“Wait a moment, are you him?!” Zechariah exclaimed in outrage. Due to both his and Linor’s turbulent mental state, the Companion’s Link formation became instable, the invisible energy agitated and in a “BANG!” they were thrown sideways.
Waving his hand, Zax dissolved the rampant energy and helped Zechariah and Linor back to their seats before crossing the boundary of the table’s formation. He speculated that Rockwell and Riv had disclosed the details of the Event in Demirva Ridge and the invitation they extended for him to join Sinister Chain.
“That’s a third question. Now is my turn”.
“First tell us!” Giant Havreim demanded. “Were you the guy Rockwell and Riv claimed to obtain the perfect dark attribute’s essence, consume it, by some implausible miracle survive and kill those members of the five powers?” Like his three colleagues, he merely thought that Zax met Rockwell and Riv in the ridge by chance or something and not at all was the pivotal variable in the demise of the five powers’ representatives.
“Linor, Zech, you tell me this guy, who is of our generation, supposed to be as strong as third level Martial Mortal?!” Varinka was on pins and needles, not even caring about the pain in her tongue.
She had learned of the qualitative difference between common attribute’s essences and God made attribute’s essences, yet it was excruciatingly hard to believe that a twenty years old possesses the strength of what most experts spend thousands of years to cultivate, not to mention that in their generation – not measured by a certain period or date, but in Ercas Mir those who are considered experts and were born less than hundred years apart – he was among the youngest!
Composing themselves, Zechariah and Linor did not reformed their formation, it was not that easy. Free from its restraints, they now could also choose to speak or not to their own words.
“Well…” Zechariah opened, not finding more to say, to come up with a logical reply to Varinka. He gave up and looked for Zax for explanation. “Tell us, then anything you’d ask we will answer”.
“Fine”, Zax complied, aware of how similar his reaction would have been if he was in their oblivious shoes. “I put my life on the line when taking the perfect dark attribute’s essence and I’m pretty sure that I reeked death in the moments it changed course, after I absorbed it, from trying to kill me to almost reincarnating me”. The experience etched in his brain, never to be forgotten. “Yes, I can handle myself against a third level Martial Mortal, but after what I’d been through it is the least I should hope for. Feeling envy? Go ahead and make the same bet I did. If you’ll survive, I promise you will also get a little stronger”. He placed the Blue Stone on the table. His turn could not be denied anymore. “Take me to its owner”. He only agreed to postpone taking the Black Core inside out of consideration to the mysterious expert that first found it.
“Back to camp?” Giant Havreim grumbled, the first to digest Zax’s narrative. “You haven’t answered all we have to ask, only these two’s questions. And we are exchanging questions, not requests, so ask as many as yours now and let us continue with ours”. Regretful for the spilled beer, he picked another one of his several glasses; few were empty, and finished it in one lasting sip. “No more fruits. Bring cheesy fries and dried slices of your best Deformed Beast meat”. He requested from the waiter that he summoned to clean the floor’s wooden panels.
Waiting for the waiter to leave, Varinka corresponded. “Your story correlates with Rockwell’s, the reason for faking your death is also rational and you are not a stranger to Linor and Zech”. She first made it seem like she only intend to sum up. “But before convincing us to lead you to our camp, there are couple more matters you must disclose, such as why did you arrive to the Eastern Continent? How did you do it? Currently no ships are coming or leaving. Without a vessel it’s a dangerous journey even to third level Martial Mortal… How did you discover Second Master’s- Savir’s and Yimin’s home?” She would have added what so special about the content of the Blue Stone, but that would have been invasion of Second Master’s privacy. “So go ahead and think of stuff to ask us, since it’s your turn, let’s finish both sides’ question before moving on to requests”.
Zax slapped the table and sneered. “Who do you lot think you are?” He had no ill intent toward Zechariah and Linor, yet they were on Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s side, so he ended up addressing all four. “Frankly, I don’t give a damn”. He got up. Let them confront with the mysterious expert, who apparently is their Second Master.
“We’ll take you”. A voice, typically poised and taciturn, declared in the heat of the argument. “We are taking you”. Linor said.
“Linor…” Zechariah was taken aback.
If there was someone sitting around this table that he will sacrifice his all to support without a second thought, it was none other than the brutish and deadly woman beside him, his closest companion since… His issue was not with her agreeing to Zax’s request; he himself was in half a mind to do so, but her not discussing it with him first.
“On whose authority?!” Giant Havreim grunted displeasingly. “He is your compatriot, we know, mine too, in an unconventional manner, but don’t let it affect your judgment”.
“Elder Master approved”. With these three words, Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s objection flattened.
“When did you talk to him?” Zechariah wanted to know. Because their formation was imperfect, they could use, to a degree, their communicators separately. So it begged the question, did Linor contact the Elder Master when they were bound by the profound intimacy of the Companion’s Link formation, or afterwards?
“Just now”. Linor assured him with an understanding look. “He said that he is eager to meet Zax”.
Giant Havreim grimaced.
“You contacted him?” Varinka figured why his countenance turned sour.
Keeping the response to himself, Giant Havreim stuffed his mouth with cheesy fries, a chunk of thin sliced Deformed Being meat and finished it off with a sup of cold beer.
“Mm… you got berated”. Varinka grinned and pinched his muscular forearm. A bystander would think that she mocks Giant Havreim, but a keen observer will find the affectionate twinkle hiding in her eyes.
Zax noticed, and so did Zechariah and Linor. Giant Havreim, too, and it was not clear if he blushed because the feelings were mutual or because he willingly gave in to the alcohol.
