me that you should not prolong your matters over in Valgarel…”

From Don’s manner of speech and choice of words, it sounded as if another issue, far more pressing than the previous one with the Dernalder family, was taking place in Valgarel and somehow, although it had been related to Zetsa, Don was also in on it.

“Yes, Don Ram”, Zetsa nodded. “We will take our leave for the time being. I’ll remember what we talked about and give you an answer when things will be less erratic”.

“Very well”. Don said contentedly. She accompanied Zax and Zetsa several steps and opened the office’s door for them. “Wait for him to become placid, regardless of what we talked, that should be your first priority”.

“We are good”. Zetsa reassured Zax as they made their way back to cave twenty five. Zax did not say something to make her feel the need to confirm, but from his timid behavior Zetsa said so anyway.

The two departed from Eden Formation immediately after Don saw them out of her office.

Zetsa insisted that they should get back in a hurry, mentioning that the appointed three years’ time had passed and they should not make her Master wait any longer needlessly. “A certain pressing issue requires us to depart as early as possible”.

“Is it impossible to wait one more day?” Zax asked. In about one week time so much had happened and the important matters he wanted to attend to, ended up being on hold. Zax knew that it would be brazen of him to ask, but for the chance of reconciling with his old friends, for letting Anet know personally that he kept his word, he dared ask.

“Are you really fully healed?” Zetsa did not pay heed to his question and disregarded it all together as she changed the subject with her own question.

“Yes”.

“Then let’s pick up the pace”. Zetsa said and pondered for a second. “You’ll have the chance to say goodbye to mom, dad and Liz. Besides, if Master will approve of you, which he most certainly would, you will be able to return after a few days”.

The first sentence made Zax a bit sullen. After hearing the second sentence he was relieved. Suddenly a half mischievous half curious thought came to his mind. “Big sis, you know, Eden Formation has for a superintendent a third realm expert”. He said, wanting to break the seriousness in her tone.

“I know”. To his surprise, Zetsa’s respond was imperturbable. “I met senior Ten when you were brought to the Rehabilitation Room. It’s better if you don’t mention him or the Rehabilitation Room casually in front of others. Expert of his caliber are best to refer to only when it’s appropriate, you can’t tell what kind of powers they have…”

“Oh…” Zax took it as another lesson he should remember. “That old man was scary…” He confessed.

“Terrifying”. Zetsa also admitted.

The brother and sister duo reminisced to when they met superintendent Ten and sighed simultaneously. They continued on their varied path as the tips of their shoes touched rooftops, sidewalks, commercial boards and so on… Much like two tender but inexorable gusts of winds they WHOOSHED back home.

The apartment’s door of the Zel’s residence opened.

On the living room’s couch three figures were situated, Zax’s parents along with a tanned man who had short blond hair and was wearing a blue jumpsuit. Zetsa walked in without delay, but when Zax followed her inside, a look of astonishment adorned his face. The blue jumpsuit man, right in front of his parents, was holding his baby sister, Liz, and imbued azure mist energy into her little body.

‘What the heck!’ Zax could not understand what the man was doing, why his parents let a stranger hold their daughter and use his mist energy on and in her frail body. If it was not for Zetsa’s still demeanor, Zax would have demanded some sort of explanation the instant his eyes laid on the blue jumpsuit man. Instead, with a frown, Zax released his Soul Sense and decided to first carefully inspect what the mist energy of the blue jumpsuit man was doing to his little sister. Afterwards, alongside the expectation that nothing bad is being done to his little sister, questions like who the man was, what business a Core Master has in his home and so on… will follow.

“You are…” The moment Zax caught glimpse of the energy signature of the man’s mist energy, a sudden sense of familiarity resurfaced in his mind and a few connections were made. “Elder Martial brother Tularg!” Unbelievable as it was, the blue jumpsuit man was none other than the nearly four meters tall, jaguar head, humanoid beast that he had the pleasure to meet and recognize as his Martial brother only once, the Dotted Jaguar Tularg, or more precisely, Tularg’s two meters tall human form.

At the same time as he recognized Tularg, who apparently had a breakthrough in his training, Zax also found out what Tularg’s mist energy was doing to Liz. In a remarkable way, Tularg’s mist energy swirled inside of Liz’s Qi channels, expending them and reconstructing them little by little. Also, the mist energy that engulfed Liz, refined her skin, bones and internals.

“Amazing!” Zax exclaimed.

“Zetsa, Zax”, Marco and Laylen called in delight a step slower than Zax’s reaction. They got up from the couch, leaving Liz in Tularg’s hands. They both had a fond expression in their eyes when they saw Zax’s haircut.

“Martial brother Tularg, you should not have troubled yourself”. Zetsa said with a hint of worry in her tone. Other than Tularg himself, she was the only one to understand best the significance of his actions and the implication they will carry for a temporary, yet not short, passage of time.

