Finally, after almost three years since he detected the fifth spark of light among the black fragments of the Black Core’s entity, Zax found the fifth and penultimate spark of light.
Zax breath out, a contemplated look was in his eye, who viewed the ceiling of Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.
He lifted his back and sat on his bottom with no intentions to perceive the bottleneck of the fifth spark contained.
After months of thinking about what he will do upon finding it, the one decision Zax was determined to keep was not rushing to perceive the fifth bottleneck. The reason was very simple, if perceiving and comprehending the fifth bottleneck would have the same procedure as previous bottlenecks’, then in its processes Zax’s soul would break through to the Core Master realm.
Now, breaking through to the second realm of the soul was not the issue. Since Zax’s soul reached the Peak of the Mist Lord level his Master explained to him that the breakthrough between realms is quite special for all three aspects and not just for mist energy.
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The key points Kartius noted for every aspect are as followed:
Mist energy condenses into a Core.
The body exudes impurities.
Soul energy inflates the sea of consciousness
Each of these reactions occurs naturally, without the cultivator saying in the matter. They all also happen swiftly at the beginning and in each breakthrough to another realm take a while longer.
Zax, however, had a problem if he intended for his soul to make the next breakthrough at the same time as comprehending the fifth bottleneck. Cultivators do have a sort of tasks when one of the three aspects is about to surpass the final threshold.
For the Core that mist energy condensed into, a cultivator must shatter it to regain his powers.
When the body’s impurities emerge, a cultivator is responsible of forcing them out of his pores so they will not merge yet again with the body and be impossible to remove.
And as for soul energy, a cultivator got to make sure the sea of conscious is not inflated beyond its limits, otherwise, like a balloon, it would pop, the soul will not have a place to be and the cultivator will die.
With Zax losing himself every time he perceives a bottleneck and comprehends it, it is understandable why at the moment his sea of consciousness might get overflowed he would like to remain cognizant and in control of the situation.
Zax’s problem was in the choice he had to make. Either risk it and make the breakthrough for the second realm of the soul together with the fifth bottleneck, or make the breakthrough on his own and most likely lose the spark of light after the infiltration of his sea of consciousness.
Zax was more prone toward the former risk. Although each bottleneck was more overbearing than its predecessor, in the past four years his disposition was tempered and improved, especially after the war and Tularg’s death, and at the time of the adaptation to the fourth bottleneck he became quite familiar with his ability to sustain and how to handle it when it becomes too much.
But like he already decided, he will not rush to choose which path to take. Besides, with the scene currently playing in front of his eyes, there were other problems he had yet to find the solutions for.
“Big bro Zax, big bro Zax, come, come, the fishies are ready!”
“Bukibi, Bukibi, wolufi fishies!”
A young girl with bright blue eyes and light brown hair, accompanied by a group of young Krikitories ran up the hill Zax was sitting on, calling for him in different and mix languages and childish tones.
The little girl was, of course, the almost five years old Liz. How is it, that she actually been allowed into Grandmaster Kartion’s cave was a long story, but only in the length of years that passed since she first came to the cave with her parents and elder siblings.
After Grandmaster Kartion recuperated enough to receive guests, he asked Zetsa to bring for him to see the young girl which inherited his son’s Cultivation Inheritance. Back then, Grandmaster Kartion did not deliberate about the matter with anyone and no one thought to go against his words. Moreover, the other members of the household, when recalling that their brother was still, in a way, among them, also wished to meet Liz, and now that their enemies were eliminated, they could roam with whoever they wanted in Valgarel.
The only thing is, to fulfill her Master’s request Zetsa had to tell her parents who really was Tularg, partly to understand, partly to gain their sympathy and make it easier to convince them to travel to Valgarel – it was oblivious that even for a thousand of their son and daughter they would not let them bring their normal baby girl without them to the dangerous territory of the beasts.
Zetsa confessed about the identity of her Master, the members of the household and just about everything. The only thing she omitted was the scale of enemies the household previously had and the brutal manner in which Tularg died.
