Kinda bad at introductions, but here it is...
You guys and all who know me online can call me "Lonahora".
Earth's Core is a light novel that I'm working on to better my English and story telling.
If you'll check out my website you can find the first twenty chapters of book one and the first five of book two.
I won't post all the chapters that I written so far, please check them in my website and if you like what you read, see the very important poll and please subscribe.
What I will post in this thread are new chapters, starting with book two chapter six. However, that will be in a few days, since I release a chapter or two per week.
Title: Earth's Core
Genre: Fantasy, Post apocalypse, Action, Martial Art
A very vague, short synopsis(since full chapters are what I'm in to and anything less just don't come to mind ):
Nature’s rules have changed.
Humanity and beast had to flee under the earth to survive.
Millenniums have passed, a new force discovered.
Humanity and beast evolved.
A boy is born.
Last edited by Lonahora; June 21, 2015 at 02:15 PM.
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 6 – A Bit Of Qi Utilization
Approximately three hundred meters from the hill, on which Zax was standing with a wide expression of wonder on his face that quickly changed to an expression of utmost sense of achievement, Zetsa was watching her little brother with bated breath.
How long as she being doing it, observing Zax from afar whenever she left him on top of the chosen fourth location? “Since the very beginning” was the answer. Yes, it was not in Zetsa calculation that Zax’s soul was so exceptional that it could develop a Soul Sense. Such strange occurrence has made it difficult for her to estimate when it happened, which is why up until Zax showed the severe reaction to the environmental essence in a cave that was part of the beasts’ territory even he was not fully aware of this ability.
“He actually made it”. Zetsa sighed and with no time to spend she leaped from one tree’s branch to another, toward the hill. “An F level soul that could use soul attacks and has Soul Sense… No! It was within his capabilities when his soul was at the top phase of level G! How terrifying, little Zi, your strong points differ than mine so I can only guess the benefits of naturally breaking through the juncture of level F with your soul”. Zetsa praised her little brother\Tal. “Here you are!”
“Big sis!” For the first time in a long time Zax Jumped on his big sister with the affection of a jolly little boy. His enormous achievement made him forget his sore body and Qi channels. “Hahaha… I knew you were behind me without even looking, hahaha…” Zax cheerfully declared. He was saying the truth, after just advancing to level F the condition of Zax’s soul was at its peak and his Soul Sense extended to a radius of a hundred and thirty centimeters in which his inner mind was aware of every little thing and change in the environment. Because of that, Zax was not surprised to see his big sister suddenly appear from behind him and was even the first to call aloud.
“What was that? You say that you were able to tell that I was behind you?!” Zetsa questioned the words she thought came out of Zax’s mouth and with him hugging her body like a little monkey she unconsciously touched her ears, to see if they were working right.
“What? You don’t believe me? Fine I’ll show you!” Zax got down from his big sister, turned his back to her and walked a few steps. “Do anything that you want, but don’t go too far and I’ll tell you exactly what you are doing without looking”. He urged her.
“Do something? Do what, Zax, stop playing. Your body and Qi channel went through a great ordeal of stress and tension. Come on, I’ll carry you, we are going home”. External appearance was enough for one to grasp the state in which Zax’s body was in. A little probing with her own Soul Sense allowed Zetsa to also figure the state of his Qi channels. Furthermore, what did Zax just ask of her? To entertain the idea that his Soul Sense could extend beyond skin and hair, past one meter!
How could she believe it? A Mist User in the Core Breaker level, even at the peak of the exalted level, can extend his or her Soul Sense at most to a radius of a hundred and five centimeters. Zax took it one big step farther, literally! Zetsa did not accept nor believed that. The benefits of naturally advancing to level F, in regards to Soul Sense, she expected them to be somewhat beneficial, but not to an extent that surpasses the proficiencies of a Mist User in the Core Breaker level!
“I was four steps from Zax when I arrived behind him, roughly the length of one meter. I didn’t hide my presence when I came forward… It doesn’t matter. One meter is still too long and he noticed me before I approached him. How unreasonable is it?!” Zetsa probed the scenes of a moment ago in her mind. “A skill that only Core Breakers can develop, for Zax who now has a soul at level F, a radius of ten to twenty centimeters for his Soul Sense is already beyond my expectations. Fine, let’s test it”.
Zetsa stood exactly one hundred and ten centimeters from Zax. “Which hand am I holding up?”
“Your left”. Zax replied instantly. “I can tell even if you stood a little bit farther. It’s weird, after I divided my mind I could detect, if I wanted, what’s happening around me easily. Even the threatening feeling from before, the one that hunted me…” Although he was already past that uncontrollable sensation that ran amuck through every fiber of his being, addressing it with words or in his inner mind still caused a deep distressing response to his soul, especially now that he could interpret its origins.
“Look here, Zax”. Zetsa bent her legs in a sitting position and with her finger drew a short line on ground. “This is the length of one centimeter”. She explained. “The thing that enables you to sense the environment to a certain degree is called “Soul Sense”. Try to extend the reach of your Soul Sense with the inner mind as far as you can and then count how many lines like this one you can place in a sequential order. Oh, and start from the center, where you are standing”.
“A hundred and thirty lines, big sis”. Using the perception of the inner mind, Zax needed ten seconds to count. He did not have to put any effort to the task, though at the Beginner phase of the F level, Zax benefited in more than just his Soul Sense. The quality of his soul had no parallel within the scope of the F level. To place imaginary lines and count them in a certain order in ten seconds was a plain assignment.
Even so, Zax’s unique soul was not able to process and interprets everything within the radius of his Soul Sense as fast as a Core Breaker, or even an E level Mist User, if there was one who had a Soul Sense. If Zax tried his hardest it still would have taken him at least eight seconds to count all the lines.
“That’s wonderful, little Zi”. Astonished from the conformation, Zetsa lifted her brother from the ground and held him with hands stretched. “My little Zi is so magnificent!”
“Haha…” Zax laughed.
“You’ve done well, little Zi, much better than me, I must say”. Zetsa took him close to her bosom, ready to depart from the hill. “Are you well?” She asked.
“Yes”. Zax replied with a soft smile and drained face. A warm and fuzzy feeling radiated from his big sister’s body, entered his body and slowly relived its soreness like a strong sedative.
“Then say goodbye. We won’t return here in the near future”.
“Goodb…” Zax murmured, relaxed finally and with closed eyes.
Zax woke up after sleeping soundly for twelve hours. “So GOOOOD!” He exclaimed when he realized that his body, Qi channels and soul were no longer aching, as he was already used to due to the constant anguish and forgot how it felt to wake up peacefully.
“Grughghg!” Zax’s stomach growled. “I want to eat!” Huge appetite suddenly overtook him. “Meat! Eggs! I want to drink orange juice! Mom! I’m hungry! Make me something big to eat”. He ran exited to the living room. “Mom!”
“Shhh… Quiet down, Zax”. A silent voice whispered from the living room. “Mom and dad are sleeping”.
“Sleeping?” Zax turned his head to the source of the voice, but it was dark in the living room. Actually with was dark all over the house and even outside of it. “Big sis?” Using his soul sense he made his away to the living room and the sofa on which Zetsa lay.
“Zax, are you up?” The lights in the living room turned on. Marco and Laylen stood next to each other in their pajamas.
“Make me something to eat, mom, I’m hungry!” Zax pleaded. It was night and he spoke aloud, but he really was hungry, too hungry to pay attention to the sleepy faces of his parents or slightly care.
“Zax?” Both Marco and Laylen were surprised at their son change of attitude that they continued to stand, holding each other. “Are you really hungry, do you want to eat?” Laylen asked gently, afraid of sounding imposing, afraid to scare away the spark she had not seen for a long while and now, all of a sudden, returned to her son’s eyes.
“He is well, mom, dad, Zax finished this long session of training. He got back to his usual self. His soul advanced to the level of a F level Mist User”. Zetsa informed their parents with an apologetic smile.
They returned home around ten o’clock at night and at that time their parents were already asleep. Zetsa decided to wait until the morning, but now was as good time as ever to tell them that their little boy “resurrected”.
“Will you make me something to eat?”
“Zax!” Laylen burst into tears and grabbed her son tightly between her arms. “You are okay, Zax, my Zax, my Zax. Sure honey, anything you want, mommy will make anything for you”.
“Laylen…” Marco eyes reddened. Was it not worried about his son? Was he not worried about his wife? He was. The cool head of the family, lenient in times, strict in others. He carried himself day in day out with a firm disposition for his son to turn to, for his wife to lean on, for his daughter to speak unrestrained.
At last, the pretense was no longer necessary.
Massaging his forehead and eyes, Marco exhaled heavily once, as if released from a great burden. “Our son, a coreless boy, has reached level F with his soul, Laylen”. He spread his arms around his wife and son. “Did you ever think that it will be possible… for our son, without an Earth’s Core?”
“It’s not important, Marco. Zax his back, look at him, look at his eyes”.
“And his stomach, mom, don’t forget the stomach! I’m hungry!” Zax added.
“Sure, I won’t dare. Let’s make a feast for all of us to enjoy. But don’t make too much noise. It’s still night”. Laylen laughed, clearing the streams of tears on her bright face.
After the midnight meal, Zax took a warm shower with Zetsa while Marco cleaned the dishes and Laylen prepared new sheets for his bed since the old ones were dirtied by his sweaty and dusty clothes that he wore since his last session of training and went to sleep in.
The next morning Zax woke up around seven o’clock in the morning. He was not tired, but he felt that if he allowed himself he could sleep for the fun of it for days.
“Don’t gobble. Eat slowly”. Zetsa served him a bowl of hot porridge.
“But it’s tasty!” Zax said with a full mouth.
“Your body consumed small portion of food for almost two months. If you’ll force too much too fast you’ll harm your body”. Zetsa educated, afterwards Zax’s eating pace slowed down a little.
“What are we gonna do today? Are we going the grandpa Ger’s farm?” Zax asked.
In three days he and all the other ten years old kids of cave twenty five will depart to the place where the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit will occur and even though he reached the goal of his soul training, he was a little bit anxious and did not want to simply wait at home for the awaited date.
“No, we’ll go to my place. You don’t have enough time for a new training session, but don’t you want to learn some cool techniques that you can execute with your Qi?”
Outside the abandoned construction site which was Zetsa’s incomplete apartment building, what was meant to the receiving lawn by now sprout into unruly greenery.
“Wait a moment on the paved road”. Zetsa told Zax.
Examining the open at the front of the apartment building, Zetsa shifted her gaze to a sufficient area for what she had on mind and gracefully raised her hand in a waving motion.
In the blink on an eye, silvery particles of mist energy created a wave of cutting wind that trimmed the greenery to a fine length of one centimeter tall in a space twenty meters long, ten meter wide. Right after, another gust of wind blew away the remains of the cut vegetation, leaving a nice and open field fit for an outdoor training.
“Whoa!” Zax called out, full of awe. The hasty gardening was too fast for him to perceive. In his eyes the scenario was divided into two parts, Zetsa waving her hand followed by a sudden explosion in the greenery. However it played, it still was amazing to just see the foliage rise to the air, as if the earth burped it out.
“Here is good”. Zetsa took off her shoes and walked barefooted on the trimmed and tickling grass. “Come here, little Zi, take off your shoes and socks, as well”. Zetsa invited Zax with a smile on her face. In a way, it felt like they were on a lovely picnic without anything but a lawn available to lie on and the company of each other.
“Let’s sit down for a bit, little Zi, before I’ll teach you the Qi utilization techniques, though, don’t expect much, you should finally get to know why I chose to train you in soul refining techniques instead of Qi refining techniques”.
“Isn’t it because the soul is harder to train and so the benefits are also bigger?” Zax asked quizzically.
“Close, little Zie, not “benefits”, but for just one “benefit””. Zetsa pointed up a finger. “Do you know what are the changes that convert a regular person to a Mist User after absorbing an Earth’s Core?”
“Hmm… We learned about it last year in school. After absorbing an Earth’s Core, through meditation a person needs to form the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell. When that happens, a person will then become a Mist User starting at the lowest phase of the lowest level. Our teacher also explained to us that after becoming an Earth’s Core holder of the lowest level, no matter whom, anyone will be able to perceive the existence of the merged Qi and mist in the body, which will be a level higher than a regular person, and similar to the Qi, the soul will also advance a level”.
“Exactly!” Zetsa shouted. Excitedly she asked Zax another question. “And if you are already in that “higher level”, what then?”
“Then…” Zax repeated, still dumbfounded from his big sister’s autistic behavior. “Then…!” He said again and his eyes widened abruptly. “Are you saying?!” Zax exclaimed.
“Yes!” Zetsa lips twisted to a broad grin. “Now that you have reached level F with your soul, after you will absorb an Earth’s Core and form the first crack in its shell, your soul will instantly advance past the bottleneck of the next level, it will reach level E!” Zetsa laughed. “And that is not even the kicker, hahaha, unless it’s a medium quality Earth’s Core, or having above average talent, even if you reach level F with your Qi, you will still not advance to the next level after absorbing an Earth’s Core! Hahaha… see why your big sister is so proud of you? See why I pressed you to train in soul refining techniques even when you were on the verge of collapse?”
“In just a few days I’ll become an E level Mist User, hahaha! That’s awesome!” Zax jumped on his feet.
“Your soul will reach the level of an E level Mist User, little Zi, in terms of mist you will still be at the lowest level”. Zetsa did not want to spoil Zax’s joy; however, misleading him would have wronged him even worse. “Nevertheless, the difficulties of wholly advancing one’s level are tied to the level of one’s soul. The soul is the nucleus of a living being, it cannot maintain control over the Qi or mist even if it’s just a level higher than it. Yet, if the soul’s level is the one which is higher, then it can support the cultivation and advancement of the Qi or mist up to it matching its level”. She hastily added.
In truth, even if Zax’s soul remain in level F, advancing the next two levels still will be far easier than naturally breaking through the bottleneck of level F. Until he will reach the bottleneck of level C, it is safe to say that the road ahead of him was paved neatly.
“Now that you understand, let’s proceed to the next matter in hand”. Zetsa got up and Zax, who was already on his feet, eagerly clenched his fists and dug into the earth with his toes.
“First, the one and only principle of what you are about to learn. What I’ll teach you shouldn’t be taken as a formal technique of any sort. To a coreless boy who didn’t even scratch the surface of this abundant aspect of himself, there is no way for you to learn in time any real Qi related Martial technique. To do that you will first need to follow a Qi refining technique, or in the future, mist refining technique. What you are going to learn are superficial survival tricks”. Zetsa clarified and made sure that Zax also understood.
Seeing his consenting node, Zetsa’s eyebrows tensed. “Good. Keep your legs steady, close your eyes and try to feel the Qi that flow through the Qi channels in your body”. Zetsa instructed.
“I feel it”. Zax said after but a few seconds.
“All of it. Once you grasp it, it is not as simple as the soul. The Qi isn’t accumulated in one place like the soul, but spread throughout your body. Take your time; verify that your consciousness reaches every nook and cranny within your body. With the level of your soul you should be capable of doing it, just don’t be rush. Even to an Earth’s Core Holder it can take hours to form full connection with whole of the mist in the body”.
Nearly two and a half hours later, Zax concentrated face gradually relaxed and a serene expression appeared in his eyes. “When I felt it before it wasn’t like this, tangible to this extent…” Maybe only in his explosive first time, though back then he definitely was not in control.
Zetsa watched him and slightly nodded with approval. “Being repeatedly pushed to the verge of life and death has bestowed many advantages upon you, Zax”. She said to herself.
“It’s the deference between grasping a portion of your Qi and all of it”. Zetsa opened. “Remember to reach this proficiency whenever you use your Qi or soul energy. No matter which aspect of your being you utilize, you should not treat it halfheartedly. When you’ll return from the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, this will become your first method of training before proceeding to mist refining techniques”.
“Okay, big sis, what now?” Zax took to heart Zetsa’s teaching and awaited for further instructions.
“Now, Zax, you will observe and imitate what I’ll do. Move back a little and don’t use your soul sense no matter what!” After saying so, Zetsa followed her own directives ostentatiously in order for the steps to truly be engraved in Zax’s mind.
A silvery thick misty aura immerged from Zetsa body instantly. Distortions in the air signified the vast power Zetsa withheld. “I’ll use my aura to help you visualize the process, but I’ll do so only once so pat attention”. Spreading her arms to the sides she kept saying. “This is a hundred percent usage of my mist energy, gashing out from every pore of my body. Try it yourself”.
Zax watched and obeyed. Spreading his arms in the same manner, the best that he could do with his Qi was let it flow throughout his body as it did before, while this time maintaining a thread of consciousness for instant take over.
Five minutes had passed. Zax’s calmed demeanor began to frown has time passed. Even though he extended only a thread of his consciousness, it was difficult to wield over time.
“You can stop”. Zetsa said, yet she kept showing of her aura. “The quality and amount of Qi you possess is insufficient for a prolong usage. Rest for ten minutes, let your Qi channels recuperate”.
Ten minutes later.
“Times up. Get a grip on all of your Qi again”. Zetsa said since Zax ceased the thread of consciousness.
This time it took Zax two hours to gain full awareness to all of his Qi.
“Arms to the sides”. Zetsa said and spread her arms also. “The first time was to let you realize that even if you don’t execute a profound Qi or mist technique, it’s still hard to maintain for a long time. Qi is energy, any usage of it, and basically any action count as a usage, spend your Qi. But it doesn’t mean that you only have a limited amount of Qi to spend in your entire life.”
“Let me simplify it. Think of Qi and Qi channels like an extension of your body. If you run for a long time the body gets tired and weak. What then you do? You rest and nourish the body to renew its strength. Excessive use of Qi, in cases like yours even a little usage, will reduce the Qi in your body and tire the Qi channels, to recuperate what you do?”
“Rest”. Zax answered involuntarily, but he began to feel tired again and wished his sister will hurry.
“Much like what you do when the body is exhausted, you rest and nourish the Qi by nourishing the body with healthy food. Just so you know, there are other ways to nourish the Qi, but they aren’t easy to come by. Never forget, exhausting completely one of the three aspects of a living being, soul, body or Qi will result in certain death! ”. Zetsa talking pace stayed indolent.
Two minutes after.
“You can stop to rest. After ten minutes, repeat the exercise”.
Two hours and fifteen minutes later.
“Watch clearly and try to imitate the movement of my aura with your Qi”. Arms to the sides, Zetsa’s aura began to move slowly from her left side of the body to accumulate only in the right side.
Imitating his Mor, Zax controlled the Qi in his body and allocated it to only the right side of his body.
