Seeing Ilen-Tar’s extreme alteration in size, Zax narrowed his eyes. In an instant, a multitude of thought flashed in his mind.
‘A Peak second level Core Master? If this is the amount of strength he has in this poor state, then he must be a lot stronger, possibly one of the two third level Core Masters, and during the battle suffered this great deal of injuries that affected his cultivation’.
‘Nevertheless, even if he was a Beginner phase second level Core Master, in his condition he should be very cautious to preserve his life’. Zax was perfectly aware that no need to mention a Peak phase second level Core Master, without his Soul Binding formation, even a Beginner phase second level Core Master will pose a difficult threat.
‘But he is an enemy, and so I can’t let him pass’. Zax creased his brows. ‘Moreover, for big brother Tularg, regardless of cultivation level, every chance to kill should be measured as a golden opportunity!’ His body tensed, preparing to me the furless foe, while his serene demeanor dissipated and killing intent radiated from his eyes.
Tularg’s interference in his plan brought unexpected disaster to Ilen-Tar. He did not expect such an intense response from one of the few Core Master the enemy had. His mistake was not calculating or underestimating the resolve, devotion and cherished familiarity the members of Grandmaster Kartion’s household have for their nearest and dearest.
As a result, he got caught in Tularg’s mist detonation as he thought to use his controlled furless rats’ mist detonation to conceal himself and stealthily breach the enemy’s defensive lines, to get out of the area of effect of the Blood Ties formation, which eventually he actually managed.
The wounds Ilen-Tar suffered were mostly severe on the outside. His eye and the hind leg, for example, will not heal without the help of already scarce treasures and the burns will leave long lasting scars that would even disfigure his humanoid and human forms.
At this very moment, as there was barely any space between him and Zax, Ilen-Tar felt torn. Inside his stomach hatred and resentment brewed. He was a mere Shenghuo type beast, and one so unsightly and with bad reputation, at that. Since the day he realized his potential to surpass the cultivation of any member in his tribe and ultimately be the leader of his tribe, the seeds of self importance and confidence were planted in his heart. Furthermore, as far as temperament goes, Ilen-Tar’s shrewdness was beyond a match. To this very day it was his greatest tool, which enabled him to reach his current heights.
And now, not only all of these characteristics failed him, but he was even put to shame, and this may sound superficial, as the one thing that exasperated him the most was the defacement to his, rather befitting and very much liked, human form.
Still, Ilen-Tar did not allow himself to completely submerge in his hatred. The words he inwardly said before to Karns and Kardelion were part of his own personal conviction.
Hence, as his paws stretched and his claws were ready to rip Zax to shreds while his aura was revealed. Ilen-Tar settled his heart and acted for both the chance to output his anger on the young human before him, and get into a better position, far from the Blood Ties formation and close to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.
As for having the backbones to afterwards enter Grandmaster Kartion’s cave despite His Valor Ozeyn’s warning… It does not matter. A good position, even if nothing is done in it, can still deteriorate the resolve of an enemy to take offensive actions.
The claws moved too fast. With the cultivation of the Peak second Core Master level, Ilen-Tar’s speed was faster than even Zax’s Kinetic Force boost.
Still, with a soul that is not inferior to a Beginner phase third level Core Master, Zax could clearly perceive each and every of Ilen-Tar’s movements and only required to maintain preciseness in his evasions.
Sounds easy, but Zax could not recall a more deadly situation where the opponent he faced with was that much more than he could chew. Nevertheless, with his determination to follow through and kill Ilen-Tar, Zax was prepared to utilize any means in his disposal to bring down his foe.
A loud sound echoed from his left foot, Zax used Kinetic Force to step sideways and back, but was still lightly scratched by Ilen-Tar’s claws.
An instant surprise could be seen in Ilen-Tar’s eyes. The young human had a soul that matched his; therefore he could not read the cultivation level of his three aspects. But considering his age, the young human’s cultivation does not supposed to be high enough for him to deal with and he should not have a high comprehension of any Martial technique that can raise his speed by so much, either.