Marco and Laylen were reluctant to agree at first, but Zetsa was prepared with arguments that they could not turn a deaf ear to. Most played delicately on their feelings, how easily they let her bring Zax to Valgarel and even earlier, how unattended they let her be as a child.
Luckily, since some members of the household were Zhihui type beasts and already in the Core Master realm, in other words, possessing a human form, it was less stressing on Laylen and Marco when Zetsa brought them to the cave. Furthermore, after seeing how splendid Grandmaster Kartion’s cave looked like and the affable Krikitories, the modest human couple started to feel even a bit excited and intrigued.
Grandmaster Kartion did not personally arrive to greet or even meet face to face either the parents or the baby girl he invited. From his blue tower he utilized his Sublime Soul Sense to inspect, and after a few seconds sent Zetsa his gratitude and approval for their stay.
Back to the bunch of small voices running toward Zax.
Liz and the group of young Krikitories grabbed him by the arms and pulled him up to his feet.
Zax smiled and did not bother to tell them to calm down or that he can go on his own. They would not listen anyway and there was not a lot of distance for him to cover in the awkward walk they forced him to.
A blond haired, gorgeous young woman stood by a wooden table, arranging a set of wooden plates atop it. To her side was a basket and a bit farther were a large bonfire and a shallow limpid lake.
Attending to the fire and picking up the roasted skewered fish was a blue haired woman, seems to be in her early thirties. She wore a blue feathery tunic and underneath, her expose skin was white with a pale azure luster.
The two women were smilingly preparing the meal.
“Big sis Anet, big sis Shulip, we brought big bro Zax, let’s eat now!” Little Liz and the young Krikitories led Zax to the wooden table and helped him sit on the wooden bench beside it.
Indeed, in the years that past by Zax received permission from Grandmaster Kartion to bring Anet to his cave. After all, now that Karns and Kardelion are dead he did not need to be wary anymore.
Once in a while, after Anet got to know the members of the household and the scenery of Valgarel, to not stay separated as they often were in the past, she would come to travel with Zax to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave. There, she will train with accordance to her Mor’s instructions, spend time with Zax and sometimes have fun with the Krikitories and little Liz.
By the way, Anet’s current Beginner phase Mist Lord level was achieved due to refining high level Earth’s Cores, which don provides to her Tals after they complete their sessions of comprehension.
Marco and Laylen also allowed Zax to take little Liz with him when Anet joined them, but he would have to bring her back before the weekend ends in Kingdom Earth.
On this specific day Shulip joined them, too. It was not the first time, when it came to fish, she knew best how to roast them. In the past she used to roast fish to rest her mind when she encountered a bottleneck, but after Tularg’s death and learning that little Liz was fond of roasted meat, she made it a habit to roast her, and the envious young Krikitories, fish.
“Well, have you washed your hands before bringing him?” Anet looked amusingly at the group of drooling munchkins.
The little one did not even entertain her with a negative answer and immediately ran to the lakeside, to wash their hands in the water and then wipe them on their clothes or fur.
“Clean”. Little Liz presented her hands for Anet to exam them while the young Krikitories showed their paws.
“Good then. You may sit around the table”. Anet approved.
There were seven young Krikitories and only enough places in the table for about six, not including little Liz. Seeing this, little Liz hurriedly went up to Zax, covered his ear with her small hands and whispered, sounding worried. “Big bro Zax, your heinie is too big, and you forgot to wash your hands. Hurry, hurry go wash your hands in the laky before big sis Anet will get angry and you won’t get to eat fisheis!”
“Oh…!” Zax exclaimed and looked surprised. Figuring little Liz’s scheme he turned and whispered back to her ear. “Thank you for warning me. Don’t worry, though, if she’ll ask, we can tell Anet that I washed my hands and because we are a lot she will definitely believe us!”
Hearing him, it took a moment for little Liz to process what he was saying and that her idea to make him leave his place did not work. A little perturbed, she turned his head with her still moist hands and whispered again. “This is not good, big bro Zax, you got to wash your hands from the bad germs!” From thinking a bit hard on what to say, she came out with another excuse, however, making it sound too familiar to her parents’ admonitions, little Liz somewhat fell for her own words and rechecked her hands.
