The Grand Abode was sanctification of anything related to Luminous Church in Ercas Mir and a bit of stuff connecting to the Holy Palace. Its rooms and halls held in glorious exhibition pictures, sculptures and scriptures of important figure to the church, holy places, interpretation, even of The Almighty. There were quotes, hymns, sayings and more to bask the spirit in. It had libraries of all sorts of literature, prayer rooms and absolution cells for the wicked who seek salvation.
Zax, as well as a hundred and sixty four contenders, was accommodated on the second floor of the Grand Abode. Since every room in the huge structure was practically a giant hall, for the period of the Elite Tryouts, each hall was split into several private chambers that were quite decent, also preserving the consecrated ambiance of the church.
“You may stroll freely within the first three storeys of the Grand Abode. If you need anything, there are postulants everywhere who will gladly attend any of your requests”. Sister Juliet explained. “Also, his grace the Archbishop and Cardinal Northstar have decided to put on display, at the third floor, the second and first prizes, Solar Basil Leaf and Diluted Element, to encourage the competitive spirit of your, brave participants”.
When they heard it, a silent vibe passed through the hundred and sixty five contenders.
‘They are kept at the third floor?!’ Zax wanted to very much go and see them right now. ‘They must be guarded by formations or\ and members of the church…’ His mind reeled, not by imagination the conditions they are presented in, but if he should try to steal them, anyway, after the Galactic Communicator. The Solar Basil Leaf was completely useless to him, at best it could be counted as a gift. The Diluted Element, on the other hand… if he is just a bit lucky, it may not contribute to his bottlenecks of insight, by maybe it will allow him to compensate for some of the hundred tons dark attribute’s essence he is in need for. ‘I’ll best know what I can do after getting the Galactic Communicator’.
“Everyone”, Sister Juliet drew the attention back to her. “At seven o’clock Archbishop Silternja has invented all of you to a gala dinner. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but it will make his grace very happy if you could all come”. Sister Juliet finished the guiding tour of the first and second floors and left.
The contenders dispersed as they got the freedom back. Some went directly to the third floor, to get a sense of the two prizes, others left to pick chambers. Zax was with the latters.
The chambers were not divided by the church. The contenders could pick whichever they wanted by simply taking the key out of the door of the chamber they selected.
Zax, naturally, picked a place at the second floor, not far from the stairway to the third floor.
There were formations everywhere in the Grand Abode which he did not dare to openly examine. Only those in his chamber he inspected with his Soul Sense, relieve to find out that their purpose is just to maintain the contenders’ privacy.
“There are three hours before dinner. I should go check the prizes”. Leaving his chamber, Zax crossed along the way contenders who either came down the third floor or had the same idea as him.
The Solar Basil Leaf and Diluted Element were on display at the end of a hall on the third floor. Zax found them with directions from a young postulant. They were both under the same transparent, square casing. An elderly, green mustached third level Martial Moral priest stood next to the casing, giving some explanations about the two prizes to viewing contenders, seemingly intend to never leave the post.
The Solar Basil Leaf was in the shape of regular basil’s leaf, but had a brimming texture and hue like the sun in high noon. The Diluted Element was a mere drop of gray liquid, kept inside a clear, crystal bead.
‘Formations embedded to the casing probably block the fluctuations from spreading’. Zax suspected. Without being able to feel the fluctuations of the two prizes, he could only gouge their appearance, which told him nothing of their worth, unless treated as decoration. ‘A third level Martial Mortal…’ He stared at the priest, pretended to listen to his narrating the origin and other details of the prizes. His light of sight shifted to the wall behind the casing. ‘Behind is the outside. If I’ll use my full strength, beating the priest will not be a problem, but breaking the casing’s and the walls’ formations…’ It posed a risk unrelated to stealing the Galactic Communicator. He could afford giving it a try only if it would be on his escape route.
In averaged each contender spent five to ten minutes looking at the two prizes, listening to the priest and contemplating in his or her heart.
With more than two hours of nothing particular to do, Zax closed his eyes, enters his Inner Panorama and began to review today’s experience. Although it was not much of a hurdle, the Shelter Of Heroes was, in the end, a utilization of light attribute energy and its application, the conjuring of near sentient constructs, was both complex and profound method he could learn from. ‘Even if it’s a property of the light attribute, I might still gain something from it…’
The Grand Abode’s dining hall was reserved for the high level members of the church, third level Martial Mortals and above, and the guests contenders.
Three long tables were arranged for the contenders, a table in front of them was prepared for the third level Martial Mortals priests and nuns and a meter tall platform had one table, reserved saved for the church’s highest echelon.
When Zax and the other contenders arrived, they were welcomed by postulants and showed to their seats. Shortly after them came the third level Martial Mortals priests and nuns, twenty five in number. Next enters a small group of four women and two men, who waited in standing beside the seats of the platform’s table. Last to arrive were Archbishop Silternja, Cardinal Northstar and the young priest and nun who sat with them during the attribute understanding trial, Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence.
