Zax passed his gaze at the battle that was enfolding.
He moved faster than anyone present could see, appearing right next the body of the first leader.
Slipping his hand inside the small space between the first leader’s chest and armor, he retrieved the Pure Core along with a small sack, filled with a strange round object.
In Zax previous estimation, when he used his Soul Sense to examine the Gray Lords right before their arrival, he discovered the first leader keeping close to his chest a small sack with quite the precious content, a Pure Core. One of a grown two scales Deformed Being. In other words… a near Peak second realm Pure Core!
In New Earth, Zax might have led a modest financial life for himself. He was accustomed to his Martial household’s mindset of following the Martial path, and even at his parents’ home, although he never lacked anything as a child, there was still plenty that other children had and he did not, for all sort of reasons that, due to the way he was raised, he never questioned.
Now, though, things were different. He arrived to a new world with one intention among several, which was to reasonably integrate into the culture and local population. Despite having the capacity to live off the wild lands, with such manner he might as well return to New Earth. By selling the Pure Core he obtained it will be a lot simpler to get familiar with Ercas Mir’ currency and achieve his goals.
“Here”. Zax handed Mendor his Pure Core back.
Mendor took note of the little sack Zax grabbed for himself and quickly forgot about it. Regardless of what was the treasure inside, he did not have the gall to want it. From his experience, in his profession sometimes it was preferable to remain oblivious.
“Mendor, hero Zax”, Garnet joined the two as his warriors and mercenaries subdued the surrendering bandits.
After seeing him taking out the three leaders, it was impossible for Garnet to not look at Zax in a new light, no longer the young talented expert with good heart who helped them kill the Black Chrome Alligator, but a deity who descended from above, sent by their God. As such, the honorific title “Hero” before his name now naturally came out of his mouth, with no other meaning except from expressing reverence.
Garnet was not alone in his frame of mind, everyone else were taking sneak peeks at the admirable youngster and only those at the higher chain of command, both in the village and the mercenary band, dared to directly look at him.
Garnet sighed as he felt a huge burden lifting up from his shoulder. “Thank you!” He bowed toward the two but it was obvious to whom he spoke. “From the bottom of my heart, as a representative of all those who suffered anther the reign of the Gray Lords, if in the present or future there is anything… we will diligently serve!”
It was loud and clear in Garnet’s voice, the depth at which the Gray Lords affected Virgil’s Pasture and probably the other villages in the vicinity.
The stars above were in the midst of capturing Zax’s attention.
“Fine”. He indifferently said. Not for being apathetic, but because he could understand where Garnet was coming from, and since he will soon leave Virgil’s Pasture with no plans to return, he might as well say what the other wants to hear and accept his graciousness.
The banquet did not renew. There were bodies that had to be buried, return to the earth, and prisoners to interrogate and supervise.
The village’s elders also had no time to oversee a celebration when who knows how the surrounding villages plan to proceed after the annihilation of the Gray Lords they supposedly sent. At the very least their hearts were clear from one doubt; news of Virgil’s Pasture’s triumph already reached the surrounding villages.
Zax watched the night sky from the rooftop of the fifth cottage. ‘Superficially the sky looks the same as the illusion of the Nightly Cover formation’. He stared in fascination as there was a depth beyond the facade of the Nightly Cover formation.
Like that he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Two days later.
At the outskirt of the village
“Mendor, hero Zax, our village looks forward to seeing you again”. Leonard saw the two off.
In addition to Mendor mercenary band and Zax, a small group of village warriors were also ready to head out toward Glorious Ground.
Currently, the village warriors were being instructed by Garnet. Behind them was wagon strapped to a Seliverian Cow, the cattle Deformed Being.
To say the truth, Zax was a little taken aback by the simplicity sight of a wagon as the best means of transportation the village had. He wondered if Ercas Mir lags behind Kingdom Earth in technology, or perhaps, Virgil’s Pasture was just unable to afford mechanical vehicles.
On the wagon were the detained bandits. The plan was to hand them over to the authorities in Glorious Ground and share the bounty some of them had with Mendor and Zax.
“Thank you for the hospitality, head”. Zax said.
He really enjoyed his stay in the village and was not bothered by the Gray Lords incident.
He carried on his back a bag with a strap that stretched diagonally across his torso. He got it in the village; inside he had his New Earth clothes, some food to last until he will arrive to Glorious Ground and of course, the Pure Core.
As for the dictionary, Zax returned it to Garnet after finishing reading it, though he still had to practice for a while in order to become fluent in Netherling.
“We will go now, Leonard”. Mendor, as usual, was aloof.
“It will take us approximately eight hours to arrive to Glorious Ground”. Mendor informed.
He, Zax and Danus, his second in command, were following at the center of the cluster of men.
“Zax, I am not sure how it is where you came from, but you should know that in Selivereb even a second level Core Master can be duped if he doesn’t join a reliable group, especially in cities!” Danus warned Zax.
“Indeed you should be aware, Zax”, Mendor concurred. “There is an unshakeable hierarchy in Selivereb that you best not forget”.
“Don’t tell me, at the top of the food chain are the Blessed Army and the Violet Scaled Troops”. Zax smiled.
