A month passed since Kartius informed Zax about the state of the household along with its allies and enemies.
After their conversation, Kartius finished by clarifying to Zax that for the mean time he cannot return to Kingdom Earth, the household is on a lockdown and he would have to stay until after the upcoming confrontation.
As a result of being confined to the two caves under Grandmaster Kartion, Zax had no choice but to get back to training, but instead of searching for the fourth spark of light, his preference was to prefect the Soul Binding Formation.
In the month that gone by, Zax spent roughly twenty days on reaching the perfect phase of the Soul Binding formation. That being the case, his sea of consciousness possessed now five perfect, dark emerald Soul Binding formations.
Although the number was small, with the current strength of his soul, Zax had to spend two days in order to erect one perfect formation. Thus, five was the most he had created in the last ten days of the month.
Nevertheless, the most important point was, even though the quantity was small, each of Zax’s five perfect Soul Binding formations had the subduing power of thirty or forty Advanced Soul Binding formations.
Testing one on his Martial brother Raroen, whose soul was in the Advanced phase of the third Core Master’s level, Zax was able to incapacitate Raroen for six seconds. When Raroen used his mist energy to try and block another Soul Binding formation, his Intermediate phase of the third Core Master’s level mist energy hindered the formation and weakened it, but eventually it got through and disabled Raroen for almost four seconds.
Something that Zax was unaware of and discovered following the second attempt, was that for Raroen to hold up the second Soul Binding formation with his mist energy demanded so much preciseness and concentration, that he had used up ten percent of his mist energy.
“Staying behind?!” Zax reluctantly held his tone of voice from rising in defiance.
“Their numbers are overwhelming us twenty to one. Without mist energy you don’t have the ability to join and coordinate with our formation, and your body fitness level is not high enough to defend against their stronger experts”. Kartius was decisive.
The household preparation has reached a climax and Grandmaster Kartion decided to execute their assault tomorrow.
“But-” Zax wanted to retort. What more he had to worry about if he could use a Soul Binding formation to deal with a third level Core Master?
“Don’t be impulsive!” Kartius scolded. “There are not perfect plans, saying for sure how many, if at all, will manage to pass our formation is uncertain. That is why placing someone in the rear, protecting the entrance to the cave, is not a job that big brother can trust anyone with. Only a person he recognized will soothe his worries”.
“You are, too, need to consider what will happen if a Mist Lord will sneak into the cave. Just one would be enough to eradicate the population of whole villages, while we are fighting outside, in mere minutes. And if the Essence Cave will be found and a second level Core Master will get in…” Kartius solemnly made eye contact with Zax and gravely said. “It’s true that with your soul formations you have some ability to face the strong expert, but in the erratic field of battle, after handling one such expert, it would be the masses who will take you out”.
There was really no leeway for Zax to ensure his position in the vanguard of the household’s assault, however, lurking behind while his big brothers and sisters risking their lives did not sit well with him.
“Zax!” Kartius snapped at him.
Zax hushed. His Master’s voice was full of intolerant to further bickering and carried wrathful intent. Due to this, from the shock, Zax felt his throat shrinking and the words he wanted to say unable to come out.
“The arrangements big brother made are not for you to agree with, only obey. Each member of the household has his and her own placement, and if you are in the rear, no further discussions will change it!”
To say that the point was made loud and clear would be an understatement. There was only so courage in Zax to challenge his Master to a longer argument. Now more than ever, with the warmonger air the looming battle made him exude.
Seeing his Martial son submitting, Kartius exhaled heavily from his nostrils and his tone slightly changed. “Come with me. Big brother summoned everyone who will participate in the assault for a Debrief, and even though you are the last line of defense, it would be good for you to be aware of the grand plan”.
There were eight human figures, beside the genuine humans, Zax and Zetsa, and six humanoid beasts in Grandmaster Kartion’s blue tower.
Five of the human looking figures were the five tribe leaders who supported Grandmaster Kartion. They were respectfully distinguished as the Reptilian tribe’s leader, Meron, the Ape tribe’s leader, Somi, the Blue Griffon tribe’s leader, Vinesha, surprisingly the Krikitory tribe’s leader, Ham-Bar, and the Grayfeather tribe’s leader, Harhenia.
What was quite astonishing about three of these five tribes’ leaders were none other than their advanced cultivation levels. Considering that the Blue Griffon tribe, the Krikitory tribe and the Grayfeather tribe are outer territory tribes, one would wonder how their three leaders managed to reach the Core Master realm. A level of power even the leaders of some of the inner territory tribes had not attained.
From his Martial brothers and sisters, Zax learned the names of the leaders of the five tribes, and the connection and source of loyalty of these tribes to Grandmaster Kartion.
