Mendor as well as Garnet and many of the men still standing were in complete and utter shock from Zax’s performance.
“W-Who are you, sir?” Garnet asked in a faltering voice.
Although the surrounding view was a mass of sickening gore, there was not one person in the battlefield that carried himself so nonchalantly as Zax, while looking like a ghastly red devil that spawned right out of hell.
Zax rubbed his fingers and then waved his right hand, trying to get rid of some of the sticky blood and mushy meat. Usually such state did not disturb him that much that he could not wait to find suitable means to clean himself, but the insides of the Black Chrome Alligator smelled truly awful.
‘Mm? Is that old man speaking to me?’ From his inability to understand Garnet’s language, Zax was not aware that he was speaking to him until he noticed his look and that there was no one beside him. ‘I don’t understand a word that he is saying. Should I gesture with my hands that I can’t understand? But that might raise question about where I’m from and I’m not sure how to answer them, yet. Maybe I should just leave…?’
Seeing that he was not getting answered, Garnet misinterpreted Zax’s pensive stare to a murdering look, still consumed with the bloodthirstiness of killing the Black Chrome Alligator.
Fearing that he spoke too casually and offended the great expert before him, which came out of nowhere and with one blow killed a mighty Deformed Being, even if it was injured, Garnet quickly bowed to express his gratitude so to avoid an incident.
“Arg… Sir, please forgive my insolence, you just surprised myself and my companions. Please allow me to thank you from the bottom of my…” Garnet said every word so eloquently; one might misunderstand and think that he was chanting from Holy Scriptures.
When the men around saw Garnet’s behavior, whether they have been the village warriors under him or the Mendor mercenary band, none dared to despise him. No matter how venerable a cultivator was, at the face of a stronger cultivator he or she should act with restraint and the proper etiquette.
Believing that Zax’s killing intent is on the verge of erupting a second time, it was Garnet’s responsibility to conduct himself as he did and appease him. In fact, Mendor had an equal responsibility as they both were the leaders of their united groups, but he seemed to pick up something else from Zax. In addition, his assessment of Zax’s strength differed than Garnet. Not there he doubted Zax’s capabilities, but taking in consideration the state the Black Chrome Alligator was in, coupled with his years of experience as a mercenary, he gathered that Zax was probably not weaker than him and had used a peculiar attack that met the conditions to defeat the alligator in one blow.
Mendor contemplated, unsure, but for a second there he thought that what he picked up from Zax… could it be helplessness?
“Stop”. Zax raised the palm of his hand along with speaking outloud
Garnet’s sincerity and fear that could not be hidden made him a bit awkward. He realized that it does not really matter if the people in front of him knew that he cannot speak their language. If it will raise suspicious eyebrows, he can just leave, find someplace to rid himself from the gore and continue onward to his original destination, Glorious Ground.
Garnet saw Zax raised his hand toward him, the same hand that blew up the extremely strong and tough Black Chrome Alligator, and a premature sense of imminent crisis caused his heart to beat so loudly, he could barely hear to what Zax said.
“Sir, please don’t-”
“Shut it, Garnet!” Mendor interrupted him and turned to Zax. “You… Lad, don’t you speak Netherling?”
“Eh!” Zax looked dumbfounded at Mendor.
He could not understand the words he said to Garnet, but the next sentence that was directed at him was actually in his native tongue. That was beyond his expectation. After gesturing he thought the other will use the same manner of communication, not that among them someone will not only understand him, but his situation as well.
‘Netherling, is that the native language of this place or the entire planet?’ Zax thought before replying to Mendor. “No”.
“A foreigner…” Mendor murmured and looked heavily around, at his men and the village warriors. “Tend the wounded, then gather the casualties and bury them. If they have families, collect their things and arrange them accordingly. And bring the Black Chrome Alligator’s carcass to the village“.
The atmosphere turned despondent when Mendor’s men heard him. Suddenly the adrenalin and rush from the bottle were replaced by weights of exhaustion. Nonetheless, they hurried to comply, with the only other Core Master in the group supervising. The village warriors were slow to react, by they also helped.
By that time, from Zax’s placid conversation with Mendor, which he could understand, it became clear to Garnet that he misjudged Zax’s temperament, and that he also was not an old man like the two of them.
Secretly laughing at himself, he said, finally in a little less apprehensive voice. “The battle was wearying us to out limits… Thank you, young man, for assisting us finish it without suffering additional losses”. He said in New Earth’s language.
“You don’t have to mention it”.
It was not that Zax did not care for those who died in the battle, but he knew none of them and the ties they had. As such, there was a tint of apathy to his demeanor. That being said, such behavior was common for experts, and so neither Mendor nor Garnet held it against him.
Mendor shook his head. “No. Many men died today, and many more would have died if you stayed your hand. Please accept both of our gratitude”. He gave a slight bow with his head and after pausing for a moment he continued to ask. “How can we call you?”
“My name is Zax”. Zax said, not seeing the point of adding his surname.
“Mm”, Mendor nodded. “The man beside me called ‘Garnet’. He is the chief warrior of the village up ahead”.
Garnet smiled respectfully at Zax. He seemed to be fine with Mendor taking upon himself to make the introduction.