He was not worried about encountering troublesome folks. He had the confidence that his true strength could only be confined by Martial Mortals. Even if Ercas Mir possesses a greater number of experts, what are the chances that he will meet a Martial Mortal at every turn?
“If you know then… well good. The Blessed Army and the Violet Scaled Troops are the ruling powers in Seliverb and their people are stationed and govern all the great clans and cities”. Mendor said solemnly.
“I did not travel here to cause problems to anyone and if I’ll end up mistrusting someone, that would be my fault”.
“It’s not a matter for you to decide. The high echelon of the Blessed Army and the Violet Scaled Troops are too busy to care about people like us, but underneath them, those on the next level in hierarchy… officials, heads and leaders that are connected to either of the two powers. They do pay attention to those below them, me and you. Let alone what could happen if they find something of interest… even if their operatives get bored, then it most likely won’t end up well for someone unrelated…”
“Sounds like anarchy”.
“Don’t get me wrong. Both cities and clans are great to live and work in. But at the same time, both implement a strict system to maintain the status quo. All I’m saying is that I don’t know how things handled where you came from, but here, for a lone expert in your level, shall you expose that strength of yours you may unwantedly attract the type of crowd that you don’t necessarily want to meet”.
“The type that can even threaten a second level Core Master?” Zax probed.
Mendor sighed. “The type that is backed by Martial Mortals”.
At last, after eight hours of walk, Zax left the forest of the Titan Kapok Trees.
At a distance of roughly seven kilometers from the edge of the forest, a grand spectacle was erected. It did not take Zax’s breath for being modernly advanced or a magical wonder. No.
The shine of Glorious Ground was conveyed from its architecture. There were two mountains nearly arching from both sides of the city, shielding it. From afar, a handful of tall structures with bright luster were the highest symbol of progress. From up close, more details started to emerge, specifically bricks, metal pipes, glass and endless amount of gears of all sizes. The city basically looked like it was built by the combined minds of a brilliant architect and an imaginative child, which along the smoke and old style machinery brought to one’s mind the word “Steampunk”.
To a person like Zax, who came from what gave the impression of a different era, to sum up how he felt as he looked at Glorious Ground two words would suffice, downright intrigued.
There was a large contrast in the field of science between life outside to inside the city, and an even larger one between Kingdom Earth and the city.
‘If the five powers are aware of Kingdom Earth they should know that we are far more advanced in technology. If they are really the overlords of this planet, why then did they not adopted our advancement to their world?’
It was a peculiar issue that without unrevealing the five powers to their core, Zax was still far from figuring out.
“Zax, the checkpoint we are heading to is for those who have identifications recognized by the Blessed Army. The one over there is the registration office for newcomers”.
The front and back of the city had two wide entrances with couple of meters tall walls that continued until the bases of the two surrounding mountains.
Zax and the men in his group had arrived to what was accepted as the front of the city, where at both sides of the entrance were squared buildings and between them a mechanical barricade.
Mendor pointed at the left building, as he showed Zax where he should go.
“It won’t take a long time for you to compile and receive foreigner identification. As for permanent Glorious Ground’s citizenship, it is more complicated but there is a way if you are willing…”
“Glorious Ground’s citizenship…” Zax mused. It will only be of use to him in case he will decide to establish himself in one way or another.
“It can be helpful. I’ll tell you about it inside, the line moves fast and I need to make sure the villagers won’t dillydally”.
“State your name and reason for coming to Glorious Ground”. After taking his picture, a female officer out of the four officers in the registration office asked Zax, while the other three seized him.
The four were Core Breakers, wearing glowing armors and black pants with golden strings. They had patches at their shoulders with the words “Blessed” above “Army” and one horizontal golden stripe under.
‘No place of origin, age or level of cultivation… well that’s lucky of me’ Zax said to himself before replying. “Zax, no last name-”
“You must register a last name”. The officer insisted.
She was typing in a typewriter with a thin screen that had thick cables that connected it to a pretty big printer.
“Zax… Walaow”. It was his mother’s maiden name.
If something will ever happen and someone from Ercas Mir will search him in New Earth, than no registry would have such name.
“Work. I am accompanying Mendor mercenary band and a group of villagers from Virgil’s Pasture”. It was a simple excuse.
The officer used her Soul Sense to detect Zax’s level of cultivation. Zax, naturally, used his Soul Sense to obstruct her.
The officer stopped typing and frowned. The other three also changed countenance.
“State your level of cultivation”. The officer demanded.
“Advanced phase Second level Core Master”. Zax attentively confirmed.
Mendor did not tell him about the officers in the registration office being particularly vigilant around cultivators.
“Sir”, the officer’s attitude immediately changed as she stood up from behind her desk.
The other three officers also took a step back, one reached out to phone with red handset that hung on the wall, seemingly about to make a call.
The female officer bent her back to the typewriter, finishing filing the required fields and sent the document to print. Taking the article, she stamped it with a “Blessed Army” insignia.
“Here, sir, to finalize your foreigner identification please proceed to the mayor’s office building. Welcome to Glorious Ground”. She said cautiously.
Zax sensed a tension in the atmosphere inside the registration office. He took the sheet of paper and exited, asking no question to avoid getting lies. Nevertheless, he was clear on one thing… that crowed Mendor recommended him against, he might have caught its attention after all.
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