“That’s the level of strength that truly makes one unbound…” Zax murmured to himself in resignation, after watching the three Martial Mortals flying away.
The registration was finally over, as the last expert to join the High Rankers’ trials walked out of the Mercenary Association’s building and nobody followed in.
An extremely loud siren at the top of the Mercenary Association’s building and resounded throughout all of Glorious Ground.
Zax raised his head to the sky, as everyone around him did. From above the clouds, two huge objects were descending, heading to the plateau outside the city.
“Zeppelins!” Aghast, Zax watched with a slacked jaw.
The immense airship was only mentioned in Kingdom Earth in records from before the great immigration period and now the spectacular flying machinery that was bigger by a large margin than any means of transport in his cloistered home was right above him.
The two zeppelins were not quite those in Zax’s history books or in the movies. In shape they were similar, but internally they were definitely different since those currently in the sky had a blue glow coming out from their engine cars. Plus, the design itself was more present era accurate…
“Participants of the High Rankers’ trials who were listed for the test are to arrive to the zeppelins’ landing area and board them in an orderly fashion. Further instructions will be given once you’ll take off”.
The loud alarming sound of the siren was replaced with a notification.
“Participants of the High Rankers’ trials who were listed for the assignment, your certificates are active as of this moment. Please followed their instruction and be sure to not lose them until the end of the trials”.
“Mm?” Zax felt and tiny electric discharge from the finger’s size, paper thin red certificate in his hand.
In a matter of a fraction of as second, the certificate embedded itself in Zax’s hand and then, under his skin, it slid to his wrist. It happened so abruptly that Zax was about to carve it outside, but eventually stopped when he noticed his new companions patiently trailing the process.
A second electric discharge ensued and an imprint of what seemed to be a map, appeared on Zax’s palm.
“Son of a b***h!”
Someone cursed in an enrage tone.
“Are they f*****g insane!”
“Burn their mothers in a bowl of rotten fish soup!” Fengar shouted in solidarity with the other foul mouthed participants.
“So… I gather that we are required to go to somewhere bad?” Zax asked the poised Vouvik who view the map in his hand wordlessly.
The imprint vanished from Vouvik’s palm as he lowered his hand. It did not surprise Zax. He could feel that the certificate connected to his nervous system and he, at will, could make the imprint appear and disappear, zoom in and zoom out – with the down size of having to feel the uncomfortable electric discharge each time.
Vouvik looked at Zax for a silent moment before saying. “It’s a map of the continent… It seems that the directive of the assignment, this time, is an A to B race”.
This much Zax understood on his own by seeing the green route marked in the map and the timer at its top edge that just about indicated the span of four months.
“You can’t go there! No matter what, Zax, wait another four months for the next trials. I’m sure Miss Xinia would agree, just don’t be stupid and go there!” Mendor yanked Zax, to be certain that he reads the map right, and as he became more assured, his tone turned more severe.
The imprint vanished, and Zax withdrew his arm back. “Tell me what the problem with the route of the assignment is?” Zax told Mendor, a bit irritated by his domineering demand that followed no explanation.
“This is serious, Zax, I’ll tell you, but only if you promise to wait the four months”. Mendor was truly shaken and steadfast in not letting Zax go.
“Father, should we give up?” Shouva held her father arm.
“It is path from the lower side of the continent to the higher side through the Demirva Ridge”. Vouvik ignored his daughter’s hesitation and so answered Zax instead. “Only foreigners may not know it, but the Demirva Ridge is the most dangerous place in the Western Continent, an unsafe place that even first level Martial Mortals do not take lightly”.
“Exactly, father”, Shouva said worriedly. “The first level trials supposed to have an Advanced third level Core Master’s difficulty, not something that even Martial Mortals would feel threatened by”.
“Shut up! You Greenhorn Shouva! Shut up, all of you cry babies!” Fengar screamed with annoyance. Turning to Zax, he raised his palm to his eyes and said. “Demirva Ridge is the badass place around and you can see how bad by just taking a look around. Nevertheless, this is the assignment and I, for once, don’t plan on having a prefect strike of failures. Come if you want, otherwise, beat it! Vouvik, I’m leaving!”
In a feat of rage, Fengar stormed through the crowed.
“Shouva, once in a while an assignment like this one resurface and many choose to forfeit. You are old enough to decide for yourself”. Vouvik said and turned after Fengar.
“Zax…” Mendor tried to plead with him one last time.
“I’m a traveler, Mendor, I have my share of risks and dangerous experiences. Whether I’ll forfeit or not, this won’t be the last of my troubles“. His response was clear as he tapped Mendor on the shoulder and left, as well.
Shouva was not accounted with Mendor, therefore she said nothing as there was no one to listen to her when she succumbed to the mindset of the three previous three, along with many others around, and ran after them.
“Due to the complicated route, it was probably purposely calculated that way, but it would take us about until the next trials to reach our destination. If you want to buy provision or anything else, you’ve got an hour. When you are finished, head to the frontal city’s entrance or accompany me there now”. Vouvik ordered.
“Greenhorn Zax, it’s best if you fill all the compartments in your belt with Linder Seeds. See you later, Vouvik”. Fengar said and left.
“Father, I need you ring”. Shouva stepped closed to her father as she asked.