The close relations of the Reptilian tribe and the Ape tribe with Grandmaster Kartion were actually very old. Their leaders were old friends of Grandmaster Kartion. They both got to know him since the time of his, Laivien’s and Kartius’s stay with the Red Rose Beaks tribe. A deep bond was sewn between the three parties and became even more profound when the successors the Reptilian tribe and the Ape tribe were accepted as Grandmaster Kartion’s apprentices.
The Blue Griffon tribe swore loyalty to Grandmaster Kartion after he accepted Shulip as his apprentice and bestowed the tribe a mist refinement technique of his making.
How the Krikitory tribe earned Grandmaster Kartion’s favor was self explanatory.
As for the Grayfeather tribe… It was once called the Silverfeather tribe, but it suffered extermination from the several tribes allayed with the Black Horns tribe. In the end, the survivals escaped to the outer territory of Valgarel and formed a new tribe, the Grayfeather tribe. Since the Grayfeather tribe was formed not far from Grandmaster Kartion’s cave, when he detected the movement of the Black Horns tribe’s allays, his enemies, he obstructed from getting to the Grayfeather tribe to finish what they started. Couple of years later, Hagen was born, the only Chaoyue type beast of the Grayfeather tribe, and was accepted as Grandmaster Kartion’s apprentice.
Of the three outer territory tribes, the Grayfeather tribe was the only one who did not require a mist refinement technique from Grandmaster Kartion, since it already had a suitable mist refinement technique, which it inherited from the glorious days of the once Silverfeather tribe. Nevertheless, in terms of loyalty it was difficult to say if the other two could compete with the Grayfeather. After all, Grandmaster Kartion is more than its benefactor; he is the tribe’s savior.
Inside the blue tower everyone sat in a large circle. On the floor was a detailed parchment of the adjacent cave with all sorts of marking.
Squares signified the known locations of the enemy’s forces. Rings marked the places of first level Core Masters, double rings were the signs of second level Core Masters, triple rings showed were the third level Core Masters are and triangles, merely two were on the parchment, showcased the estimated position of Karns and Kardelion.
By Zax’s count, there were forty seven single rings, twelve double rings, two triple rings – one had a dot in its center – two triangles and a whole lot of squared area.
The closes enemy’s line to the entrance of the tunnel of Grandmaster Kartion was roughly eight hundred meters within the vegetation. One cluster of forces guarded the entrance to the only tunnel that could be used as escape route and the rest spread, behind the first line.
“This is their formation since thirty minutes ago”. The man who looked similar to Mes, Meron, and the leader of the Reptilian tribe, which expertise were scouting, spoke and placed a slender finger on the parchment. “Karns and Kardelion are always together, in the midst of their forces. To get to them, or get them moving, I’m afraid only brother Kartion would manage”. Sliding his finger to the triple ring with the dot at its center, he continued. “The Oxen tribe and its leader Belavin are packed together. Put aside the two second level Core Masters in this group, Belavin is close or already at the Peak of the Core Master realm, he, too, I’m not sure I anyone but brother Kartion can handle”.
Mentioning the three impeccable adversaries, one after the other, and the fact that against all three their side has only Grandmaster, caused Meron to lose a bit of control on his tone of voice from steady and calm to shaken and furious.
“Then there is Ilen-Tar, the leader of the Furless Rat tribe. His cultivation level should be in the Beginner phase of the Core Master’s third level. Being a Shenghuo type beast, quite a few of us can contend against him. What make it troublesome some is that of those under the Core Master realm, seventy percent of them are from the Furless Rat tribe, and if the life of their tribe’s leader would be threatened…” Merson raised his head and glanced at everyone with a menacing light in his eyes. “There is a reason why despite having only one expert in the third level of the Core Master realm and twenty in the first level, this tribe is ranked seventh in all of Valgarel!”
“If no one is willing, I’ll gladly eradicate this vermin!” Kartius cracked his knuckles, a despised expression on his stag head.
“Brother Kartius, it pains me to disagree with you, but against these furless bastards you mustn’t be reckless. What makes them a force to be reckoned with is not just their numbers, but the bloodline formation at their disposal”. Said Somi, as he let out a grave sigh. “If Ilen-Tar will order the erection of the formation, the whole tribe can be used as an extension of his every desire. I’m sure not one of us wishes to risk the mist detonation of an entire tribe that could shift brother Kartion’s plan to a random direction”.
“Ilen-Tar will not be confronted carelessly”. Grandmaster Kartion said defiantly. “Too much of the forces belong to his tribe. Unless a decisive blow can swiftly land on Ilen-Tar he can be counted as unapproachable”.