Anyway, at this point Varinka did not mind lowering her guard in front of Zax. If the Elder Master re extended Rockwell’s and Riv’s invitation, then she can be a little less harsh in her cautiousness.
“Will you come?” Linor stared at Zax, aware of what he will say, but she was not asking for herself. The Elder Master spoke through her.
His expression was enough to imply his consent. Already on his feet, it was also fine for him to depart right now, which was quite clear, as well.
Raising a hand, Zechariah called the waiter old fashion and all, instead of utilizing table’s formation. It took longer than it should, but eventually the waiter came and Giant Havreim paid the bill.
“Are you that impatient to meet the Elder Master or is it because you can’t wait to open the Blue Stone?” Varinka raised a brow.
They led Zax, not flying or running, but to his annoyance leisurely walking. After eating so much potent Deformed Being meat, Giant Havreim just wanted to savor the satisfaction at his own pace and rub his belly. Varinka was prepared in advance to tune down the precipitancy, being familiar with how the big guy is after a full meal. Honestly, sometimes she wonders how many non cultivator families can be sustained from one bite of the kind of Deformed Being meat that he likes to eat.
On a side note: Gordy’s Grotto serves mature two scales Deformed Being meat and once a decade or so even the fledgling of a three scales Deformed Being.
“Are you paired as teammates or couples?” Zax retorted. Ahead of him were walking Zechariah and Linor, and it seemed that the two were in the midst of a very personal, nearly heated conversation.
Zechariah was hurt that Linor did not consult with him before contacting the Elder Master, redirecting her actions to the reason why they still struggle with the Companion’s Link formation. Linor was mainly nodding, giving the impression of apologizing, though she never said the words. Then, after a few blocks, Zechariah ended the discord with a whisper, which for a brief instant aroused softness in Linor’s posture.
“They…” Varinka followed Zax’s line of sight, then glanced back at him with a smile. “You don’t understand. To perfect our technique it is required for each of us to wholeheartedly know our formation’s companion, much like comprehending a profound insight. Developing feelings of a romantic nature for one another is, when the companions are of opposite sex and are interested in the other sex, most times inevitable”. She explained ever so comfortably. “I’m not sure how much you knew either of them back in New Earth. Yes, you can say that externally they look like an odd couple, but you shouldn’t misjudge their hearts by the skin and bones around it or its temperament”.
Zax listened and kept to himself. The talk of love reminded him Anet and for the first time made him wonder why did he think that spending two years apart is fine?
Was he tired of her? ‘Absolutely not’.
Did he miss her? ‘Since the day of departure to this very moment and tomorrow and day after tomorrow, for sure’.
Would he return now, just for her, if the option was available? ‘Not yet…’
This venture was not just for his sake. ‘I came here with two purposes. Finding out if our love can survive the test of time wasn’t one of them, it doesn’t need to be’. They were young, not as cultivated as they would like to believe, in their hearts, at least. Nevertheless, they were not regular people and as they continued to foster themselves, they could recall more vividly and feel more sincerely. Their love, Zax assessed days before leaving and Anet imagined the same, was not the fleeting kind.
They exited the crowded, metropolitan part of the city, which was not as impressive as some of Kingdom Earth’s caves, going past rural neighborhoods and proceeding to the poor and secluded outskirts of the grand city “Sanctum Oasis”. Here the number of residences was small, stone houses that were built randomly around the area, perhaps out of miscalculated convenience, maybe under the influences of wanting to live alone. The number of people was even scarcer than houses’. They were divided into two groups: old and forgotten and young familial yet extremely poor.
Normally, the only guests a place like this in Sanctum Oasis city would know are the patrol guards that show up every two to three days in the morning or night.
“What’s her name?” Varinka intrude, recognizing hint of longing in Zax eyes and drawing his attention from trying to understand why he was led to this unremarkable place.
“Don’t be nosey, Varinka”. Giant Havreim reprimanded. The big guy considered matters of the heart as something that men should keep just there, buried inside and out for air only in the company of the significant other.
“Anet”. Zax did not mind.
“Mm…” Varinka ignored Giant Havreim. “Want us to arrange smuggling her from New Earth like Zech and Linor? It’s possible, if the Elder Master or Second Master give their approval”.
“No”. Zax declined on the spot, without the mood to explain. ‘When I’ll have the strength I’d walk with her hand in hand through the passageway’. He would not let her ever experiencing being on the run or worse, looming death.
“Soothe yourself”. Varinka shrugged. “This is the place, by the way”. She pointed.
It was a one storey cottage, not small like the adjusting houses and not large as some of the villas they crossed at the better parts of the city. It was surrounded by a courtyard of sand and rugged earth.
If Sinister Chain’s leader wanted their headquarters to be unassuming, his certainly found a working solution. Using his Soul Senses, the place was not even protected by an obstructive formation, yet Zax could discover nothing particular.
“It’s rude, you know, probing someone else home without asking first”. A man opened the wooden door and come out.
His clothes were simple, adhering to norm and fitting the visage, a thawb, or ankle length, long sleeves, earth colors robe.
His skin had a light brown shade, an obvious tan that masked his natural white skin. His short hair was black and so were his slightly slanted eyes.
Zax’s heart pounded in his chest at the sight of the man whom his Soul Sense failed to detect. He started him, deaf to the calls of Zechariah, in utter stupor.
It was their first meeting, but he unquestionably knew him and most definitely never believed that he would meet.
“Supreme Ruler… Gid Chu Takeda!”