“The heir of the Malignant Monkey clan and an apprentice of its current leader?” Zax was confused. “Is the fourth level Martial Mortal your father?”
“Indeed. My father is a Chaoyue type beast. Of his thirty seven progenies, thirty six are Zhihui, while I, the seventeenth, am the only Shenghuo. I am a stain to my father’s reputation. As a Feather in Violet Scaled Troops and a clan leader, my very existence is an insult”. Huland creased his brows in bitterness.
‘He is like Grandmaster…’ Zax thought, despite Huland, in a first glance, seeming better off than the suffering Grandmaster Kartion been through. “Your Martial achievements mean nothing?” He inquired to verify how come in this world where the strong rule, someone comparable to a third level Martial Mortal happens to be so aggrieved and even more so because his family?
“You don’t understand. In the troops, cultivation level comes second only to what type of beast you are, that is the way of Horn Kikon. Typically you won’t notice the discrimination, but when you are the inferior type beast offspring of a superior type beast, then you are really miserable. My father could bear his children being all Zhihui, since it is extremely rare for Chaoyue to be born. Moreover, none of our mothers was or is a Chaoyue. But Zhihui for a child is his bottom line. Though in the clan I’m honored as ‘Seventeenth Mensch’, it is all formality. Members of the clan prefer to fawn to either my elder siblings or my father’s beloved eldest apprentice”. With every spoken word, Holand demeanor got a little worse. He attempted to restrain himself and to a point succeeded, however what little slipped out was detected by Zax.
“Why do you want me to kill him?” Zax will not agree to kill anyone. The victim, beast or human, had to be someone who either offended him in some form or manner, or he deemed as bad. “Bear in mind that I ask not because I already agreed to assassinate him, since whether I’ll do it or not, it will not be in the near future. For the time being I had my fill of encounters with fourth level Martial Mortals”.
Huland grimaced upon hearing him. ‘Had his fill?’ He heard from Havreim and Varinka, when they led him to the convoy, that the expert named “Zax” who relatives and friends they transport, had managed to obstruct Bishop Nunsup. ‘According to Leader Gid Chu, he is an outside contractor, yet treated as an official member of Sinister Chain. Do I need to give him an incentive beyond taking care of his loved ones? ’ He felt his anger building up. ‘Calm down. Don’t let mixed emotions affect your temperament ’.
He drank, finishing the content of his cup and placing it beside the pitcher.
“My father’s eldest apprentice called ‘Mand’. He is one of the five Chaoyue in the clan, but the sole one who is a Velvet Furred Alouatta, like my father”. Huland snorted. “He is not even an illegitimate son to my father and yet shares more similarities to him than his own flesh and blood. You know what the real kicker? It’s possible that centuries and millenniums will pass before another Velvet Furred Alouatta show up. So for as long as Mand will live, he would be my father’s favorite above all else, hahahaha!” Huland relived his turbulent heart in a forced, virulent laughter.
Zax could tell that Huland not just answering him, but spilling his heart out. He only wondered if he did it to lure his sympathy, if he simply wanted to be forthright with how he feels or if he could not talk about the issue without imploding.
Emptying his lungs from all the air, Huland composed himself. ‘I don’t want you to kill him. I hoped to do it myself. However, postponing my revenge appears to be impossible anymore. Couple of days ago my father announced a decision regarding his apprentices… sending them to an indeterminate leave to the troops’ Great Cave, the troops’ core in the western Continent. Mand and his fellow apprentices supposed to depart together, I guess my father wants to introduce them collectively to Horn Kikon, but right now two of them are in closed doors session that is already about four years long and should last another five to seven years. In five to seven years I can’t see myself obtaining the strength to execute my revenge with my own two hands”, His tone got slower. “Revenge for killing my wife’.
“Your father’s apprentice killed your wife?!” Zax was so shocked he had to be sure he did not get Huland wrong.
“He did it on our wedding night. My wife, Konomi, was my childhood friend. Her standing in the clan was less than impressive and she and her family lived at its outskirt. Since I was never cared for, as a child I ventured a lot without supervision to the remote parts of the clan and outside of it. That is how we met. Subsequently I met my Master the same way, but that is unrelated. I visited Konomi often and even helped her cultivate to her human form.
“The day we tied our fates was the one and only day my father and the rest of the high echelon of the clan felt curious to the identity of the useless seventeenth’s wife to be. When they showed up in the ceremonial ground, Mand was instantly smitten by Konomi and on the spot, as if he did not know shame, requested from my father, with authority as the clan Leader, to bestow her to him. My father…” Huland gritted his teeth rather than issuing a curse. “Agreed and told me and Konomi to untie our pledges. We both refused and Konomi kept refusing even after Mand and my father kept pestering her with promises. Eventually, my father gave up. To him, who had many women, there was nothing special in a significant other and those he could not get could always be replaced. Moreover, I was still his son and even if he despised me, snatching my wife was beneath his dislike. Mand, on the other hand, was not willing to let the matter end. On our first evening as husband and wife, he returned, demanding Konomi to reconsider. She refused and he in turn sighed, subdued me before I could react and ripped her heart from her chest”.
‘He deserves death’. Zax determined, not feeling anymore reservations to being Huland’s blade, in the appropriate time. “Why did he have to kill her? Was this action sanctioned by your father?”
“Not in the moment it took place, not that it mattered. When I accused him for the murder of Konomi, he admitted and justified himself with the excuse that she was already engraved in his heart. If he could not have her, he had no choice but eliminate her existence; otherwise his unfulfilled affection would hinder his Martial path. With this reasoning, my father and the elders of the clan absolved him from his crime. As for me… they offered compensation in a form of my choosing, so long as its value matches a Shenghuo, such as Konomi”.