First Karns and Kardelion, then Belavin and now Ilen-Tar… The atmosphere in the room embittered as everyone sunk into deep thought following Grandmaster Kartion’s words.
“Fortunately, a passage to retaliation is available for one of us against Ilen-Tar”, Grandmaster Kartion next words caused the frowns on several of the surrounding faces to ease off and node in consent as a sign that they understood what he talked about.
“It all depends on the execution of brother Kartion’s formation”. Somi elaborated. As he did, individuals like Zax, Mes, Ham-Bar, Vinesha and Shulip, who had not understood Grandmaster Kartion in the beginning, also suddenly became elated.
Only three could not bring themselves to show the same kind of exaltation and remained pensive.
Simel and Zetsa tacitly made effort to conceal the pressure their Master placed on them in his plan, and Hagen built up her bloodthirstiness to unleash her utmost killing capabilities when the right time will arrive.
“Proceeding to brother Kartion’s plan”. Merson moved on from pointing the enemies’ positions and identities. “Brother Kartion is the vanguard of the formation. Since only Karns and Kardelion can match him, he will draw them to the field of battle right of the bat. The moment of collision between brother Kartion and either of the two is the instant the second line of the formation will move in. I, brother Somi, young Raroen and brother Kartius will strike against Belavin and the twelve second level Core Master in coordination with each other. According to brother Kartion, among all of us, the second to possess the most destructive force is brother Kartius”.
As Merson revealed Grandmaster Kartion’s assessment of Kartius all the gazes shifted to the black stag head. Some looked in reverence and awe, others were dumbfounded and wondered what powers this Black Stag is hiding.
As if responding to everyone reactions, Grandmaster Kartion said assertively. “After Kartius broke through to the second realm of my bodily refinement technique, he indeed became someone not to be trifled in this New Earth”.
‘Second realm of bodily cultivation…’ Zax’s eyes opened wide and his mouth hanged agape. ‘Master broke through the seventh gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement?!’ His mind swirled in excitement and happiness for his Master, so much that he forgot about their previous argument.
Standing beside his Master, it would have been awkward to express his glee in words in front of all the onlookers who grew even more amazed after Grandmaster Kartion explained. Still, Zax could not help, but stare at his Master with stars in his eyes.
“What?” Glanced at Zax and said indifferently, as if holding back his laughter. “I had been in this laborious bottleneck for almost as long as I am your Martial father. Frankly, if I did not spend on you back then my treasures, I would have broken through a lot earlier”. Though he sounded blaming, Kartius raised his large black hand and ruffled with a bit of force, his Martial son’s hair.
“Hahaha! So this is the case. Honestly, brother Kartion, you should not have left us in the dark till the moment we go to war, brother Kartius, superb! Hahaha!” Somi burst out laughing.
“Uncle Kartius, congratulations!”
“Martial uncle Kartius, congratulations!”
“Well done, brother Kartius!”
Immediately after Somi’s eruption everyone offered their blessing to Kartius.
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It was a bit shameful that someone else had the guts to speak first, but now even Zax felt that he cannot contain his felicitations.
“Mas- Martial father, congratulation of your accomplishment!” Zax said in joy.
“Shell we continue everyone?” Merson asked after the round of good words. As everyone returned to being silent, he opened up again, this time his tone was steadier than ever. “Hagen, Tularg, Harhenia, Vinesha and young Rarahel, along with the eleven Core Masters captains of our five tribes will counter the enemy’s Core Masters as our third line of assault. Next, as the fourth line of the formation and the first line of defense, Shulip, Ham-Bar and little Mes will meet and eliminate any Core Master that will escape the third line of defense. The fifth line of the formation and the second of defense, as decided, are the three hundred and ninety nine cultivators of are five tribe that are between the Core Breaker and the Mist Lord level. The will hold up the enemy’s first realm expert, but all of you should know that by no means they have the strength to beat them or even obstruct them for long!” Merson emphasized. “The sixth line is young Simel and Zetsa. Those two received their orders personally from brother Kartion. They are the core of brother Kartion’s plan and those of us who need to know about their role have been instructed beforehand”. To these words some nodded, other did not bother asking questions about things unrelated to their role.
“And then there is the last line of defense, the guard of the entrance to the tunnel to brother Kartion’s allocated cave”. Merson moved his face to Zax, to let anyone who was not familiar with him to know who the last person he will mention is.
Finally his turn, even though it was not much in comprehension to everyone else, after sitting throughout this debris, Zax had to reconsider his view and admit that there are too many dangerous variables that require someone with explosive force to deal with fast and repeatedly.
“You are the last line of defense, but until the war ends you should not be complacent even if not one enemy will manage to breach through the first six lines formation, Zaks”.
He was really not getting any face in this war for the freedom and preservation of the household and its allies…