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"Hand over the dark attribute’s essence and you will be let go!” A voice from Zax’s rear shouted.
Ignoring the quickly approaching Martial Mortal, Zax immersed himself in converging kinetic energy to Kinetic Force and drilling faster.
There were currently around fifty persistent experts on his tail. Five of which were Gong Vreil, Kirik and the other three who collaborated with him for the dark attribute’s essence. Another four, and at the lead, were four Martial Mortals.
Pushing his endurance to the limit, spent to the point that his body no longer had the excess vitality to heal itself, while his right arm ceased regenerating at the beginning of the elbow, Zax still refused to give up.
Except from the Linder Seeds, anything and everything consumable, every bit of food or medicine he purchased in Glorious Ground or hunted have been depleted.
Suffice to say that Zax initial plan of losing his pursuers and finding a place to rest was annulled.
“You won’t be able to escape for long, brat!”
“To hold this dark attribute’s essence you better pray for a miracle!”
“Even if you’ll escape, it would only be a temporary alleviation. In the end we’ll catch you and the more you prolong the chase the less likely you’ll get to live afterwards!”
These lines and more hassled Zax unceasingly.
The ground up ahead raptured, and then broke as long sharp claws burrowed from the front, targeting Zax.
It was an Advanced third level Core Master, mole type beast and its speed underground was not inferior to Zax’s.
Zax bent back, hardly avoiding the two sets of giant claws. Instead of having his head cut open, he only sustained a shallow scratch from his upper chest to his forehead.
Kicking up, he hit the abdomen of the mole type beast. He was not able to place much force in the strike, just enough to jolt the mole’s internals.
Both the mole type beast and Zax cursed, before he renewed his escape.
‘These encounters becoming more and more dangerous! If I were in my best shape then I would only have to worry from the Martial Mortals catching up!’ Zax shook his head. ‘”If” and “If” and “If” and “If”… there are better things that I should consider than wasting time lamenting’.
Shifting his thoughts to the two pills in the spatial ring, he wondered about their medicinal properties. They could be poisonous or remedial. Although the former could bring disastrous effects should Zax consume them, the latter, regardless what they are supposed to treat, due to his cultivated physique, could be safely and wantonly absorbed whichever way he wants. In the latter’s case, should the pills have enough vitality, Zax could directly accelerate the recuperation of any wound!
‘Should I…?’ Zax was indecisive. Stupidly relying on the short secession caused by the black sky event; he failed to predict the capacity of how much his situation can deteriorate. Another misstep was all he needed to cross the line between life and death.
The wall of earth he drilled through crumbled and Zax abruptly halted his advancement as he almost fell into a large pit.
Instinctively looking down, his face blanched and his body stiffly grabbed the encompassing earth.
The space he arrived to was not any regular pit. It had a diameter of roughly eight hundred meters and appeared five to six kilometer deep. Up above the black sky were still apparent and down below… tens of thousands wraiths aimlessly hovered, fully awake!
The pit was one of the wraiths’ slumbering chambers in the ridge, where myriad of them assembled, and Zax just drilled one third to the bottom!
Momentarily stunned, Zax forgot everything and concentrated on doing nothing that will alert the wraiths to his presence. It took him till his palms felt the tremors his pursuers caused in the ground to recall his rotten situation.
Panting and shaking he tried to think… ‘Too much, all of this is too much!’ He could not help himself from suffering the initial panic.
To drill forward he had to cross the pit, whether by climbing alongside its round walls or jumping to the other side and hoping that none of the wraths will notice him. Going any other direction would slow him down.
First and foremost, he hurriedly consumed a Linder Seed. ‘Relax!’ He berated himself. ‘They are approaching… if they’ll arrive before I pass the pit there will definitely be mayhem for the dark attribute’s essence, I would be caught in it and the wraiths will surely join in the fray-’ He was about to finish the thought when his eyes suddenly shone and his mind came up with an idea. ‘Mayhem!’
