Panting, Zax stared back at the two. Oddly enough, the outburst and exhaustion cleanse his mind from the overbearing rage, and from his physical state he could tell that not much energy was left for him to fight, much less to use the Kinetic Force a second time.
‘Topple the building… How pathetic I am’. Vexed, Zax scorned himself for being audacious when he could not back his words. If the matter did not concern Anet, he would have also felt humiliated. But since the mortification done to Anet was far more infuriating than his misplaced vanity, he could not feel an ounce of a self absorbed emotion like humiliation.
Gripping his amputated shoulder, Zax began to assess the situation, what he can do and what he should do.
‘This is too one sided… Being at the sixth gate alone is not enough! The Beginner phase of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers also useless… Her mist energy is at the same level of cultivation as Master’s!’
From the not so far distance that separated them, the school principal straightened her uniforms. “Was it worth it? Losing an arm?” She asked gravely.
“That…” Zax steadied his breath. “Is only temporary!” He already sensed his body starting the slow convalescence process.
From his words and confident manner, the school principal and Mizuri caught that small insight Zax imparted into his bodily refinement technique and the pitying looks of the two changed to sheer astonishment. ‘Regrow limbs!’ The two thought the same thing. To their knowledge, not even humanity’s sole bodily cultivator was able of doing that!
Tightening his hold on the wound and mildly swaying to redirect the blood flow and stop the bleeding, Zax continued saying to strengthen his shaken position. “If to kill that b*****d Binjo, for what he and his b*****d brother did to Anet, all I have to become is stronger than you, then just wait!” This was his way of assuring the school principal of his future come back and hinting her not to be partial. He phrased it like this so the school principal will keep to herself what she learned of him, so it would not be tracked back to his family.
‘So this matter and the Derneldar are related…’ Hearing Anet’s name, the school principal finally had this youth’s, Zax’s, behavior and sudden appearance solved. ‘Who knew such a prodigy was hovering around one of my students…!’
“Anet Lensi, an Intermediate grade student. She stopped coming to school three months and twelve days ago. A teacher was sent to her house in cave twenty five, but she refused to see and talk to him. If you are here on her behalf, all the more reason me and you should stop fighting”. She did not say anything about treating his arm, she already noticed that the bleeding stopped.
Zax was reluctant to resign, but he could not surpass the school principal either. “Very well”, he said and loosened up.
Seeing how his body movement reflected his change in temperament, the school principal had a gratified smile. “Good, wise and talented-” She praised.
“Then I’ll take my leave and return in a short while, stronger than you and the Derneldar founder”. Zax said and utilized the rest of his strength to hastily depart.
Zax swift departure left Eden Formation’s school principal dumbstruck. She could chase after him. With her Soul Sense she could pinpoint his location to compensate for her lower speed. But if Zax would have managed to slip through the reach of her Soul Sense, for running after him, he without a doubt will develop a rancor toward her and that will bring to a wrack her unwavering desire to roll him and his bodily refinement technique in.
It could be said, that by letting him go he was already circling her hook.
‘What a troublesome monster…’ The school principal sighed. Evidently, Zax’s declaration did catch her off guard. His confidence was not seen in her eyes as foolhardy. Considering his cultivation technique, she was sure he did not spout nonsense due to the spur of the moment and was not looking the type.
The school principal turned her visage to her vice principal.
“Now, how should we proceed to conclude this incident with the incommodious Derneldar…?”
Back in the school’s gate, the six youths did not even distinguish Zax’s prompt exit. To be honest, even if they could perceive his level of speed, five of the six were too busy feeling sorry for themselves, with the one exception being the experimenting youth which was eagerly and quietly training. How could they not be aware of the tempest that passed through the school and on their shift? Even without knowing the specifics, they could still hear Zax and the explosions from the direction of the three grades buildings. Furthermore, the school’s gate needed new hinges and someone had to inform the school’s scary superintendent.
