If not for the terrifying gravitational force that weighted on both the body and soul of whoever enters any of the seven rings, the calm water and the seemingly quiescent giant eel would have created a false impression of a peaceful aquatic vista.
As Zax waited in the third ring of the crater, not paying heed to the experts honing their understanding of the attributes and other aspects of their cultivation paths, his ears suddenly perked as his sense of sound detected the faint whistle of an incoming projectile.
It shot faster than what a typical second level Martial Mortal could perceive and caught the attention of few, among them the Horned Eel’s. Nevertheless, since nobody noticed where it came from, perhaps only the Horned Eel, and that the object was in fact nothing special aimed at someone unapproachable, the experts who saw the projectile averted their concentration back to training.
Zax crouched and picked up the communicator that landed at his sandals. He could still sense the residues of the mist energy that protected it while flying at his direction. He put the device in his ear and a familiar, aged voice sounded in his sea of consciousness.
‘Zax Walaow, it’s good talking with you on this harmonious occasion’.’
‘Archbishop Silternja, I’m glad I get to talk to you when we can put the roles of each other’s adversary aside’. Zax responded.
‘Yes, I agree, and sorry that it cannot be done face to face, but it’s for your benefit as well’.
‘Bishop Nunsup has sworn for my safety. I’m sure everything is being done to uphold that oath’.
‘Exactly, therefore let’s allow the convention to remain as is. I assure you, apart from the instance in which I hurled the communicator; I don’t have a view of you. So please don’t try looking for me’.
‘Okay’. Zax said in compliance. He had two goals in having this conversation. First, he really was hopeful for finding a solution to his oath. Second, if not striking a sort of bargain both sides will agree on, then at the very least prolonging the church’s attention on him, instead of the relocating of his loved ones.
‘We should also end the charade’. Archbishop Silternja’s next sentence caused Zax’s heart to miss a bit.
‘What do you mean?’ Many thoughts ran through Zax’s mind. Did the church identify him? Does Archbishop Silternja know about his loved ones being led to a sheltered base of the chain? Was his interest in joining the Holy Palace deemed insincere by Archbishop Silternja in the short exchange that they had?
‘Aren’t you concerned for your family? They are being evacuated as we speak, aren’t they?’ There was a whimsical tone to Archbishop Silternja’s transmission. He had guessed why the sudden arrival of Zax and the other members of the chain to the pathway to New Earth, as did Bishop Nunsup. They both had to be really stupid to not figure it out and really cunning to postpone their response in a manner that seemed like it was not mattered whether they captured Zax’s loved ones or not.
A moment of silence. Zax knew better than lying or worse, making up excuses. He waited for Archbishop Silternja to continue with whatever condition or ultimatum.
‘It’s a good idea, sending them someplace else we can’t get to, and by “We” I mean the other four powers’. Archbishop Silternja said unhurriedly with not haste to elaborate his meaning, allowing Zax some misconceptions. Probably his way of getting back to him for the previous misconduct in the Grand Abode.
‘You are probably confused…’
‘Don’t play games with me’. Zax lost a bit of restraint. He could not transmit his malicious intent, but his voice was clear with meaning.
‘Mr. Walaow, I assure you, no games are taking place between us. First of all, although it is true that we discovered your identity as an indigenous to this planet, we were not certain about your lineage’. The five powers were aware of some of the information Sinister Chain’s possessed, including the knowledge that they came from outer space. ‘For a family to suddenly vanish from Kingdom Earth… by doing a simple search into current sudden disappearances, you practically announced to us your familial connections, as well as who you really might be. Perhaps we will lose a trump card that could be held against you, but sometimes letting your enemies – I repeat, the other four powers – be certain of your real name is a graver alternative’.
Zax did not understand Archbishop Silternja’s meaning. When his loved ones would all be safely relocated it will not matter if the five powers know his real or whatnot about him.
‘Second, and this you should engrave deeply in your heart… should either of the five powers would decide to threat the annihilation of all life in Kingdom Earth, unless you will surrender yourself to it, would you sit by and watch your kin’s extermination or give yourself up?’
A ripple of dark attribute energy spread from Zax’s soul, emerged from his body and stirred the water of the third ring in the crater ominously. ‘Would you dare?!’
“Roar!” At the first ring of the Earthly Crater, the Horned Eel lifted his head and snapped at Zax intimidatingly. Although he could not assess the human’s strength, he determined him being at the caliber of a third level Martial Mortal. In other words, one of those he forbade from crossing the third ring, which nearly happened with the intent that rippled from Zax.
‘I wasn’t making the threat myself, only alerting you to a certain possibility. If you don’t want to lose your life to the Overlord, you better soothe yourself’. Archbishop Silternja warned, indifferent to Zax’s mild tantrum. ‘As for the likelihood that such threat will be made… for now eliminating all indigenous is a bottom line we, the five powers, prefer not to cross’.
