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Book 5 – Horns, Chapter 33 – Intelligence

“You are very lucky, Martial son, had Hagen known that you are currently concentrating on comprehending the six bottlenecks of insight instead of cultivation the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, she would have made you do nothing for a year’s time, but trying to comprehend bottlenecks”. Kartius chuckled.

Zax and his Master left the blue tower and headed to Laivien’s valley.

“However, your actions are still in need of reprimanding”. Kartius’s tone changed to severe and his expression grew solemn. “You can ask Martial niece Zetsa to pass on a message for you, until you will comprehend the third bottleneck you are not permitted to leave little sister’s valley”.

Glancing over his shoulder and seeing Zax’s dejected face, Kartius snorted and asked. “Am I clear?”

“Yes, Master”. Zax felt awful. He sensed himself close to finding the third spark of insight, but how much close was hard to determine. It could take a day and it could take months. If it will happen to be the latter, he would have to spend a very long time in Laivien’s valley, missing his time with Anet, the rest of his friends, his family and, most painful, his growing baby sister.

Still, Zax said nothing. Other than knowing that he brought this punishment on himself, now that he got it he was certain that his Master will not take his words back. So instead of thinking about the repercussions of his insubordination, he placed those depressing feelings aside in his sea of consciousness, to concentrate on his training.

“Master”, the two entered the Essence Cave when Zax broke the silence. “Big brother Mes taught me about Cores while on the mission”.

“Oh… So you got to learn about the process of breaking through realms”. Kartius patiently said, and quieted down, letting Zax continue talking.

“Yes”. Zax nodded and then proceeded to tactfully narrate his thoughts about Ginlin’s third realm Core.

“Martial son, your idea is both probable and, in this case, wishful thinking”. Kartius dismissed Zax’s belief that with the third realm Core, after his body fitness level would reach the Core Master realm, he could use it to quickly step to the third realm. “Cores are not as simple as Earth’s Core, especially one such as Ginlin’s. First of all, the mist energy inside of a Core, although purer than that of an Earth’s Core, is not as raw. It was already cultivated by a mist refinement technique, and if it was a low grade technique, the foundation that you will build with the Core would be instable and can hinder future cultivation. No, to use a Core you cannot just absorbed it; you have to do what some experts who find a deposit of Earth’s Cores are doing, refine the Core and absorb it as raw mist energy. The other thing is, if the Core possesses an attribute, like Ginlin’s Core, which you are not comparable with, than no matter how much you will refine it, it would be hopeless and will remain unusable for you. Lastly, we still know nothing about the Black Core and the Earth’s Core it modified in your dantian. It is best for you not to mess with things related to Qi or mist energy, until the day when either of the two will once more course through your channels”.

Kartius’s words were not harsh, yet the new knowledge he conveyed to Zax forced him to reduce his ambitions.

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Zax sighed inwardly. He was not a hundred percent convinced that the third realm Core can help him reach fast to the third realm. But seventy percent, eighty percent convinced was enough to generate enough fate in it.

‘At any rate, now I know that in the future I should either try to obtain a Core with dark attribute or without an attribute at all’. There was a silver lining, though, at least he gathered a better understanding they type of Cores that can be beneficial to him. ‘It would be nice if I’ll encounter an enemy of the household in the midst of his breakthrough to a new realm…’

Valgarel, Yellowtailed tribe.

Five weeks after the battle near the entrance to the second Savage Cave.

The central territory of the Yellowtailed tribe was situated inside a grassland cave with a handful of rivers.

The habitats of the member of the Yellowtailed tribe were in underground dens. Only the elders of the tribe and the tribe leader had their human like housing above ground as a sign of status.

Still, if some people were to go to the central territory of the Yellowtailed tribe, be it night or day, there would always be thousands of tribe members occupying themselves in different activities above ground.

Inside twenty meters tall tower in the shape of a pillar, within a circular chamber, three figures were sitting on stone chairs around a pentagon shaped stone table.