Vouvik nodded, and that was about all of what Zax could see from his reaction.
Vouvik reached to a certain compartment in his utility belt, retrieve a bronze’s color ring and swiftly gave it to his daughter.
“I won’t take long”. Zax ignored the two’s cautioned conduct and departed.
Zax order of business was to first go to his place and pick up his stuff, which were mainly his clothes and bag.
Outside of the hostel a long, hovering limousine was parked. It was a peculiar sight on Penerwoodrem St. and Zax’s attention was attracted to the side of the passenger seat for an instant before turning his back and entering the hostel.
The door at the passenger seat opened and a familiar voice whimsically called. “Come on, now, are you really forcing a damsel to exit the car and chase after you?”
Zax halted and looked back. “Xinia…” He was neither surprised nor aware that she was in the limousine since the windows were blackened.
“Enter the limousine. We should spend some alone time before you leave, Mr. Walaow”. She referred to him formally as a reminder that they are not yet on first name basis.
“This is the second invitation that I extends to you. Next time you ought to take the initiative, otherwise I would feel used“. Inside the lavish limousine, Xinia in her manner and exquisite beauty stepped up the allure. Nonetheless, she maintained the “No touch” policy.
Zax suspected that if her father was not the city’s mayor, one of these days she might encounter someone who will lose his composure and forcefully try to snatch a bite.
“You led me into an extremely dangerous path, Ms. Sensensar. From what I heard the assignment in this time’s trials can even pose a risk to Martial Mortals. As you know, I’m a second level Core Master. Considering my fighting capabilities, common third level Core Masters aren’t concerning, but that’s about as far as I can boost myself”. Zax said grimly.
“I know, I know”, Xinia leaned back, no longer merry and playing around. “I was not expecting the Mercenary Association to be so cruel”. She glanced at Zax with disinterested eyes. “If you want to forfeit-”
Zax interrupted her with his right hand stretched in front of her eyes and the slight glow of the map shining on his palm. “Then I would not still have that”.
Seeing the imprint, the liveliness returned to Xinia’s eyes. “You two are really my good fortune…” She whispered. “You know, the other envoy also chose the assignment and decided to proceed with it”.
At the press of a button, a drawer opened. Its left side took most of the space, occupied by wine bottles. The right side had a round, thin box atop a tower of glasses.
“That’s for you”. Xinia gave Zax to box. “Open it”. She said when he received and kept it in his hand.
“Are these… Linder Seeds?” Inside the box were eighteen tiny black looking seeds.
“If you are asking, this should be your first time seeing them”. Xinia said. “But you know their name, so you were probably already informed about their benefits in the assignment”.
“Not really. My new companion just recommended that I should buy them without additional explanation”.
Picking up one of the seeds, Xinia said. “Though they may be called ‘Seeds’, Linder Seeds are not like the traditional ones, which you plant in the soil and wait for harvest. Instead, you hold them in your hand and use soul energy to extract the dark attribute essence they contain”.
“Dark attribute essence?” Zax became intrigued.
He reached his hand to take the seed Xinia held.
“Don’t be rush. If you’ll tap to it, even for just to examine the seed, it will agitate the essence and you will be forced to extract it to yourself or let it wastefully disperse”. Xinia put the seed back in the box and closed it. “Tell me, have you been told why it’s for the best to bring along Linder Seeds to Demirva Ridge?”
Before getting into to what exactly the seeds are meant for, Xinia inquired.
“Do you have time, or do you need to soon meet back with your companion for the assignment?”
“I have around forty minutes before we all regroup”.
“In that case, I won’t give a full history lesson.
“Demirva Ridge is named after a God who was many years ago, worshiped by the hundreds of villages and tribes and tens of thousands humans and beasts that lived in the ridge, which starches all across the continent.
“Roughly a thousand years ago, a terrifying Martial Mortal – said to be at the third Martial Mortal level – who commanded an army of the worst bandits, invaded Demirva Ridge with the intention of sacrificing all of God Demirva’s believers for another God that will bless him with the path to Immortality.
“That Martial Mortal was aware that if the five powers will realize his plan they will stop him. To avoid any obstructions, he formulated a plan of attack that in the span of one night enabled him to massacre every living being in the ridge and when news of the attack reached the Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops it was already too late. The exuberant ridge turned into a valley of death.
”Bathed in the blood of his victims, the Martial Mortal and his bandits prayed for their God to accept their offering. But, they receive none of God’s mysterious ways of response. In their God’s place someone else, something else answered.
“The innocent humans and beasts that died, at the wake of the demise, begged with madness and indignation for their god. Initially they ask to be saved, but as they witnessed powerlessly their families and friends die, spirits shattering, their request had changed. Not for salvation to come or to at least for their spirits to pass into the afterlife together, but for revenge.
“They began to offer themselves, their spirits, into complete and utter servitude in whatever God Demirva will find them fit to serve.
“God Demirva replied.
”As the Martial Mortal and his army eagerly awaited, a blinding light descended on the ridge, setting aflame the innumerable dead bodies and collecting their spirits. As for the answer for their prayers… assembling and bounding fragments of their souls, God Demirva made new beings out of them, creatures of soul energy and dark attribute, driven by the last violent memories of the deceased, the wraiths of Demirva Ridge”.