“Cultivating this formation is exactly like cultivating the bodily maneuvers!” Zax exclaimed.
In a sense, although Zax just became aware while who knows about his Master, Raroen and Grandmaster Kartion, but the bodily maneuvers were indeed a sort of formation, a bodily formation.
It was even more evident when Zax remembered how he met Susuya and the feat that she displayed to him as they passed the courts with the Beginner grade students, on their way to Don’s office.
That day, the formation the Beginner grade student practiced, Susuya executed with proficiency that far surpassed her peers, yet Zax did no read further, other than thinking that in her age group she was exceptional. Now, though, he saw her feat in a way that backed his suppositions of the bodily maneuver being a bodily formation.
It was as if the formation the Beginner grade students practiced had phases and they all were struggling in the Beginner phase of the formation. On the contrary, Susuya erected the formation per the teacher’s instructions, with no effort at all. For this, one can only presume that Susuya was beyond the Beginner phase of the formation. Here lie the similarities to the bodily maneuvers. To Zax, executing the six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers with accordance to their Beginner phase, was the same as taking a walk, but to someone less proficient it would be nothing short from grueling.
This revelation dawned on Zax and made him feel like his head about to explode from exhilaration. He did not gain a new groundbreaking insight to the bodily maneuvers, no. The essence of what he attained was a better outlook at a method of training he cultivated for several years now, without knowing what it really was.
With this new outlook, with the knowledge of what were the bodily maneuvers, a bodily formation, Zax felt utterly refreshed. Washed from a burden he did not even realize he carried. His new angle at the bodily maneuvers made him wanting to forget everything about soul techniques and soul formations, put aside the remaining five bottlenecks of insight of the soul, and resume his cultivation of the bodily maneuvers with anticipation.
“Are you choosing the soul formation?” The question was practically rhetorical. Anet asked it merely to wake Zax from the buzz.
“Yes”. Zax answered decisively with a smile. His new outlook at the bodily maneuvers was a great addition to what he originally wanted to get from the Summit, and regardless if his concentration was now directed at the bodily maneuvers more than strengthening his capabilities with the soul, he still needed a soul technique or soul formation. As for why choosing the soul formation, other than the already given benefit, Zax was in intrigued with its usage more than in the offensive power of the two soul techniques. Not to mention that the soul formation was a phase higher than the soul techniques.
“That’s wonderful. Don Ram continuously claims that formations are much more commendable than attack and defense techniques. But because of the complexity of formations in comparison to techniques, I didn’t want to affect you choice”. Anet admitted.
“You are my girlfriend, if you have an opinion or anything on your mind you can always freely share it with me. I’ll also do the same”. Zax said in certainty. Actually, as long as it was someone close to him, he would always pay heed to what they have to say.
Anet had the same frame of thought, but now that Zax became her first boyfriend she discovered that she is a bit hesitant. Only when Zax assured her that he care for her opinion did she realize how ridicules she has been and that there are no procedures in girlfriend and boyfriend relationship.
Returning a smile, Anet said. “Then put the scripture of the formation in the casing and back in the deposit box”.
“Okay, eh! Why? I want to borrow this soul formation…”
“I know, but I opened the deposit box. If you’ll borrow the soul formation, the Summit will register it in my name and it’s forbidden. Just put it back and place a finger on the deposit box to open it and register it to your name”.
“Oh…” Zax nodded. Doing as Anet told him, he transferred the registration of the Soul Binding formation to his name. Obtaining thirty days till he has to return it, he and Anet left the Martial section of the Summit with a new meaning in their held hands.
After returning from Eden Formation, Zax spent the remainder of his time at home with his family and friends. He disclosed the situation of his Martial household with Anet, dismissing only the stuff that were personal to his Master, Grandmaster Kartion and Laivien. Anet grudgingly accepted the fact that in matters of Valgarel, Zax cannot find help in Kingdom Earth. As for the support from Eden Formation and the Dauch family, Zax also omitted that part since he did not know the details and intentions behind this decision of the two bodies.