“Zetsa, young man Tularg is wonderful”, Laylen interrupted, clapping her hands and smiling. “Since you left he helped around the house and took care of Liz. It’s simply wonderful. Liz in his hands is so calm and peaceful. She even smiled a few times!”

“Indeed, Zetsa”, Marco confirmed, welcoming her and Zax with a hug, though he and his wife did not see them for quite a while, especially Zax, the two were accustomed to their children indeterminate leaves and consumed with the current benevolence that Tularg, a Core Master, had showed them. “This fellow is so young and already a true expert! Last night, he asked mine and mom’s permission to bless Liz and it has been more than half a day and just look how comfortable and soothing beloved Liz is in his hands, hahaha!”

Though a Core Master who circulates his mist energy through a baby may seem odd and unheard of, common people such as Marco and Laylen would not think to question his actions.

“Ah!” A gleeful moan escaped Liz’s small mouth, like a tiny laugh.

“Honey, hurry! Liz is smiling, she is laughing, she is laughing!” Laylen urged Marco and he, right away, used his Caller to record the memorable event.

“Sigh…” Zetsa released a long breath. She looked at her astir parents and then at her baby sister and her Martial brother. What he was giving was indeed a brilliant boon, but with that, her parents’ hopes for a normal child, that is, not a monstrous cultivation freak, would go down the drain.

“Zax”, Zetsa turned to him. “Seven to eight hours, that’s how long it’d take Martial brother Tularg to finish. Anet is at school. I’m not sure about the rest of your friends… Go, you have exactly seven hours to see whoever you want and return”.

With Tulrag delaying them, Zetsa could not press Zax anymore to go meet her Master with her. She took the initiative to hold the door open for him and pushed his back out.

When Zax left the apartment building his parents lived in, he immediately hastened his way back to Eden Formation. Without a doubt, the person he chose to meet was Anet. It was not that he favored her over his other old friends… he did not think that he did.

‘To reconcile with the other’, Zax though, ‘will probably take more than the time big sis gave me. I’m also not sure where I can find them without looking up first the locations of their schools’.

Thus, his choice could only be to return to Eden Formation. Nevertheless, with going and returning from Eden Formation, the span of time he could spend with Anet will mostly be enough for a short leisure talk. Now that the Dernalder family issue is mostly behind them, Zax could only afford the time to let Anet know that never in her life she should feel scared again from Binjo and his family, and hopefully, that would make her mental scars fade a little faster.

“Dark shades uniforms! An Advanced grade students!” One of the guarding students at the school gate called out in surprise.

With that, Zax did not even need to bother to open the gate himself. The six students opened the school gate with veneration in their eyes.

‘Wearing this uniform feels weird’. Zax thought.

It was not that the school uniform were uncomfortable, actually, they were made from precious materials and felt just like a second layer of skin. It was the conformity that they represented and demanded from those who wore them to uphold, that Zax felt odd bearing. The foundation of his Martial path solidified in Valgarel, there, no one dictated that he should follow any sort of regulations. Training was all that matter.

‘But they sure can be useful…’ Zax had to admit and turn to the six students. “Do any of you know where I can find a girl named Anet Lensi?”

“Senior”, a short girl with combed hair lowered her head a little when she replied. “Anet was a student in my class. You might did not take notice because it only happen recently, but Anet was transferred to senior’s Advanced grade building. That is all that I know”.

“Thank you”. Zax said. In one step his figure vanished from the gazes of the six students.

“So fast…” The six were left awestruck.

‘This Advanced grade building is the same’. Zax frowned when an invisible formation limited his Soul Sense in the Advanced grade building’s ground floor. Still, he could not help but be enticed by the sumptuous interior of the ground floor. It was similar to the acceptance hall of a five stars hotel, which Zax was able to see only in movies.

To his right were two elevators and behind them a staircase. To his left was the reception with a young beautiful woman behind a counter, wearing white suit with a short skirt.

Amidst the ground floor was a resting place with couple of large seats and an enclosed miniature frost garden between them. A curious perceptive person would have notice that the miniature frost garden aerated the air in the ground floor, which in turn had an elevating effect on the soul of those who breathed it.

Zax turned to the young receptionist. Before he entered the Advanced grade building she was absorbed in meditation, when he crossed the threshold of the entrance, Zax noticed her withdrawing from the meditative state. The young receptionist had the cultivation of a Beginner phase Mist Lord.

“How may I help you…” It took a single breath time for the young receptionist to recollect the faces of all the students in the Advanced grade building. When Zax’s face did not come to her mind, a latest confidential document that the young receptionist received, appear instead. “Zax”.

