Eyes red, veins protruding. Grent’s hands clenched, pulled and ripped the expensive padding of the golden vehicle’s seats. “That bitch actually invited one of her beast friends!” He resented Zetsa, despised her family, envied and hated a dead man. “Hahahahaha!” He abruptly burst in laughter, throwing his head back, not minding the taste for blood in his mouth, or the red stains on his lips and cloths. An image of a young, beautiful woman emerged in his sea of consciousness. “Anet… Anet… Back when I first saw you your beauty was not the best that I’ve seen, but your features were exactly my type so I naturally found myself attracted to you”.
He recalled the instant in the Martial competition, in which he eyes were casually drawn to a minor commotion between two schools. When he saw Anet in but a second he was captivated by her looks and that was that. Later, finding that she has a boyfriend, moreover one of the prominent figures in the competition, he chose to act reasonably and forget her. Whatever she had in his eyes that others, more beautiful did not, was indeed rare, but with plenty fish in the sea, not unattainable.
“He died and I got my chance, hahaha!” A bit of misery could be heard in his voice. Initially his attraction spawned from her external features, then, the more he learned about her, there were portions of her personality and assessment of future prospects that deepened the allure. “Alas, he still in your mind, his detestable low family in my way and now even supreme experts get involve”.
As a second level Core Master he could determine his undeniable inferiority to the hidden expert and the amount of trouble he will bring his family by insisting on continuing to pursue Anet, should the expert be hell bent on interfering.
“I… I’m… I’m weak”.
“Sorry”. Anet apologized to Zax.
Up above the farm he formed an invisible platform of dark attribute energy from them to stand on as he threatened and scared away Grent, Navida and Jeve. Needless to say that he was furious.
In the midst of compensating for the pain and time apart, couple of hours, actually, after he left his grandparents’ farm, Anet’s Caller rang with the frantic Liz on the other side.
Moment after being told to get inside the house with her parents and grandma Shi Oh and then seeing the familiar golden vehicle of the mean man, the little girl picked her mother’s Caller from the living room’s table and called the one she remembered the mean man would listen to.
There was no time for her to explain to Zax. Knowing his temperament, Anet just asked him to spare Grent and his company, murmuring that it is her fault to begin with.
“I’m sorry”. She repeated, glancing at the golden vehicle, hoping she will not have to deal with the one inside, that after Zax’s conduct his resolved will shatter indefinitely. “His name is ‘Grent Lenma’”, she elaborated in spite of being aware that he heard enough to get the picture. “Of Shitou‘s second great family. He began to pursue me shortly after news of your death spread around the circle of the elite families with connections to the last Martial competition. I rejected him, but mostly ignored him, which is why I say that it’s my fault that he ended up pestering your family. Instead of being explicit that I don’t have any feelings for him, by disregarding his affection he became more persistent”.
“Enough, Anet”. Zax did not want to hear. Though he would have liked her from the start to tell Grent off in a definite manner, it irritated much more that his family got involved.
He held Anet’s waist and together they descended.
“Zax, so it was really you…” Zetsa was surprised seeing him landing. The domineering voice that influenced Grent and those of his company sounded different than his regular speaking voice, so she could not recognize him; only speculate to whom it belonged.
“Mom, dad, everyone you can come outside”. Zax called after nodding to Zetsa. He did not want to frighten his other family members and used dark attribute energy to block the sound waves from permitting into the house. He let Zetsa hear him to avoid confusion during the abrupt capitulation of Navida and Jeve.
“Big brother!” Liz dashed outside upon hearing him. “Big sis Anet!” She made a sharp turn and jumped to her embrace. “You told the mean man to go? You told him not to come again?” She was stressful. When last time she saw Zetsa fight Grent and slightly getting hurt, despite winning, her subconscious attached to her mind an image of him she was afraid of. That time the mean man left only when Anet came and told him to.
Zax picked Liz from Anet’s arms. “That person will never return to cave twenty five and in the future, if you see him, he will never dare to scare you. It’s your big brother’s promise!”
He helped her calm down with a thread of soul energy. It took her a moment, but eventually she nodded and gave him a hug without saying further words.
“She is asleep”. Zax came out from Liz’s bedroom.
When the Nightly Cover formation at the ceiling of the cave started to darken, they return home from the farm.
Anet, Zetsa, Marco and Laylen sat in the living room while Zax put Liz to sleep.
“Zax, you intend to go to your Master’s cave?” Marco asked.
“Yes, tonight. There is a lot I have to talk with him, apart from letting him know that I’m alive. The longest that I’ll be away would be three days. I’ll come back home right after”.
It took effort, but Marco, along reluctant Laylen, finally nodded in agreement.
“I’ll be joining you and Zetsa”. Anet got up from the couch.
“I also prefer that you will. There are thing I want to share with you alongside my Master, big sis and the rest”.
Still on the couch, Zetsa had the impression that Zax holding back an important matter. She was about to ask but decided to save it to when they reach Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.
“Take my Caller, Zax”. Laylen offered. “So we’ll at least be able to communicate with you”.