Holding back his laughter, Zax mimicked Little Liz, bringing her ear to his mouth. “Little Liz, don’t be afraid. Big bro Zax is strong, I can kick and punch the bad germs and make them run away to their mommy!”
At first little Liz was excited from how cool her big brother sounded, but then her look landed on the two young Krikitories that were left standing and she felt even more perplexed than before. “No, big bro Zax, violence is not good, washing your hands is better, now go, go…” Little Liz creased her brows, her face turned red from trying to convince him and staying wily.
“Oh, Zax”, Anet suddenly turned up. “I didn’t see you wash your hands with everyone”. She obviously saw and heard the exchanges between him and little Liz. Seeing that his jokes are going too far and making little Liz upset, she decided to interfere and help her. “Well, it’s fine. Just go ahead and wash your hand again and I won’t be mad”.
Being backed by Anet, little Liz felt alleviation and a smile could not help but creep to her face as she said. “Big sis Anet, don’t be mad. Big bro Zax will go to wash his hands right away!”
“You are such a good girl, Lizy, always taking care of your big brother. But washing hands is very important and if he sat around the table before washing them with everyone, you can’t be lenient and must scold him”. She treated the subject as if it was the most serious matter.
“I know, I know!” Being talked to so highly and commended, rubbed Anet’s playful seriousness on little Liz and her attitude took a turn to a more severe one when she turned her head back to Zax. “Big bro Zax, no excuses, go wash your hands now!” She said in an ordering tone.
“Okay, little Liz, okay. Don’t get angry at me”. Zax expressed complete submission and obedience, finally getting up from the bench.
Shulip arrived, holding a squared wooden tray with all the roasted skewered fish, right as Zax left the table. “Everyone can take one fish each time”. She instructed.
The two young Krikitories left standing were a bit concerned that they would not be able to eat because the only empty seat belonged to Zax and he should return, but little Liz waved her hands for them to come and sit, anyway.
“Big bro Zax wanted to lie and didn’t wash his hands, really. He should learn a lesson”. She said, knowing that the two cannot respond in the same language, but can understand.
Only adult Krikitories manages to get the gist of human language’s pronunciation and the higher their cultivation was, the higher their intellect and more effortlessly they could learn.
The lake’s water was calm and pristine. Zax reflection was unblemished and only when he put his hands in the water did it get blurry, but mere seconds after he pulled them back the water returned to be serene.
At that moment, Zax full attention was at the lake, wishing his heart would be as tranquil as it was.
“What are you thinking?” A voice asked from behind.
Zax glanced over to the side and seemed peaceful when he looked at Anet.
She left Shulip with the young Krikitories and little Liz. She actually wanted to speak to him alone since the little ones brought him. His face, then, appeared all laughing, but she knew him better than that and so wondered.
“I want to dwell over it by myself, for now”. Zax confessed, hoping not to hurt Anet’s feelings.
“That’s fine”. Anet did not smile nor force him. She crouched beside him, also looking at the lake and then washed her hands. “But if it’s about the competition, you know that you don’t have a reason to be worried”.
“Mm?” Zax raised his eyebrows and then started chuckling. “I’m actually excited to take part in the Martial competition. As Eden Formation’s chief representative and publicly known as its first ‘Pearl’, I’m quite eager to find what challenges the other competitors and the different groups behind them are preparing for me”.
“You see yourself wining first place easily?” Anet asked calmly. From the wooden table the little munchkins called her and Zax to come and eat with them, but she just waved them back and pointed for Shulip at the basket, signing to her to take out the drinks.
“Don Ram likes to call me a ‘Monster’ when she is in a good mood, but when she is serious she warns me that the other Pearls, even those not from the other two number one Martial schools and the representative of some groups can also be referred as ‘Monsters’ with potential not lower than mine”. Zax said, speaking his thoughts honestly. “So I don’t believe that it would be easy for me to take first place, but also not impossible”.