“Ucel Sax, ucel Sax”. A pair of chubby hands reached up after tagging for attention at the long and silky, fiery pants.
The toddler had olive skin and brown hair just like his mother, and gemlike, yellow eyes similar to his father.
“Jing Jing, give your uncle a big hug”. The man wearing the silky, fiery pants bent over the baby boy, picked him up and embraced him with two muscular arms that concealed the little figure.
“Stop, big bro! You’re doing it on purpose so I won’t be able to get to Jing Jing! Jing Jing, can you hear me? It’s your number one aunt that loves you so much! Do you want me to carry you instead of your oaf of an uncle?”
“Pipsqueak should wait their turn!”
The actual name of Jing Jing the toddler was Jingrow, and he was the fourteen months old son of the unmarried Zetsa and her partner Grerown. The “oaf of an uncle” and “pipsqueak” were, obviously, Zax and Liz.
Almost three years passed since the move to Green Snow village, thirty three months, to be precise. In New Earth’s calendar it was the year 5799, Zax was twenty four years old, Zetsa thirty five years old and Liz ten years old.
The place was Zetsa’s and Grerown’s small wooden cottage in the village. It was built ahead of time when the couple decided to move together. As for their anticipated wedding… Grerown was born in a village in the northeast part of the Eastern Continent, where they taught the belief in a God called Namurus, who bestowed the customary blessing for marriage only if a couple already had, before the ceremony, exactly three offspring. In other words, the duo was two children short before they could get married with the consent of God Namurus.
“Big sis Zetsa, big bro isn’t giving me Jing Jing, help me!” Liz whined, as she frequently does when both Zax and her fight over Jingrow.
“Don’t get involve, sis. This brat began to think too highly of herself ever since she became an aunt”. Zax scoffed and then grinned mischievously. He channeled dark attribute energy around Jingrow that lifted him up in the air and caught his little sister before she could resist, giving her the same hug he gave his nephew. “You dare telltale on me to big sis, you pipsqueak! I’m your big brother and I can pamper or pick on you as much as I like and you can’t do anything about it”. He tickled her and she struggled to no avail.
“I’m- Hahaha! I’m sorry, big bro- Hahahaha- Stop! Stop! I’m sor- Hahahaha…” Liz cried in laughter and Zax stopped only at the sign on tears.
“So long as you remember”. He held her in one arm and with the other caught Jingrow. “Go to your little aunt, Jing Jing”. He put both down.
“Lissss!” Jingrow stretched his chubby arms.
“Let’s go play, Jing JIng”. Liz lovingly picked him, stuck out her tongue to Zax and ran away.
“Showing up two days in a row, Zax?” Zetsa raised a brow. She extinguished the flame of the twenty five centimeters tall torch in front of her, stashed it somewhere Jing Jing will not be able to get and got up from the straw mat at the southeast corner of the living room.
Both the straw mat and torch were cultivation instruments she valued deeply ever since she had a fortuitous moment of enlightenment in the process of giving birth to Jingrow and realized to which attribute her affinity predisposes.
During her pregnancy Zetsa still wished to cultivate. As a matter of a fact, she found herself inspired to explore the boundaries of her condition as a pregnant woman. First, to refrain from harming the embryo, she pushed her accomplishments in the Blaze Frost Entanglement mist refining technique – the succeeding second realm cultivation technique of Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi Refining Technique – to the limits, attaining new comprehension for equilibrium. Then, days before the third term, she had an epiphany which helped her untangle the Blaze from the Frost and to detect to which she is more attracted to. Lastly, as she gave birth, she spontaneously broke through the third level of the Core Master realm, simultaneously realizing a newfound connection to the fiery attribute while also abandoning her mist cultivation technique that concentrates on both fiery and icy attributes to the Peak of the second realm.
Zetsa’s endeavor does not take long to describe, but it is far from being simple and risk free as it may sound. The whole procedure of caring for the embryo drained Zetsa mentality and when she broke through if Zax did not sense the fluctuations and rushed to aid her in consolidating her mist energy, both she and Jingrow, who was still attached to her in the cord, would have died.
A white veil of isolation emerged on the walls of the cottage and Grerown, who fed Jingrow when Zetsa meditated and until their guests arrived, lowered his right hand.
“Before you tell me that there is no need, young brother Zax, entertain this habit of mine of keeping things private. Besides, I sensed that something irks your mind. Such matters are best to discuss behind closed doors”.
Zax did not argue with Grerown over the concealment formation, not that there was a case of spying in the village or he thought it was necessary to begin with. Even if he did, he can erect a far more superior formation with dark attribute energy. He let it go because there was nothing wrong with a bit of discretion.
The three converged around the living room table, sitting on three different sofas. From upstairs they could hear Liz’s rowdy footsteps as she stamped the wooden panel in Jingrow’s room, as if the little fellow could keep up with her.
“How is your meditation of the fiery attribute going?” Zax asked Zetsa.