‘Enough!’ Zax retorted. Archbishop Silternja maintained friendly disposition, but should he and Zax will not come to terms, then everything he said is a warning of what might happen if the latter should continue to oppose to the church. ‘My family and friends are no more a function that can be used by you, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still in a perilous situation-’
‘Due to your oath…’
‘Because of the oath’.
‘That can be averted, if you’ll join the Holy Palace. Bishop Nunsup told you and I second it’. Without a change in demeanor, Archbishop Silternja abided by Zax’s wish to engage in the subject that brought them together. ‘You agree to join but don’t want to be confined, am I right?’
‘Yes’. It was not entirely true, but to avoid an early dispute Zax concurred.
Archbishop Silternja mused for a short while. ‘The definition of confinement could differ between how you regard it and how it is really for prospects the Holy Palace grants the title of “Ascended Elite”. Moreover, by your skills you have proven to be among the brightest of Ascended Elites, which earns more liberty than someone renowned like… let’s say, His Young Eminence Sterlero Mars…’
‘But will I be allowed to leave the Holy Palace, sever my ties with it, freely?’
‘As an Ascended Elite… I cannot guarantee. As an Immortal… depend on the circumstance’.
‘Immortal?!’ Zax subtly mocked. ‘You… the five powers frequently promise young and talented cultivators the path for Immortality. The Elite Tryouts… Tell me, Archbishop Silternja, those in the top ten- no, winners of the Elite Tryouts, when they get to the Holy Palace, Voltic Star and Planetary Battalion, as what are they received?’
‘New Ascended Elite’.
‘New Ascended Elite… for hundreds of years you collected and branded cultivators from this planet with this title. How many gained it outside of Ercas Mir? Yet, the powerhouses at the back call of the five powers are merely three Immortals!’
‘You!’ To Zax’s affront, Archbishop Silternja sharply exclaimed. ‘You… you… Hahahaha! You ignorant! Hahahaha!’ An outburst of laughter resonated in the former’s sea of consciousness. ‘Three Immortals? That’s what you- the chain thinks?! Hahaha. All together hundreds if not thousands Ascended Elites were added to the three great powers and you believe there are still only three Immortals? FOOL!’
Zax was momentarily shocked by Archbishop Silternja’s sudden loss of poised bearing.
‘Young indigenous, you think too little of the realm of Immortality’. Somewhere faraway an old, rustic looking man shook his head. ‘The word “plenty” is, perhaps, an exaggeration, but beneath the three Immortals we separately serve, there are more than a handful Immortals doing their bidding, with not a hint of defiance’.
‘Immortals serving Immortals?’ From the flow of the conversation Zax understood his lack of knowledge. To not make it more apparent than it already is, he kept the question to himself. His thoughts wondered onto a more pressing issue, anyways, so he was not even in the mind to listen to an answer. ‘According to senior Gid, the whole premise of why the Immortal powerhouses behind the five powers did not arrive already to the planet is because they don’t want for other Immortals to fight with them for the supposed treasure hidden here. If they have the strength to dominate other Immortal experts, what then stopping them from coming? And… to what level of power am I required to reach to face them?!’
‘How strong are they?’ He poorly disguised his ignorance. Not intendedly. Any question would have proven how little he knows. Nevertheless, it was the cost to coaxing Archbishop Silternja into expounding on the matter.
Archbishop Silternja naturally could read into Zax’s intentions. There was not harm in pouring some light, especially if it would help persuade him to join the Holy Palace.
‘The ranks of Immortality divide to four, where the bigger number represents the highest attainment. Truthfully, even I don’t know much about them; maybe a bit more than their names and the exalted rank of His Holiness. Heavenly considered as the first rank, called so because Immortal in this rank are not bound to any planet and can traverse space. Sacred is the second rank. Mythical Immortal ranked third and the highest, most glorious fourth rank is Neonate Immortal. His Holiness is a Mythical Immortal, fostered by the love and caring of his predecessors, who like all are the benevolence of The Almighty. He is perhaps not at the Peak of Immortality, a Neonate Immortal, but of the rarity out there that attained the fourth rank, none has the gall to demonstrate discourtesy in his company’.
‘The complete structure of the Immortal realm…!’ Zax shivered inwardly.
The gaps between realms in the Mortal realm were obvious to him. It could be because of the Black Core in his dantian or something ingrained in him by being a progeny of the expert who molded the human race in this planet, but regardless of what was the case, he had a terrible feelings that bridging the gap between ranks, like he always did to the three Mortal realms, is an impossible notion that should never be attempted, otherwise great disasters would unfold.
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