“Excellent. On to the next step”. Zetsa complimented and shifted her aura only to the upper right side of her body.
Once again imitating his Mor, it took Zax a few seconds this time to concentrate his Qi only in the upper right side of his body.
“You are doing well, Zax, two more steps”. Zetsa said. Her full aura then moved to cover only her right arm. The great concentration of silvery particles made it seem as if Zetsa’s arm was made out of pure silver.
“Urgg…” Zax shrieked. The more Qi he accumulated onto one place and the smallest that place was, the more it felt like filling a half a liter bottle with a greater and greater amount of water.
“Remember this feeling. That’s your current limit”. It was already within Zetsa’s predications and a good lesson for Zax. “If you’ll try to concentrate your Qi in an even smallest space in your body, your Qi channels may tear apart. Helping you then, even I don’t have the confidence, so don’t push yourself!”
“Okay, big sis, last step, last step”. Zax winced.
“The last step”, Zetsa smiled and decided to spare the surroundings. “Punch the ground!”
---------- Post added June 27, 2015 at 09:31 AM ---------- Previous post was June 23, 2015 at 03:16 AM ----------
Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 7 – The Beginning of The Great Earth’s Core Pursuit
The second in April, year 5785.
Three o’clock in the afternoon.
A line of eleven parked busses stretched to a bit over a hundred meters at the entrance to tunnel seventy seven from cave twenty five.
Families from all over cave twenty five accompanied their eligible youngsters and saw them get on the busses. Approximately six hundred and forty participants were about to be sent from cave twenty five, this year.
For the second consecutive year Zetsa volunteered as the representative Guardian of cave twenty five’s participants. She walked toward the first bus, where her parents, her little brother, his friends and their parents waited.
Eight o’clock in the morning, the very same day.
Zetsa was on her way to leave her parents’ house to the cave’s management office. “Zax”, she called him. “Come here”. She asked in a low voice.
Putting down the fork on the breakfast plate, Zax got up to send off his big sister. “I’ll see later, big sis”.
“I know you will. I didn’t call you for that”. Zetsa rubbed his unruly morning hair. “Listen, Zax, I’m telling you now cause later I simply won’t have the opportunity. In the search big sis won’t be able to help you find Earth’s Cores. It’s against the representative Guardian’s event rules; at most I can appraise the Earth’s Core or Earth’s Cores that you will find. But”, Zetsa said before Zax pouted. The next part was of utmost importance for her to impart on him. “Even if you won’t find an Earth’s Core, you will still receive a compensatory one at the end of the search, that, however, is not what I want you to remember, Zax. What you should remember is that even if you will be forced to absorb the Earth’s Core that the event’s comity arranged for those who didn’t find during the search, by no means try to form the first crack or any crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell”.
Zetsa bent closer to Zax’s ear. “As long as the Earth’s Core is intact in your dantian, you can use your unique soul to push it out. Don’t do it in front of others, if you already absorbed the Earth’s Core wait for me to take care of things”.
Listening to his big sister, at first Zax wanted to ask her if it is really possibly to remove an absorbed Earth’s Core, yet when he was about to ask her, a more pressing question came out. “If I’ll take out the Earth’s Core, what then?”
“Then, although it may take some time, your big sis will do a few favors and get you a better Earth’s Core than you can get from the event’s comity”.
“Good quality Earth’s Core?!” Zax nearly jumped of excitement.
“Do not let your imagination get carried away, little Zi. Your big sis will do her best”. Zetsa refrained from promising something too good. E level Earth’s Core, if she could get the lowest quality of that level, it will already be above and beyond.
“Now that you know finish your breakfast, I’m off”.
Back to current time.
Alongside Zetsa walked a happy looking, tall and ridden man with a black wig on his head. He was the head manager of cave twenty five’s management office, Nuci Poweil. Unlike governor Edomachi, Nuci Poweil did not possess the “Governor” title and was a mere representative of the esteemed high class Poweil family that managed several other caves in El-Eden.
“This year our children are within the first groups in the queue, hahaha…” Head manager Nuci was satisfied with this year arrangement. “Their chances of finding good Earth’s Cores are a lot better than the previous years, isn’t that right, Miss Zetsa? Hahaha…”
“Who knows”, Zetsa answered honestly. “A decade ago, I remember, that there was a kid who was in the last batch and found a high quality Earth’s Core, while two years ago, within the first five groups from Tongguo who entered the search cave in their region, each and every child came back empty handed. If anything, I’d say that it is all about luck”.
“Well, luck is something that none of us can control. In this case it’s best to be among the first groups and hope the heavens and Supreme Ruler look fairly on all of our children”. Head manager Nuci was in his late seventies and managed cave twenty five for more than forty years. Over the years he sent thousands upon thousands of participants to take part in the Great Erath’s Core Pursuit. Obviously he had a better insight in regards to the matter in question, thus, Zetsa could not contradict his pearls of accumulated wisdom and had to agree with him, even if she did not believe that the “Heavens” or Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch have anything to do with the luck of the young participants.
When all the kids sat in the busses, placing their provisions backpacks on their knees and before their families waved them good luck and goodbye, Head manager Nuci, a C level Mist User, Core Breaker, amplified his voice with his mist energy and delivered a customary speech.
“Young future Mist Users and valued families members. It is a great honor for me that today I, Nuci Poweil, get to send once more and for the forty fourth time as the head manager of cave twenty five, our young ones onto their most significant journey in their life.
“Children of cave twenty five, tomorrow you will face the most taxing challenge that any coreless child faces once in his and her life that will determine how great your future is going to be.
“It is not a challenge that you should be afraid of. On the contrary, it is your moment to transcend the limitation you have been living with so far, from coreless children to full fledged Mist Users!
“Children of cave twenty five, I wish you the watchful and blessed eye of the heavens and our Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch”.
Head manager Nuci finished with a bow, turned his head to Zetsa, who sat near the driver on the first bus, and with a slight node wished her an ample journey.
Zax sat at the back of the bus with Serah, Dane, Anet and a few other kids from his old school.
“My sister participated two years ago in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, you know”, Zushi Sarker, a short, blond hair blue eyes kid lowered his head and talked with a hand on his mouth. “She told me that no matter what, me, and my friends better form a group before entering the search cave”. His blue eyes turned to the seven kids next to him and revealed his intentions.
“Why do we need to form a group? Won’t we have a better chance to find more Earth’s Cores if we spread?” Weysey Inoki, a black hair green eyes boy raised the question before Zushi got to finish what he was saying.
“Think about it yourself. What will happen if you’ll find an Earth’s Core?” Zushi asked.
“The rules state that if a participant finds an Earth’s Core he or she has to leave the cave and show it to the attendant who stays at the entrance of the cave”. Weysey answered as if he was quoting his homeroom teacher.
“See, here is the problem. What if you will come across other participants on your way to the attendant?” Zushi swept his gaze across the understanding faces of his friends. “I’m not saying that we should form a group to steal from others, only to protect ourselves. My sister told me that the representative Guardians aren’t really there to keep us in order or so that no harm will come us, at least not from other participants”.
“I’m okay with forming a group, if it’s only to protect ourselves”. Serah said.
“Me too”. Anet also agreed and the other five, beside Zushi who came up with the idea, including Zax also nodded in agreement.
“If we form a group we need a leader”. Merly stated.
“Sure. Zax, you’ll be the leader”. Zushi said without hesitating even though the idea was his.
“Me?” Zax felt a bit uncomfortable acting as the leader.
“You were the strongest boy in pre Core School, plus you are Miss Zetsa little brother, how can you be anything less?” Truly, if not on the Martial path, then at least on the political one Zushi will most definitely have a bright future!
“Fine, if that’s what everyone wants”.
Sure enough everyone nodded in agreement.
“But how will we decide how to divide the Earth’s Cores if we’ll found any?” Dane raised up the question.
“We can do it like this”, Zushi began to explain. “If one of us finds an Earth’s Core, that is, the first to locate it with the eyes, then he or she will call “not here”, best if it would be loud enough only for the members in our group to hear, and the Earth’s Core will be his or her. If more than one member of the group calls “not here” at the same time for the same Earth’s Core, then those who called “not here” will decide who gets the Earth’s Core by a game of rock paper scissors”.
“Sound reasonable”, Dane felt the need to give his approval. “But what if you already found an Earth’s Core and locates another one?”
“Well, the only opportunity for someone who already has an Earth’s Core to find another one will be when the rest of the group will escort him or her to the attendant at the entrance to the cave. If that happens, then those who found another Earth’s Core can choose which Earth’s Core they want to keep and the rest of the group will play a few rounds of rock paper scissors to decide who will get the other Earth’s Core”. Zushi paused, to make sure that his explanation was clear to everyone. “Are we a group?” He whispered.
“We are”. The other seven whispered back, among others who had the same idea.
Cave one hundred and thirty nine was a border cave within Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch’s region, El-Eden, and the gathering cave for all of the ten years old participants of El-Eden and their representative Guardians.
Lines of busses from all over El-Eden who carried tomorrow’s participants were parking in a giant parking lot near a dome like compound. Besides the compound, which was more than a thousand hundred meters long, six hundred meters wide and ninty meter tall, were various tents and two other square buildings that were each about a sixth of the compound’s size.
“Participants of cave eighty seven, join here in rows of forty…”
“Participants of cave three, join here in rows of seventy four…”
“Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, gather up here in rows of fifty…”
“Participants of cave twenty five, assemble here in rows of forty…”
“Participants of cave eight, join here in rows of sixty…”
“Participants of cave one hundred and one, join here in rows of thirty…”
“Participants of cave ninety nine, assemble here in rows of fifty five…”
The seven representative Guardians from the seven caves of tomorrow participants ordered the soon to be “Young Mist Users” under his or her care. Some even utilized their mist energy and with gentle touches of their aura helped the young ones to construct the rows.
When the first group was ready, its representative Guardians led it to the closest tent to the parking lot where a big sign read: “Registration Stand To The Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. Year 5785!”.
Zax and his group of eight managed to sneak themselves to the head of one of the eleven rows to watch carefully the registration process which sparked their and every other coreless child present, for that matter, curiosity.
A good looking woman, wearing blue uniforms with a white ribbon that stretched diagonally across her left shoulder to her waist and read: “GECP STAFF”, accepted Zetsa and the group from cave twenty five. Since the small tent only meant to house the woman and a small desk with a computer on it, Zetsa actually stood outside of it.
“Here, the list of participants from cave twenty five and my contact information as their representative Guardian”. Zetsa handed the woman a small rectangle yellow chip. The staff member woman inserted the chip to the computer and a few seconds later took out, from a box beneath the table, a red ribbon which read in golden letters: “GECP GUARDIAN”.
“Please wear it in all times”. The woman gave the ribbon to Zetsa, who immediately wore it in the same manner as she did. She also gave her a piece of paper, on which she wrote a few numbers. and returned the chip before directing her to the next tent.
Passing one of the medical tents, Zetsa led her group to a tent near the entrance to the compound that had a sign beside it which read: “Time Bracelets Registration Stand”.
“Tomorrow’s participants…” The man in in the Time Bracelets Registration Stand said to himself. The Time Bracelets Registration stand had a huge tent filled with sealed boxes. Like in the previous tent, Zetsa did not enter, but waited outside for the staff member to approach her.
“Serialization token”. The man, who was short with words, said to Zetsa. Zetsa gave the piece of paper she received from the woman at the initial registration stand.
The man looked at the serialization token and sighed. “This year they send the smaller group first…” He then turned his back to Zetsa. “You are good”. After so Zetsa turned as well and entered with her group to the giant compound.
Thousands of neat bunk beds filled more than two thirds of the compound. Beside them were showers and bathrooms. At one corner of the compound was a staircase to a second floor and at the center of the compound was a lectern.
Zetsa was the second representative Guardians to lead her group into the compound. The first representative Guardians to arrive already ordered the boys in his group to settle and choose bunk beds.
“Boys of cave twenty five”, Zetsa opened aloud when the last of her group entered the compound. “Choose any of the bunk beds over there and settle your backpacks on them. Keep together and don’t seek only bottom bunk beds. No one is allowed to go to the second floor and no one is allowed to occupy an empty bottom bunk bed if there are empty upper bunk beds with participants from our cave, cave twenty five, who already picked the bottom ones! Go, you have ten minutes to choose beds in orderly fashion and return.
“Girls of cave twenty five, wait for a while. Your bunk beds are in the second floor. Obey the same rules as the boys when you go up there. I’ll help you find a side for our group and when I’ll leave none of you is allowed to go to the first floor until I’ll return!”
Zax’s group consisted of five boys and three girls. Before the five boys left they agreed with the girls no to mention anything about their already formed group and that if someone would ask, either the boys or the girls, to join some other group they will say that they have to think about it.
Thirty minutes after the last of the representative Guardians arrived with her group to the compound and the last participant from her cave laid his backpack on an upper bunk bed, a stern elderly staff member with a black ribbon across his chest, reading in red letters: “GECP DISCIPLINARY SUPERVISOR”, walked into the compound and stopped in front of the lectern.
“Silence!” The elderly man, who, according to his ribbon, was the disciplinary supervisor of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit event, amplified his voice with his mist energy and the dominating aura of a Beginner phase Mist Lord exploded out him upward.
Instantly the more than five thousands coreless participants, and even four of the representative Guardians, were paralyzed.
“Welcome to the one in a life time event, the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit”. The elderly man spoke with an indifferent tone and eyes that gave the impression that they could inspect every detail of every person in the compound, altogether!
“I’m the disciplinary supervisor of the event and the man who is responsible for overwatching the proceeding of the event in cave zero thirty nine, El-Eden’s designated cave”. The disciplinary supervisor drew back his aura but kept his harsh tone.
“Participants and representative Guardians, every year there are tens of thousands new participants in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. To ensure a safe and bright hunt for each and every one of the tens of thousands participant, a set of rules has to be enforced.
“The rules are not complex. Starting with the first and most important one, participants are not allowed to enter the unsafe zone! Inside cave zero thirty nine are two tunnels, of which, one is a forbidden tunnel leading deeper into the beasts’ territory. The unsafe zone is guarded at all times by the event’s Guardians that will disqualify any participant who will try to go through any tunnel besides the one he or she entered from to cave zero thirty nine.
“The second rule should already be known to most of you but still require clarification. Twenty four hours after the beginning of the event, all participants, whether if you found an Earth’s Core or did not, must get back immediately to the attendant at the entrance of cave zero thirty nine to sign that you participated in the event and your finds.
“DON’T BE MISTAKEN!” The disciplinary supervisor hastened to say. The preceding part was always the cause for many misunderstandings that he had no patient to deal with. “Even if you come by with empty hands, the event’s organizers, our Supreme Rulers, directed us, staff members of the event, to keep a stock of Earth’s Cores available for distribution to any of the unlucky ones. Please realize, all of you, participation in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit is not a chance for you to gain Earth’s Cores in order to become Mist Users. “Participation” means that you get one chance to find the best Earth’s Core out there to better your position and future prospects as dignified Mist User!”
“Best Earth’s Core?”
“High quality Earth’s Cores?”
“They definitely won’t give those who come back empty handed any good Earth’s Cores”.
“Yeah, probably the lowest quality Earth’s Cores…”
“Common Earth’s Cores like my mom’s and dad’s…”
“High quality Earth’s Core! High quality Earth’s Core! High quality Earth’s Core!”
A wave of whispers and speculation mixed with cries of excitement could not help but resonate in the compound. To the ten years old coreless children the knowledge that they will soon pass the threshold toward the greatest opportunity that they will ever get in their entire life, to receive the chance to search for those legendary Earth’s Core that only one in a million can find, made many of them drool buckets.
“Settle down, settle down…” The elderly man said mildly. Although the disciplinary supervisor, he still gave his consent, to some degree, for the children’s boisterous excitement. After all, with children the louder the noise the higher the spirit and in a pitiful event, such as the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, sometimes high spirit was adequate to compensate the lack of fortune that many will encounter.
“Participants of cave eighty seven, quiet down!”
“Participants of cave three, stop talking!”
“Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, keep it down!”
The representative Guardians saw that the disciplinary supervisor, an A level Mist User they all respected, did not want to topple the children’s enthusiasm by force like when he entered, so they used their own aura to aid him, since their aura and voices were both familiar and, in a way, more authoritative from the perspective of the children they were responsible of.
“Now that all of you have calmed down, know that I will not accept any more interruption. Try me and I will cut hours from your time of the hunt!” The voice of elderly disciplinary supervisor sounded resolute and right after it sank in the mind of every child in the compound, a hush fell over.
“The third rule I should mention is an extension of the second rule and it is about the time bracelets. Tomorrow, before entering cave zero thirty nine, each of you will receive a time bracelet which function as a timer that will show you how long do you have in the hunt until you have to return. The time bracelets are green and in addition to time, they can also tell your geographical location in cave zero thirty nine. The time bracelet will calculate your remaining time and distant from tunnel three hundred and twelve and will turn red to notify that you should head back before the end of the twenty four hours you each have in the hunt. Anyone who will dare to be late will not receive an Earth’s Core, whether if he or she found one or not, until a month after the official end day of the event!”
---------- Post added June 30, 2015 at 02:33 AM ---------- Previous post was June 27, 2015 at 09:31 AM ----------
Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 8 – Pursuing Earth’s Cores
“Now then, the fourth and last rule…” The disciplinary supervisor nocked on the lectern. “No one is allowed to venture outside of your residency. To those of you who have difficulties to understand, you cannot leave to compound we are currently in. And once you will be divided and transferred to the two square buildings, you cannot leave them, either, without permission! There will not be farther explanations. Disobey any of the four rules and think of it as if you brought upon yourselves the wrath of Supreme Rulers! ” The disciplinary supervisor turned and left the compound with his last warning still roaming in the air.
From start to finish the elderly disciplinary supervisor did not say anything regarding fights, thefts or even grouping many against one during the “Hunt”, as he named the pinnacle part of the “Great Earth’s Core Pursuit”. Only the participants who were in organized group took notice of it, some wondering, others secretly rejoicing. Of course, the seven representative Guardians already knew the reason why the disciplinary supervisor did not say anything about these conducts. Regardless of the young participants’ success rate in this event, in the end there will not be a child who will not have an Earth’s Core. So why not? Why not add a little bit more challenge besides the required luck? The earlier these children will learn how to safeguard their fortune, the more they will deserve to keep it.
There were not any quarrels or arguments about bottom bunk beds or who showers first when the representative Guardians finished helping the girls settle in the second floor and afterwards left the compound.