The tower was the Sovereign Hall of the Yellowtailed tribe, and the two old men and old woman currently in it were three of the tribe’s five elders.

“Second elder, you wanted us three to gather here so we came, and now you sit quietly without even concerning yourself with ordering the servants to prepare servings for me and First elder?” A wrinkled old man with lemon skin tone and long white hair glowered as he leaned forward on his stone chair, while staring at the old woman, Second elder, who sat on her stone chair, with eyes closed as if sleeping.

Seeing that he does not get any response from Second elder, the old man snorted and turned to a servant girl who stood piously at the entrance to the chamber. “Hurry up and bring us drinks and something to nibble on”. The old man ordered. The servant girl bowed and hastily left to arrange the three elders some refreshments and snacks.

“Second elder, please start, or at least explain me and Fourth elder to what are you waiting”. The other old man with the unique features of a human form yellow fox, but with short white hair, asked of Second elder.

Only allowed on

Cracking her eyes open right as a plate of three hot cups and five bowls with five different kinds of servings arrived, Second elder rubbed her thin lips and said. “First elder, Fourth elder, you two sit here with me. Showing a casual face and eating to feel your stomachs… I truly am surprised to be the single one of us three elders who thinks a cause for a meeting has arisen”. Second elder looked in discontent at the two other elders.

First elder rubbed the back of his head, pulling his hand from the bowl of fruits it was about to reach, emptily and straightening himself on his stone chair. With a sour face he asked. “It could not be IT again, Second elder, am I right?”

“You are most certainly wrong!” Second elder rebuked.

A flash of understanding appeared in Fourth elder’s eyes. “I thought that we finished discussing it”. He said, annoyed.

“The two of you take this matter too lightly. The tribe leader should have already returned. The time we suspected it would take him to find the fiery attribute liquid as long passed. We also did not receive updates from Third elder and Fifth elder who, along with four captains, escorted tribe leader!”

As it so happened, the second level Core Masters Zax and Hagen killed were the Third and Fifth elders of the Yellowtailed tribe.

“Second elder, this matter should be put to rest. Finding the fiery attribute liquid is not easy. And tribe leader still needs to shatter his third realm Core after his mist energy will consolidate. The fastest it would be done, the better. By now tribe leader should be busy, trying to shatter his Core, and while he breaks through, Third elder and Fifth elder cannot be bothered with letting us know how things are going…” First elder tried to calm Second elder.

Fourth elder, on the other hand, refrained from getting involved in the subject again and the two face, grueling Second elder. He decide to leave First elder the job of comforting Second elder, since he was her brother in law and the tribe leader’s younger brother.

“Well, we will see about it. I called this meeting today because a few days ago I send my top captain to go investigate why tribe leader and the rest are late, and today he should return the intelligence”.

“Is that so…” First elder clapped his hands and once more reached, unhesitatingly this time, for the bowl of fruits. “Then it seems we really do need to wait, and as I see it, it would be to good news”.

First elder confidence stemmed from couple of source. First and foremost is his big brother, tribe leader Ginlin. When he left to the Savage Caves he was at the Peak of the Core Master realm, while he, First elder, is in the Beginner phase of the Core Master’s third level. Second elder is at the Advanced phase of the second level and Third elder is in the Intermediate phase. Fourth and Fifth elders are the weakest, yet still in the Beginner phase of the second level.

With such a force, the Yellowtailed tribe is ranked third in the inner territory of Valgarel, but is still a considerable distance from the two tribes in the second place, the Silverhorned tribe and the Black Horns tribe, whom, from the first place, bestowed its resources to help the Yellowtailed tribe rise to prominence.

With their backing and personal strength, First elder was not willing to give face to any of the so called “enemies” the Yellowtailed tribe made by obliging to the Black Horns tribe.

Four hours later.

