There were no exceptions. Be they his father, big sister, lover, after Troel said his peace, everyone returned to their new homes in Green Snow village, leaving Zax behind and with justification.
A long time passed before Zax made the tiniest movement after watching the backs of all those he disappointed vanishing. Snow accumulated atop him. As he understood the magnitude of the grief he caused, his heart palpitated and he could not master the bit of power to shelter himself from the snow.
There was light in the window of his parents’ and sisters’ abode. He could use his Soul Sense to probe whether they were waiting for him or not, but he felt like it would be a cowardly act, hence he chose a lesser cowardly act and turned away, in departure.
Huland prepared accommodation for him in the village, but Zax preferred to be far and secluded until his heart will be settled.
He dug a cavern in one of the snowy mountains and sealed it with a giant boulder, as he used to do in his closed doors sessions before venturing to Ercas Mir.
Regulating his breath helped pacify the sea and sky encompassing his Inner Panorama. When silence prevailed, only one question occupied his mind.
‘What to do?’
The moment he asked himself a flow of accompanying thoughts emerged. Queries and solutions he rearranged in order, once they appeared, and began to muse over their usefulness.
‘It sums up to strength’. Was the first, rudimentary understanding he made. It was not a new realization, but it came up late since it was not the almighty solution to all of his concerns.
‘To honorably earn their forgiveness, I can no longer stay away’. It may deter his Martial path, but his loved ones severed their roots because of him. It was his responsibility to be by their side as they adjust to their new lives in this new world. Then, he could hope that they will find solace in his efforts to make amends.
‘This means that from this day forth, to train I will have to find a way to combine the secular life style with the difference routes of my cultivation’. The future results could only be imagined as lacking, in comparison to what his achievement could be, should he maintain the typical habitsof most cultivators. Moreover, he could also not hope to expect some novel enlightenment along this road, like Kade, since his experiences were much less, even though they were on a higher scale. At best, he can explore insights and notions he had not fully comprehended.
‘Soul, body, sixth bottleneck of insight and dark attribute bodily maneuvers’. Zax assembled all the things he concentrated on for his cultivation. ‘As far as my soul goes, I can’t break through to the third realm before comprehending he sixth bottleneck of insight, otherwise I will lose my qualification for Legacy Of The One’s Path’. It was one trouble off his mind, but the rest were the real problem, anyway. ‘For a long time, now, I have this hunch that there are familiarities between the sixth bottleneck and the dark maneuvers. I can’t sit for a long periods of time trying to perceive the sixth bottleneck, it would be more efficient to set it aside for developing the dark maneuvers and only when I’ll reach a threshold I should check to see if it got my closer to the sixth bottleneck’.
Getting two subjects down, his soul and the sixth bottleneck, Zax was the opposite of relieved. He knew that he is too optimist about his decisions. Still, his mind was made.
‘Lastly, my body and cultivation in the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique. After absorbing the thousand kilograms of dark attribute’s essence, as well as a hundred kilogram worth of additional dark attribute’s essence or a matching amount of dark attribute energy, my bodily cultivation will have to halt at the second stage, until Grandmaster will verify its completion. As for the benefits of the second stage… with understanding of the attribute being the main source of power at the highest levels, I gather the second stage will only supplement my abilities a little, primarily as a sturdier layer of defense during confrontations with fourth level Martial Mortals’.
In other words, soon he would be left with just the dark maneuvers to train in.
‘It’s too little’. As this order of priorities ideally corresponded with his desire to reestablish his presence in his loved ones’ lives, it also took too much from his Martial path that Zax was influenced by a since of dread regarding future implications. ‘I can do this’. After some thought a solution dawned on him.
No more training, but studying and experimenting!
‘I have no concrete specialty in formations and weaponry. Till now I was merely lucky for having a unique soul that was capable of executing what it learnt and a body strong enough to compensate against weapon wielders. I’m more comfortable as a brawler, so weapons are not something I’m truly eager to pick up. In contrast, studying formations and not just employing handwritten techniques, will solidify my knowledge in the field and if I’m both lucky and dedicated enough, I might be able to support from the front Grandmaster creation of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique’s third stage’.
