Eight days have gone by in a blink of an eye for Zax. After breaking through the Mist Lord level with his soul, with Laivien urging him, he continued to look for more bottlenecks of insight within the pieces of spiritual knowledge.
In those eight days, Zax did not form large combinations, only kept working on small ones of three to five pieces. After such combination was done, Zax inspected it, hoping to find more specks of light.
As luck would have it, eight days were either not enough, or Zax’s subliminal mind possessed only the one bottleneck of insight he already comprehended.
Inside the violet stone.
“Little Zax, come out. Big brother has almost arrived”. Laivien voice resounded within the pitch black world.
This way of communication was something Zax learned about before he started looking for additional bottlenecks. Laivien explained it to him before he split his awareness and sent his inner mind into the violet stone.
One of the valuable functions of the violet stone is that if someone will imbue it with a Soul Sense, the Soul Sense will then get a huge boost, which will allow it to surpass the scope of a Sublime Soul Sense of a third realm expert, and will also give it the distinct ability of a Sublime Soul Sense, to communicate through Soul Sense. This boost, however, is mostly useful to second realm experts, since only a second realm expert will be able to reap this much benefits, while a first realm and a third realm expert would only get a boost to the scope of their Soul Sense.
That being said, Laivien forbade Zax from imbuing his Soul Sense to the violet stone before it would reach the second realm. The reason was the damaged state of the violet stone. If the energies inside it will be disrupted by a weak Soul Sense, then the undulation the violet stone emits to repeal the azure smoky mist might flutter, which will lead to a catastrophic event in the small and special valley…
To avoid such a catastrophe, regardless of how unique it is, Laivien wanted Zax to reach the second realm with his soul, to improve his control over it by at least one step.
Zax retracted his awareness from the violet stone and opened his eyes to meet Laivien’s.
“Did Master cross the azure smoky mist, yet?” Zax asked.
“He entered it in his animalistic form, in a few breaths he will get here”.
Just as Laivien predicted, a fourteen meters tall stag arrived before her and Zax, accompanied by the sounds of heavy hooves strong stomps.
The two cordially welcomed Kartius.
“Ahm”, Kartius nodded and hot air blew out from his nostrils. “Well done, Martial son, you fulfilled your Martial father’s expectations within the giving timespan”.
Kartius praised when he arrived, after a quick appraisal of Zax’s improvement. Still, as glad as he was, a complicated expression appeared on his stag face. The reason was that in his initial inspection of Zax, Kartius discovered that he could not grasp anything. Only when Zax stopped obstructing his Soul Sense did Kartius was able to see the changes in his Martial son.
As far as Zax’s new capabilities with the soul went, only a Beginner phase third level Core Master, if not a Peak phase second level Core Master, would be able to see through him.
“Big brother, little Zax got more surprises for you than you would have imagine, huhuhu”. Laivien said in amusement.
“Little sister, Martial son, one of you should elaborate”. Though he said so, Kartius had an idea of what his Martial son could have achieve, other than the breakthrough, but it was so implausible, he did not dare believe it without confirmation from either of the two.
“Huhuhu!” Laivien laughed. “Listen to this, big brother”, she said and began to retell everything she and Zax talked about eight days ago.
“Martial son, is it true?!” After hearing it all Kartius felt his head going dizzy.
To have the six bottlenecks of insight, coincidentally, locked in his subliminal mind… Kartius immediately thought of the Black Core and the entity Zax glimpsed upon the day he found the Black Core. ‘What kind of messed up benevolent heart this being had, to leave so much fortune to only one person?!’ Kartius secretly thought. ‘Or was it looking for an heir?’ He speculated.
Whatever was the truth, Kartius did not intend to share his thoughts with anyone. As long as the answers were out of reach, he did not want the questions to impede the cultivation of his Martial son.
“Yes, Master, but ever since then, although only eight days had passed, I wasn’t able to find anything like the speck of light from before”. Zax said.
‘So it’s possible that only one bottleneck of insight was perceived from the entity by his subliminal mind…’ Kartius heaved a deep, held up breath. “Then we cannot be certain if you possess more bottlenecks”. He shook his head.
“Never mind. It is not as if it will deteriorate your training regimen whether there were more bottlenecks or just this one. You will proceed as we discussed. Since you already experienced a bottleneck of insight, moreover prematurely, there are no words that I can say to guide you toward the next one, other than keep your mind attentive at the behavior of the dark attribute and the descent of the second bottleneck of insight, in accordance to your first experience”. Kartius admitted resignedly. Now that his Martial son had the revelation of the first bottleneck of insight, any advices he thought to give him before could not be on the same level.