Hesitating for too short for them to notice, Zax decided to comply. “I might not be always at range, so don’t get worry if I don’t answer. In three day I’ll definitely be home”.
He could have given them his spare communicator. It had much better range than most Callers in Kingdom Earth. He decided against the idea since it was foreign technology and even if he could count on him parents to hide it, on this regard he chose to stay safe than sorry.
It was a long and short trip. Two hours in Anet’s fastest pace, eternity for his perception as it reabsorbed a familiar path, bustling wildness and flora.
It was not guarded; there was no need for it since the conflict with the Black Horns tribe concluded.
“I’ll head on first”. Other than Laivien, Zax was not worried about the reactions of the rest of his Martial family to his “resurrection”. As shocked as they may be, their hearts were cultivated along each of the three aspects, and therefore he did not have to drag the process like with his family.
‘Grandmaster is in his Blue Tower, Master and Martial brother Simel are with him!‘ Besides the three, Zax’s Soul Sense discovered Laivien, still in her valley, had yet to give birth, and his eldest Martial sister Hagen, cultivating in one of the peaks close to the Blue Tower.
At the second floor of the Blue Tower three humanoid beasts sat in a triangle formation while between them was a clear ball of ice with all kind of engravings.
When he heard that his one and only Martial son died in the world above ground, Kartius, for the fourth time in his life, wailed from the bottom of his heart. To say that he was sad and mad was an understatement. He was devastated and frenzied.
Grandmaster Kartion had to restrain him with the assistant of his apprentices, as Kartius planned to visit His Valor Ozeyn for help to go above ground. They could not let him show up rowdy at the doorstep of Valgarel’s ruler, neither rush to an unknown, dangerous territory. In the end, he calmed down after submitting to Grandmaster Kartion’s ultimatum for leaving… cultivating as a Mist User to the Peak of the second realm and achieving the first stage of the second realm as bodily cultivator.
Now, between the three, the clear ball of ice was a model of the soul on which they recorded their insights and enlightenments for fashioning the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s second phase’s second stage.
“Kartius, Simel!” Grandmaster Kartion’s eyes snapped opened from his contemplation.
Simel and Kartius simultaneously called alarmingly. They felt it, too, an overbearing Soul Sense sweeping them, not bothering to conceal itself.
“They are here!” Grandmaster Kartion deduced that the person or persons already arrived and were at the entrance of his Blue Tower.
“Who is it?” Simel asked. His Soul Sense was obstructed by an even stronger Soul Sense.
“Follow me!” Grandmaster Kartion’s Sublime Soul Sense was also blocked.
The three hastened down to the entrance of the Blue Tower, whoever arrived knowingly waited them outside.
As he expected… utter silence.
Wind blew from behind and a great, Double Pupils Hawk flapped her giant wings, maintaining her position in the air.
It was hard, reading emotion from a beast’s face. In comparison to the rest, Simel was the easiest as he was from the ape family. Then again, after spending years under his tutelage, in their presence, how could Zax not discern the disbelief, amazement, grief and joy?
He first bowed, not by much, to his Master. “Martial father, sorry for making you worry”. He proceeded to raise his head, look at Grandmaster Kartion, Simel and Hagen. “Marital uncle, Martial big brother Simel, eldest Martial sister Hagen, Zax is back”.
Simel was the first to make any sort of reaction as his knees became weak and he fell on his butt. “H- Ho- How?” His voice gradually rumbled as his facial muscles crooked to a look of ecstasy. “No! No! Don’t answer! My little brother is alive, hahahaha! My little brother, hahaha!”
Since Tularg’s sacrifice and death the bond connecting the living grew stronger, especially for those who were the eldest, Raroen, Hagen and Simel. Their loss of a younger brother, blood or Martial, and their inability to save him weighed on them days and nights.
Zetsa who kept pace with Anet made it together.
“You came back…” Grandmaster Kartion said in a low voice as he gained his composure.
“Master”, Zax’s line of sight intersected with Kartius’s.
Kartius’s chest went up and down as he gasped and from the nostrils of his stag head currents of hot air came out. “Zax”. Although he was tensed, the lucidness of his eyes indicated only moderate restlessness.
The blowing wind from behind stopped. Hagen landed and transformed to her humanoid form.
“Everyone”, Zax suddenly said guiltily, more guilty than he already seemed. “There is much I have to say, but let’s not do it here. There is still someone I must apologize to…”
‘Laivien’. He thought of her name.
Probably the hardest to see in his Martial family, even more than his Master, was her, for Zax knew what he his Martial brother and sisters meant to her. The motherly love to the child she was not able to birth due to the injury she received early in her pregnancy, she poured in abundance at her Kartion’s and big brother’s apprentices.
He found her resting in her valley, not using the violet stone to commune or inspect the lives in the two caves, so she was unaware of his arrival.
“Give me just a bit more time”. Zax asked and vanished before their eyes.
“He disappeared”. Simel was stunned. He was not able even to follow Zax’s shadow or perceive the fluctuations in the air. It was as if he teleported.
“Kartius…” Grandmaster Kartion glanced at the half muddled Kartius, saying in a deep, a tad wavering voice. “Strong. Your Martial son got terrifyingly strong”.