“You can call me Mendor. Most of the men out here…” As he spoke and turned to look around, when his eyes landed row of dead bodies, Mendor gaze became sullen. “Are members of my Mendor mercenary band. The rest are Garnet’s people. I think that you can discern who is who”.
His opinion of the village warriors was a bit discontent. Many of his men died in comparison, and even thought it was a job they willingly accepted, the end results were hard to swallow without being slightly spiteful.
“Sir Zax, please, allow my village to entertain you as a show of gratitude for killing the alligator. Naturally, this invitation extends for as long as you want. Though, we may be incompetent, as a foreigner you might find at our place useful information for your entire stay in Selivereb”. Garnet humbly said.
“Zax, my mercenary band will also stay a few days in Garnet’s village. Afterwards, since our job is finished, we will head back to Glorious Ground. If you want, you can join us”. Mendor said.
It would be a lie to claim that he was not interested in a cultivator like Zax whose strength, at such a young age, managed to inwardly alarm him.
Zax wiped some of the blood on his face. “Just call me ‘Zax’. No need for ‘sir’”. He first told Garnet. Considering the amiable approach of the two men before him exhibited, he was fine with them simply using his first name. He proceeded to answer the both of them. “I’ll stay and leave with Mendor and his people”. Not to mention that it was a much more comfortable alternative than spending the night atop one of the Titan Kapok Trees.
Hearing his reply, Garnet’s countenance revealed a brief look of disappointment. His invitation was not merely to thank Zax; he had an ulterior motive… The village was in a weak state now, a few warriors died in the battle, more are severely wounded, and then there was part of the precious carcass of the Black Chrome Alligator they get to keep.
Garnet feared that after Mendor and his mercenary band will depart, the other villages will make a move to steal their fortune. At the time, if they would have Zax’s presence in the village, it might suffice to deter the other villages long enough for him and his warriors to recover and forge better weaponry from the Black Chrome Alligator.
Zax, Mendor and Garnet walked along side each other.
After sending one of the warriors to arrange Zax’s accommodation and another to notify the head of the village, Garnet began to narrate some details about the village.
“Our village is called ‘Virgil’s Pasture’. ‘Virgil’ is the last name of the first line of descendants whose forefather founded the village twenty two hundred years ago. Today the village is a home to almost four thousand souls and is the third large village in the vicinity of Selivereb”.
“Twenty two hundred years…” Zax mused.
He was curious if the forefather, as well as all the beasts and humans in Ercas Mir, were themselves descendants of survivals who did not take part in the great immigration or that perhaps did immigrate to New Earth and sometime in the past thousands of years quietly returned to the surface of the earth?
“Yes”. Garnet said, thinking that Zax is asking. “The forefather was an ex serviceman of the Blessed Army and only at old age married and founded the village. On this note, you can say that all the villages and tribes in Selivereb share the same sentiment… they all were established by men and beasts who served in the Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops”.
Zax gawked. With this sort of history, it turned out more difficult to assess which of his assumptions was the correct one, unless he will personally start scrutinizing the five powers, which is what Supreme Ruler Ariel wanted him to do anyway but could not say bluntly due to the oath he made for the Blessed Army.
The villagers started coming out from their wood structured homes as the wounded were carried back. First to appear were men and women who reached out to help and welcome the village warriors and mercenaries. Elderly followed next and only few children succeeded in escaping the confinement of their homes their parents forced on them, though they quickly returned frightened and crying.
“Is it fine if I’ll come along looking like this?” Zax asked Garnet. He was well aware of his appearance and how regular people, non cultivators, may react to him.
“Don’t worry about it”. Garnet reassured him without further words.
“Garnet, I’m joining my men. Tell the head of the village that if he wants your part of the Black Chrome Alligator to come see me later in the evening. Zax”, Mendor told Garnet and nodded to Zax before splitting to where his mercenary band was staying.
The two saw off Mendor. Looking at his back, Garnet heaved a deep sigh. He and the head of the village will have find ways to prolong the mercenaries’ stay until the village will be fit to take care of itself again.
Shortly after Mendor left, the village warrior Garnet sent to arrange a place for Zax returned. He handed Garnet a thick book and spoke with him in Netherling and then was ordered to gather a group of men and bring back the missing cattle.
“Zax, tonight we will hold a service for the departed. Subsequently, we will have a victory banquet. Please join us at your leisure. The head of the village will surely like to thank you face to face”.
Garnet lead Zax to a small cottage, only slightly bigger than the surrounding huts the villagers lived in.
It was one of the six cottages the village head and one of the two that were currently vacant from inhabitants.
“This dictionary will help you get familiar with our language, Netherling. It’s not much, in the cities you can find better means to learn it fast fluently, but if you are interested…”
“Thank you”. Zax said, receiving the dictionary.
“Hahaha, merely a tiny gesture. Well then, I will send someone to inform you when the service will begin. You don’t have any obligations to come, of course. At any case I will send to you once more for the victory banquet”.
Garnet cupped his hands, since touching the messy Zax was out of the question.
Zax entered the cottage. It was nicely furnished with all made Titan Kapok Trees furniture and no other words to describe its appeal. It had two floors with a total of seven rooms.
Zax saw it all with his Soul Sense, to find if there was a shower in the cottage. There was, as well as a laundry room. He smiled and headed upstairs.
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