“Last one to raise his hand has to-” Barnard thought of an easy way to choose who will go to the superintendent. Regrettably, mentioning the word “hand”, the other five, including the experimenting youth, raised theirs before he had the chance to finish the sentence.
“Stay and keep guard at the gate…?”
‘Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!’
Zax was going back, retreating, at full speed. More than for his loss, he was frustrated for not keeping his word to Anet and that his opponent was lenient on him.
Several caves after cave two, Zax reached a cessation in an alley between two large buildings. Clotheslines stretched between the two buildings and from one of them he picked a long sleeves jacket that was still wet. He wore it to hide the gruesome wound in his left shoulder.
‘No! What I’m doing is running’. After the initial apprehension, Zax took a deep breath and calmed himself. It was easier now that he exhausted his rage against the school principal. Unless he delved into the vengeance that he failed to inflict, he could maintain a comprehensive mind.
‘I was rush and arrogant, Master told me what my limit is. Instead of getting angry for not being strong enough, I should work around it following the quickest way I currently have. But… even if I’ll succeed in killing Binjo and his brother, would Anet be fine with it? What they did to her…’ The scars on her back flashed before his eye and Zax fought to quell his anger. ‘One thing at a time, one thing at a time… I really am too weak for doing more’. He said to himself. ‘To eradicate those who harmed her, I first need to become stronger. Grasping the method to utilize the Kinetic Force wherever, whenever should be my goal. Healing Anet… there must be away!’
Though he stated decisively, Zax was not entirely sure. Even if Anet will train in a bodily refinement technique and reach the level of growing back limbs, her body would only heal to the point that it was when she started training. ‘I should consult with big sis and Master’.
Other than these two things, there was the subject of revealing the cause of his appearance in Eden Formation. Because of his angry chatter the school principal knew that he was related to Anet.
‘Will she side with Binjo or with Anet?’ The thought occupied much of Zax’s mind. If she will side with Binjo then he had put not just Anet and her family in danger, but also his family. ‘But she didn’t chase’. There were three ways to reason the school principal’s decision. The one Zax was most certain about was that she did not chase because she could not keep up with him. If that was the case, then what goes inside her head was still a matter of speculations. The two other reasoning were associated with whom the school principal chose to side.
‘I must resolve this matter quickly!’ Zax made up his mind.
If the school principal sided with Binjo, worst comes to worst, he would ask his Master for help. Zax was not aware of the agreement between two species with regards to the involvement of Core Masters, so if the school principal or the Derneldar founder will come to settle this issue, Kartius’s sense of paternity for his Martial son will be put to the test.
In any outcome other than that, Zax will concentrate on mastering the utilization of the Kinetic Force. By summoning just a bit of it to deflect attacks and accompany one out of three to four punches, Zax believed that as long as his opponent was not faster, he would be able to hold back even a second level Core Master.
‘For now I should go see Anet…’ It was inexplicable, how his heart began to pound just by the notion of seeing her again. However, it was not quite the same to when he left with the presumptuous promise that he made. His was now ushered by concern.
‘Will she be able to trust me?’ Zax pondered. Most important to him was not to lose Anet, the first of his friends that he reconciled with.
“Enter, enter, enter!” Beka hurried Zax after opening the door.
Zax concealed his injury as best as he could. There was no reason for Beka to wonder about his clothing, so on the way back he filled the missing space in the left sleeve with a piece of cardboard and tucked it the jacket’s left pocket. Unless one looked closely or used a Soul Sense, the state of Zax’s left arm was inconspicuous. “Aunty, can I see-”
“Zax!” Anet ran out from the hallway. “You are back, Zax?!” She jumped and hugged him. Her eyes were tearing and snot dripped from her nose.
Zax was perplexed from her behavior. It was not the Anet he left. She cried and was emotional, yet it was not pain that she transmitted to him, but was brimming with relief. ‘She thinks that I dealt with Binjo and his brother…’ Zax thought. He did not want to let her go, but he also did not want to deceive her.
“Anet”, he pushed her gently. “I-”
“It will be fine, Zax, it will be fine… The school principal gave me her word”. Anet said trembling. Her dark white aura emanated and fluttered soothingly.
