As Zax proceeded past the seashore and vanished into the horizon, he did not pay much attention to the people on the beach and those in the harbor. The sea was a fascinating spectacle it was hard for him to match it to anything he ever witnessed. The closest he could think of was the blue sky. The sea appeared just as vast and while there were differences between the two, as he went on, other than scope and color, Zax detected more and more similarities that made him equally appreciate both domains, despite that at the moment he was only able to traverse just one.
‘Amazing, life is so abundant here!’ Zax was at awe as he spread his Soul Sense and discovered myriad of living beings.
Unlike the land, Zax found many types of fish that were nothing more than regular fish, that is had no cultivation base. They roamed in the sea, seemingly unconcerned from the aquatic schools of Deformed Beings.
‘Here is the opposite’, Zax noticed. ‘Maybe it’s specific to this area of the sea, but here one scale Deformed Being and regular aquatic creatures are more common than two scales Deformed Beings’.
With was an interesting discovery, which made Zax first suspect that the reason for it was the existence of a three scale Deformed Being. However, no matter how far he advanced or how diligently his Soul Sense scanned, he could not find anything particularly unordinary.
‘My Soul Sense can’t reach the bottom of the sea’. As a result he was not certain how deep it was to the sea’s floor and if there reside two and three scales Deformed Beings.
“A ship?” It was the first sign of human and beast life he encountered since leaving Selivereb of the Western Continent.
It was sailing from the opposite direction, a not that big cruise ship, full to the brim with thousands of people and beasts in human or humanoid forms.
“What are they doing?” Zax frowned due to confusion.
As soon as he was noticed by the experts on the cruise ship and two on the fishing boat, glowing symbols and shapes resembling eels started to appear on the body of the ship. At the same time, a dome like mantle manifested above the ship. On it were engraved same glowing symbols but different shapes, something that resembled a flock of four wings birds.
As the ship’s formations were raised, the many people and beasts aboard all stared wide eyes before ignoring the urgent orders of the crew members to leave the deck and hurrying to watch excitedly the vicinity, as if they all were informed that an exceptional rare show is about to begin.
Further away came to view another, smaller vessel, a fishing boat. As the crew on the fishing boat noticed the glowing formation of the cruise ship, their complexion blanched and moments later a nearly identical formation was raised on the body of the fishing boat and above it.
In contrast to the jolly behavior of the passengers on the cruise ship, the fishing boat’s crew members were much less enthusiastic. Halting their work and everything else, they agitatedly waved their arms and shouted toward Zax, while only few did the same on the cruise ship.
“Mm?” Zax’s ears perked up, trying to hear the voices of the fishing boat’s crew members.
“Return to shore!”
“No! Don’t come over! Go back immediately!”
Earlier, when he utilized the worldly dark attribute to fly across the sea, Zax decided to maintain a fairly fast speed that would have prevented those below the third realm on the slow cruise ship and fishing boat from noticing him. However, when he explored the depth of the sea on his venture, he gradually decelerated almost unconsciously, and by the time he paid heed to the glowing formation of the cruise ship and the shouts from the fishing boat, he was very close to a halt, in comparison to his original pace, that is.
Having no quarrel with any of the two parties, Zax was not bored to start anything by approaching them against their wishes, even if he had the capital to do as he wants. Besides, he could read the air and temperament of each company and, as a result, an imminent sense of crisis brewed inside of his stomach.
It was not something detectable by Soul Sense or any other of the five senses. Rather, it was a shift in the worldly dark attribute, like it was reacting to an opposing attribute being used domineeringly or maybe a summons by an unknown entity. Regrettably, Zax’s familiarity with the dark attribute was insufficient to discern which was the case or if it was something else entirely.
“Go-” Was the last thing that reached Zax’s ears before all sounds vanished.
Zax felt as if the world froze and even his mind was going at a snail pace.
A gradual high pitched wail penetrated through the silence, steadily getting louder and louder while reverberating from every direction.
On the cruise ship and fishing boat the mantles with four wings bird shapes pulsated as if coming to life. As for the passengers of each vessel, by their expression they seemed to be less influenced by the wail. Most covered their ears, others did not mind, while on all were plastered either pensive or fervent looks.