In eight o’clock in the evening, after snacking on some of their rotations, Zax and the thousands other boys and girls received one nutrition tablet, each, from a group of fifty or so stuff members which came by the compound and had white ribbons hanging from their shoulders to their waist, which read in brown letter: ”GECP SERVING STAFF”.
The tablets were orange with smooth surface and seemed easy enough to swallow.
“Listen, everyone, the nutrition tablets that you received should last you for twenty four hours. You should take them on an empty stomach tomorrow morning, so if you brought food with you, either eat it now or after the event, otherwise you’ll feel nausea and abdominal pains. If some of you still can’t swallow tablets, it is fine to also chew on them or drink them with water, however the taste will be awfully bitter so be aware and don’t waste them by spiting them out. Eat them and your energy will last till the end of your search”. One stuff member on each floor explained to the groups of boys and girls. When the stuff members finished distributing the nutrition tablets they bid the young participants good night and a bountiful search.
The next morning at four o’clock, thousands of snack wrappers were thrown around the compound. The representative Guardians who came to gather their groups were momentarily stunned by the sight of so much littering. It appeared that during the night someone managed to jam the compound trash chutes, all twenty in the boys’ floor.
The seven representative Guardians sighed in union. The disciplinary supervisor will rebuke them no doubt.
“Participants of cave eighty seven, get yourself organized and ready to leave…”
“Participants of cave three collect your backpacks and get ready to leave…”
“Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, you have ten minutes to get organized…”
The seven representative Guardians led their groups in seven long lines to the entrance of tunnel three hundred and twelve.
Tunnel three hundred and twelve was extremely large! At least three hundred meters wide and two hundred and fifty meters tall. Its length from cave one hundred and thirty nine to cave zero thirty nine was also no joke, about seven hundred meters. A white partition of identical length split the tunnel into two sides, one for the returning participants of the previous day who came in bunches, the other for the new participants and their leading representative Guardians.
Zax and his group of eight converged at the head of the row they were part from during the long walk to the other side of the tunnel.
“Did you take the nutrition tablets, Zax?” Zetsa asked.
To not seem partial she tilted her head toward the rest of the group. She did so even though she was not obligated to do more than her representative Guardian’s duties, which were similar to the event’s Guardians’ duties.
“Not yet”. Zax answered.
“Good. Take it two hours after the beginning of the search”. Zetsa respond.
“Seriously, Zax, how lucky of you to have a Mist Master for an elder sister”. Merly babbled.
“Did he say…?!”
Not many of cave twenty five’s participants knew of the special relationship between one of their peers and their representative Guardian. Because of their parents they all knew that Zetsa was actually “Miss Zetsa”, a B level Mist User, Mist Master, capable of appraising the density of the mist inside an Earth’s Core and determine its quality. Hearing what that one boy said to that other boy, who were both clenched together with six other kids, about Zetsa, a Mist Master, all the close by participants from cave twenty five wanted to puke their guts from envy.
“That boy… was “Zax” his name? Is he Miss Zetsa’s little brother?!”
“Why didn’t you try to approach him?!”
“How should I have known?!”
“That boy is cute, kinda…”
“Crap, it looks like he is already in a group!”
“See how they walk close to each other… Try convincing him to join us”.
“That girl is not his girlfriend, is she?”
“I’m much prettier than that one, urgh…”
“You try! Argh… he is avoiding stares, he can hear us, how pathetic are we…”
“You’re pathetic! He freaking has a Mist Master to his disposal!”
Silent whispers escalated to loud whimpers. Soon every participant knew about and cursed that one kid from cave twenty five who was the little brother of a Mist Master representative Guardian. Luckily, not everyone was sure who the specific boy everybody talked about was since there were thousands all around them.
In Zax’s group of eight, seven pairs of eyes looked at Merly with furious expressions.
“Argh… I’m sorry everyone!” Merly lowered his flushed cheeks. “But… but… now that they know that Zax is Miss Zetsa’s little brother, maybe nobody will mess with our group”. Merly did not have the same level of sharpness and adulation as Zushi or the confidence to look at his friends’ eyes as he made up the excuse.
“They can still follow us and grab the Earth’s Cores on our path before we do. Do you think Miss Zetsa is the kind of person to threaten children if that’ll happen?” Dane said.
“But they don’t know-”
“Yeah, I’ll bet some of them will be willing to try their chances anyway. Miss Zetsa as her own duties in this event…”
The group’s internal conversation was in low voices so that others will not listen. However, that only heightened the agitation among the eight participants.
“Stop arguing, it doesn’t matter anymore what others have heard. When the search will start just keep your eyes on the surrounding and if anyone will follow you, put a hostile front together to scare them”. Zetsa interfered. Her voice reached only the ears of her little brother’s friends. “I and the other representative Guardians, most of the time, will do patrols around the cave. If you want me to appraise Earth’s Cores, you can meet me every three hours beneath the Hooked Beak rock, it’s a forty meters tall rock, twenty meter wide from its base, seven kilometers west of the other side of the tunnel”.
Zetsa’s offer brought excited smiles on the little faces of Zax’s friends. To have the support of a Mist Master they all were utterly thankful to the magnificent Miss Zetsa.
“Zax”, Zetsa focused her voice only for her little brother to hear. “When we’ll get to the other side of the tunnel read my aura briefly with your Soul Sense. I’ll show you the exact direction to the Hooked Beak rock”.
Along the path to the other side of the tunnel nearly a hundred staff members distributed green bracelets that showed “24:00:00” in neon colors, bright orange red.
“The timer will start when you’ll enter cave zero thirty nine. Remember to return when its color change to red!” Some of the staff membered bothered to explain.
At the end of the tunnel the seven representative Guardians stopped. Right where the partition ended, a tall old lady stood. By the look of it the old lady was the attendant responsible to sign the returning participants and their findings and collect from them the time bracelets.
The seven representative Guardians bowed respectfully toward the old lady. Clearly she was not as simple as her outward appearance.
“May I?” One of the seven representative Guardians asked the other six and they all nodded or shrugged.
The representative Guardian turned to the thousands of coreless participants behind him with a deep voice. “Twenty four hours. That’s all you have. Now, there will be no pushing or shoving until everybody is out of the tunnel. You lot, head out…” The representative Guardian then began to send group, after group, after group of participants to cave zero thirty nine in bunches of fifty.
Since Zax’s group was at the head of their row, they got to be among the firsts to enter cave zero thirty nine. Zax remembered what Zetsa told him and for a split second extended his Soul Sense when he passed by her. He did not know how, but when Zetsa was in the range of his Soul Sense a minuscule portion of an environmental essence flashed in his inner mind and left a gut feeling that acted as a trail to the Hooked Beak rock, that is, as long as was willing to follow it.
“Come on, there are too many participants coming out. Let’s get far enough so no one will be able to follow!” Zax said and the other seven agreed. A warm tingly feeling spread through their bodies, the hair on their hands and legs stood on end and a shining glint appeared in everybody eyes. The hunt as began!
Cave zero thirty nine was vast like a small city cave. The shape of the cave was not a perfect square, but it was one more than it was a circle. The cave stretched far and wide, nine kilometers or so in each direction. It was more similar to the nature reserve caves than cave zero eight. Though it had its wild element in the lush vegetation and rough terrain, there were also unpaved roads, shoes footprints and unsurprisingly and quite sadly, candy wrappers…
After two hour in the search Zax’s group took their nutrition tablets. As they advanced deeper into the cave they became more pumped up for the search. They were all aware of the process of finding Earth’s Cores since it was not complicated.
Earth’s Cores were most of the time beneath the earth. In the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit to find Earth’s Core there were only three ways. The first way was the most draining and uncertain, digging. Finding a spot which pleases the eye, kneeling and hoping that underneath it there is an Earth’s Core.
The second way was venturing throughout the cave. There was not a shortage of Earth’s Cores that were partly above the surface, stuck to heavy rock or completely out of the ground. The challenge was detecting them between the dense vegetation and even the earth that had similar shades of color. If following the second way, one can find an Earth’s Core ten minutes into the search or come back empty handed. Regardless of the results, one will benefit from a bit of insight into the beasts’ vicinity and a great adventure story.
The third way was the least demanding but the most heinous and did not require any profound explanation. The third way was grouping against and stealing from other participants.
“I bet the nature reserve caves have plenty Earth’s Core scatter around”. Serah groaned. It has been three hours since their group of eight entered cave zero thirty nine and yet they could not find one Earth’s Core in this miserly cave.
“There can be hundreds of thousands of Earth’s Core in the nature reserve caves, and it still will not change anything. No one is allowed, apart from the Supreme Rulers and selected few, to go beyond the paved roads without a permit, and they don’t give any for Earth’s Cores hunting”. Zushi said aloud what everyone already thought in respond, even Serah.
In the residential caves of Kingdom Earth it had been couple of hundred years since someone, literally, stumbled upon an Earth’s Core. For various reasons, fanaticism – which can be interpreted as fear of Nature – as the most prominent, pursuing Earth’s Cores in Kingdom Earth was an illegal activity. If someone accidentally found one in a residential cave it still would have been tolerable, but if someone dared trespassing into the secure areas of the nature reserve caves, a severe punishment will be inflicted upon them.
Now, why would someone want an Earth’s Core when everyone in the general public already had one? Well, the common answer will be for money. Pursuing Earth’s Cores the conventional way in Kingdom Earth was indeed illegal, but selling and buying Earth’s Cores was the unconventional market that only the top tier of the high class of Kingdom Earth got to enjoy, since they, basically, were the only ones who could afford it.
Normally, in Kingdom Earth, Earth’s Cores are divided one per person regardless of statues. The exceptions are often Earth’s Cores that are donated to Martial or scientific research, and less often, Earth’s Cores that are found by Mist Users who ventured in the beasts’ territory.
“I wonder…” Zax said in a speculating tone.
“What’s up, Zax?” Merly asked.
“Stop everyone”. Zax did not give an answer right away. The group was deep into the forest; about two kilometers from where they came from, lifting small rocks and blowing leaves that concealed the ground.
“Did you find an Earth’s Core?” Anet was the first to ask and besides her the rest of the group waited in anticipation for good news.
“No, I didn’t”. Zax waved his hand casually, shattering the hope of his friends. “But wait… Big sis taught me something which might help…” Zax said vaguely on purpose. Anything that was related to his training could not be shared with others without his Mor’s permission first.
Focusing with his inner minds, Zax used his Soul Sense to the best of his abilities to grasp some of the secrets of his surroundings. An invisible force in the shape of a bubble released from Zax’s soul and surveyed the space in its small domain.
Zax frowned, though his Soul Sense was much more helpful than all his other senses in this situation, it was still very limited. Zax walked like a nomad, not doing his baffled friends the favor of illuminating their wondering minds of what he was doing, nor paying attention to them at all. Using his Soul Sense was very straining and demanded Zax to maintain his utmost level of concentration. Then again, after ten minutes it undeniably paid off marvelously!
“Hahaha!” Zax laughed as his hands dug into the ground.
“Show it to us, Zax, what are you digging?”
“Zax, come on. You have been quiet for some time. Did you find an Earth’s Core? What did Miss Zetsa taught you?”
“Dig there!” Zax pointed his finger without even raising his gaze from the hard soil. “Pick a sharp stone to cut it. It’s just beneath the rightmost tree’s root!”
Zax dug nine centimeters before the tip of his index finger felt the buried, roundish smooth surface. The light reflected from the smooth surface of the first Earth’s that he found mirror the exquisite mist that was trap inside.
“By our glorious Supreme Ruler!” Weysey cried. “There are two! Guys, there are two Earth’s Cores under the root!”
“What?” Even Zax was in shock. He was sure that there was only one Earth’s Core buried two centimeters under the bulk root.
“One here, two less than a meter over there!” Mi, the shyest member of the group, gasped stupefied. “Amazing, Zax, you are too amazing”. She said in total admiration and jumped on Zax’s back.
“Ah?” Zax felt awkward.
“Amazing!” Dane burst laughing. “O, almighty lord Zax, allow me to show you my deepest affection as well”. He jumped on Zax with perky lips, ready to kiss him.
Before Zax had the chance to react. “Me too, hahaha, make place, Mi, Dane”. Merly butted in with more than fifty kilos of pure fat dangling in his stomach as he prepared himself to jump on Zax.
Sensing an impending disaster, with a swift motion Zax pushed Mi and Dance off his back rolled with the newfound Earth’s Core in his right hand before Merly crashed on him.
“Stop it!” Serah reprimanded the three overexcited group members. As a matter of fact, she, too, was beyond words a moment ago. However, when she saw how friendly Mi let herself be with Zax, it pissed her somewhat.
“Are you okay?” Anet, much like Serah, felt uneasy seeing how affectionate Mi was with Zax. Nonetheless, she was too reserved to show it.
“Yeah, sure”. Zax got up with a grin. He retrieved his Soul Sense and shifted his consciousness back to the outer mind. “Look”. He lifted his hand for Anet and Serah, the two closest to him, to see the thing which everyone currently in cave zero thirty nine coveted.
“Hahaha, Zax, if you can repeat whatever you did to find these Earth’s Cores our search will end earlier than we expected”. Zushi and Weysey stepped forward together, each holding a round and brownish Earth’s Core.
“You are exaggerating, Zushi, I only found two Earth’s Cores. The third on was unexpected”.
A bit reluctant, Zushi and Weysey passed the two Earth’s Cores to Zax. “Which one are you planning to take for yourself?” Zushi asked.
Seeing the envious glances of his friends Zax sighed inwardly and looked at the three Earth’s Cores in his hands. He was interested in the Earth’s Core that he missed. Using his Soul Sense one more time, he was curious if he could perceive its existence. Oddly enough, there were no problems sensing it at all. His Soul Sense detected three round objects with smooth surfaces. Now if Zax had a soul comparable to that of a Mist Lord’s, he Soul Sense could then have penetrated the Earth’s Core’s shells to determine its quality.
“The seven of you can compete for all three”. Zax gave the three Earth’s Cores back to Zushi. He decided to relinquish is right as the one who discover them, according to their prior agreement, in favor of his friends. “We’ll find more anyway”. Though he sounded confident, Zax knew that he was insanely lucky to already find three Earth’s Cores. Soul Sense or not, it will not be easy to find another five.
“Zax…” Amazed, Serah wanted to sway his mind, but Zax turned his back before she could say anything.
“Are you sure Zax?” Dane asked.
“Yeah, don’t be overconfident. We are not the first group in this year event. More than ten thousand participants already were here before us…” Zushi reminded.
Although each of his friends tried to convince him, Zax knew that they also coveted these three Earth’s Cores very much. The chances of them being of better quality than the ones the event’s organizers have kept aside were a lot higher.
“Forget it. I’ve already made up my mind. Do rock paper scissor already, the bracelets show that we still have more than twenty hours. Who knows, maybe in another three hours we will find three more Earth’s Core”.
Having nothing more to say, the seven looked at each other and raised their hand.
“I wonder who will win…” Zax saw a big rock with flat surface and sat on it. “Let’s see if I can predict what each will do”. The eight were pretty close to him, within the range of his Soul Sense. “Eh!” Zax cried astonished beyond belief. He jumped on his feet, distracting his friends from the first round of rock paper scissor.
---------- Post added July 04, 2015 at 11:33 AM ---------- Previous post was June 30, 2015 at 02:33 AM ----------
Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 9 – Earth’s Cores Are Peculiar
Staring at the rock he sat on, and then confirming yet again with his Soul Sense, a stupefied expression spread on Zax’s face.
A stash of Earth’s Cores! A cluster of more than one hundred Earth’s Cores! Some embedded in the rock, some underneath it.
“Such a great number! At least one must be! At least one!” Among the so many Earth’s Cores Zax nervously said to himself. “D… D… At least one golden pillow, D level Earth’s Core!” The one in a million Earth’s Core… Was it really impossible?
“Zax?” His friends asked. Looking at his fervent behavior a daring thought popped up in their mind which they were too afraid to say aloud. “More Earth’s Cores?!”
Ignoring his friends, Zax pulled his right arm to his waist. A concentration of Qi swirled in his upper right side of the body.
“Ah!” Zax bellowed, throwing a straight punch at the rook.
The rock shivered however there was not even a sign of a crack.
Seeing how solid the rock was and how his punch barely moved it, Zax did not care and readied himself to punch once more.
Zax’s punch connected with the rock. The accumulated Qi in his arm strengthened his muscles, bones and toughen his skin, yet the rock still only shivered.
The reasons for Zax’s inability to break the rock were not because the condense amount of Earth’s Cores that somehow affected the rock structure. The rock itself had nothing special to it. Zax’s inability was due to the low level of his Qi, his lack of technique in both controlling his Qi and the proper movement of his body and the use of the two simultaneously.
At the moment Zax was not aware of his gauche internal and external properties nor had the guidance and time to learn how to be more proficient in any of them.
In the third punch Zax’s fingers began to tingle.
After the forth punch all five finger were numb.
“Tell us, Zax, did you find more…?” Weysey asked.
The seven completely forgotten about the rock paper scissor and the three Earth’s Core they had to compete for. Zax wild manner upset them. Among the seven only three were familiar with Zax’s fierceness and even their hearts shook each time a “BAM” echoed. If it was them, broken bones would have bulge from their hands after the first punch, that is, if they had to guts to punch with will all of their might like Zax.
“Gather rocks, help him!” Zushi instructed the others. As the most poised he came to the decision. He trusted Zax intuition and the weird technique, or what not, that Miss Zetsa taught him in order to find Earth’s Cores.
Immediately the others started to look for sturdy rocks that they could lift, however…
“Can we even get close?” Mi hesitated.
The rock in question was big enough for one person to sit on, but not for five to hit at the same time and Zax did not leave any opening for the others to join in.
After the sixth punch Zax fell on his butt and a small crack finally appeared on the rock. Panting Zax looked at his right hand. It seems that even with the support of his Qi he could not avoid breaking skin and shedding some blood.
“Why'd you have to go so far?!” Surprisingly Anet beat Serah in being the first one to scold Zax. “Give me your hand”. She sat down next to him and from her backpack took out antiseptic spray and a bandage roll.
“It’s not hurting”. Zax said with a smile. He finally cracked the rock. Unfortunately, he dispersed too much Qi executing his unrefined technique and had to rest before his body could replenish his internal reservoirs. Thankfully, the nutrition tablet helped speed up the process.
“Try to break the rock were I cracked it”. Zax pointed at the line that appeared on the rock’s surface. “Don’t force yourself and be careful”. Since his friends could not use Qi to strengthen the skin of their hands, it was clear to him that even if by smashing rock against rock the force of the thrust will suffice to hurt their hand worse than his.