To cope, Anet made a secret oath with himself. Zax protected her in the past; she will grow strong to protect him, too!
With regards to his family and the rest of Zax friends… This time around, he could only spend his time at home with Serah and Zushi. The other members of their Earth’s Core searching group of eight, his opportunity to meet them will come in other time. Alas, it was even impossible to see Take, his big sister Tal and the first figure in his life he had considered as an older brother.
Arranging a gathering with his extended family did not end up being easier, either. His grandparents were the only people, other than his mom, dad and Liz, that Zax had visited. To meet his aunts, uncles and cousins, like with his friends, Zax could only hope to do so next time he would be home.
Thus, leisure time at home came to a conclusion. These four days were nothing but a break from training, in which the only straining Zax did, was trying to comprehend the Soul Binding formation during night time when everyone but him had to sleep.
“Have you spent your time productively?” Was the first thing Kartius asked when Zax met him at the outskirts of the border between species.
Zax was momentarily stumped. Should he answered wrongly and confess that he did not train according to his training regimen for a single day, he feared that his Master will deduct a day or two from his next visit to Kingdom Earth.
“I borrowed an extremely useful soul formation from the Martial section of Eden Formation’s library”. It was the only thing he could think of that might please his Master.
“Mmm…” Kartius mulled. “But, have you met the girl you like and been with your family?” To Zax’s astonishment, his Master sounded as if he placed more importance social time than his training time.
“I- I did”. Zax replied, unsure if he understood the productiveness his Master expected him to produce at home.
“Then it’s good. Let’s head back. You can tell me how you spent your time on the way”. Kartius sighed. “Unfortunately, your Martial sister Hagen is in closed doors training. I would like you to meet this training maniac…”
Back in Laivien’s valley.
Kartius’s instructions were simple. To resume Zax’ training and strive to detect more bottlenecks of insight with the help of the violet stone and the spiritual knowledge from his subliminal mind. As for when this session of training will be over…? When Kartius will return and say so.
“Big brother is strict with you for your sake, little Zax. Come, tell me how you did with the little girl you fancy”. Laivien’s amiable tone and disposition helped in quelling Zax longing for home.
As it so happened, with his ties returning to what they used to be in his childhood with his friends and family, the effect of leaving them and going to Valgarel for an undetermined passage of time, had a little impact on Zax’s heart.
“…I confessed to her and we are going out now”. Zax answered short and shyly.
“Going out?” As a beast, the term was unfamiliar to Laivien.
“It means that we are together now, like you and Grandmaster, sort of… We are boyfriend and girlfriend…”
In humans’ standpoint, Laivien’s and Grandmaster Kartion’s relationship is akin to that of husband and wife. Zax did not know if beasts had the same stages of relationship as humans, if it evolves for them gradually. All he knew was that once Laivien and Grandmaster Kartion acknowledged each other’s feelings, it instantly escalated to a war with the second strongest tribe in Valgarel, the Black Horns tribe. Therefore, in his attempt to explain to Laivien the status of his relationship with Anet, he made it sound more awkward and complicated than it was.
“Huhuhu, little Zax, why are you so coy? Have I not teased you before for having a girlfriend?” From his behavior, Laivien could tell that a development occurred in Zax’s relationship with the girl he liked, which in turn, made describing the subject a bit embarrassing, moreover, while trying to interpret his human’s mindset on the matter.
“No need to further explain, I know that humans are slower and less assertive in their hearts than beasts. It actually has been so since always, look at the wild beast if you don’t believe, huhuhu. Little Rarahel and little Shulip have a better understanding than I do. They shared with me their opinions in the past and Little Zetsa also narrated to me the concept of ‘Love’ in human’s mind”. Raising her doe head, Laivien knocked Zax’s forehead. “Little Zax, so you have a girlfriend, huhuhu, I’m glad for you! As long as you won’t surrender in the future to the fickle human nature, you can always come to me for relationship advices, huhuhu!”