“Yes, Master”. Zax said obediently.
“Good, Martial son”, despite that his Soul Sense was being outrank by his Martial son, Kartius was still given the same respect and obedience from Zax, which made him even more gratified with his Martial son than in the past.
“A month ago I thought to let you use the violet stone to try and perceive the bottlenecks of insight, The method I had in mind is no better than telling you to keep looking for specks of insight in the pieces of spiritual knowledge. Since this way has already proven itself successful, as long as you keep creating only small combinations and not increase the level of your soul beyond the Advanced phase of the Mist Lord level, you may continue to meditate as you were”.
“I understand, Master”. Zax said. Sensing that his Master said everything he had to say about his training, a spark of eagerness reflected in his light brown eyes. “Then, Master, since the month you gave me is over and I achieved quite well, can I go back to Kingdom Earth for a few days?” He asked with unrestrained anticipation.
“Mmm”, Kartius nodded. “You are granted my premission”.
“Thank you, Master!” Zax felt his body shaking in restlessness. The desires he left in a corner in his sea of consciousness started shivering as well. Although he was only given four days, he already had an idea of how to spend them to the fullest.
“Hmph, impatient child”, Kartius snorted. “Come on, say goodbye and we will leave. I’ll accompany a portion of the way to Kingdom Earth. Us, Martial father and Martial son, have a few things to discuss together”.
“Goodbye, Laivien, I’ll see you in four days”. Zax hastily said. He was not sure in which pace his Master will choose to accompany him, so he spoke fast to not waste a single second.
Laivien first stared at Kartius with an anxious expression. She looked at him that way the moment he mentioned that he has something to talk about with Zax.
Kartius slightly nudged his head and gave Laivien a meaningful look.
Laivien closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her doe head was directed at Zax. “Little Zax, be sure to have some fun, and don’t be shy around that girl you like. If human girls are anything like female beasts, then you should radiate confidence and strong spirit at all times”. Laivien said. Lowering her head, she knocked Zax’s forehead and rubbed it with the soft white fur on her head.
Laivien’s advice made Zax a little awkward, but her playful approach sooth his mind.
“I’ll tell you how it went when I’ll get back”. Zax promised, before following his Master, through the valley, past the azure smoky mist.
“Master, in your animalistic form you are too conspicuous”. Zax remarked after the two left Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.
“Zax, despite your Martial father’s low cultivation, I’m not as powerless as others would think. Unless it’s an Advanced phase third level Core Master or above and at least a Zhìhuì type beast, let anyone who dare, come!” Kartius roared for the distance forces of his enemies to hear and see which one of them would feel courageous.
It was a bold move, but Kartius had two reasons of acting like that. One was Zax’s remark, as if his Martial son thinks that he can see through his true strength just because he could tell his mist cultivation level and body fitness level.
The other reason was actually a calculated one. The household’s enemies had only four experts that possessed the power to oppress Kartius. The chances for these experts to camp with the forces they sent to monitor the movement of the household were slim to none. If they dare to try, depending on their arrangement, with the three weakest of the four, their chances against his big brother would be seventy-thirty percent wining. But with his and Raroen’s support, the pendulum would balance. And if the strongest of the four experts would leave their tribe to join the other three… well, even if they will win, there would be nothing for them to return to.
“Getting to Kingdom Earth won’t take us a lot of time Martial son, I said that I have something to talk with you about, so slow down for a bit”.
Sighing inwardly, Zax complied with his Master. ‘I guess he would not have bothered to come if it wasn’t something important’. He resigned himself to the situation.
“What is it, Master?”
“Zax”, Kartius tone was onerous. “In the past month things did not go well for our household. Since you became a member of the household and cleared up the first task in your training regimen, if later you may take part in a mission or confront, yet again, our enemies alone, you should know first the roots of the hatred the members of our household have with those wanting to destroy it”.
‘Is Master finally going to tell me what happened in the past that restricted everyone to only two caves?’ Zax wondered.
“Listen carefully, Martial son”, Kartius demanded. “Last I told you that I, big brother and little sister were of the same tribe. Moreover, big brother at the beginning was our Master, but that’s not even the start of everything, merely little sister and mine first encounter with big brother”.
Kartius’s countenance turned blank for a moment, and then grew solemn. “In the Black Horns tribe there is a hierarchy that has been distinguished according to the fur’s color of the tribe’s members. Generally speaking, the fur color is also the indication of the beast’s type in the Black Horns tribe, which helps to identify valuable tribe members before they start cultivating. Black and white fur, the rarest colors of all among the Stag and Doe beasts – the dominant species in the Black Horns tribe – were the signature of a Chaoyue type. Stags or does with gray, silver or red fur were always born as Zhìhuì type beast. And brown fur… regardless of the species in the Black Horns tribe, were always born as Shenghuo type beast”.