Dane was the first to check out the rock. He looked through the crack but it was too thin. “Are there really Earth’s Cores in there?” He surveyed the stone that he held, it weighted approximately four kilos. To use it to break a rock that seemed to weight ninety kilos was exhausting just by thinking of all the efforts involved.
“Trust me, it won’t take too long and you’ll see for yourself”. Zas reassured his friends. He was also sure that with the great number of Earth’s Cores inside the rock, it was not that much solid inside. The crack that he made appeared thin and meaningless on the outside, but on the inside…
Zax used his Soul Sense to assess how deep the fracture spread. “Should be deep”. He said to himself. Though the surface of the rock cracked only after the sixth punch, it was probable that the crack initiated from the inside. “Eh!” Zax sprang to his feet. “Where are they? Where are they?” He was utterly frantic. “The Earth’s Cores”, he cried. “I can’t find them… Not inside the rock. Not beneath it. There were more than a hundred. WHERE ARE THEY?!”
“A hundred Earth’s Cores!” The seven gasped. Such a ridiculous notion was on the verge of insanity.
With no regard to his current physical and internal state, Zax accumulated his Qi instinctively in the right half of his body. His face went pale, but it happened so fast. He no longer repeated the same kind of movement for a fist and a punch. He unconsciously remembered a certain move that he saw; watching the Earth’s Core’s showdowns and his inner mind gave the instruction. The fingers in his right hand stretched, his hand actually formed the shape of a spearhead, the rotation of his body originated from the toe in his right foot and from there his Qi surged up with the rotation.
“Graah!” Zax roared.
Zax’s right hand penetrated through the crack. His hand sank into the rock up to the wrist. In a scorch sound the rock split in two. The shocking thing was that inside there was truly nothing.
“It can’t be!” Zax was dazed. Blood covered his fingers and dripped from them to ground. Using his Soul Sense Zax ran around, searching for the lost Earth’s Cores.
“Stop him!” Dane called. He was sorry that he asked Zax if there were Earth’s Cores in the rock. Because of him, he thought, Zax went crazy and broke two of his own fingers, maybe more. “Help me stop him!” Dane grab Zax by the shoulders and Merly helped him. “Zax! Your hand, Zax! Stop struggling!” The two screamed at him.
Zushi and Weysey also tried to block Zax from the front, but the look in his eyes was strange, as if he did not see or hear them. To just two of them Zax was too strong to stop, but with Zushi and Weysey they managed to pin him to the ground. It also helped that he did not fight back and lost consciousness.
Five hours later.
Zax regained consciousness. Opening his eyes he saw the trees’ branches above him. Beneath his head he felt something soft, a backpack. Moving himself a little he found his friends around him, digging, moving rocks, tearing roots.
“Wha-” An excruciating pain in his right hand made him gulp his words. Zax looked at his right hand. A hardening bandage was wrapped around it and prevented him from moving his fingers. He also felt something cold covering his hand, but could not tell what it was just by feeling.
“Hey, Zax woke up”. Mi that was searching nearest to him informed the others.
“Idiot! Stupid! Brute!” Serah cursed Zax. Her eyes were red, she held back her tears. She did not want to cry for the idiot who scared her. Once was more than enough…
“What? Why did I do?” Zax asked baffled. Serah and Anet were holding each other hands. Zushi, Dane, Weysey and Merly also stared at him angrily. The seven gathered together around Zax.
“What sort of technique did Miss Zetsa taught you to discover Earth’s Cores”? Zushi inquired. He was sure that Zax’s method was more than a trick, picking up an irregularity in the surrounding that indicated the presence of an Earth’s Core. Definitely a technique!
After Zax lost consciousness they all started to speculate. A technique to find Earth’s Cores… How come they never heard of such thing? Since the seven of them enrolled to post Core School, most of what they were learning was how to prepare themselves to the greatest event in a coreless child’s life, how to conduct themselves in this event and what to do after, when they will hold their one and only Earth’s Core in their hands.
The curriculum was identical to an almost equal extent in all schools. If there was a technique, a method to better the chances of the younger generation would they been kept secret? Only if it was dangerous, the seven reached to the same conclusion.
Zax was lost of words. What sort of technique did he learn from his big sis? None that was related to finding Earth’s Cores. All he used was his Soul Sense, but he could not tell that to his friend so he had to make up an excuse.
“Never mind that”. Zax replied at last in an attempt to change the subject. “What have you done to the roots and earth?” His friends looked like minute size land workers, soiled from head to toe.
“We were searching your Earth’s Cores”. Wesey said as though it was obvious.
“My Earth’s Cores? The hundred Earth’s Cores!” Zax remembered. He was about to use his Soul Sense, but he noticed the rook that he split to two.
The insides of the two halves were completely solid. “The fracture…” Zax searched for what gave him the confidence to put his all for breaking the, estimated, ninety kilos rock. “How deep did the fracture go in? Was there a fracture at all?” There were no Earth’s Cores inside, so the internal structure of the rock could not be anything but solid. The crack that he made with his punches, it was as deep as the eyes close, that is, not at all.
One on hand Zax was extremely disappointment and confuses, he definitely sensed them, the Earth’s Cores, but after going through so much trouble, where were they? On the other hand he was absolutely astonished. “I split a solid rock in one move that I unintentionally remembered and never before practiced?”
The punches were the product of a basic Qi utilization technique that he learnt from his big sister to strengthen a specific part of his body. In contrast, the spearhead strike was a genuine offensive technique that he merely saw on screen. Zax did not even know the name of the spearhead strike and when he thought to review what he did with his inner mind it was too hazy. What he tried to remember was more than sights and sounds; it was the concerted movement of his body and Qi. To survey the past of these two profound aspects was still beyond his soul’s level.
“Forget about it”. Zushi said to everyone. “Zax awake now. Anet, Merly and Dane won each of the three Earth’s Cores, unless you do want one of them, Zax?”
“I’m good”. Zax replied, got up on his feet and picked his backpack.
“Then let’s keep searching. We have more than thirteen hours to find five more Earth’s Cores. We can go deeper into the cave, or go to the direction of the Hooked Beak rock. If we get there under a hour we might catch Miss Zetsa and she will appraise the three Earth’s Cores. Maybe we’ll find more on our way”.
“Let’s keep heading deeper. It’s not like we have additional Earth’s Cores to replace the ones we already got if their quality is bad. We should keep searching and go in the direction that Zax found the three Earth’s Cores”. Dane said. He was right on mark. With only three Earth’s Cores, even if each of them had an Earth’s Core, it was pointless to assess their quality, at most for personal knowledge.
“Everyone agree with Dane’s suggestion?” Zushi asked.
Everyone nodded. Somehow and somewhere during their search, the role of the group’s leader was passed on to him without anyone noticing. It did not even crossed Zax’s mind that Zushi did not ask for his approval, and Zushi also did not realize that he was the one who led the decisions making. Zax from the beginning was good in being just a member of the group, and Zushi just wanted a righteous search for the whole group. Taking one’s position without him dwelling on it was part of the beautiful simplicity of a child’s mind.
“A friend of mine told me that the best Earth’s Cores can be found around the unsafe zone”. Zax recalled Take’s advice. “We don’t need to enter the unsafe zone, just a few kilometers from it should be fine”. He hastily added.
A distant location but with a higher success rate for finding quality Earth’s Cores was as good or better location than anywhere around. The only thing they had to lose was time. Than again, at worse, they will return late from the search, but the Earth’s Cores that they will find will eventually still be theirs.
“Sounds good, but it’s really far. We should make haste”. Zushi smiled.
Zushi’s group of eight proceeded in direction of the two Earth’s Cores that Weysey dug out. They kept searching with their eyes alone since they wanted to move quickly.
A short unproductive hour had passed.
“It’s useless. That group went east of us-” Mi talked about a group that they encountered around twenty minutes ago.
They were a group of four girls and two boys. When they met no one bothered to exchange any words. Each group was satisfied with the number of its members and neither suspected that the other already found Earth’s Cores, or so it seemed.
“West of us”. Zushi corrected her. “East is the other side. And why are you mentioning them? Do you want us to follow?”
“We can… can’t we?” Being asked for her opinion in a matter that regarded the course of the whole group has put Mi in an awkward position to her personality. “They went northwest…” She waited for Zushi to correct her again, in case the second time she was wrong. Zushi said nothing and so she continued. “They did not look around for Earth’s Cores when they passed us. It felt like they had a place in mind-”
“We also have a place in mind”. Weysey said.
“Yes, but we are keep searching for Earth’s Cores and it slowing us down”.
“You’ve got a point”. Zushi backed Mi. “Northwest will not set us out of our course in a great margin. Actually, it’s not like any of us knows the way to the unsafe zone. Amm… I’m up with going northwest. After all, we’ll still be heading to the opposite direction from tunnel three hundred and twelve”.
“If Zushi says so…” Weysey shrugged his shoulders.
“Dane, Anet, Zax, Merly, Serah?” Zushi asked.
“I’m fine either way”.
“Of course you are. You already got an Earth’s Core. I’m fine as well”.
“Zax?” Zushi turned to Zax who strolled at the back of the group. “What’s up? You did not speak a lot since you woke up”.
Zax’s expression was fixated on the ground. When he heard Zushi calls him he raised he head as if he woke up from a dream. “What? Yes. Let’s go northwest… sorry, I’m just thinking”. He said and lowered his reflective gaze to the ground once more.
When the group changed course northwest, Zax was preoccupied with pondering at the back.
An Earth’s Core that in retrospect should have been in the range of his Soul Sense he missed… A cluster of Earth’s Cores that essentially was not there he supposedly discovered… What was there, his Soul Sense missed and what was not, he found.
“What’s wrong with my Soul Sense?” Zax pondered. “The Earth’s Cores… I was sure that inside the rock and beneath it were more than a hundred Earth’s Cores, but when I checked again they completely disappeared and then I lost control of myself”. The scenes of him parting the rock, frantically looking for the absent Earth’s Core, ignoring the calls of his friends and fainting played in his inner mind over and over.
“Did I really lose control?” As his insight sharpened Zax began to question. When it happened, was his mind not as clear as it is now? “I was fully aware”. Parting a ninety kilo rock? “Am I not the Tal of my remarkable big sis? With my best it’s not impossible”. He started answering his own doubts. Frantically searching? “How can I not look where a hundred Earth’s Core disappeared to?” Ignoring the calls of his friends? “They don’t have a Soul Sense… they could not understand, I didn’t ignore them, finding the Earth’s Core was just too urgent”. Fainting? “Big sis told me not to exhaust my Qi”.
Nevertheless, and with all the answers that he came up with, Zax still hesitated to try out his Soul Sense. There was one thing that was tied to his use of Soul Sense which scared him, one question. The environmental essence of cave zero thirty nine, a beasts’ cave. “Am I incapable of dealing with it for a prolonged time?”
After Zax’s soul advanced to level F, he did not have the time to experiment with his new found ability that he suddenly was able to control. Using his Soul Sense to search for Earth’s Core was truly a brilliant idea, but was he so wretch that he was limited to a place where the environmental essence was less wild than the most meager of the beasts’ caves, a border cave?
Zax refused to believe it. “The environmental essence of this cave, of any border cave, if not before then I’ll do it right now. I’ll surpass it!”
A shimmer glistened in Zax’s resolute eyes, his Soul Sense explosively emerged and extended to a radius of a hundred and thirty five centimeters.
---------- Post added July 11, 2015 at 09:29 AM ---------- Previous post was July 04, 2015 at 11:33 AM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 10 – One Of Three Options
A hundred and thirty five centimeters. By unsheathing his resolve and going all out, Zax actually extended the reach of his Soul Sense’s radius by an additional five centimeters.
This achievement was far from expected, almost unprecedented. Not only his Soul Sense surpassed the reach of the common C level Mist User, Core Breaker, at the moment of his advancement, even at its current level, which in soul energy was equivalent to F level Mist User, it still was in its growing period.
The reason for that, although unknown or maybe was just of little importance to Zax, was the shock that he suffered merely six hours ago or so.
“Hmm… I can feel it, the environmental essence of this cave”. The microscopic particles, which were invisible to the naked eye, floated in the air, embedded the soil, stones and vegetation. To interpret the past of each particle was beyond Zax’s abilities, at most he could perceive an obscure hunch, an idea – like the one he had of cave zero eight’s lethal environment essence – of what roamed cave zero thirty nine in the other nine months of the year.
Nevertheless, Zax rejoiced. The environment essence of cave zero thirty nine was not in any way tyrannical, on the contrary, it was quite placid. “If beasts live in this cave they must be very peaceful. In cave zero eight…” Zax shivered. If he will associate the beasts with the environmental essence, then cave zero thirty nine was the burrow of rabbits and cave zero eight was the den of tigers.
A sudden realization dawned on Zax. “If it’s not the environment essence that made me… act rashly. Then, could it be the Earth’s Cores?” Zax gazed upon the backpacks of Merly, Anet. Inside each of them was one brownish Earth’s Core. “At first I thought that it was the environmental essence that fooled my Soul Sense to think that inside and beneath the rock there was a cluster of Earth’s Cores. But it doesn’t explain why I didn’t locate the third Earth’s Core Weysey found. If it’s not the environment essence…” Zax rehearsed his hypothesis. “Then it must be the Earth’s Cores!”
“Zax”, Serah called him. “Zax!” She raised her voice.
“Serah?” Zax’s gaze traveled impassively from the three backpacks to Serah’s flushed face.
“Well, are you coming or just keep standing there?”
“Ah… Yes!” Zax answered hastily. He was so focused on the three backpacks that he did not notice the growing distance between him and the rest of the group.
“What were you daydreaming about?” Serah asked. Amusingly she, too, was a few steps behind everyone. Closest to her were Mi, Merly and Anet who seemed to talk about school. And at the front were Dane, Weysey and Zushi who also talked about something.
“Nothing”, Zax replied. “Just thinking about Earth’s Cores, you know…”
“Hmm… are you sorry for not choosing one when you had the chance?”
“No”. Zax answered simply.
Though Serah already knew that he was not the type who has a temperamental personality, with the subject of Earth’s Cores on the line even a leopard might change his spots. Be that as it may, Zax was confident in his friendship with Serah. Did he not give her a premium account card of the “greatest game in the whole wide world”, Mocca Kart, less than half a year ago? In this particular case, even if he met Serah for the first time in his life five minutes ago and gave her the premium account card she would have been so awestruck, she would have let him open a second in game character and choose his own kart!
“Then, is it about the thing that big sister Zetsa taught you in order to find Earth’s Cores?”
Zax hesitated to answer. Lying to the whole group and lying to his best friend in the face was entirely different.
“I’m right”. Serah proclaimed. “Why do you still want to use what big sister Zetsa taught you? You tried before and yeah, you found three Earth’s Cores, but you also wasted us five hours, not to mention that when you went wild and broke your fingers!” As his best friend, Serah, clearly, was without restraint when she reprimanded Zax. And she would have done so even if she received one of the three Earth’s Cores.
“Sorry…” Angry Serah reminded Zax of angry Zetsa. Avoiding her stern eyes, Zax, at least, was grateful that she did not ask about what his big sister “taught” him to find Earth’s Cores. “Could big sis have not told me because she thought that using Soul Sense to search for Earth’s Cores will be straining? Or is it because she has known that Earth’s Cores can distort the mind and perception of a Soul Sense?”
Seeing how Zax lost himself in thoughts right after apologizing, ticked Serah off. “Whatever”, she sneered and grabbed his left hand. “Daydream what you want, just keep up the pace!”
“No Earth’s Cores here either”. Zax was disappointed. When he just started to search with his Soul Sense he managed to find two Earth’s Cores and a bonus one in just ten minutes. Apart from his original goal, Zax wanted to find an Earth’s Core to see how his Soul Sense will react to it, but he had two difficulties. The first one was that Earth’s Cores were not as abundant and easy to find as he initially hoped. The second difficulty was his Soul Sense, ten to fifteen minutes was the longest that he could sustain it before having to rest for about the same length of time.
Sweeping his eyes for maybe the fiftieth time at the two backpacks ahead of him, which belonged to Anet and Merly, and then shaking his head in disapproval. “It’s not the same as back then. Is it because they were moved or touched?”
The two Earth’s Cores, hidden inside the inner pockets of the two’s backpacks, had a lingering sensation that repressed the natural essence, which previously reigned around the Earth’s Cores, and little by little resembled the presence of Anet and Merly when they were within the domain of his Soul Sense.
Zax waited for two more minutes and resumed using his Soul Sense to search.
“Water?” Zax sensed. Through the trees roots that entered and exited the domain of his Soul Sense, as he and Serah followed hand in hand the rest of the group, Zax grasped the obscure origin of the water in the trees roots and could tell that in the direction that they were heading was a large water reservoir. “West of us… a lake? Hard to tell. But up ahead I’m sure, less than a hundred meters, behind those trees there is a flowing river”. Of the latter part he was certain.
As his Soul Sense indicated, roughly a hundred meter behind a small grove was a narrow river. Alongside the river and in it were hundreds of participants. The many participants numbered, more or less, a sixth of the event’s participants. So many that nobody batted an eyelid at the group of eight that Zushi led.
“They are searching here…” Merly pointed to the obvious. “There is the group from before!”
The hundreds of young participants search for Earth’s Cores within the calm water of the river or at its banks
“Excuse me”, Zushi turned to a boy not far from it.
“Yeah, what?” The boy walked barefooted along the river’s banks. His eyes were fixated on the muddy earth.
“Our group heard the flowing water and came here to fill our empty bottles. We didn’t expect to see so many participants searching here… Can you tell us why you are search here and not spread around the cave?” Zushi told a little lie to not arouse the suspicions of the boy. By the way it looked, anyone who got here done it knowingly with the purpose of searching here for Earth’s Cores in mind. Saying that they came to fill up their water bottles was a safe excuse rather than saying that they followed some other group, since even after taking the nutrition tablets one can still exhaust himself or herself and get thirsty.
“You came to fill up your water?” The boy stopped walking and raised an eyebrow as he surveyed Zushi’s group of eight. “From which cave are you?”
“Cave twenty five”. Zushi answered.
“Cave twenty five… the cave whose one of its participants the little bro of their representative Guardian!” The boy exclaimed. “Nah… probably none of you guys. Otherwise you would have known about the river. Or maybe not all of the representative Guardians know about it…?” The boy speculated aloud.
“Know what about the river?” Zushi pushed for an answer.