Motionless between sky and sea, Zax was sweating profusely. ‘Dark Titan Storm!’ He shouted in his sea of consciousness, driven by immense fear.
In but a blink of an eye, his physique swelled and darkened, exuded indomitable air, filling him with exalted power, yet his guts told him that it was not enough!
Seeing his terrific transformation, the several third realm experts felt their hearts tightening. They all could tell that this change was brought by utilization of an attribute worldly energy, dark attribute energy, and that the level of understanding needed to master it was far beyond their comprehension.
Such expert was someone to dread, a cultivator whom even the five powers would show appreciation.
Although the experts shared conflicting views in which they regarded Zax… two to four dared to gaze at him openly in envy, supposedly pettily glad in other’s misfortune, and the rest, upright bunch who saw how he did not impose himself on the fellows from the fishing boat, in moderate admiration, they did share the same belief, which caused some of them to shake their heads in shame.
Fixated on finishing the transformation, a sharp rise in temperature that felt like the sun was in decent, made Zax instinctively turn his head around toward Selivereb’s direction and there he saw it!
A fiery red colossal, four wings bird, resembling a ferocious emperor among storks. Being well over hundred meters tall and having a wingspan of almost twice its height, its casual flap of wings sent gales that hit Zax from kilometers away and stimulated his skin cells.
‘Peak three scales Deformed Being!’ His pupils contracted.
Its exoskeleton had a flaming luster and in a more keen observation it was possible to see minute tongues of fire in between its wings’ feathers, which were ingeniously formed from the same boney substance as the rest of the exoskeleton.
The Four Wings Stork flew in lightning speed, too fast for Zax to fully turn around to meet its apparent intent to assault.
Zax figured that the Four Wings Stork is specifically after from the conduct of the passengers on both vessels. Whatever he did to bring on himself its wroth he could not tell, at the moment, or even had the time to speculate.
Doubtful on how well he can do against the assault of a creature whose strength rivals Peak fifth level Martial Mortal, Zax dejectedly prepared for the worst.
Getting stronger than he is, while in the Dark Titan Storm form, was impossible to achieve. Just transforming and holding the form was already extremely taxing.
‘Defend! Defend! Defend!’ Was his only choice, hoping that his back muscles will be able to withstand whatever the Four Wings Stork lay on him.
Getting couple of hundreds meter above Zax, the Four Wings Stork swept four times as he circled the sky and fluctuations, which resonated on the same level as the dark attribute energy that generated the Dark Titan Strom form, erupted from all over.
Four small incarnations of the Four Wings Stork’s body, constructed by fiery attribute worldly energy, emerged shooting toward Zax and leaving behind them trails of Inextinguishable orange flames.
The four incarnations hit Zax in succession.
The first incarnation caused his firm back to arch backward, leaving a scalding burn mark before dissipating.
The second incarnation came right after, colliding with his shoulder, sending him spiraling uncontrollably downwards.
The third incarnation successfully hit the very same shoulder while he was in spiral, resulting in accelerating his decent and scorching the already injured shoulder to the bone, incapacitating his entire upper left side.
The fourth incarnation arrived just as he touched water, hitting his right biceps, but to Zax surprise, right before the explosion pushed him to the depths and the sea closed in on him, the incarnation materialized using the energy it was left, the fiery energy meant to further burn Zax, and soared to the sky, returning to the Four Wings Stork.
Coughing mouthfuls of blood, Zax was not in the condition to wonder why he was spared from the full brunt of the fourth incarnation or why the Four Wings Stork ceased attacking. In the Dark Titan Storm form his senses were amplified several folds, but the body itself was still difficult to manage, especially its ability to recover or even just confine internal damage.
Fiery attribute energy invade from his open wounds, making his inwards feel like they were battling with raging fire.
‘Not good!’ Zax exclaimed the instant he had a grip on his injuries. ‘The formation on the ship and boat was split to two designs’.
When he was spiraling toward the sea he caught glimpse of the two vessels. The mantles above them reacted each time a shockwave from the impact with the four incarnations reached them. Their four wings birds shapes flocked to meet the destructive force in capitulation, and right when the shockwave was about to slam the two vessels, it avoided them, just as it did not affect the sea, and continued to spread while the experts onboard made sure the formations don’t deplete their energy.