The torch was something similar to his volcanic rocks, its wooden handle to be accurate. He obtained it in a short, probing trip in Malignant Monkey clan. Exploring the prestigious establishment in the mighty clan, Zax found the torch on sale in a store of some guild that is quite renowned at the southern part of the continent. With zero interest in the guild, Zax was solely enticed by the merchandise exhibited in the store and eventually purchased the torch for a little over two hundred thousand Splinters.
The straw mat was a gift from Grerown, or rather, something he used for himself and shared with Zetsa after they commemorated their bond with the birth of their son. It had a soothing effect on the soul of the sitter and contributed greatly in meditation sessions.
“The results barely worth mentioning in comparison to your understanding of the dark attribute, but for my age and level I know better than to be disgruntled”. Zetsa smiled and meant what she said.
For cultivators it was extremely rare to get an ounce of understanding of an attribute before breaking through to the third realm. A trifecta of luck, fortune and talent was the prerequisite.
Grerown sighed. “Have you come to sow salt on my wounds, young brother Zax?”
“Sorry, Grerown”. Zax smiled apologetically.
Grerown’s mist cultivation rose to the second level of the Core Master realm seven months ago, but his soul was at the third level for several years now. He began his path fifty seven years ago as a soul cultivator, at the age of two, so it was a given that his mist cultivation will be slow. However, reality struck him and the moment his soul reach the third Core Master level not only his path reached its end, since nowhere in Ercas Mir was a high grade soul cultivation technique for the third realm to be found, his understanding of the light attribute also encountered a bottleneck he had yet to pierce a needle size hole through.
“…But indeed, the matter I came here to discuss partly regards attributes”.
“Oh well…” Grerown leaned back on the sofa. “And I hoped it was about taking the next step in your relationship with Anet”. He quipped.
As far as his parents, Laylen and Marco, are concerned, now that their eldest made the sensible thing of settling down as well as given them a cute grandson, there was no need to further nag their second child with his relationship.
Anet’s parents, on the other hand, were less lax on the subject and pestered their daughter quite often. God or Gods forbid she will get to thirty years of age without marrying and having a child!
“My little brother is still young and his cultivation path immeasurable. It is fine if he and Anet will delay the subject for a decade or two”. Zetsa saved Zax’s some face.
“Are the jokes over?” Zax retorted.
Zetsa’s and Grerown’s line of sight intersected and they laughed.
“Yes, younger brother Zax, they are over”. Grerown affirmed with a joyful smile. In his heart he truly felt bliss for this family he made for himself as well for the relatives that accepted him – due to calamity it was all he had left.
“Good”. Zax straightened his back. The atmosphere exuding from him turned solemn, signifying the gravity of his reason for coming. “Big sis, as I told you, for the past couple of years my progress in the understanding of the dark attribute is stuck in a crossroad”.
“Yes”. Zetsa nodded. There was no leftover of amusement on her face and neither on Grerown’s.
“Afraid of the consequences of rush decision I mulled on my achievements and experiences for a grain of clue for what lay at the culmination of one direction and the start of the other”.
The options presented to him were a path he already started, so it was its end that he contemplated on, as far as he could imagine it. The other option was novel, but that was the most he sensed from it at the time he perceived them. Naturally, after two years of so of meditation, his opinion of the two did grow slightly profound.
“Some time ago a certain realization dawned on me”. A hint of rapture blended in his tone, and as if he was sharing a cause for celebration with the two, their hearts stirred as something bordering excitement ignited in them.
“What are you saying, Zax?” Zetsa, more than Grerown, felt sort of relation to the soon to be explained meaning in her brother’s words. He spoke to the two of them but clearly focused a larger portion of his attention on his big sister.
“Big brother Raroen’s choice that impeded his bodily cultivation and success in discerning to which attribute he has affinity toward, isn’t inevitably an impasse. On the contrary, I believe it is similar to my blockade, an opportunity to soar on his originality, than Grandmaster’s”.
This frame of thought initiated not long ago. Being unable to choose between an existing path and a new one, Zax did the second best thing of revising his knowledge of the dark attribute and the events that led him to improve his understanding.
The starting line was the notion that dark attribute energy, or just attribute energy, was the indistinct concept of Grandmaster Kartion’s sixth and seventh steps of the seven steps of Kinetic Force. The more he thought about it, the more Zax believed it to be wrong. Furthermore, it was not just the two last steps, but the entire seven!
In his opinion, Grandmaster Kartion’s perception of the steps of Kinetic Force is flawed. The way Grandmaster Kartion developed them initially was with accordance to the bodily maneuvers that meant to assist in the cultivation of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement and implement its results. The first step to the fifth were correct, Zax determined, mostly.
As they spawned from the bodily maneuvers, the basis was that they were only as good as the sequences of moves leading up to them. But if they were truly in coherent, then Grandmaster Kartion would not have assumed that the sixth and seventh steps are preceded by an understanding and have nothing to do with strengthening the body.