“Well… it won’t hurt telling you guys, you can probably figure it out for yourself and then it won’t matter how much you know”. The boy reasoned with himself. “This river is flowing from the inner beasts’ territory, which is past the unsafe zone, to a lake a few kilometers from where we are”. The boy leaned down and drew on the muddy ground with his finger. “Most of the guys and gals here that I met are from the same cave as I, cave three. Searching in and around the lake, I heard that groups of cave eight and ninety nine are there. Anyway, our representative Guardian told us that the river carries Earth’s Cores from the inner beasts’ territory”.
“So that’s why!” Zushi eyes flew open and the others in his group also were thrilled.
“You realized”. The boy said in an indifferent tone. “Some Earth’s Cores sink to the bottom of the river, others around the banks of the river and others reach the lake and sink to its depths… Eh?” The boy abruptly ceased talking with the group and called. “Odil! I cut my foot!”
“Do you need help?” Anet stepped aside and asked.
“No!” The boy nearly shouted. “No”. He repeated more calmly. “My friends will help me. Okay, I said enough. You guys should go do what you want”. Somehow the boy attitude seemed anxious.
“Are you sure that you are fine?” Zushi pressed. He, Weysey, Dane, Serah and Zax, after hearing him out, imagined how severe the cut to his foot was…
“Brabra”, a group of ten boys and girls arrived to the boy’s, Brabra’s, side in a hurry.
“Yes, yes, yes. My friends are here now. You can go search”. Even with his friends around him Brabra wished for Zushi and the others to leave already. “Oh”, he actually had one more piece of advice, maybe out of the goodness that Anet conveyed to him. “If you search, don’t go to the lake. Even if its bottom is full of Earth’s Core it’s way too deep to dive. Some even say that there are beasts in it and that is why the representative Guardians of caves eight and ninety nine patrolling there…”
“Thank you for telling us”. Zushi said and led his group back to the forest.
With one eye on the populated river and another eye on his friends, Zushi leaned on tree and said. “Before I’ll present our options, does anyone wishes we go to the lake?” Since no one answered Zushi continued. “The first option is heading to the unsafe zone through the dense flora, like before. You already know how it is…”
“The second option is going along the river’s banks seen as it will definitely lead us to the unsafe zone. By choosing the second option we will proceed faster and our chances of finding Earth’s Core might increase. The only problem is the many participants around the river. If we do get lucky and someone who belongs to a big group will notice us… You saw how that boy, Brabra, suddenly called “I cut my foot”. I’m sure that was a sign to his friends that he found an Earth’s Core. If we can guess other groups’ signs, they, most likely, can guess ours”.
“The second option isn’t that bad. We just need to be cautious”. Serah said.
“I also think that it will better than wasting time and reducing our chances in the forest. It’s not like we know which of the unpaved roads that passed through it can lead us to the unsafe zone…” Zax also agreed.
Finding Earth’s Cores in the river with his Soul Sense was an attractive prospect. Not only could he test his Soul Sense with Earth’s Core that were not touched by participants, supposedly, there were more Earth’s Cores accumulated in the river and lake than anywhere else in cave zero thirty nine. And then there was that last thing… All the Earth’s Cores in the river and lake were said to come from beyond the unsafe zone, the acclaimed destination they planned to get close to as much as they were allowed, that is, stay couple kilometers away from it.
“Let’s hear the third option before deciding”. Dane suggested.
“Yes, maybe it’s better than the other two, is it, Zushi?” Merly asked.
“Well… the third option has its pros and cons. Basically, it’s the same as the second options, but instead of going along the river’s banks we will proceed by walking in the river. Look at these guys, the river is not that deep. At its center the water is waist-high. If the stream remains steady, going in the river, not necessarily at its center, should be fine”.
“It will slow us down significantly”. Weysey pointed.
“That’s the drawback”, Zushi began to explain the pros and cons. “If we walk in the river we might spend all of our time before getting close to the unsafe zone. On the other hand, if there really is in the river a large amount of Earth’s Cores we might not need going to the unsafe zone after all”.
“The water in the river isn’t deep, but watch how they struggle to walk in it”. Serah gestured at the participants in the river. “To reach the unsafe zone we will have to go against the stream. Let alone getting wet, do any of you feels like tiring yourself without knowing for sure that you will find an Earth’s Core?”
“I only have my pajama… No one said that we’ll need a second pair of clothes…” Mi sulked.
“You brought a pajama?” Weysey was taken aback. In his defense he grew in a farm. In weekends, when school was closed, he used to camp with his big brothers, wearing the same outfit for days.
“Only one pair…” Mi seemed even more depressed since there still was one more night for them to spend in the event before going back home.
“Let’s vote and be done with it”. Zushi frowned. As intelligent as he was, how could a ten years old boy understand the mindset of a delicate little girl?
“By show of hands, who wants to search through the forest?” No one raised a hand and Zushi continued. “Who wants to follow and search on the river’s banks?”
Surprisingly, everyone but Weysey raised their hands.
---------- Post added July 14, 2015 at 07:41 AM ---------- Previous post was July 11, 2015 at 09:29 AM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 11 – Losing It
Of Zushi’s group of eight, the five boys walked barefooted in the shallow water of the river, less than a meter from the river’s banks, where the three girls followed at the same pace.
Zax turned his Soul Sense On and Off every ten minutes as if it was a light switch. If there were Earth’s Cores in the river, his Soul Sense only enabled him to tell where they were not. One positive thing, which evolved from this tedious repetitiveness, was that little by little Zax got more used to the oppressive environmental essence of cave zero thirty nine and could separate tiny bits of its various past residues. This helped Zax to keep clear mind, outer and inner alike, and distinguish between the illusion of the past and his Soul Sense’s present discoveries.
As time progressed, many grim faces, sullen faces, pouty faces and many more facial expressions could be seen around the flowing river. Cave zero thirty nine was one of the tree searching grounds of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. It had meadows, forests, hills, which were not far off from being called “Mountains”, a very deep and large lake and a river that was flowing to it.
Of all the wonders of cave zero thirty nine, two places where the epicenter for most of the participants in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. Throughout the cave, they were told by their representative Guardians, the lake and the river possessed the greatest deposits of Earth’s Cores. But did it mean that whoever searches in those wondrous places could really find an Earth’s Core? The answer was unequivocally No. What the representative Guardians of cave three, eight and ninety nine meant when they recommended the young participants of their caves to search in the said two locations, was that they, the young participants, will have a higher success rate for finding Earth’s Cores in the lake and the river than anywhere else in cave zero thirty nine.
This transparent interpolation of the representative Guardians’ words, only at the latter half of the event, became evident to the many young participants.
“There it is!” Zax nearly announced aloud. “Almost missed it. Truly can’t trust our eyes, lucky my Soul sense detected it”. It has been a hour or so since they started searching in the river and while doing so it was difficult to determine by eye sight which stone was a dark pebble and which one could be an Earth’s Core.
“Dane, Dane, pass on some of your snacks”. Zax called using their new agreed upon sign, repeating twice the name of the last of them who spoke, which meant for everyone to stop and gather beside the one who called it.
“The nutrition tablets filled us”. Anet politely declined. In her response she actually included Mi and Serah who looked at her perplexed.
“Wha- Anet… A fair warning, we will eat up all the snacks. If you don’t eat some with us now, don’t complain later…” The confused Weysey tried to sway her mind. An ugly expression was on his face. “Anet, Serah, Mi, come!”
“I don’t feel like eating snacks, either”, Zushi surprised everyone and completely shocked Weysey. “And my legs are cold. I’m going ahead with the girls on the river’s banks”.
“What?!” Merly was about to oppose this madness, but then…
‘Okay”, Dane lowered his head to his open backpack. “Us four will eat by ourselves”. His tone sounded as if he was smiling.
“Hahaha… your loss, guys”. Zax stuck out his tongue. At that moment it hit Merly and Weysey, too.
The girls, Anet, to be precise, might have found another Earth’s Core! At the same time as Weysey, Merly, Mi and Serah reached that conclusion, they also understood why she did not use the sign. Calling twice in Zax’s name right after he called twice in Dane’s name would have made it too obvious.
Zax did not rush to pick up the Earth’s Core that was five centimeters behind Dane’s foot. Since it was too sudden, he could not grasp more than the external shape and so it still was not conclusive that the round object his Soul Sense located bulging from the bottom of the river was an Earth’s Core. A perfect sphere with a smooth surface, yes, an Earth’s Core… Zax reached out for the candy bar Dane offered him. “Let’s see”. He whispered as he took the first sweet bite and wrapped his Soul Sense around the stone.
Unlike the earth and pebbles, Zax’s Soul Sense could not probe into the round stone, therefore he asserted with absolute certainty. “An Earth’s Core!” Slightly hesitating, Zax accepted the opportunity to survey the surrounding of the Earth’s Core, the environmental essence around it and finally the Earth’s Core itself.
“Will it be like before?” The question played in his mind as he waited for the answer. No. It was not. Or at least not right away. First was the bottom of the river that the Earth’s Core was stuck to. Soil and small pebbles, there was nothing to elaborate about it. Next was the environmental essence. Water and sparkling shreds, fragments really, that when he split them were arduous to interpret. However, when he looked at them in his mind, like the pieces of a great puzzle, he sort of could, inconsistency, see, hear, touch, smell and taste the nature’s of this portion of cave zero thirty nine.
What it was, an Earth’s Core? Then he moved onto his last hurdle. He tried to understand what his Soul Sense perceived when it wrapped the brownish stone he determined to be the subject of his pursuit. “Tough”, Zax first analyzed. “Impenetrable”, at the very least to an inexpert ten years old boy. “More? Try to get more of it!” Zax scolded himself, but apart from external analysis, he acquired nothing from the abnormal object that was an Earth’s Core.
All this probing of the surrounding, the environmental essence and finally the Earth’s Core only took place in the span of three bites and the time it took Zax to bend the knee and reach out with his hand for the Earth’s Core. In spite of this, as fast as it was, getting into the root of a matter, formless or not, was several times more tasking than grasping the considerable presences of anything that passed in the domain of his Soul Sense.
By when Zax’s fingers felt the half shape of the Earth’s Core that bulged from the bottom of the river, he depleted a third of his soul energy and was ruled by a couple of flustering emotions. “Is that it? Then what was the cause of the misperception I had before?” He thought of the contradictions of the Earth’s Core that was not there and the many that were. “Environment essence, was this all the cause of adjusting to the environmental essence?”
Zax concentrated his Qi in his left arm, and as much as he could in the tip of each finger. He grabbed the Earth’s Core and pulled it out with ease. “Eh…?” He noticed something in the water, floating on the river. The sheer bewilderment made him stood up, holding the Earth’s Core in the open for others to see, that is, not bothering hiding it.
“Zax”, Dane said in a subtle voice. “Zax…”
“Quick, Zax, what are you doing?” Merly moved to one side, Weysey to the other, both of them covered Zax.
“Why aren’t you picking them up?!” Zax voice ranged. There were just so many, enough for every participant for the next couple of days. “So many Earth’s Core!” Pronouncing it aloud, Zax immediately got the attention of all of the participants searching in the river and river’s banks.
“Crap! I think he lost it again!” Dane said to Merly and Weysey. The look in Zax eyes before he turned, his imprudent conduct with the Earth’s Core that he picked and his disregard of his friends and the other participants around them. “Don’t let him lose control again!” Dane called for Zushi and the girls so they will also pay heed to Zax before he will start breaking rock, or his bones…
Unfortunately it was too late. With a swift movement Zax slipped through the enclosure of Dane, Weysey and Merly. It did not seem intentionally or with effort to not allow them the chance to hold him back. His body moved on its own. His Qi energy supplied enhancement for physical superiority and his mind, inner mind, was already at the level of F level Mist User. It was ridiculous to expect from three average ten years old boys to keep Zax in place.
“One for Serah, one for Zushi, one for Weysey, one for Mi, one for me, thousands for all of us to pick!”
Zax actions confused not just his friends who were helplessly chasing after him but also the other participants who heard him mindlessly talking to himself and picking what seemed to be imaginary Earth’s Cores.
“This guy… he can use Qi!” Some stared with awe at Zax’s light and agile movements, knowing that obviously it was due to Qi utilization.
“Yeah, but what good is it for him if he lost it?” Others were able to hold their disbelief at bay.
Among the thousands participants it was not unimaginable if there was a double digit number of participants who could utilize their Qi. Still, though, it was rare to meet them. A participant that could utilize his or her Qi would usually – according the gossip and rumors that originated from the mere stories of participants from previous year – ventured to the most hard to reach places, in the designated cave for the search, after high end Earth’s Cores.
“Poor guy… Is that an Earth’s Core he is holding?!”
“How many are we?” Someone immediately asked.
“We share the same idea?” Another replied.
“Three guys are already after him”. A fatty boy pointed.
“I think they are his friends”.
“Only three!” The same fatty boy who pointed at Dane, Weysey and Merly changed his view.
“And one that could not preserve against the pressure of the event and is rashly kicking, flipping rocks and swinging his hands around. Who wants to be the first to approach him?” A tall girl said.
“Let’s keep searching…”
Zax ran across the river as if he was infatuated with each Earth’s Core of the many that covered the river. An unexplainable attraction oozed from both the environmental essence and the Earth’s Core he thought were piling in his backpack, and seeped into his consciousness.
There were no words for Zax to describe the strange pull toward wherever he headed, nor could he distinguish his own actions. Slowly his mind stopped caring for the floating Earth’s Cores or those that he picked up. The more he advanced up the river the more he treated the Earth’s Cores as breadcrumbs, leading to the bakery.
When Zax’s backpack was too heavy to carry he tossed it away, that was when the many Earth’s Core also disappeared and when his Qi was alarmingly near depletion. Zax’s soul energy, on the other hand, was vigorous. His Soul Sense was drawn back the moment he picked up the first Earth’s Core, so he did not exhausted it, and since then it was like when he tried to break through the bottleneck of level F. His soul’s extraordinary sensitivity confronted with an imposing force that mentally affected Zax, demanded of him to run.
“I don’t… I don’t think that we can go farther than this”. Zushi was panting and the other six members of the group also.
“Tell… Tell… HIM!” Serah huffed.
On the time bracelets fifteen of the twenty four hours had passed. In the river and the river’s banks the nearest group of participates was two to three kilometers behind them. Unlike Zax’s relentless pursuit forward, they, the rest of the group, did not have the same disposition. The fatigue took a heavy toll on them, even if the color of the time bracelets still remained green, will they be able to return before the color changes to red?
Zax had no idea how far he ran, how close he was to the unsafe zone, how certain it was for him and his friends to return late from the search and be punished for it. For Zax it all seemed like a dream, out of his control, comfortably dominated by his subconscious.
A green silhouette leaped and vanished from an unknown location, then reappeared in front of Zax, halting his steps.
“Are you, kidos, looking to be disqualified from the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit?”
A well built middle age man in green uniforms and a silver colored ribbon that stretched diagonally across his left shoulder to his waist and read: “GECP EVENT’S GUARDIAN”, reprimanded Zax and the other seven that followed him.
Zax stopped long enough for the buffed event’s Guardian to finish his sentence, yet the instant his subconscious comprehended the unexpected obstacle he tried to pass him.
Out of breath, Zushi and the other six could only watch with conflicting emotions as the event’s Guardian kicked Zax to the air with mild force and grabbed his feet like chicken before slaughter. They were torn between whether to be glad that someone finally stopped Zax or frightened since that “someone” was an event’s Guardian whom it was very unlikely for them to meet unless they got really close to the unsafe zone – not to mention that Zax just ignored the presence of the event’s Guardian and tried to go past him.
“The heck are you doing brat…?!” The event’s Guardian raised his hand about to slap Zax back to his senses, when he out of the blue swallowed his words and winced. “You…” The event’s Guardian glared at Zax with disdain in his eyes.
Right before he readied himself to personally educate the insolent young participant who did not know what was good for him unless it struck him in the face, Zax raised both of his hands to the event’s Guardian’s torso and dealt him a soul attack.
“What are you?” The event’s Guardian asked, but seeing how the boy struggled in his hand he realized that, although exceptional and probably with unique background, the boy could not handle the pressure of the event and, as one of the participants before suggested, lost it.
Using his white Core Breaker’s aura the event’s Guardian put Zax to sleep with a little bit of his overbearing mist energy. After Zax lost his consciousness the event’s Guardian turned him upside down and took a careful look on his face. “Little monster”. It sounded as if he murmured in amusement.
“Did you, brats, decided to crap all over the event’s rules?!” The event’s Guardian’s face darkened. He turned his head to Zushi and the others and barked.
The three girls and four boys flinched with no words to respond. Even if they had something to say, to explain, they, each and every one of the seven, knew better than confronting with an event’s Guardian.
“Nothing to say…” Not that the event’s Guardian expected them to answer his rhetorical question. “To which cave do you belong, and who’s the representative Guardian responsible for you?” The event’s Guardian changed the tone of his voice to be more restrained.
“The eight of us are from cave twenty five”, Zushi, though not composed as he usually was, was better than any of the others in answering the event’s Guardian’s questions. “Our representative Guardian is Miss Zetsa Zell, Zax’s”, his gaze moved to the unconscious Zax in the hands of the arms of the event’s Guardian. “Big sister”.
“Zetsa Zell…” Were all Zushi and the others could hear from the event’s Guardian verbal reaction. His face and posture did not change, nor how tightly he held Zax, as if he was familiar with the name and level of cultivation that was tied to the very same young woman, but was unconcerned of neither.
“Ignorant brats”, the event’s Guardian turned to the seven. “Do you think that you can make it back in time just because the time bracelets are still green?”
“The disciplinary supervisor said-” Zushi spoke in a weak voice, however quieted and closed his mouth when he noticed the quiver of the event’s Guardian’s lips before he was about to speak.
“You were also told not to enter the unsafe zone!”
Zushi’s group of eight was still a distance away from the unsafe zone, but none of the conscious seven was willing to refute the event’s Guardian’s scolding.
Sighing to himself after arriving to some sort of a sympathetic conclusion the event’s Guardian said. “If you followed the rules diligently, things wouldn’t have come to this. Can’t do anything about it now, either…”
The event’s Guardian laid Zax softly on the ground and took out from a pocket a squared device with a three dimensional screen. His finger slid across the screen and a three dimensional layout of the cave appeared on it.
The structure of map was hard to for the seven children to understand, but seeing the colorful lights that intersected and then formed the hologram completely made them forget about it or the situation they were in.
A three dimensional display was currently the peak of humanity’s display technology. It was such a costly expense that even for a high class family it was rare to own just a simple design, needless mentioning a complex design with two hundred and fifty six colors like the one the event’s Guardian presented before the seven middle class children.