Laivien was elated seeing the little boy she watched giving his all for developing his Martial path, expanding his approach in life for nurturing the feelings of the heart. She did not want him to be like the many austere cultivators who seal their hearts for a tunnel vision that can only perceive the harshness of the Martial path.
Besides, supporting Zax decision to mingle and add more to his life than cultivating, for his current training regimen, was more beneficial than Zax himself known, and was the reason Kartius permitted him free days where he could return to his family and friends in Kingdom Earth.
Zax and Laivien talked some more about his four days at home and his plans on how to meet the rest of his family and friends the next time he will return. They talked for about an hour, until Laivien got too tired to continue and her Krikitories caretakers arrived to attend her while she rest.
Zax sat beside Laivien. His legs were crossed and his hands rested on his thighs, holding the scripture of the Soul Binding formation.
Before submerging his inner mind inside the violet stone, Zax wanted to finish cultivating the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation. He estimated that with the insight he accumulated in the past three days, even though he only practiced in the night, he would need only one or two steps, half a day or so, to reach the Intermediate phase.
In Zax’s sea of consciousness, threads of soul energy flow from his soul and created a swarm of abundant soul energy. Zax controlled each of the soul energy threads, made it thinner and split apart to even more threads, rather than forming more with his soul.
After more than four hours, and many experiments, Zax attained the required amount of threads and soul energy. Observing his hard work in his sea of consciousness, Zax laughed. After so much effort it suddenly seemed to him like the threads of soul energy were noodles and the scripture was the recipe for a Soul Binding soup. It was not the only thing that made Zax feel jubilant. A few days ago, when he just started cultivating the formation, he was worried that it would take him months before he would manage to reach the Intermediate phase, much like his advancement pace in the bodily maneuvers.
Unexpectedly he could not be more wrong. Cultivating the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation was almost relaxing in comparison to the bodily maneuvers, either because of his unique soul or it was possible that the bodily maneuvers were classified higher. Regardless, Zax was resolute in accomplishing what he assessed as the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation.
The threads of soul energy had to be divided into seventy one groups of eleven threads each. Afterwards, each group had to form a certain shape, totaling in seventy one different shapes, and lastly be piled together into the complete form of the Soul Binding formation.
One pile, seventy one layers… at the beginning, placing the first shape was akin to picking a feather and placing it wherever one wanted. Zax placed the first shape and got into the second, and third, and fourth…
The small feather has long ago become a towering mountain.
Zax’s inner voice reverberated in his sea consciousness, manifesting a hint of hoarseness from the effort.
The immense effort put a strain that even affected his body. The young Krikitories who played near Laivien’s pavilion were looking at his face, which grew red from the flow of blood to his head. Veins were pulsing on Zax forehead like living worms. The weird sight on the human’s face was so ghastly, the little ones were appalled so much that they ran away in fright.
One more shape, the last layer, to Zax it felt like aligning a chain of planets together.
An unpleasant screech accompanied the completion of the Soul Binding formation. All layers were put together, not far in his sea of consciousness from Zax soul. The pile looked clumsily, but it was complete nonetheless.
A pale emerald radiance shone a breath after Zax laid the seventy one shape. The shapes that appeared alien an unresponsive toward each other, when the light of the radiance dimmed, took the form of a united whole.
‘It’s complete! The Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation should be complete with it. The formation… I can use it once against an opponent, but with my current level of mastery over the formation, it probably won’t hinder an expert above the first realm…’ Zax was well aware that it would take him a lot of practice and further cultivation of the Soul Binding formation before he would be able to use it against second realm experts. For now he could only hope and rely on his unique soul to boost the power of the formation so even Beginner phase first level Core Master will be affected by it, but that was still not certain.
“Never mind”, Talking outloud, Zax opened his eyes and retrieved the scripture into its casing. “I will keep studying the formation with my outer mind while seeking specks of bottlenecks of insight with my inner mind and the help of the violet stone”.