Zax stopped ruminating and focused on sensing how close his pursuers are.
Clenching his fist and gathering his resolve, he took a deep breath and jumped, not down or up, but to the other side of the pit. The distance was too far to make up without utilizing Kinetic Force to kick the air and stay afloat. Luckily, Zax control on the Kinetic Force was high enough to prevent the eruption of miniature explosion with every kick from making a sound.
Earth and stone collapsed as cavities started to form in the pit’s wall. One figure after another showed up with ferocious countenance that turned aghast the instant they scrutinized the pit.
Be they Core Masters or Martial Mortals, one has to admit that their reflexes and perception is really outstanding. Regardless of how engrossed with the chase they were, all pursuers froze in place when they arrive to the pit, as if their lives depended on it.
‘Don’t move! Don’t talk!’
Sublime Soul Senses spread to the sea of consciousness of all the experts, very subtly, to not arouse the kin senses of the wraiths.
A hairy and short Core Master who received the warning had a change of mind when he glimpsed at the wraiths. His party belonged to the Mercenary Association and each member was promised a great sum of Splinters if not for obtaining a dark attribute’s essence, then for acting as surveillance. Nonetheless, due to the cluster of wraiths the risk significantly just outweighed the gains.
He was about to turn back when the figure of the leaping Zax entered his field of view and his mouth unintentionally uttered in agitation. “This lunatic…!”
Naturally, the short and hairy Core Master was probably among the last to notice Zax, though no one dared to chase, or more accurately “distract”, him in fear that any clamor will attract the wraiths’ attention.
Zax gently fell on the other side of the pit, grabbing the earthy wall and hastily burrowing a nook to stand in and finally letting out a long bated breath.
Turning around he saw his pressures. Some moved after him the moment he landed on the other side of the pit. They glared at him, but were not so gutsy as before to shout threats and conditions for the dark attribute’s essence.
The Martial Mortals were at the forefront, contending among themselves who will snatch the dark attribute’s essence first. Oddly enough, none of them wondered why Zax did not drill his way of escape again.
Zax smiled, dug a rock and lifted it above the pit.
Seeing his action, all of those who flew above the pit, in one way or another, became petrified and immediately stopped midair. They stared at him and knew his intentions.
Zax burrowed his fingers into the rock and turned it upside down, in spite of the beseeching looks of the experts above the pit.
A Martial Mortal at the midpoint of the pit raised his hands, signaling Zax to stop. There were others who mimicked him and a few that considered to fly back.
Zax’s smile grew. Since he grabbed the dark attribute’s essence and escaped he had been in so much pressure… for his position to suddenly improve sure felt good.
He retracted his arm, only by a little, but when he saw that couple of those who flew at the back slowly moving to the pit’s wall, he raised it up again and gestured with his head to those at the front.
The Martial Mortals gazed at the sly Core Masters who dared risk their lives by provoking Zax, and gave them a look that easily was interpreted as a death threat.
Shifting their eyes back to Zax, the Martial Mortals smiled apologetically and used their aura to write on the air, asking for his demands to let them go.
Zax sneered. He put the rock on the ground and stepped on it. Due to his inability to use mist energy he signed with his one hand letters, like a regular person, for them to convince him not to stir the wraiths.
“We will stop chasing you” Someone wrote.
Zax rolled the rock with his leg to the edge of the nook in response.
The Martial Mortal who made the suggestion paled and hurried to write something else.
“We will stop chasing and pay you!”
Zax rolled the rock from the edge and nodded in whimsical approval.
“A trade” a different Martial Mortal wrote, a Silver Skin Gorilla like Zax’s Martial brother, Simel.
Aware that the conditional notion in a trade might upset Zax, the Silver Skin Gorilla retrieved from his spatial ring a batch of Splinters and pills and wrote with his green mist energy: “For the dark attribute’s essence, seven hundred thousand Splinters and recovery pills”.