“This here is where we are. The eight green dots are you”, the event’s Guardian explained to Zushi and the others. He touched one of the green dots and a panel with numbers appeared above it. “Here is an estimated time of how long it will take you to return and analysis of physical condition. Last is the duration of effect of the nutrition tablets that you took. Assuming that all of you are at the same physical state, you have an hour until your body will burn the remnants of the nutrition tablets in your blood”. The event’s Guardian thought for a second, and then rephrased himself. “More or less than an hour, depending on how much you’ll keep exhausting yourselves”.
“What… What will happen after an hour?” Mi’s facial expression paled and she asked in a shaking voice. With the way the event’s Guardian explained their current state with the impressive hologram, she reluctantly started to imagine her body dehydrate to the point where there are no more fluids in it and she looks like a hundred years old corpse that with the smallest disturbance can crumble.
“You’ll become tired, really tired, and very thirsty-”
“Like a hundred years old corpse…” Mi could not help but continue in her mind with outmost certainty – so was the mind of a child.
“But you’ll be fine if afterwards you’ll just drink a lot and eat sugary stuff”.
“Not become a hundred years old corpse?” Mi accidently let out.
“What?” The event’s Guardian asked confused, yet Mi was simply happy to known that nothing bad will happen so she remained awkwardly silent.
The event’s Guardian rubbed the back of his neck, gauged the seven children and the one that surprised him beyond anything he could have thought a ten years old boy can do to surprise him and offered. “Don’t go any farther than here and don’t spread in the dense flora. In an hour I’ll return to take you back”. He said and in the swift manner of his appearance he also vanished.
---------- Post added July 18, 2015 at 12:23 PM ---------- Previous post was July 14, 2015 at 07:41 AM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 12 – Becoming Mist Users
“Wait…!” Zax screamed when he awaked. For a few second his heart was pounding in an accelerating rate and his mind was disoriented. Without knowing what it was, a deep anxiety enveloped Zax’s soul. A disgusting sensation which made him vomit as he repeated again, in the midst of forgetting toward who, what or where. “Wait-”
A voice entered through his ears and rang in his head. Zax did not recognize who it was. His body bent by a reflex when he felt the surge of fluids coming up from his stomach, and though his eyes were wide open, his vision was too blurry to even count the shadows surrounding him.
“Not again-” Zax cried in his mind. The taste of the digested candy bar that he ate earlier was way too abusive to his taste buds as it came out, enough to never want to eat another sour chocolate candy bar again in his life. What Zax did not know was that most of what he tasted, and was reluctant to taste again, was a side effect of the nutrition tablets that was meant to leave his body in the conventional way…
“Are you fine now?”
This time the voice was clearer and recognizable, yet Zax was not confident that it was the same one from before. It was Merly, and according to his voice he stood two meters to his left, with his back turned to him and a sickly expression on his face. Zax did not hold Merly’s distant attitude against him since he came to learn, during their last school year, that he has a weak stomach. Zax appreciated Merly’s effort to ask how he was.
“Yes”. Zax answered and straightened up. In the first place, apart from the candy bar, Zax did not eat anything since the evening before the search.
Seeing his friends surrounding him and Merly coming over with eyes up, it took Zax a moment to examine their facial expressions and where they were. Their faces had a contrasting mixture of worry, satisfaction, nausea – the only one which Zax could understand – and excitement. Zax eventually could not figure what his friends were and he did not want to make any assumption since he did remember that they currently participate in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. However, they now were near tunnel three hundred and twelve, which led back to cave one hundred and thirty nine, and on the ground around them was a big pile of small rocks. There were also many other participants also appeared in the vicinity, talking to each other, waiting or returning from the search.
A silent groan left Zax’s mouth when he stood up and dizziness struck his head.
“Drink water”. Weysey, who was the tallest of the all group and sturdiest among the eight, apart from Zax, supported Zax as he drank from the bottle while the group walked away from the smelly puddle.
“Why are we back?” Zax asked.
The other seven members of the group behaved discreetly and withdrawn. They picked a remote place to talk, a hundred meter from the tunnel, where others could still see them, but not hear, and it seemed that this was what they wanted.
“Before we tell you, you should also eat something”. Zushi said.
“I’m not hungry”. Zax frowned. Not because it could be seen that he still was not feeling well, but because of the thought of putting food in his mouth.
“You should eat anyway”. Zushi insisted and the others tried to push they left over snacks to Zax.
Forced by his friends and without the strength to resist, given that all the muscles in his body were sore, Zax picked the fruity jelly beetles that Mi offered him.
“Now can you tell me why we are back? How much time we have till the end of the event?” Since he could answer the latter question, Zax looked at his time bracelet and was astonished to discover that there were less than fifteen minutes for them to spend before having to go back through the tunnel.
“How can it be?! We just were searching in the river!” Zax called in disbelief.
“You don’t remember?” Dane asked. “That’s because you’ve done it again, did you, Zax?”
“Done what?” Zax asked baffled.
“You used big sister Zetsa’s trick to find Earth’s Core and it made you go crazy, again”. Serah answered.
“Big sis’s trick…?” Zax asked himself and finally recalled. I dawned on him what possibly happened, though, once more, he was not sure why. “I picked up the Earth’s Core in the river, my Soul Sense did not detected anything odd about it or the environmental essence. Then why? Why I don’t remember anything that happened afterwards and why…” The one question which boggled him the most, the one that was related to the distress that was in his voice when he woke up and called the word “Wait”, Zax could not make up the words to express. At most, he found a way to rephrased it. “Why I want… No! Need to go back?!”
“Let him see, Zushi, let him see”. The voice of Merly pressing Zushi to show him something brought Zax back from his pondering state.
“Don’t shove me, Merly. Fine, I’ll show him. Don’t be impatient!” Zushi shoved Merly back and turned his head to the others. “Let’s make it look like we are eating snacks. I’ll show Zax and all of you act normal”.
As if it was decided in advance, Serah, Dane, Anet, Mi, Merly and Weysey, each opened up one of his or her snacks and tried to hide Zushi and Zax without looking suspicious.
Zushi handed Zax his backpack that he carried for him when the move from where they previously were. “Open it up”. He grinned and told Zax.
Doing as Zushi said, Zax took back his backpack and saw what was inside it that everyone wanted him to see.
“An Earth’s Core?” Zax said quietly and raised an eyebrow.
“Bet Miss Zetsa did not teach you that…” The grin on Zushi’s face spread to a wide smile. “You can’t assess the quality of an Earth’s Core, hehehe…”
“Of course I can’t. Only Mist Masters or stronger can assess the quality of an Earth’s Core”. Zax responded defensively. What his friends thought him to be? As a Mist Master, his big sister could definitely tell the quality of an Earth’s Core, but he barely was qualified to be called an F level Mist User and even that, only from the neck up.
“They think big sis taught a method to find out the quality of an Earth’s Core because I lied about my Soul Sense…” Zax understood.
As if to reaffirm his conjecture, Zushi continued. “No. If you were able to do that, then the rest of us should really be ashamed of our uselessness”. Though he said it as a joke, if Zax was old enough and wiser he could tell that the ten years old Zushi was content with such words.
“Is this the Earth’s Core that I picked in the river?”
“One of them”.
Zushi’s hand moved quickly and covered Zax’s mouth. His smile appeared more genuine than a moment ago. “Unfortunately, among the seventeen that you found – including the three in the forest – this one was the only medium quality E level Earth’s Core”.
Feeling his body shaking and his eyes bulging out from their sockets, Zax did not believe that Zushi could lie over such a sensitive subject in such a sensitive time. Not even for an incy wincy joke!
“An E level Earth’s Core”. Zax gulped. “H… Ho…”
‘How?” Zushi helped him and in return Zax only nodded.
Zushi closed Zax’s backpack for him and the others relaxed their “Normal” postures.
“Fourteen from the seventeen Earth’s Cores that you found were of high quality. How you managed to find so many great Earth’s Cores… ask the Supreme Rulers”. Zushi leaned on the cave’s well, started eating his own snack and delved deeper in the explanation. “I’m assuming you don’t remember running like a crazy person in the river, picking up small rocks and Earth’s Core and piling them in your backpack?”
In response, Zax shook his head.
“Thought so… I also didn’t see how it started, since I joined Anet to see if she really found an Earth’s Core right after you found one. Dane told us that when you reached down for the Earth’s Core you suddenly began to panic, ran and jump around. By then, not only me, Anet, Serah and Mi noticed. All the other participated watched you and said that you went crazy because of the event’s pressure. We, on the other hand, saw you act weird before and could connect your behavior to the technique that Miss Zetsa taught you”.
Zushi went on, telling Zax how they chased after him, met the event’s Guardian who at first Zax tried to hit, but then he knocked him out and rebuked the rest of them and in the end and unpredictably – after showing them the features of the time bracelets with a three dimensional device – allowed them to search near the unsafe zone for an hour. He then continued telling how the event’s Guardian came back with none other than Miss Zetsa to carry them back with the help of a mysterious technique, which they performed together, that made them float behind the event’s Guardian and Miss Zetsa as they rushed through the cave to the entrance.
“When we got here Miss Zetsa was the one who noticed your packed backpack, though Weysey was the one who carried it”. Zushi finally reached the part about the Earth’s Cores and there was not a lot of time till they had to go back to cave one hundred and thirty nine. “Can you imagine her face – our faces – when she emptied your backpack from the rocks that you picked up and then revealed to us a batch of fourteen Earth’s Cores? No to mention us seven, even Miss Zetsa was dumbstruck. Luckily, the event’s Guardian left before Miss Zetsa found the Earth’s Cores, or that at least was what Miss Zetsa said without explaining why. She just told us not to tell anyone about the amount of Earth’s Cores that you found or how you found them”.
“Maybe it’s forbidden to pick up more than one Earth’s Core”. Weysey on the side speculated.
“I thought so too, at first, but the disciplinary supervisor didn’t mention any rule about it”. Zushi said. “Doesn’t matter now, we all have great Earth’s Cores and the rest aren’t here anymore”.
“Not here?” Zax asked.
“After finding the Earth’s Cores in your backpack, Miss Zetsa assessed the quality. The best one among them you got. The second best Earth’s Core was a low quality E level Earth’s Core, then four high quality F level Earth’s Cores and eight medium quality F level Earth’s Cores. A played rock paper scissors for the Earth’s Cores. Anet won the low quality E level Earth’s Core. I, Weysey, Serah and Dane won the four high quality F level Earth’s Cores and Mi and Merly got two medium quality F level Earth’s Cores. The rest Miss Zetsa took when she left”.
“A medium quality E level Earth’s Core…” Zax sighed after a while of silence.
“Thanks to you we all got lucky”. Zushi said and got up.
There was less than two minutes to the end of the event for their group and a new batch of participants began to emerge from the tunnel while those of Zax’s batch were ordered to head back by the meticulous timer of their time bracelets.
As they took off the time bracelets and throw them in a crate with wheels that stood on a rail beside the entrance to the tunnel, the old lady, the attendant at the entrance to cave zero thirty nine, typed on a twenty five centimeters screen the names of the returning participants and their results, though, she done so without paying particular attention to anyone but the screen in her right hand and whenever a participant stepped forward to sign himself she simply nudge him away.
“Zax”, Zushi had one last thing to add. “Miss Zetsa also told us to inform you that you’re in big trouble for breaking your finger”.
On the other side of tunnel three hundred and twelve, in cave one hundred and thirty nine.
“Participants of cave eighty seven, join here in rows of forty…”
“Participants of cave three, join here in rows of seventy four…”
“Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, gather up here in rows of fifty…”
“Participants of cave twenty five, assemble here in rows of forty…”
The seven representative Guardians were already waiting to the participants under their care. When the last participant of each group arrived from the tunnel, the representative Guardian led his or her group to one of the two square buildings on the premises.
Inside the square building that Zetsa led the group of cave twenty five were thousands of square floor seats. Each upholstered seat was fifteen centimeters deep into the floor and had a seating space large enough for only a child to sit in. The margin between square seats was wide enough for adults to walk on one at a time, and so, alongside the thousands of seats were a hundred or so brown uniforms staff members of the event, spread around holding large sealed cases.
“Please hurry them, the future Mist Users, to any of the seats”. A female staff member in brown uniform with a yellow ribbon that stretched diagonally across her left shoulder to her waist and read: “GECP CORE INSTURCTER”, approached the representative Guardians and asked of them.
Immediately after, of the four of the seven groups that finished the search and came by the same square building as Zetsa’s group, the representative Guardians guided the young participants to their arranged seats.
“Everyone sit, sit in your places. Those who did not fare well in the hunt raise your hands. Staff members will now distribute compensatory Earth’s Core. Take them and hold them with two hands beneath the navel – no need to raise your shirts – that is where your lower dantian is located. Sit in a cross legged position and wait for farther instruction”. The fairly young staff member, core instructor, amplified her voice with her mist energy and a white disciplinary aura that signified the cultivation of a C level Mist User, Core Breaker, emitted from her.
Following the directions of the core instructor more than fifteen hundreds hands went into the air, some just standing like columns, others impatiently waving.
After a short ten minutes every young participant held beneath his or her navel the brownish sphere that was an Earth’s Core, in anticipation to finally become a Mist User.
“Greetings everyone, my name is Jergaria Lus. I am one of the two core instructors in this year’s event, and that means that my job in the last phase of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit is to guide you through the process of becoming Mist Users”. Jergaria, the core instructor, spoke confidently in a soothing tone. “Now, you all should know that once a mental link is subconsciously formed between you and the Earth’s Cores in your hands, the Earth’s Core will merge with your body and enter your lower dantian. Since this can happen anytime, I ask of you to not get nervous. You should have learned about the phases of the process at school, but in practice it’s quite different, therefore, you have me, the staff members around you and your representative Guardians as support”.
Jergaria halted to read the complexion and atmosphere of the young participants. “Before we begin”, the results were the same every time, so the right words were already at the tip of her tongue. “Let me say that I know that all of you are tired. It has been twenty four hours since you took the nutrition tablets and the energized effect currently wearing off”.
Some of the participant looked at Jergaria as she talked, some stared at their Earth’s Cores and some sat with closed eyes.
“Do not let the fatigue wear your spirit. When you’ll start the first phase, Link Forming, it will fill your body with vigor. Your untapped Qi will, for some, become noticeable and for a short time, which should be until you’ll start the second phase, a surge of new found strength will renew your wakefulness”.
Jergaria waited for the spread staff members and representative Guardians to insure the readiness of the young participant. To not distract anyone from her, the only voice in the square building was Jergaria’s, therefore they answered her by nodding slightly.
“Beginning the first phase, Link Forming”, Jergaria announced. “Hold the Earth’s Cores in your hands near the lower dantian. Allow it to touch the body below the navel, through the shirt should also be fine. With eyes open don’t concentrate on anything particular in your line of sight, but try to imagine the shape, texture, color and even the inside mist of the Earth’s Cores that you found or received. See it in your mind’s eye as if it’s right in front you, I repeat, imagine the Earth’s Core, do not look at the one that you hold and do so with eyes open”.
Zax listened to Jergaria’s voice. “Link Forming” He repeated how she named the first phase and thought about how obscure its process sounded. Nevertheless, unlike the many others which sat around him, it was not the first phase that caused the frown to his face.
“The Link Forming”, Zax figured it out from the start. “It’s soul energy”.
How many like him were in the short history of Kingdom Earth? Coreless ten years olds with soul at level F… One who cared would not even bother counting with two hands.
Zax felt it, how threads of soul energy moved around from his consciousness to various body parts and retreated, like a living being looking for food in odd place, using only the sense of smell. Zax could also now feel the attraction that radiated from the Earth’s Core, the vile attraction that the threads of soul energy were drawn to.
When the first thread made contact with the Earth’s Core, Zax could so easily and disgustedly feel and hear it, a high pitch “Ding” sound that echoed in his consciousness and shook the foundations of his soul.
“It’s not it” Zax somewhat determined without even knowing what was that he found wrong. “No! No! No!” More threads reached for the Earth’s Core, the prestigious medium quality E level Earth’s Core, and the grievance grew with each Ding. But Zax, who with a simple thought could take control on the living threads, without understanding what was it that unnerved him so much, could not bring himself to stop the process he, since his earliest memories, wished for.
The Earth’s Core was finally there, in Zax’s dantian, like in many others participants and the first phase was complete.
“That’s what’s amiss, this Earth’s Core, I can’t… I can’t…” With the Earth’s Core in his dantian it became well defined to Zax. “I can’t keep it”.
---------- Post added July 21, 2015 at 05:13 AM ---------- Previous post was July 18, 2015 at 12:23 PM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 13 – Going Back
The revelation of possessing the wrong Earth’s Core and its presence in his dantian enlightened Zax’s conception and granted him the knowledge of what was the thing he felt immense regret for and what he had to do to fix it.
Jergaria, who for time strolled between the participants, for time stood in one place waited for the majority to complete the first phase, Link Forming, and once she decided they were ready, she opened up with her amplified voice. “Good, good, everyone, you’re doing well. I’ll now proceed to narrate the second phase, ”Grasping”. Those who still did not complete the first phase, keep concentrate on it. The staff members, representative Guardians and I, as well, will repeat the instructions how many times you need”.
“Now that you have Earth’s Cores in your dantian, the flow of Qi in your body should be more apparent. Do not force yourselves to feel the flow of Qi right after the Earth’s Core disappears from your hands. Wait a little bit; Earth’s Cores have a particular attractive influence on Qi. It will take a while, could be seconds, minutes or a few hours, but eventually, the accumulated Qi in your body will stream to the lower dantian all on its own, and when enough Qi will pass through the Qi channels of the lower dantian, it will be impossible not to sense it”.
Jergaria’s description of the effect of Earth’s Cores on Qi and the promise to sense it lowered a lot of eyebrows into the combination of enthusiasm and obedience. It was the dream of every coreless child with mild background to feel and control the strange power that only the talented and prestigious of their peers could learn to use like a full fledged Mist Users. It was now the time of everyone to grasp the power which differentiates the weak from the strong in Kingdom Earth.
“When you realize the sensation of Qi that fills your dantian, do not try to form the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell just yet, like you might have heard or been told. Let the nesting Qi in your dantian dwell there for a while. Comprehend its circular movement around the Earth’s Core. Once it will seem to you as if it’s alive, look for what makes you think so. This will help improve your control on the Qi before binding it to your will. It’s like shacking and awakening a body part that fell asleep, like a leg that you sat on for too long or the whole body when you wake up in the morning”.
Working with young minds, Jergaria was well versed with the kind of descriptive speech that can arouse the imagination of children in a way that will help them through the process of becoming Mist Users.