‘The bottom part of the formation… Ell shapes…’ Zax came to a realization.
Could it be there was not just one Peak Deformed Being, but two? One who roamed the sky and the other… That could explain why the Four Wings Stork was reserved with letting its incarnation touch the sea.
‘Flee! I must return to Selivereb!’ He mustered all the strength he had in the Dark Titan Storm from and converted it to speed, all the while feeling miserable that he haughtily entered the sea.
Seeing that he is followed by the Four Wings Stork, Zax did not dare to go above the water surface.
“Schree!” Four Wings Stork called in a deafening voice.
‘Bastard!’ Zax thought and tried to raise his speed. His body was in a terrible shape and the Dark Titan Storm form was slowly reducing in size, the result of him losing concentration on it and draining its dark attribute energy.
“Roar!” A howl from somewhere in the sea blasted Zax from his course and its reverberating voice induced tsunami waves.
‘The other Peak three scales Deformed Being!’ Zax hurried to stabilize himself and resumed his escape, for once being happy he was not flying in top speed when he left Selivereb.
It was hard to tell of it became aware of Zax the moment he was forced to the sea or after the Four Wings Stork call and honestly, to the one whose life was on the line, it also did not matter.
An icy blue, three kilometers long Horned Eel, a ruthless overlord among all aquatic creatures. Apart from the three azure scales at the back of its neck, which signified that it reach adulthood, the rest of its body was covered by millions of bony dark blue scales and at each hundred meter point grew a twenty meters tall bony horn.
The Horned Eel, much like the Four Wings Stork, pride itself as a three scale Deformed Being that in its adulthood surpassed the limit of the three scales Deformed Being, who rivaled a fourth level Martial Mortal, and was instead a match to a fifth level Martial Mortal.
It was hundreds of kilometers away from Zax. To its eyes it was impossible to see the intruder, but its innate talent allowed it to detect currents of misused attribute energy in a radius that exceeded the range of e fifth level Martial Mortal’s Sublime Soul Sense!
Zax rushed through the see, occasionally resurfacing for a brief moment. The Horned Eel was faster in sea than even the Four Wings Stork was in the sky, but its distance from Zax was still too far to pose an immediate threat. It could only use long range attack that neither were quicker than Zax’s reaction nor followed him outside the water surface.
In such manner of trying to alternate between the threat of the Four Wings Stork and the Horned Eel, Zax tried to get to Selivereb with his life intact.
By the time the Western Continent was in his field of view, the Horned Eel and Four Wings Stork unintended coordination cost Zax a severe back wound and two limbs, an arm and a leg.
The Horned Eel unlocked its jaw, exposing teeth that could grind diamonds to dust. A light blue, round glow flickered in its mouth; at this point he could already see Zax and aim with his eyes.
A light blue ray shot from the Horned Eel mouth. Its speed was unimaginable and its entire trajectory froze that instant it passed.
Zax’s Soul Sense saw it coming and for a moment he sensed death looming over him.
‘UP! UP! UP!’ Zax ordered himself. He must get above water! Selivereb was also not far!
The light blue ray hit Zax’s leg. It instantly turned to ice that spread at an alarming rate while shoving him forward.
Zax struggled to bring his head above water, than shoulders, upper half of his torso and lastly his dantian, before the rest of him turned to ice and the icy attribute energy retreated.
His only choice to close to gap between him and the safe shores of the coast city was to detonate the dark attribute energy in his frozen lower body, even though he was not sure he wants to survive without his manhood.
To lose half of his body was a nothing short than disastrous before his physique broke through the second realm of bodily cultivation. Now, though, as long as he did not have a grave open wound, his heart and brain were fine, and dantian damage not irreversible, given enough time, Zax could recover.
Seeing their pray crossing the sea line to the coast city’s shores, the Horned Eel and Four Wings Stork finally withdrew, as though between them and the ruling forces of the Western Continent was an unwritten agreement.
Zax drifted to shore.
Seen by the bathers, his condition raised cries of shock and fear before a motorboat was dispatched to collect his mutilated corpse.