‘My claws penetrated his skin and even if it’s just by a bit, there is blood’. That being said, the fact that Zax still avoided made Ilen-Tar vigilant. ‘I cannot resort to using long range Martial techniques in my condition and fighting close range to those of this household is an advantage… The boy was situated at the back, at the entrance of the tunnel, but probably only to impede, at most, Beginner second levels. He certainly has some ability; I just cannot give him a chance to reveal it!’
An azure luster glimmered over Ilen-Tar’s burns and smooth skin. His aura grew stronger, more deceive. He lashed at Zax.
Zax was contemplating what to do, Ilen-Tar was bent on killing him and that was fine by him since the feeling were mutual, but while Ilen-Tar’s every stroke was an excellent mean of decapitation, Zax’s arsenal was less of a sure kill upon first strike.
Slowly the number of cuts on his person began to grow in number. Zax only avoided as Ilen-Tar retain a steady rhythm that was hard to break and even more difficult to retaliate against.
It became worse when Zax saw that if this continues he will be pushed back to the other side of the tunnel!
‘Mm…’ Oddly, despite being forced to be on the receiving end of the fight and solely rely on Kinetic Force to endure, rather than being driven to desperation, Zax found himself more and more tranquil.
He gave up on the notion of trading a limb for a chance to transmit a soul attack, due to it being an all in one, very reckless move that he did not want to make a habit of.
Instead, Zax decided to exercise the bodily maneuvers, not as if his life depends on it, but by listening to an inner urge.
Zax previews limit was the bottleneck to the fifth sequence. As he performed each of the preceding movements, Ilen-Tar was merciless with his assault.
Every swing of his paws was lethal and not completely avoidable. In mere seconds Zax was slashed and slapped tens of times. Before they reached the first minute of the fight, there was more smeared and dripping blood visible on Zax than the original color of his skin and clothes.
And as for the execution of the bodily maneuvers… from a tense state of mind that made it flow similarly to the performance in front of Grandmaster Kartion and his Master, smooth yet still an exhausting ordeal, little by little, Zax was immersing in the lucidity and limpidness his Inner Panorama exuded, which in turn casted brighter light on the vaguely perceivable path for a breakthrough throughout every new cycle of the bodily maneuvers.
Zax swung, not an intentional punch, but a predetermined move of the third sequence that incidentally was in direct line for Ilen-Tar’s incoming paw.
The punch missed. Ilen-Tar, even wounded, was quick just as much as dangerous. Zax, however, did not notice the swing and miss opportunity. Inside every fiber of his body kinetic energy was accumulating and was then released by one of the six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers.
Ilen-Tar’s palm hit Zax’s shoulder.
Inside the tunnel, the sound of bone breaking echoed. The heavy attack lifted Zax from the ground, but his expression remained impassive. He maintained the tempo and did not permit his form to be disrupted. His legs accurately landed on the ground and his whole body arched with accordance to the following move.
“Puh!” A warm pent up breath was released. For the first time, kinetic energy was blown in a breath and the sensation was elevating.
‘Eh? That was…’ A shiver ran through Zax’s body and his concentration was partly shaken by the peculiarity of the breath.
It was not the breath itself that stunned him. Since the Beginner phase of the bodily maneuvers Zax had learned the integral role of the correct breathing rhythm. However, the integration of kinetic energy within a breath was not just a first, but also a hint toward the next step, the Advanced phase of the bodily maneuvers’ Intermediate phase!
If to say the breath caused a pleasing sensation to Zax, then the revelation of the prerequisite for the next breakthrough solidified his approach to the bottleneck at the end of the current cycle.
Ilen-Tar was slightly perplexed. For how long the young human could continue to sustain. More than a few of his bones were broken and looking at some of his deep cuts, how could he keep bearing the pain. Did he not understand that he has no chance against him? Does he know the meaning of the word “Futile”? Why, then, his movement growing more graceful and was that a hint of a smile on his face?!
‘Kill!’ Ilen-Tar revealed his sharp fangs, the mist energy he used to stabilize his body weakened and blood began to sip from his wounds while the burns on his skin made him seethe from pain. In exchange, his attack became more venomous and a thick layer of mist energy extended from his claws.