She did not wait for all the young participants to complete the second phase, Grasping, since it depended on natural talent. For most, she knew, the second phase will take around an hour, for the talented at most half an hour, for those who lack any affinity it might be even five hours, which Jergaria definitely did not have.
“On to the third and last phase”, Jergaria announced in a loud voice. “Last one you should know is simply called “Cracking””.
Of the few who finished the second phase or were near its end and listened to Jergaria a certain thought popped to mind. “Whoever invented these terms have a terrible naming sense!” Nonetheless they all listened carefully.
“In accordance to its name, the sole purpose of the third phase is to from the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell, thus you’ll enter the Beginner phase of level F as Mist Users. How to approach the shell with your Qi I and my associates in guiding you will now reveal to you by using our mist energy externally”.
Following her words, Jergaria raised her right palm and emitted her white mist energy twenty centimeters above it. “Pay attention”. She said to the young participants. Slowly but surely, Jergaria’s mist energy began to take shape. The mist energy swirled and double in size, Jergaria’s face also slightly turned ashen. After ten seconds the mist energy took the shape of a meter long chisel. The shape held itself for three to five seconds, and then it swirled again, taking the form of giant scythe. For two minutes Jergaria’s mist energy took the form of different tools, likewise the mist energy of the staff members and representative Guardians, which none were below the level of Core Breaker, and demonstrated their exquisite control over the mist energy, though only Zetsa’s mist energy and one other representative Guardian were barely see through and sparkled in a silvery light.
When the two minutes passed Jergaria lowered her hand and so did the others. “It is far more difficult to shape mist energy outside the body, so do not be anxious by the task laid before you. Each of you, close your eyes and reach your dantian with your consciousness. To do so easily, if you still did not grasp the technique, sense your Qi attentively and your mind will visualize, on its own, the state and vicinity of the dantian”. Jergaria gave a moment for those who had to follow her instruction before continuing. “In your dantian, shape your Qi to a tool that seems comfortable to use in your eyes, better it will be if it’s a tool meant for penetration. Even a nail will do. When the shape is vivid and you are able to hold it for more than five seconds, use the tool you shaped offensively to from the first crack on the Earth’s Core. Most likely none of you will succeed in the first, second third of sixth attempt, but keep trying. This is the last phase, the last obstacle between you and becoming Mist Users”.
For her last words Jergaria, like with every group she had seen through the process, encouraged the young participants and then began to walk around them to personally assist those who struggled.
Zax waited, against all his inner discomfort he waited and contemplated. To do what he planned he had to muster his courage and determination. Till it was done Zax also listened curiously to Jergaria and thanks to his unique soul and low proficiency with his Qi, it was not hard to follow the steps in her instruction. Nevertheless, for his plan to work he could not and had no intention to crack the Earth’s Core in his dantian.
Zax had to partly thank his big sister for what gave him the confident to carry his plan. It was the knowledge that she shared with him regarding the possibility to remove an Earth’s Core from the dantian so long that it has not been cracked. It was possible due to Zax’s soul’s level and during the first phase that Jergaria taught he also understood why.
“Now is a good time as any... Please don’t suspect anything, big sis”. Zax sighed inwardly. Since the Earth’s Core that he found was of great quality, there was no reason anymore to act as his big sister told him. He saw it in her eyes when the group of cave twenty five formed their lines when they returned from the search. She was pleased with his finding and expected him to return home with everyone as a Mist User.
Holding back the Qi from streaming to his dantian was like holding back an itch. Zax, however, did so almost effortlessly. Zax was able to hold back since a part from some level of proficiency in handling Qi, to go against a natural flow one also had to have the discipline properties which only the soul of a Mist User in the level of Core Breaker has, and apart from quantity and quality of soul energy, Zax’s soul was not inferior to that of any Core Breaker.
“Burrraa…” Out of the blue Zax leaned forward and puked.
Luckily to the boy in front of him, it was Qi which mostly sustained Zax and he did not ate a lot of candies when he sat with his friends near the tunnel after he woke up, again. Still… it was the sound that terrified the boy and made him leap from the ground seat and caught the attention of Jergaria and the other helpers.
Moving in a manner that seemed to the young onlookers as if her body flashed from one place to another, Zetsa, and two seconds after her, Jergaria, reached Zax.
“What happened, Zax?” Zetsa lifted his face and raised him from his seat the moment he stopped puking.
Zax’s complexion was pale, a white gray color. A bit of foams stained his lips. He wanted to regret his stupid plan, but it was too late so he whispered with the little bit of voice that he had. “My stomach hurt”.
Being close enough to hear him as well, Jergaria guessed what happened to Zax and told Zetsa to come to the entrance of the square building with her.
“Poor boy”, Jergaria told Zetsa as Zax leaned his head against her shoulder, sleeping. They were waiting for a staff member to arrive. “It happens rarely. The Qi backlash when a kid tries to form the first crack. They rush and skip the completion of the second phase almost without even trying. The body cannot stand the backlash and suffers the most. Fortunately, there is not permanent damage. Some can even start working again on the second phase after a day’s rest”.
Jergaria reassured Zetsa, who knew the effect of a backlash in the dantian and that essentially there was not a severe case of a child that tried to form the first crack on an Earth’s Core’s shell, but Zax was Zetsa’s beloved younger brother and she could not betray her feelings for him in front of anyone. Jergaria, who was of aware that as a Mist Master Zetsa should know the meaning of a Qi backlash in the dantian, realized that between the boy and the representative Guardian there was some sort of a relationship and so explained out of courtesy.
“You should not worry. He will be taken care of. You can come back for him the moment you will return the group of participants under your care to their home cave”. In an attempt to do good, Jergaria reminded Zetsa her obligations as a representative Guardian which meant that in a few hours, when the last participant from cave twenty five will finally become a Mist User, she would have to take the group back home, leaving Zax behind.
When Zax opened his eyes the Nightly Cover formation of cave one hundred and thirty nine was already active.
“Urg…” Zax groaned. “It was much worse than I thought it will be…” He said to himself and recalled his own action.
The only way for him to avoid this latter part of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, forming a crack on the Earth’s Core in his dantian and becoming a Mist User, he had to take drastic action. What Zax did was separate the flow of his Qi to two opposite streams and made them collide in his dantian, yet in manner that will not affect the Earth’s Core in there. The results were agonizing to the point that the part of him losing consciousness afterwards was beyond his calculation and what he thought he could withstand and what he cannot.
“The Earth’s Core isn’t cracked”. Zax breathed a sigh of relief. He paid less attention to his properly bandaged right hand or his shoes and clothes that were somewhat clean. His fears were that during the time that he slept the Qi flow returned to normal and again was attracted to the Earth’s Core. Surveying the condition of his Qi and Qi channels, it seemed that he was still slowly healing and the natural order had yet stabilized. For now, he decided not to use his Qi.
Zax changed position from lying to sitting, noticing in the process that he was inside a large tent with a pile of folding beds to one side, a few closets with labels “Medicine Cabinet 1” and 2 and 3 up to 15.
“Is that the doctor?” On a bed a few meters away from his a blond girl in blue scrubs, looking around thirty years old, was comfortably sleeping.
Looking at his bruised wristwatch that suffered ill treatment during the search, though the display of the seconds and milo seconds was jumpy and the date, minutes and hours were readable. The time was past twelve o’clock midnight, April fifth.
“Whaa…! Less than four hours are left! I’ve got to get going”. Knowing that he cannot make any sound from now on, Zax slowly got up from the bed, but right as his feet touched the floor he felt dizziness threatening to put him down.
His body’s lack of nutrition could not be ignored anymore. On the chair besides his bed was Zax’s backpack. Zax recognized it by the color of the straps and the torn logo on the front side of the backpack which read: “Earth’s Core’s Showdo”. The missing “wns” were torn long before the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.
“It’s full”, to his surprise, Zax found all kinds of snacks filling his backpack. “They gave me their leftover snacks”. In this moment Zax was really happy for his choice in friends.
Since water was the only thing he did not have, Zax took two sealed water bottles from a crate besides Medicine Cabinet 8 and headed out from the back side of the tent.
Being nighttime, the amount of staff members walking around, performing their jobs, was nearly zero. Even the welcoming tents were closed. All of that was perfect for Zax’s plan since there were not many places that he could conceal himself.
Zax’s destination was the dome like compound that all the participants were gathered in for their last night before the search.
Two staff members were drinking near the entrance to the compound. Zax frowned. He remembered that when it was his group in there, some kids opened the compound’s doors on a dare, so it was not really a problem to go in or out, only, if one gets discovered he or she would be in a lot of troubles.
After couple of minutes of waiting in frustration the two staff members emptied their cups and strolled on, allowing Zax to approach safely to the compound’s doors.
Zax opened the compound’s doors and instantly met a bunch of new participants, contemplating the same mischievous pranks that during his stay in the compound, among other things, managed to jam the trash chutes.
“Who are you?” Some boy with curly hair asked. Under the dim lights of the compound the group that hung near the doors was composed of ten to twenty young participants.
The twenty boys looked at Zax as if they saw a ghost, they played around the compound’s entrance since they got here and none of them saw a participant leaving. Furthermore, when the doors started moving they all thought the whoever opens them was a staff member or one of the representative Guardians, so their hearts jumped in fear, thinking that they were going to get caught.
“I wasn’t feeling well so they took me to the Medical Tent when my group arrived”. Zax thought beforehand what he would say if anyone who had seen him entering the compound late at night will start to question him.
Claiming that he was sick was a lot mellow than bragging that he sneaked out. No one will think much of a kid who probably got so excited that he got cramps or something, especially not other kids. On the other hand, if word got out that some kid had the nerves to sneak outside the compound in the middle of the night, he or she would defiantly become the talk of all the other kids and will easily be discovered by staff members or representative Guardians.
Since Zax really was still recovering, even under the dim lights of the compound it was possible to see his pale complexion. The group of kids calmed down from the initial fright and made way for Zax to go to whichever group that he belonged.
Zax found an empty upper bunk bed within an area of sleeping participants. He climbed the bunk bed quietly and closed his eyes to rest. In a couple of hours the riskiest part of his plan will commence.
Similar to the sequence of events in the morning of Zax’s search, at four o’clock in the morning the representative Guardians arrived, called and organized their groups by showering the young participants under their with commands to get ready.
Zax mingled within the group of participant he slept in the same area with. No one was able to suspect him because no one knew everyone among the thousands of participant whether if they were in the same batch or even the same cave group. And since the official procedures or over the day before, even the representative Guardians did not suspect the stowaway within their midst. Besides, such a farfetched thing as a stowaway participant has never happened in the past, so no one could even assume that it was happening right now.
---------- Post added July 25, 2015 at 10:51 AM ---------- Previous post was July 21, 2015 at 05:13 AM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 14 – The Dangers Of The Unsafe Zone
Going along with his plan, Zax had a few things to fear from but each had the potential to end his endeavor.
One was the nurse or the doctor, whichever she was. If she would awake up to see that he is not in the resting bed and alert the staff members and representative Guardians before he will enter cave zero thirty nine again then his plan will most likely fail.
Second were the staff members that distribute the green time bracelets. If even one of them will notice that they are missing one time bracelet and will figure out Zax’s plan, what will follow will only be Zax’s plan failing. Not being caught by the staff members was only half of why Zax tried to avoid them. Zax also did not want to enter cave zero thirty nine with a time bracelet. Zushi told Zax of the different features that the time bracelets have and that one of them allow the event’s Guardian and possibly the representative Guardians, as well, to track the participants.
Third thing was that his big sister, Zetsa. Yes, Zax realized that his big sister could not stay with him and had to return the group of participants back to cave twenty five. If she would return and notice that he was gone before he will enter cave zero thirty nine, she might figure out what he was doing, which will most definitely cause his plain to fail. Zax hopped that when the group of cave twenty five left cave one hundred and thirty nine it was already late and that was why his big sister did not return for him yet.
The last thing Zax was scared of was the old lady, the attendant, at the end of tunnel three hundred and twelve. If that old lady was at the level of a Mist Master or worse, a Mist Lord, and used her Soul Sense to note who leaves or enters cave zero thirty nine, she would definitely discover Zax and right there and then his plan will...
Zax could not do anything about the nurse\ doctor waking up or when his big sister will return. He decided to leave this worries at the back of his mind as the group he mingled into passed the entrance to tunnel three hundred and twelve.
So as not to arouse the suspicions of the hundred staff members in the tunnel as they distributed the time bracelets, Zax switched lines whenever a staff member was about to approach with a time bracelet to the place in Zax walked in the line.
Using his Soul Sense, it was easy workout. With the space between rows and lines being so dense it was difficult from the sidelines to notice his movement if one did not specifically looked for him. Within the rows and lines, as long as it also was within the domain of his Soul Sense, Zax could read the body movement of those around him, so to not even bother or make the other participants notice what he was doing.
Finally he was about to reach the end of the tunnel. Zax hid his hands in his pockets, to not reveal to anyone that he did not get a time bracelet. The representative Guardians turned to the groups of participants under their care after receiving the approval of the old lady and deciding between themselves who will send the young participants off.
One representative Guardians began to talk, but Zax did not listen to what he said. Zax read about how expert can notice if one among ten thousand looking at them in an eerie way and even to locate the one among ten thousand who looked at them. To avoid this mistake, Zax lowered his head till he felt the participant around him begin to move a fading “…head out”.
Running to the cave, Zax did not dare to look back or even ask why or wonder if the old lady, the same one from two days back that saw his batch dashing to their search, used her Soul Sense or not. All that he cared about at that moment was keep running and keep hiding his hands. He was in and nothing would make him turn back.
Little did Zax know that the old lady only covers only the left side of the tunnel, the return side, with her Soul Sense to count and evaluate the results of the young participants. Before that, when the participants head off to the cave, it is the job of the representative Guardians to know how many entering and later inform her.
Four hours after the beginning of the search, eight o’clock in the morning.
For the past four hours Zax looked for the river he and his friends followed. It took him a few hours to get to the river since he wasted time avoiding other participant and by being maybe too cautious from being discovered by the event’s Guardians or representative Guardians. Zax knew that if they will detect him in any other way but their special sensor, his second attempt in the search will end. So he could not allow himself to be casually seen or heard.
Luckily for Zax, among the different kinds of Guardian which roamed in cave zero thirty nine, only one was at the level of a Mist Master. So even if his presence in the cave will be known and the Guardians will use their Soul Senses as a last measure to find him, he will only have to worry about this one Mist Master.
Zax did not know the compass of a Mist Master’s Soul Sense, but he was sure that it is not large enough to detect him by engulfing a large space. Only by reading the environmental essence and detecting his unique print he will be found. And that was also a temporary expedient since – unless one creates some sort of an impact on the environment – a person’s unique print does not linger and fade quickly. It was something which Zax discovered accidently and up till not did not think much about it.
In the end it was unavoidable for some participants to see Zax when he reached the river and began to follow along the river’s banks. From there it also was redundant to keep avoiding prying eyes. When participants found a searching ground they stuck to it and did not care who come by, unless he or she interrupt them or got their hands on the price they were looking for.
Since he entered to the cave Zax had not used his Soul Sense. He was worried that the moment that he will use it, he will lose control on himself, if because the environmental essence of the cave, the hidden Earth’s Core or something else entirely.
“Not before I’ll go far so no one will be able to see me”. Zax said to himself. “It’s not like I don’t know where I’m heading, Zushi said that I ran to the unsafe zone. And the river of Earth’s Cores… that I remember, if just a little bit, it’s…” He continued to reason with himself, however, when he attempted to remember the feeling, the desire and need from when he “lost it”, it was like trying to express something that just at the tip of the tongue but not quite there.
When it was getting to ten o’clock in the morning, even if Zax looked as far back as he could, he did not see any participant. Zax could only assume that he reached the unsafe zone.
“This batch has nine representative Guardians”. Zax lay on the ground, hidden beneath a bush, and recalled the seven female Guardians and two male Guardians as he pondered on how many event’s Guardians can be beside them. “If there is an equal number that would already be too much if all nine patrol in the unsafe zone…”
Though the size of the unsafe zone was not small, Zax did not belittle the event’s Guardians who might be guarding in it.
“I must proceed carefully, can’t use my Soul Sense, either… Zushi said that the event’s Guardian caught to the group on the river. They probably know that a lot of participant search in the river. In this case, a few event’s Guardians might patrol not far from here. I’m also positive that there is at least one event’s Guardian on this mountain”.
It was hard to see it through the dense vegetation, but when Zax walked along the river’s banks he did see a mountain couple of hundred meters east to the river. It was a good high ground to monitor the clearings in the surrounding.
“The place I need to go to… it’s in the other side of the next tunnel… in the next beasts’ cave…”
To say that Zax’s spirit did not waver when he thought about and got closer to where that feeling, which was both alien and at the same time a part of him, instructed him to go, could only be a wretched lie. Zax was not stupid, even if he will overlook his deceiving actions; he knew that the path he was taking led to a place much worse and forbidden than the unsafe zone. But it was out of his control, the pull that made him keep going tormented his mind if even for a split second he thought to oppose it. And when he did as it want, it was as if every step forward was like walking on something he only read about, walking on a cloud.
To appease this feeling, to appease himself Zax chose to abide regardless of the consequences.
“The river started in the next cave”, he was told by Brabra, “there is no point in finding another path and it’s not like I can go around it”. Zax decided to crawl the rest of the way under the vegetation until he will see the tunnel to the next cave.
Crawling for about two and a half hours, the wall of the other side of the cave surely became visible, so much that when Zax could see it without the interruption of the vegetation, it was possible for him to distinguish the shapes of the bigger bulges on it.
Rumble… Rumble… Rumble…
Suddenly the earth beneath him began to tremble. Trees fell one after the other and the small bushes were torn from the ground.
“What’s that?” Zax lost his composure and asked aloud, terrified.
A deep growl emerged through the breaking earth. Zax felt a sharp pain warping his abdomen and something hard as a rock hitting his head, making him lose consciousness.
Zetsa, riding on her Sun K-79, got back to cave one hundred and thirty nine at nine forty five in the morning. Since a few kids from her group struggled to from the first crack on their Earth’s Cores, the whole group had to wait and ended up leaving late.
Back in cave one hundred and thirty nine Zetsa had only three things to do. The first was to sign off Zax from the Medical tent, the second was to actually pick up Zax, see how he was doing and the third thing was to sign in the event’s Oversight tent that all the participants of cave twenty five became Beginners phase F level Mist Users, Earth’s Core Holders. Last thing she would have to do, after Zax will from the first crack on his own Earth’s Core and they cannot leave before that.
“Is something wrong?” After she parked her K-79, Zetsa met some of the general staff members on her way to the Medical tent.