“What?” Zax bewildered. It has been hours since he left Eden Formation, if the school principal made her mind to support their side against the vile Derneldars and wanted to let him know, a quick call – which is how he thought the school principal contacted Anet – indeed was sufficient in doing so, but for it to actually happen so fast and so conveniently… “Explain from the start”. Zax asked of Anet.
Anet took Zax to her room.
When her feelings were in disarray, Anet’s emotional state was emanated in small dosages through her aura and as an Advanced phase Core Breaker it affected the usually subtle environmental essence of her home. Now, differ from his previous visit, the gloomy environmental essence that lingered in the room was gradually waning.
After the Savage Cave, Zax stopped paying particular attention to it, but much like a Core Master and due to his unique soul, he could tell the changes in the environmental essence even without using his Soul Sense.
The two sat on Anet’s bed and truth to be told, Zax was more embarrassed than she was. Three years could transform a close relationship, but what they had, Zax, Anet, Serah and Dane, especially, been a bond forged by their tears and affection. Put aside Zax, the rest of his friends also did not see each other that often due to their school’s odd off days. The differences with Zax were his premature and forlorn leave and his lack of contact. To Anet, having one of her closest friend come back in a time of distress, moreover, one that she had a sense of similarity to, had extinguished any reservation and suspense from her heart.
“The school principal, principal Ram, she called my house couple of hours ago. Mom talked to her and then I… We did not talk for long. She asked if I will meet if she would come to my home and said that I have nothing to be afraid of. She admitted that she was not keen on details, but she said that she is partly aware of why I did not come to school and because of whom and that the school has my back, no one will hurt my family if I’ll reveal what happened”. Anet expressed a mix of emotions, excitement, liberation, gratitude and pain. Clearly, despite getting the long awaited support she deserved, the wounds Anet bore were much deeper than what she presented externally.
‘That’s good’. Zax mused. If the school principal of Eden Formation, the number one school in El-Eden, will also take upon herself to handle any involvement from the Derneldar family or their founder over his hostile demeanor toward Binjo, then for the time being he would not need to worry about anyone searching for him. Moreover, by learning who he is, the Derneldar might connect him to Anet, and that would only hinder the school principal’s intentions.
‘Next time I should apologize…’ He realized, and not only to the school principal, but to the vice principal and the Disciplinary Class, as well. As for the six youth… he did not wronged them. They said that they will guide him if he will open the gate and he did.
‘But it was worth it. Now I’m more versed with what human experts are capable. If the Derneldar founder’s cultivation is about the same as the school principal’s, than this can be the threshold I should surpass before killing Binjo and his brother’. Yes, Zax was pleased with the school principal, but he believed that she will not kill or seek to kill the two bustards and for him any other sentence other than death was not good enough.
“Was it you, Zax?” Anet asked. She cut the flow of his thoughts, but he did not mind. Also, only a second or two passed since she finished explaining. To her, who was using her outer mind, it was nothing compared to him, who contemplated in his inner mind. ”But how is it possible, did you, by any chance, ask big sis Zetsa to talk with Principal Ram?”
‘So that’s what she thinks…’ Zax understood. In her level, Anet’s Soul Sense could not probe Zax’s body without his consent. There was no way for her to know his body fitness level or current state. And if she assumed anything, as far as she knew, Zax specialty and only aspect that he could surpass her with and cultivate was his soul. ‘She was thinking that I’ll seek help from big sis…’ It somehow made him disappointed. He wanted Anet to see him as someone reliable on his own.
“I went there myself”. Zax said firmly. His level of cultivation and method were not a secret anyway. ”I’m a bodi-”
“You are really amazing, Zax”. Anet pulled up her knees up and said with a soft smile. “In fact, I saw you when you left. You disappeared so fast that I wasn’t able to follow with my eyes, but now I believe it”. When he left, Zax was fuming. Consequently, he did not notice when Anet opened the living room’s window to stop him.