Zax had a pondering expression on his face. He wondered how the woman knew his name. Quickly, though, he had a few ideas when he considered the clothes he wore, where he was and his concise history with the school.

“I’m looking for Anet Lensi”. Zax said.

“Fourth floor, second class”. The young receptionist said without the need to check the Screen of her smart desk behind the counter.

Zax nodded and was about to turn when the young receptionist finished musing over something and amiably said to him. “Would you like me to summon her?”

“If it’s possible”. Zax answered. He did not want to awkwardly intrude to Anet’s class, so the young receptionist’s suggestion was appreciatively accepted.

Couple of minutes later, Anet stepped out from one of the two elevators and from the corner of her eyes, caught a glimpse of Zax standing beside the miniature frost garden.

“Zax”, Anet could not contain her voice, but manage to maintain sensibility and control the tone in which she spoke. “You… got a haircut and enrolled to the school?” Once she noticed his trimmed hair and clothes, her rosy lips stretched to an exited smile and her eyes sparkled.

Zax smiled. She looked better than he thought she would be. He signaled her to come over and sit with him before answering her questions.

‘Eh!’ A certain sensation assaulted Zax when Anet rushed to him. The last time he saw her, her slender hands clinging to his shoulders from behind, her body pressed against his with the intention to let go only on her terms. Zax felt heat accumulating in his head and his short hair perked up.

Seeing his red face and the half step back that he took, at first, Anet was confused, but as the look in his eyes became clear to her, her body halted five feet from Zax as if she mirrored his reaction. Rather than having the same recollection, her sharp feminine intuition alerted her to his thoughts and what she might feel in return buy have yet to deeply consider.

Seeing the two teenagers at odds with each other, the receptionist chuckled to herself and got up from her seat. Golden aura emerged from her high heels and she elegantly crossed the distance between her and the two teenagers.

“If you’ll patiently wait a moment, I’ll serve you something to drink”. She said with a soft smile. Her voice awakened Zax and Anet from the sudden stillness and the two turned to her simultaneously with approval and a certain level of gratitude.

“Well then, please sit and I’ll return shortly”. The young receptionist said and with that, the restraining ice broke.

“You are wearing the school uniforms”. Anet repeated in moderation. Both she and Zax were still shaken from the insight to the inner secret of their hearts.

The young receptionist coerced them to sit on the same large seat, close to each other, close enough for their kneecaps to touch and make the atmosphere more embarrassing.

‘I love her, don’t I?’ Zax did not seek an answer, but finally acknowledged what he feels and confessed these feelings to himself. Now, although still reserved, he felt the perplexing spark inside him, which existed since the first moment his saw Anet after his arrival from Valgarel and till now, turning into an invigorating flame.

“No, I did not enroll the school”. Zax said. “As to why I’m wearing the school uniforms, I got them after I kept my word for you, Anet, and made sure no one of the Dernalder family will never bother you again”. His speech was firm and his eyes shown assertiveness.

“The Dernalder family, it’s in ruin, Zax, are you telling me it’s all because of you?!” Anet leaned back, dumbstruck.

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The current state of the Dernalder family was known to nearly everyone in Kingdom Earth. But as of now, not all the details were released to the general public. By now Anet knew that neither Binjo nor his brother will harm her ever again, and she never forget Zax’s promised to her, but the idea of someone her age surpassing a figure like the Dernalder founder was like a dream she could not even entertain.

“Don’t underestimate me”. Zax said while shyly smiling. He then began to recount what he did after he left her house that day, his training, his return and visit to the Dernalder family, his demands and their reply. Obviously, he omitted the really gory stuff, but gave a well defined picture of the length he went through to exterminate the pillars of this vile family. He did so not to move Anet, but to reveal to her the part of him that was groomed in Valgarel, the determined savage part she would have to accept if she ever decide to love him back.

As he spoke, the young receptionist returned with two bottles of soda and left without saying a word when she saw the two talking and listening attentively.

Anet’s response was not unequivocal. Some of the stuff Zax said made her shiver, some made her worry, others made her unknowingly grasp his hand and some stuff made her a little frightened from Zax’s concept of killing without remorse.

A mixture of many thoughts and feeling reflected on Anet’s face when Zax finished talking. Meanwhile, it was about time for Zax to leave.

“Anet”, he called by her name to get her attention and stood up. “I need to go again. I’m not sure how soon I will return, a few days, a week, two weeks…” He saw some anxiety in her eyes and his voice sank.

Last time she did not let him go without first holding him, hugging him? Now, the vibe he got from her was something of the other side of the spectrum compared to their previews separation. It pained him.

“Goodbye”. Without waiting for her to send him off, he left, as if fleeting from her unvoiced rejection.

“Zax…” It was too late for him to hear the quiver in her voice.

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