Ilen-Tar swiftly strike, countering the focal point Kinetic Force has exploded from the specific move and unbelievably, it was Zax who was thrown off.
Zax firmly held his stance, proceeding to the fourth sequence of the bodily maneuvers with the intent to break through the fifth sequence’s bottleneck.
Ilen-Tar was not idly waiting for the young human to pull out a hidden card or even drag the battle longer than he already has. If the strong experts of the enemy outside were not preoccupied with the experts from his side, he was certain they would arrive by now. Prolonging this meaningless fight will do him no good if by the end of it he will not gain a favorable position.
“Graah!” Ilen-Tar snapped at Zax. In the end, this was a battle in which he possessed the higher hand, rather than being too cautious, it was about time to unleash the bloodthirstiness of his bestial nature.
Zax did not pay heed to the pain. Ilen-Tar was vicious and by now made him look utterly miserable, but he preserved.
“Poa!” Zax let out breath filled with kinetic energy that was followed up with a secession of kinetic energy filled breaths. ‘The bottleneck’. He said to himself in a tone that both sounded casual and as if it was the only thing important in the world.
He was already familiar with every move of the fifth and even the sixth sequences, but never had he reached the former while in the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers.
‘Break for me!’ Zax’s inner voice shouted, commanding the hurdle he faced to submit. Imperceptibly, at the fleeting moment between the last move of the fourth sequence and the first move of the fifth sequence, Zax’s body inflated and grew by several centimeters, but before he or Ilen-Tar noticed the bizarre change, a breath of pure kinetic energy was discharged from every pore in Zax’s body, blustering the strenuous bottleneck to the fifth sequence, before his body deflated to its original size.
Zax’s right leg swept the earth while his right hand brushed against his left. He breathed in, but as his lungs were absorbing air, his all body oozed from kinetic energy.
Diminutive explosions of Kinetic Force caused Zax to burst with strength and speed. His perception of kinetic energy improved by a ten folds, so much that he could actually sense a bit of the kinetic energy his body emitted to the world, millimeters past his skin. The kinetic energy he exuded naturally was beyond his reach once it left his body, but by converging it to Kinetic Force before it escaped and issuing it internally, though now that he broken through the fifth sequence it was still a tad harmful, imperfectly tamed force, Zax could utilize it for a short time to enhance his physique greatly.
But was this enough to take on a veteran such as Ilen-Tar who had the power of a Peak second level Core Master?
Zax’s aim from the very start was to kill. Testing his new abilities can be done after this accursed war that took away from him big brother Tularg will be over. And besides, he let Ilet-Tar push him far enough into the tunnel from his initial position at its entrance.
Pouncing with one hind leg, stretching two paws and twelve azure claws, Ilen-Tar was piqued by the sudden change of atmosphere around Zax as his strange movements finally came to a halt. And upon sensing the young human’s killing manifesting and becoming mightier, Ilen-Tar’s instincts alerted him that something was wrong.
Zax was motionless as Ilen-Tar summoned more than seventy percent of his reserved mist energy and closed in to deal a killing blow.
The scene was quite identical to Ilen-Tar first attempt at Zax, after he sneaked past the household’s defensive lines. Only, at the moment where Zax was about to meet Ilen-Tar’s claws, he had no intentions of backing off like he previously did.
Kinetic energy converging to whirlpools of Kinetic Force, Zax bent his legs with poise and nimbly jumped in a curve above Ilen-Tar. Twisting his back, his front turned to see Ilen-Tar back.
Stretching his right hand down, Zax’s palm landed softly on the scorched skin of Ilen-Tar’s back. Right as it occurred, Ilen-Tar finally realized that Zax escaped unscratched for the first time and that unprecedented crisis is now looming over his head.
“Die”. The words came out plainly from Zax mouth. Succession of Kinetic Force explosions ran through his arm with intensifying internal “BOOMS”.
Zax’s already broken right arm twisted abnormally. The force was too tempestuous to manage in his wrecked condition, but enough to pass it on…
Massive tremors shook Ilen-Tar’s body and his insufficient mist energy was incapable of pacifying it.