Second elder did not allow First and Fourth elder to leave the chamber. Therefore, as she returned to close her eyes and soothe her aching heart, during the four hours, the two other elders occupied themselves in a table game.

“Second elder! Second elder!” Shouts from outside the chamber caused Second elder to shot open her eyes into two, legendary full moons.

Fourth elder, who was in the process of placing a game piece on the game board the servant girl earlier brought, accidentally made a wrong move.

First elder, who turned his head to see what as the meaning of the shouting, missed Fourth elder’s sleight of hand to fix his error.

“Second elder!” A brawny, middle age man rushed into the chamber, looking with ashen face, trying to find Second elder.

“Gezerak, I’m here! Gather your marbles and tell me immediately what happened!” Second elder stood up from her chair and slapped her captain, Gezerak, back to his senses. She appeared calm and collected but her heart was pounding in her chest and a bitter taste started to fill her mouth.

Shaking, Gezerak fell to his knees, prostrating with tears streaming from his huge eyes nonstop.

“Second elder, the- They- They all died! Captains, Third and Fifth elders and tribe leader, too!”

Hearing his words the servant girl, who glared at him when he barbarically rushed into the chamber, lost her the sensation in her legs and fallen to her knees. In but half a breath she also began to prostrate and weep.

Fourth elder, who did not pay further attention after insidiously correcting his move, suddenly perked his ears and, got up from his stone chair and as an indescribable feeling washed over him, lost his balance and fell, hands forward, on the stone table, flipping all the game pieces he proudly set to defeat First Elder.

First elder, from the moment Gezerak entered the chamber and he saw his ashen face, forgot completely about the game and was consumed by a foreboding feeling.

Second elder looked down on Gezerak, with his head to her feet; she did not say anything or made the slightest move. Her pupils contracted and for a whole minute she gave the impression of a statue.

“Get up”. Second elder’s voice was feeble and hoarse as she spoke, yet to Gezerak it sounded like the voice of death, his death, if he will dare to say or do the smallest thing out of place.

“Explain”. Another word from Second elder’s mouth, to Gezerak it felt like another death sentence if he will not hurry to reply.

“Second elder, the entrance to the second Savage Cave, I’ve seen it in the past, when I arrived there, after you sent me, it looked like a battle zone”. Gezerak mustered every bit of discipline to not stutter. ”At first it was hard to find what caused the destruction, so I queried the reclusive experts who trained near the scene of the fight. It seems that tribe leader and his escort were ambushed. No one saw the fight clearly, but by the residues of mist energy signature, the remnants yellow fur and blood and most of all, giant fox’s foot prints, one side has lost and died”. Reaching a pocket in his fur coat, Gezerak retrieved two long silver feathers. “The other lived and escaped, leaving only these two feathers as means of identification”.

Second elder slowly took the two silver feathers. Examining them, the white in her eyes began to redden. “Cough! Cough! Cough! Cough…” A series of coughs uncontrollably burst from her mouth.

“Second elder!”

“Elder sister!”

First elder and Fourth elder jumped on their feet to support Second elder.

“Cough… He… Cough… He found out… Cough…” Second elder kept coughing as almost tangible killing intent oozed from her. “Kartion… Cough… That bastard… Cough… He- He- He- He killed my Ginlin!” Second elder screamed and a tremor ran through her body.

She lost herself and transformed to her animalistic form, only to lose balance and sway before falling.

First elder and Fourth elder, in their human form, caught her. However, Second elder’s eyes were already closed, this time she was no longer feigning sleepiness or moderating her feelings, but completely passed out.

First elder glanced over at Gezerak and the servant girl that escaped outside when Second elder transformed. Clenching his teeth he ordered. “Let everybody know, send an envoy to inform His Valor Ozeyn, Black Horns’s tribe leader Kardelion and tribe leader Karns, all of our Yellowtailed tribe’s forces are to set out. If we cannot cross that cave and kill Kartion, we will destroy all of his allies and then proceed to besiege!”

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