At last, a smile crept on Zax’s face. He will ask Huland to supply him all the material he could gather about formation study and split it to different levels of thought. He will accept even stuff about mist energy formations. He will be unable to experiment on them, but who knows? The hypothesis behind them might possess related points to soul and bodily formations.
‘Coming up with a way to develop and train in the dark maneuvers will be the hardest, considering that I won’t be able to wantonly execute them in the company of others’. He had yet to figure what to do and it vexed him a bit. ‘Guess that I’ll do what I can. They can’t be mad at me forever… right?’
Time moves slowly, is the conception every cultivator makes at he or she first defection from the Martial path to the mundane, and Zax was not the exception.
As the initial days passed at the vicinity of cold shoulders from old friends and relatives, Zax simply stood there, letting everybody know that he is there for whatever they need, whether they wanted to or not.
Ordering their children to stay away from him and concentrate on learning Netherling, the common language of Ercas Mir, intensified the sense of solitude he received, and yet… he did not give up.
Those with high cultivation were the quickest to learn and get accustomed to the new environment and its restrictions. Although they had the option of being drilled with Dark Glare’s specialized methods for integration in the society outside Green Snow village, they selected to help their kin in their new endeavor.
More than half of Green Snow’s occupants had similar background stories to the group related to Zax. Both Dark Glare and Sinister Chain had members with some sort of connection to New Earth – the latter more so than the former – and so Zax’s group got to meet humans and beasts from their homeland, in addition to many others who happened to experience the same ordeal with mild changes.
Having this bound of misery, imprisoned for their security, contributed to the mental recognition of their, Green Snow’s new residents, situation.
Thanks to Huland’s generosity or perhaps it was the norm in Green Snow village, anyone with slight interest was allowed entry to the Martial repository of Dark Glare. Of course, not everything was free and to begin with one had to perform village related miscellaneous tasks for a period of time on a daily basis, before gradually being granted access.
Overall, the miscellaneous tasks were not supposed to be difficult, but a routine to mentally coax new people to smoothly adjust within Green Snow’s lifestyle.
Be it high grade mist cultivation techniques, Martial techniques or even Pure Cores, even children could get them and actually were quicker than the interested adults. In the subject of cultivation techniques, the distribution was partial. Obtaining a technique up to the second realm of Core Masters was done quite easily, but continuations to for the second realm and above had to be earn through officially joining Dark Glare and fulfilling certain duties. The same limitation was with Pure Cores. Pure Cores that were equivalent to New Earth’s rare D quality Earth’s Cores were easy to come by since they only assisted up to the bottleneck to the Core Breaker level. Pure Cores of a grown one scale Deformed Being, which could assist up to the bottleneck to the Core Master realm, were available through harsh assignment, but still village related. Any Pure Core above the first realm required joining Dark Glare.
“Can I say something?” Zax asked Anet as she instructed a group of several adults and children through their cultivation using Pure Cores.
Sweeping him with her gaze, after a month in Green Snow where he always in her line of sight, a passive, almost warm glint flickered in her eyes.
She glanced at the medium class in front of her, men, women, boys and girls. No one showed signs indicating of reservation. “Sure”. She made way for him and their hands rubbed as he walked forward.
“Most of you have been in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and were exposed to basic cultivation techniques of the Earth’s Core Holder three levels. Cultivating the first three levels with the assistance of a Pure Core differs than with sole reliance on your Earth’s Cores. When introducing a Pure Core to a dantian with an Earth’s Core, alterations that are not mentioned in those cultivation techniques you received, has to be calculated until breakthrough the Core Breaker level. The point you’ll have to remember…“
She watched his back and listen to his voice. The tunic she wore was a definite mark of the change he forced upon them, but his diurnal intervention in their new life, whether she admitted to forgive him or not, brought a sense of bliss to her heart.
“If you need me, I’m here”.
She did not realize when finished talking and appeared before her with his body heat radiating so close she could feel it on her skin and remember…
He looked at her and suddenly time stood still. His heightened perception could not resist the temptation of scrutinizing every one of her beautiful features. He noticed the change in her eyes, the flicker of amicability. It was small, yet it made him happy, eliminating any ounce of regret he had for discarding the correct path of Martial cultivation.
Little did he know that he already engaged in the most fundamental, cultivation of the heart.