“Not only did you fix your Qi channels, you also broke through the Mist Master’s bottleneck… you were always so amazing, Zax”. Her eyes squinted as if she daydreamed. After the school principal’s call, Anet felt like a certain weight was lifted from her shoulders, liberating her from a portion of the nightmare. And since the affair with Binjo and his brother, she did not casually talk with anyone. In this moment, Zax became the first in a long time.
“Am I?” Seeing her smile made Zax a little laidback in his attitude. He was not able to assess his feelings for her. It was new to him, this sort of sudden affection toward another person which was both overbearing and compelling.
“Mm”. Anet nodded.
“I don’t think so”. Knowing how vast the contribution of the Black Core was, and still is, to his cultivation, Zax deemed it as what was praiseworthy. “You can’t tell because my soul is stronger than yours, but my Qi channels actually had yet to unclog”.
“They aren’t?” Anet was surprised. “But you moved so fast…”
“It’s because I’m training in a bodily refinement technique”.
“You what?!” Anet blinked at him completely stunned. Regardless of how she had been in the past months, as a Martial cultivator of the best Martial school in El-Eden, how could she not be aware of the significance of bodily refinement techniques in comparison to mist refinement techniques?
Take for example that solitary human expert who developed his own bodily refinement technique. There was not much known about the method behind his technique, but top tier Martial schools taught that according to sealed reports with regards to all three known bodily refinement techniques in New Earth, the one of the solitary expert from Kingdom Earth, is of the lowest quality and yet still comparable in the strength it supplies to its practitioner to a top mist refinement technique!
“That’s what I left to learn”. Zax said.
“Yes you are”. Anet answered to his self rhetorical query. “You are amazing”. There was not even a question of believing him or not.
“Well, I think that you are even more amazing. In three years your cultivation speed nearly reached to Mist Master level. As for me… there were other things involve…” It was not just Anet that left him in awe. The other students of her school were also amazing cultivators. It did not occur to Zax that great Martial schools like Eden Formation had top tier cultivation techniques and resources to supplement the mist and soul, like the Blood Red Grapes and the herbs he used.
“Anet”, Zax assertively grabbed her hand. “I’m sorry! I’m still not strong enough to make them pay for what they have done!” It bothered him that he could not keep his word. That trash like Binjo and his brother are out of his reach.
“Zax…” Anet pulled her hand hesitantly. His unexpected confession tainted the mood. ‘Why did he have to bring them up?’ she was thinking. “You are wrong, Zax. You already did so much. I… I… I was too afraid to involve principal Ram. He warned me… But you did it for me and now principal Ram promised to help me. You don’t need to do anymore, promise me you won’t!” Anet was worried. Zax was not a student of Eden Formation. Principal Ram will not have a reason to help him if he would confront Binjo and his brother and anger the rest of the Derneldar family. As for having big sister Zetsa, Miss Zetsa, the reputable genius expert of cave twenty five, as an elder sister and a practicing a formidable refinement technique… In her mind they were not even secondary to a family like the Derneldar.
“That I can’t, Anet”. Zax got up from her bed and lowered his gaze to her eyes. “Like I can’t stay even if I wanted to”.
“What? Are you saying that you are leaving again?” Anet got up from the bed, anxious. Facing him, she was the one this time to grab his right hand. Fortunately, before she grabbed him, Zax was quick and turned his left side to the door.
Zax sighed. The overbearing feeling in chest boiled. He held Anet’s hand and raised it. It small size was the length that separated their faces. It was difficult to look her in the eyes, but he forced himself. “Only for a short while… I know that with your school principal you are in safe hands. This allows me the time to maybe finish a certain engagement and possibly grow a little stronger… Afterwards, soon, I will come back to fulfill my promise”.
Zax lightly released Anet and stepped back. His body movement was smooth. He turned his back and exited the room.
“Ah?!” A pair of delicate arms reached and clung to his shoulders from behind.
Anet’s body pressed against Zax’s back. “You can’t take long”. Her voice whispered. “Because of me you miss the others, so return soon, okay?”