“Master”, startled, Zax said. “Are you saying that Grandmaster is of the weakest type of beast?!” It sounded farfetched to even ask. After constantly hearing his Master praise Grandmaster Kartion and after meeting him, the last impression Zax got from him was of someone who was inferior. It was much more to the opposite; Grandmaster Kartius had a lofty, one of a kind glow.
“Martial son, that indeed what many thought, for a long time, until big brother started cultivating. As a Brown Stag no one even noticed big brother before he reach the Core Breaker level. Shenghuo type beasts in the Core Breaker level continue to cultivate in their human form, since in doing so the path of cultivation becomes even wider for them. Big brother attracted the attention of elders and seniors. He trained in his animalistic form, yet was still gaining insights and breakthrough quite fast and in spars was no weaker than Zhìhuì and even the few Chaoyue he had the opportunity to challenge!“
“Martial son, you can’t imagine the reaction of a tribe when the weakest type of beast it has beat the strongest type when they both have equal level of cultivation. Honestly, I have not been born, at the time, but knowing the temperament of the elders…” Kartius sighed. If he could go back in time, he would really want to see the faces of the elders and everyone convulse in disbelief.
“The elders and tribe leaders were not fools. They easily could tell that the impossible has happened. That a brown fur Chaoyue beast was born and one with extreme talents on the Martial path”.
“This should be a reason for celebration”. Zax commented with a big smile. Grandmaster Kartion’s past was without a doubt, an exhilarating story.
“The birth of a Chaoyue type beast in a tribe is indeed a wonderful reason for celebration. However, big brother was an anomaly that undermined the already set hierarchy. For a Brown Stage to suddenly surpass in statue the gray, silver and red stags and does, which of them was willing to accept? In the Black Horns tribe, only those with black and white fur the privilege to look down on everyone as Chaoyue beasts. There was never a gray, silver or red fur Chaoyue. If a brown fur stage or doe will be put on the same level as black and white fur stags and does, they could oppress the gray, silver and red stags and does for treating those with brown fur poorly. You understand, Martial son, while for some big brother was nothing less than a cause for celebration, for others with a higher position he was an unacceptable threat”.
“In the Black Horns tribe Grandmaster’s existence was received with controversies”. Zax said in a low and pensive voice, the bright smile was no longer visible.
“And the one who sought to eliminate big brother the most, was none other than the tribe second leader. Back then an Advanced phase third level Core Master, a Red Stag, referred to in the Black Horns tribe as ‘Lord Kardelion’. As a Zhìhuì type beast, Kardelion resented big brother for trampling his place in the tribe’s hierarchy and wanted to kill him with the excuse that his existence will destroy the social convention the tribe was built upon. He claimed that the brown furs, the majority of the tribe yet the weakest faction, will forget their place and revolt. Kardelion came with these accusations to the first tribe leader, at the time an Advanced phase second level Core Master, a Black Stag, Lord Karns. Your Master’s father, Martial son”.
“Master and Laivien…!” Zax almost missed a step and fell on his face while traversing the wild vista of Valgarel with his Master.
Kartius did not respond to Zax’s reaction and continue with a frown. “Karns was also not fond with the appearance of a brown fur Chaoyue type beast in the tribe. Where the source of Kardelion’s animosity was the fear of being surpassed by someone lower than him, Karns’s traditional zealotry was not willing to accept someone who might shake the tribe’s foundations. That being said, while Kardelion wanted to just kill and forget big brother, Karns was a little bit moved by big brother Martial talent and brilliance, which aroused disagreement between the two leaders. Eventually, since they were both equal in terms of battle power, the two reached a compromise”.
“Summoning big brother, who was detained a short while after being discovered as a Brown Stage Chaoyue type beast, Karns and Kardelion offered him two choices. One was, naturally, death. The second was to invest himself in using his talents to improve the tribe’s cultivation techniques, in addition to always being have to to maintain his cultivation a full realm below the two leaders”. Kartius looked at his Martial son and for an instance Zax could see a glimpse of shame on his face for being related to one of the two leaders. “The despicable duo forced big brother into a corner. As a Core Breaker Mist User he could not even think of retaliating against the two. He accepted the second choice”.
“Big brother remained in Karns’s residence in the tribe and under relentless watch raised his cultivation slowly, while trying to improve the tribe’s cultivation techniques. That was big brother daily routine for nearly three decades until little sister and I were born”.