“Participants of our Luminous Church’s nineteenth Elite Tryouts, as your host, I thank you for sharing your presence with us this evening”. Archbishop Silternja opened with a joyous smile. “I assume that most of you accepted the invitations of myself just to give this old man some face, and already been told and exposed to the holiness of our church. Therefore, cease your concern, I will not wantonly run my mouth and bore you, too much”. He laughed and exuded a pleasant atmosphere that was difficult to disregard. “For this evening I’ll only say a simple grace before we eat and make a small introduction that a few of you might find beneficial in the future”.
Postulants entered the dining hall holding trays filled with delicious aroma of a variety of dishes. The tables already had glasses, plates and cutlery in front of every contender’s seat, so diners only needed to reach out and carry to their plate or pour to their glass what they wanted to eat or drink, after Archbishop Silternja’s grace.
As food and drinks were placed on the tables, Archbishop Silternja got up from his seat in a manner that attracted everyone’s attention and turned to His Young Eminence, who retained the seat right to him. “Everyone, this young man names is ‘Stelero Mars’, an Ascended Elite of the Holy Palace, otherwise and more appropriately referred to by ‘His’ or ‘Your’, ‘Young Eminence’, a future Immortal”.
There was no sound in the dining hall other than Archbishop Silternja’s voice and the dishes being put on the tables, but still there was a feel of something clamorous burying in the air. Nearly all the contenders were deeply shocked by His Young Eminence’s identity and even some of the church members were surprised by learning his name.
“The top ten participants in the Elite Tryouts, should they choose to accept, will receive the opportunity to follow back with His Young Eminence to the Holy Palace, a trip of eight years from Ercas Mir”. Archbishop Silternja stated on purpose.
Even if they had the potential, accompanying an already Ascended Elite, a future Immortal, for eight years… if they will be able to befriend him, no! Just have him acknowledge their existence their Martial path would definitely prosper!
The contenders were all Core Masters at the Peak of the second level or higher. If Zax was the sole one among them with his path already paved, than the rest could not be blamed for being goaded by the notion of a backer.
“In the Holy Palace things such as Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf are still rare, but in comparison to their availability in Ercas Mir”, Archbishop Silternja. If there was any level of availability of them in Ercas Mir and it was all in his hands, would Luminous Church have to treat the other four powers as equals? “In the Holy Palace they, and many other treasures, are at least attainable. You can obtain them by taking on assignments, but it will be easier if you’ll early on know a prominent figure”. He raised his head to the contenders and chuckled. “I know, I’m not exactly being subtle, but let me tell you this… In all of the Elite Tryouts the five powers held through the years, this is the first time an Ascended Elite has attended and even dined with the participants”. He lowered his voice, letting his word sink and the meaning behind them be clear.
Promising a “small introduction”, Archbishop Silternja countenance turned solemn. Suddenly all members of the church and Holy Palace stood on their feet and the postulants, who finished serving, mimicked their straight posture.
“We thank The Almighty for blessing us with this meal and company for young and adult, Mortals and future Immortals”.
“We thank The Almighty”. Everyone answered.
The contenders were not force to partake in the grace, but among them were members of the church who naturally followed suit.
Archbishop Silternja sat and the dinner began.
Though they were rivals, friendly interaction during dinner was unavoidable, especially when thirteen of the diners were members of the church who were smart enough to collaborate with Archbishop Silternja. Few were those like Zax that stayed mostly occupied on their plate and glass. By the end of the evening, though, even they, for one reason or another, memorized two or three names.
“You are willing?” Bogon asked with apparent delight. During dinner, the gray tortoise was not idle. He sought all the bodily cultivators among the contender and extended the same offer he made to Zax.
As he was leaving the dining hall, Zax approached him and accepted the exchange.
“Yes, but tomorrow evening”. Zax nodded with the grim look of his fake semblance.
“Right. It’s a bit late, but fine”. Bogon said. “Tonight I can’t anyway and tomorrow morning I’m actually also not sure…” Of the seven other contenders who exclusively cultivated their body or doubled with mist cultivation, two agreed to his offer and eventually decided on a triple exchange. Bogon was uncertain if Zax would like to join them. He did not suggest since he could not predict how Zax will react and he already agreed to his offer.
Zax parted ways with Bogon, returning to his chamber.
‘I can’t tell him about Grandmaster’s refinement technique or senior Gid’s Bone And Muscle Transformation, but I accumulated enough knowledge over the years from Master and Grandmaster, practicing the bodily maneuvers and cultivating the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. Coming up with something that will not fell short of the best Ercas Mir has to offer in field should not be that much of a challenge. Perhaps by adding Bogon’s insights and what I can keep figuring from the experience in the Shelter Of Heroes, I’ll be able to improve my dark maneuver, if not my understanding of the worldly dark attribute energy…?’