Zax read and seemed unmoved, yet his heart tightened. ‘Are these pills…?’ He tried to find similarities to the pills he had in shape, color and even smell. Regrettably their look and scent were nothing alike. ‘Still… this is quite an attractive trade. Even if I’ll hand over the dark attribute’s essence, others might chase me for the Splinters or revenge. In that case, I’d rather be fully healed. Seven hundred thousand Splinters is also an extravagant amount, enough to split and compensate Fengar‘.
He signed in compliance for the Silver Skin Gorilla to first throw him the pills, pointing at his injuries and unwillingness to discuss anything further before treating himself.
The Silver Skin Gorilla frowned. Giving the pill was not the issue, trusting Zax was, and the price for making the wrong choice can cost his life and the lives of the experts at his sides and back, though these fellows did not really concern him.
“Let us firstly return” he wrote.
Zax creased his brows and signed. “You want through all the effort of chasing me down, why turn back now” his previously whimsy mien completely changed, became exasperated. “You asked for the exchange, now you have three seconds to decide” he presented three fingers and lowered them.
“OKAY!” The Silver Skin Gorilla tossed the pills in his hand and looked at the disgruntled Martial Mortals near him. If it will come to it, the seven hundred thousand Splinters will be something they will have to jointly pay.
Zax caught the pills, nine in total, and gulped them down all at once. It took him mere second to feel their strong rejuvenating effect. His blood heated and his body reddened. A huge smiled spread across his face.
‘Yes! Although the medicinal properties cannot compare to my body’s restorative capabilities, the vitality these pills have is outstanding! I feel like in less than ten minutes my body can recover from all of its wounds and in less than a hour my right arm will grow back!’ Zax wanted to burst in laughter, yet controlled himself. ‘As expected, Martial Mortals’ fortune sure is awesome!’
The pending experts watched Zax with antagonism that quickly evolved to astonishment.
‘That lunatic consumed nine pills together!’
‘How the hell is he cultivating his body?!’
‘If he won’t explode, even the Martial Mortals would be envious of this abnormal physique!’
‘He is healing, actually steadily healing!’
‘Where did he obtain such a marvelous bodily refinement technique?!’
There were very few among the experts present who doubled in bodily cultivation. Not only was it a difficult path, but it also lacked, even in Ercas Mir, a worthwhile bodily refinement technique.
Seeing how Zax’s body reacts to the pills and recalling his strength against the besieged wraith, how could anyone not be jealous and wonder about his extraordinary bodily refinement technique?
“The dark attribute’s essence…” The Silver Skin Gorilla reminded.
Immersed in dividing and channeling all the vitality throughout his body, Zax ignored him, wanting to uplift the fatigue and ache.
Time moved slowly to the experts above the pit. Some attempted again to retreat, but a nudge of Zax’s leg and a slight roll of the rock indicated that they are not yet permitted to leave.
Nine minutes passed.
Zax breathed in, expanding his chest and comfortably released a current of air from his nostrils. He clenched his fist and crackling sounds issued from his knuckles.
‘Good…’ He felt calm and light, so serene he was unbothered by his unfinished predicament. ‘That’s right’. Only when his vision landed on the troubled experts did he proceed to his part of the bargain. “Mayhem!”
Kinetic Force erupted and his left fist punched the wall of the pit, breaking a big section of it to huge boulders that descended on the cluster of wraiths.
The expert above the pit stared horrorstruck and in disbelief. They had doubts about Zax’s threat. There were so many wraiths even he, wounded or healed, will be in definite danger. They assumed that he wanted to recuperate so later he could leave with the Splinters and fully restored speed and strength.
“Hahahahaha!” Zax’s voice reverberated as he fled, drilling. ‘Sorry, Fengar, but I can’t give up something I want and have the strength to fight for!’
Sadly the gods have spoken.
Then he suddenly collapsed and felt death embrancing him, with the last thing he saw being an old man in a blinding light, frowning at him as he whispered, "Tsk tsk. This is what you get for reading this here."