In the short silence that followed, Zax unconsciously gazed at the direction his family and friends were taken as a figure among them surfaced in his mind. ‘Anet…’
If the same thing occurred to them, how would he have coped? Would he have been as devastated as Huland when discussing the subject? Could he stay calculated and waited for the right opportunity to take revenge or would he have gone guns blazing?
For some questions the answers were obvious, for others, he wanted them to be. Regardless, it brought up stuff he knew he should muse over, related to the future in all its aspects…
“I want to help you, but I can’t”. He got up to leave as a sign for Huland to not convince him. “If it was a city, where the human population is larger, then I could have thought about it, but a beast clan with a leader being a Feather in Violet Scaled Troops… Ask me again in five years, when the first deadline for Mand’s and his fellow apprentices’ departure will approach”.
‘Five years… better than blunt refusal’. Huland assessed. “I will remember”.
He arrived right when they grouped in the location allocated to them in the village. The adult’s expressions varied as they view their new homes while reminiscing the meticulous briefing from during processing. The children, on the other hand, ran around playing as if they finally arrived to their vacation resort.
Men and women villagers assigned each family a decent to live in hut, equipped with all essentials, such as utilities food and drinks provisions and more. Tomorrow they will be given jobs and those with the aspirations to go to cities or clans will commence a six months long of strenuous preparation, learning how to assimilate in the outside population and hide their real identity. Of course, that was not all. They will have to prove themselves capable and trustworthy on many levels and even when they will pass all tests, soul formation will still be implanted in their sea of consciousness with the purpose of erasing their minds should they be caught and interrogated.
Eyes turned to Zax as he landed on the snowy earth. His close friends, his family members, from his mother and father to his aunts, uncles and cousins, wavered before all walked toward him.
“Big brother Zax!”
There were plenty of children in the Zel family and more added to the pack surrounding little Liz as the sons and daughter of his friends and their families joined the snowball fight.
“Catch!” Liz threw a snowball that hit Zax in the shoulder. “Hahaha, slowpoke!” She laughed and dashed away. The enthusiasm of the other kids playing tuned down when they first noticed Zax. Even his little cousins. Unlike his sisters, they barely ever saw him. As they saw the incredible cultivator, who could change his appearance, fly and probably do more astonishing things smile amiably at them, their childish wit manifested again. A few even mimicked Liz, hurling at him the cold balls of snow they held strongly.
It was a joyous sight. Snow was a nearly nonexistent concept in New Earth. There are machines that can produce it, but it was mostly used in movies’ sets. Besides, it could not compare to marveling at how it just naturally fall from the sky.
“That’s enough for today. It’s getting cold, everyone, return to your parents and… homes”. The voice speeking belonged to one of the people that approached him, someone Zax never thought will take the helm.
Troel Lova, Serah’s father, drew everyone’s attention.
“Nina, enter our home”.
“Gustavo, it’s cold. Go inside with your mother”.
Parents followed up Troel with strict orders to their children.
“Uncle Troel, we want to play”. Feeling the most confident with her entire family beside her, Liz answered back.
“Listen to your uncle, darling”. Laylen said. Taking Liz’s hand she gave her no choice but go with her.
In the span a minute and a half, Zax was left encircled with about a third of Kingdom Earth’s people.
“You really shocked us, Zax. We thought that you died. We shared our condolences with your parents and sisters when they mourned you”. Troel opened in a mild tone. “I’m glad, truly glad, to see you alive”. His eyes reddened and he wiped them before tears could slide across his bearded cheeks. “Not only that. You turned out to be something we cannot measure by the standards we were taught of. An expert among experts who can actually fly and is associated with members of the Supreme Rulers’ families”, he referred to Zechariah. “In the blue sky you showed us, to me… you are also way up there, luminous as a star”.
Troel’s flow of words blended in the falling snow. Zax listened, the surrounding people listened. Those who felt like inside them, too, there is a weight, treat it as their outlet.
“Do you remember, the day we picked up you and Serah after your third grade annual field trip to cave fourteen. You stayed for the night since your parents could not get you. Back then was a monumental day for you as children before Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. However, at that peculiar evening emerged another reason to mark it as an even more monumental day. Mortimer Dauch, the ninth son of our Supreme Ruler, Ariel Dauch, led an expedition group to this world beneath the blue sky…” Troel lamented. “I have a question, Zax, to this day we never heard about the return of the expedition group. Are they okay?”
The question surprised Zax. He did not expect to the sudden concern for their wellbeing, maybe something more on the lines of “why they haven’t returned yet” or “are we going to meet them”.
“They should be. Supreme Ruler Ariel told me in person that they won’t return in the foreseeable future”. It had been couple of years since then, but Ariel spoke in cultivators’ terms, so it was all the same using the same words now to reply non cultivators.
A glint of incredulity in Troel’s eyes and in many of the people around.
“You met our Supreme Ruler?” One of Zax’s older cousins mumbled.
“Kade…” Linda sought her husband’s comforting warm hand. She could not believe she confronted someone who actually conversed with a Supreme Ruler.
“The child who was deemed unable to cultivate turned so remarkable…” Troel evoked certain memories in everyone who knew Zax since he was a child. He lifted his head and straitened his shoulders. “Good. They are brave people whose return will reignite the hopes of dreams of every Kingdom Earth’s citizen, much like how ecstatic we were when the news about the expedition and blue sky were broadcasted”. He gazed up, enchanted by the vast expanse of dark blue and gray. “The blue sky… it’s marvelous. But we never wanted to trade our home for it”.