The two staff members were restless, walking in a hurried pace and completely ignored Zetsa as if they did not notice her at all.
Since other than her duties as a representative Guardian Zetsa did not have any other responsibilities in the event, she shrugged, assuming that the staff members were just cramped with too much work and too little rest.
“Doctor Elliot”, Zetsa greeted the blond woman in blue scrubs as she entered the Medical tent.
“Zetsa…” the expression on Doctor Elliot’s face was solemn. She stopped filling the papers on her desk and got up from the chair she was sitting on.
“Where is my brother?” Zetsa asked. Matter of fact, after Zetsa greeted Doctor Elliot, her gaze immediately turned to find Zax, so she did not see Doctor Elliot’s facial expression until she realized that Zax is not in the tent and the other woman stood face to face with her.
“My brother…” The tone in Zetsa voice was less polite this time, almost demanding. She remembered the attitude of the two staff members. She saw a couple more on her way to the Medical tent and they all looked the same, but this is the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, an event of outmost importance and those who work in it cannot have an easy time, so once more Zetsa did not pay attention to any of the staff members.
“Please sit, Zetsa”. Doctor Elliot asked. In truth, she was just a graduate and did not have a lot of experience with laying bad news.
“Is something wrong with my little brother?” Zetsa nervously asked. “Was something wrong with Zax when we left?” She asked herself as she also tried to recollect.
When Zax groaned in pain and his complexion turned pale in the square building, Zetsa did not understand what happened to him. Jergaria said that it was a backlash from rushing the process to become a Mist User, but was that really the cause? Zax was different from the other participant and almost anyone else ever before him, his soul was already in level F and he also was aware of his Qi. Jergaria did know that or could imagine that her teachings were adhering by such a prodigy; of course she would assume the most common excuse to explain Zax’s condition.
“To force a soul to jump a whole level, from F to E, when it just achieved a breakthrough…” Zetsa could not deny the possibility of a backlash due to extreme tension on the soul, rather than what Jergaria suggested. “Was it too soon?” It was more complicated than this. Even If she wanted to keep Zax’s unique soul a secret for the time being, by law, their parents were obligated to send him to the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and until Zax will become a Mist User he will remain within the boundaries of that law.
Zetsa was a B level Mist User. In comparison to her, Doctor Elliot was a mere E level Mist User. Zetsa could run in her mind a thousand thoughts and speculations before Doctor Elliot could finish forming just the one. So between the time that Zetsa was immersing in thoughts and Doctor Elliot was about to answer her question, only one second had passed.
“Your brother, patient Zax Zel… he disappeared during the night”. Doctor Elliot said truthfully.
Releasing a breath of relief and then comprehending what she had heard, Zetsa held her voice from shouting. “Zax is gone?! Explain to me right now, where is my brother?!”
“I will answer everything, every question, however, please calm down. We received a report not too long ago, we know where he is”. Doctor Elliot tried to change her tone to be more soothing, if it could help her. She knew that Zetsa was a representative Guardian, and a Mist Master, at that.
When Zetsa signed in the information of her and patient Zax Zel in the medical form that Doctor Elliot gave her, Zetsa wrote herself under the “Kin” header as his big sister and under the “Mist User Level” header as a Mist Master. Right now it was Doctor Elliot job to break Zetsa the new, and she did not want to suffer from a Mist Master’s emotional burst.
“A hour and half ago…” A hour and half because Doctor Elliot slept oh too well, something which she chose not to share with the fretful Zetsa. “We could not find your brother near the tents or the buildings. Initially we thought that he decided to return home by himself, but there isn’t public transportation to or from this area of cave one hundred and thirty nine till the end of the event. Still, Mr. Helyon”, Doctor Elliot referred to the disciplinary supervisor of the event. “He sent four vehicles to search the roads.”
“In the meantime he also looked at Zax’s results from the hunt… A E level Earth’s Core…” It was reasonably hard for even Doctor Elliot to hide the envy in her tone of voice and look in her eyes. “With a price Earth’s Core like this we did not believe that Zax will commit an illegal act and try to retake the hunt. Nonetheless, while we waited for the staff members that searched the roads to update us, Mr. Helyon ordered the staff members that were on break to enter cave zero thirty nine to investigate the participants that are currently in the hunt. Half an hour ago a few kids admitted that they saw last night, entering the participants’ compound…”
“Then my brother…”
“All the Guardians are informed, most of the staff members also looki-”
It was futile for Doctor Elliot to finish her last sentence. Zetsa upped and disappeared from her line of sight like a violent gust of wind.
---------- Post added July 28, 2015 at 12:53 PM ---------- Previous post was July 25, 2015 at 10:51 AM ----------
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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 15 – Earth Shattering Brown Digger
A strong pungent odor burned Zax’s respiratory system through his nostrils and rose to his brain, the body organ which contained the soul.
Zax woke up from the smell, but when his eyes opened what he saw was foreign. All he could see as he stared above was the ground as the ceiling and a dim light illuminating from somewhere. The last imagery that Zax could remember was the earth he was lying on splitting and a black shadow, like a long and thick whip, moving quickly out of the cracks, tossing large pieces of the shattered earth.
“Urgh…” Zax moaned when he tried to get up. His stomach and back were in pain he was not aware of until he slightly moved himself up. Before he could achieve a measly one hundred and sixty degrees position, Zax’s body fell back and acute pain circling his abdomen and lower back specify the area of his injuries.
“Gural… Gural… Gural…”
The sound was getting closer, from the direction that his feet were turned to. At the same time Zax also heard “THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP…” which was the sound of his heart throbbing.
The same thing that made the “Gural” sound stomped the ground.
“It’s getting closer”. Zax said aloud only because his mind was busy sulking in misery.
“The unsafe zone… it wasn’t unsafe because its proximity to the REALLY unsafe beasts cave, but because there were still beasts roaming in the searching cave… I was such a fool! How I didn’t think about it?! If it was the entrance to the next cave that they didn’t want us to get close to, they could have just placed Guardians at the tunnel…” It was the voice of a child that learned his lesson which rang in his mind.
However, apart from his own natural sprouting temperament, there was one other voice that Zax listened to and in the past few days it can be said, if one looked deeply, that it bewitched his soul, so much that it entwined and became an integral part of Zax’s foundations.
The other voice was soundless, so Zax could only interact with it by accepting how it made him feel. The one dominating sensation was arrogance. The same arrogance that made Zax to so easily believe that his hardships will be to sneak into the batch of new participants and avoid the staff members and different Guardians as he crosses the searching cave, than facing the populated beasts’ cave he was heading to.
In this moment, it was the sense of arrogance that made Zax to act, rather than keep sulking. Unsure if he should use his Soul Sense and if he do how it will affect him, Zax preferred to first bet on his Qi to survive the, might be, approaching confrontation, since it felt like his Qi was back in order, though surrounding the Earth’s Core in his dantian due to its inexplicable powers of attraction.
Zax folded his knees and in both of his legs started to stream and to accumulate his Qi. In his mind he prepared himself to kick with his feet, to force himself up and find a way to escape, to threaten the beast – because, yes, he was sure that he was brought to this underground place by a beast – even to kick the ground and create lots of noise in hope that someone, a representative Guardians, an event’s Guardian will hear him and come to his rescue.
Regardless of his chances to preserve his life, Zax was determined to retaliate.
As the beast, a few meters from Zax, noticed his action it instantly halted its movement and only its voice continued to reverberate. “Gural… Gural… Gural…”
The growling sounds repeated but the urgency changed. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Those were the only fluctuations that Zax’s human ear perceived. What was the meaning, the desire behind those sounds? Even if his mind was unruffled by the current situation, there was little chance that he will know the answer.
“Is it not coming?” The question dared to slightly calm the uncertainty in his heart.
As if to give him an answer, or maybe Zax did, unconsciously, understand the beast, the creature, which was no more than three meters away from his feet, stomped the ground with its heavy steps.
Until now Zax raised his head to see the appropriate, probably futile, moment to kick when the beast came close enough. It hurt more in his stomach muscles than in his lower back when he bent his neck and body a bit up, but it still did not provide him a clear site of the beast. Zax only had a full impression of one part of the beast’s body when it turned around and stepped away. What he saw was the perfect shape of the beast’s tail that like a thick and long branch, crossed the distance between them and fluttered over his body. The whip like tail was covered by brown scales and the moment Zax saw it, no more than a meter above him, he knew that he could not obstruct such a massive thing.
“It’s going!” It was like a scene from a dream or a late night movie. The monster was leaving and one person, although injured and shaken, got to stay alive.
Zax concentrated his strength and endurance on getting up again. Being aware of the pain made it easier the second time, and although it was not less painful and felt as if a giant stone was weighing on his stomach, Zax managed to gradually move his torso up.
“Gural… Gural… Gural…” The beast persistently returned and this time Zax got to see all of it, or at least from its front appearance, recognize it.
In Kingdom Earth there were only two sole lessons which bothered mentioning to children the existence of the beasts. One was History lesson where beasts were talked about briefly and to the point. The other one was Geography lesson where the students learned in an abbreviated manner about the sort of beasts that ruled some of the major mapped caves in the beasts’ territory.
To recognize the beast in front of him, it was not thanks to the history lessons or geography lessons that Zax knew it, but by watching beasts’ related shows on the Screen and being exposed to reading materials about the beasts’ territory that experts have published online.
The beast that dragged him to this cavern was, in its full name, an Earth Shattering Brown Digger.
The Brown Digger was a mammal type beast from the giant rodents’ family, even though it had brown reptilian scales covering its tail and hind legs. Its body shape was similar to that of a rat with brown fur. Its limbs, however, were short and vicious, adorned by long and tough claws that could tear through the earth as if it was a giant piece of tofu. The head of the Brown Digger was its least impacting feature. The head was large and not completely round, though it had reptilian eyes, the rest, even the snout, was covered by puffy layers of fur. Only the knowledge of its hidden sharp teeth could truly alert others from this not far from being adorable face.
The Brown Digger that appeared before Zax was clearly an adult one. From the tip of its tail to its hidden snout the length was more than four meters. Its height when on its four limbs was around a meter and fifty centimeters.
Zax stared fixated at Brown Digger preying eyes. When he moved up most of the accumulated Qi in his feet dispersed. If the Brown Digger could sense his Qi accumulating once more, Zax was afraid that he will strike first and kill him. At this point, not even the arrogance sensation could supply him with an idea of what to do, for the most part not by using his Qi.
“Gural… Gural… Gural…”
The Brown Digger expression was impossible to decipher. It growled and motionlessly looked at Zax’s direction. The one thing which differentiated it from a statue was the long scaly tail that was swaying and rubbing the ground.
The standstill between the two had mentally and physically exhausted Zax. He tried to stay watchful of any sudden movement of the Brown Digger, but how long has it been since he last ate or drank something? He was not craving food or water due to his emotional state, but his body, the Qi, the soul… The three aspects of a living being were hardly bothered by emotional disposition when it intersected with the basic need for nourishment, for survival.
Gazing at his wristwatch could also arouse the Brown Digger’s hostility, so Zax could not even tell how long he stood there while unknowingly grabbing his stomach right where it hurt.
It was not long before Zax started panting. A few minutes of short and painful breaths brought him back to the coarse earth, this time on his bottom.
“A soul attack…” Zax was panting even slowed the thought in his head. If it were not for his inner mind, his head would have being been utterly blank. “A soul attack with all my might… and then try to escape…” The cavern was embedded with a few Sun Stones in the size of a rise grain. Looking past the Brown Digger, because of the dim lighting, Zax was not sure if the cavern was sealed by the Brown Digger or connected to a tunnel that might be the means for his escape.
Ten minutes, without a doubt, have passed since his bottom touched the earth. Another fifteen minutes as surely also followed as Zax and the Brown Digger continued their oppressive standstill.
“An hour…? An hour has definitely passed since I woke up… Two maybe…?” Zax head was boiling. Not just because he fought to restrain his bodily needs, but also because of the odor of the cavern. The more and longer that the foul odor had entered Zax’s nostrils, the harder it was to bare it.
In the end, a ten years old is a ten years old and in terms of his physique, Zax could only be said to be slightly better than an average ten years old boy. Thus, he collapsed.
“Gural… Gural… Gural…”
The growls hovered so close to his face.
“Crunch… Crunch… Crunch…”
Was he been eaten by the Brown Digger?
“Flup… Flup… Flup…”
Something wet and smelly, though less smelly than the cavern, constantly rub him.
Zax opened his eyes, wondering if he broke some kind of a record in passing out. The thought was not the first thing to cross his mind, but for some reason Zax felt that before anything, he should cling to this one pearl of amusement, It was his coping mechanism in case the Brown Digger was really eating him and his body had been torn to the a state where he could feel anything.
“But then, how am I awake?” The question took the form of a lifeboat, the one Zax always saw in Serah’s favorite online game, Mocca Kart, with dirt wheels and turbines – real lifeboat were unneeded in Kingdom Earth and today the only leftovers from the past were rare pictures and drawings of how it was when people lived above the ground.
As he sailed across the sea of his consciousness, incapable of coming up with an answer, finding the most remote island, a metallic, salty liquid poured into Zax’s mouth and filled it to the brim in an instant.
Zax could not help but rise with his back that was lying on the ground and hit his head in the Brown Digger’s opened jaw.
As if it was not worse enough before, Zax found himself between the sharp teeth of the Brown Digger as a gush of red green liquid burst from his throat and spilled all over his body. The bloody scene was surreal; all of Zax five senses suffered an absolute shock.
Was he awake? Yes. Was it real? Certainly. Was he aware that his body was in one piece, up and without pain? Absolutely not.
Zax’s hand pushed the current of red green liquid in vain. The current only stopped when the Brown Digger closed its mouth and Zax was unintentionally mimicking it, standing all four on the ground.
Zax spat the red green liquid that washed his mouth and smeared all of his body. Tiny meaty pieces where here and there, on the ground, stuck to him or coming out from his mouth. Even without the help of his Soul Sense Zax knew the source of this ground meat. “The Brown Digger last meal!” If he could, Zax would throw up, but his body was past this poor habit and his gag reflex toughened in the past couple of days…
Ground meat was not the only thing that came out with the stream of red green liquid. Thin slices of vegetation, mainly roots, were scattered everywhere.
The red green liquid, Zax assumed, was partly blood, partly fluids of the green roots.
As Zax stood up on his feet with a straight back his gaze first fell on the Brown Digger. The beast seemed to be in a laid back mood after releasing the tension in its stomach. It did not gaze back at Zax or cared for another standstill. It simply dug its face into the earth, licked and munched only the meaty pieces of its already digested meal.
Seeing that the Brown Digger was not concerned with him a familiar feeling resurface in Zax. The former arrogance sensation changed back into the vague attractive desire, which was responsible for his current situation.
“What’s got into me?” Zax asked, he wanted to hear his voice and did not fret about the Brown Digger hearing him. “First I’m using my Soul Sense and lose control while partaking in the search. When I return to myself it’s only after I faint and wake up, forgetting the stuff others say I did. Then, I’m slowly feeling like there is something in the beasts’ cave that’s pulling me toward it, making me want… whatever it is... Now I’m stuck in this cavern with an adult Brown Digger that first I feel confident enough to take on and after it puke on me, it’s all well…”
As crazy as all of it sounds, Zax knew the origin to the madness that befell him. But dealing with it… The origin was the alien sensation, desire, need or whichever other name that Zax could find fit to describe it. And the problem was that during a short period of time, maybe after the second time that Zax lost control, the alien sensation was no longer alien and actually became part of him. That part, although messed up, was not something Zax could refute, and asking him to ignore or overcome it will be the same as asking a kleptomaniac not to steal. Zax’s actions, at first, were not done on purpose, but now it was unstoppable, at least until the sensation, desire, need or whichever… will be satisfied.
What Zax cared about after he got up on his feet, apart from the sensation, was to clean himself as much as possible from the disgust that stuck to his body. Zax went as far as stripping out of his clothes – it was not like the only other being around paid attention to him, and even if it did, whether its meal was wrap by fabric, scales, feathers, fur or bald, a Brown Digger could eat anything.
“Useless! I need to wash myself”. Zax gave up. When the Brown Digger snatched him, his backpack was either left behind or fell somewhere along the way to this cavern. If he had it in hand he could have used the water from the water bottles to clean himself since he emptied only a third of one bottle out of the two that he took from the Medical tent.
“The pulling and squeezing from the Brown Digger’s tail…” As Zax saw his stomach, waist and back a spark of comprehension appeared in his eyes and he grimaced. Where the Brown Digger tail wrapped him, a belt of red and blue, ground skin and bruises, encircled his waist.
“The juice of the green roots!” Taking a closer look made Zax call in wonderment.
The red part of the liquid was the blood of the creature the Brown Digger ate. The green part of the liquid was the fluids of the roots that the Brown Digger ate. When Zax examined his wounds and saw that despite the severity of them he did not feel pain while turning, bending and even touching, an absurd hypothesis crossed his mind. He discovered that while the blood dried and hardened on his skin, the fluids remained gooey, tucked under an armor made of blood, as if it was an ointment under a bandage.
“What the…!” Zax’s gaze shot at the Brown Digger who flinched from the quick and sudden movement and stared back at him suspiciously. “Your puke has medicinal effect?”
Obviously the Brown Digger did not answer verbally or even treat the sounds coming out from Zax’s mouth as if they held any meaning which was directed toward it. Its intelligence was only a little better than that of the cattle that was raised in some of cave twenty five’s farms. In response to Zax’s subsiding gaze the Brown Digger’s mere action was lowering its head to its meal.
As both kept a mutual distance, Zax drew his attention to his slowly healing injuries. To avoid rousing submerged pain, he inspected to which extent he could move. As he stretched his arms above his head it abruptly occurred to him. “My wristwatch!”
Not knowing how long it had been since he ended up in the Brown Digger’s cavern, Zax lowered his hands to check the time and date in his wristwatch. He scraped the blood that smeared the tiny display and frowned right after. The date froze on the same day of the search he snuck into and the time also froze on an hour which, unless it was a new day, should have passed long ago. “It broke…” An immature sigh escaped Zax’s mouth.
“Well then”, Zax’s hands loosened and fell to the sides of his waist. “If it doesn’t gonna eat me and instead chose to treat the wounds that its tail caused… Then maybe it won’t stop me from leaving”. Step by step, Zax exercised caution as he executed his decision to leave.
“Not going to stop?” The thought softly wondered as he encircled the long body of the Brown Digger.
The Brown Digger lifted its furry apathetic head from the earth, still chewing the ground meat its tongue picked up and stared at Zax. A black radiant appeared in between its eyes.