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He felt it traveling, squeezed to his stomach like a giant marble.
There was nothing special for it to give or take.
Zax's consciousness was declining, soon he will really die. The dark attribute's essence seemed to not care whether it is in the spatial ring, at the palm of his hand or even inside his body.
His approach was wrong, he slowly figured, but was way too weak to muster another solution to somehow use or ruin what others coveted from him along his life.
A wisp of soul energy, perhaps involuntary perhaps deliberately, escaped from his spherical soul, coursed from his head down.
“No!” His Young Eminence lost all forms of his typical sacrosanct and poise demeanor.
“He… He… Consumed the perfect dark attribute’s essence!” Helev Hetra cried in distress.
“Fools! How could you let him?!” Boolian roared and pounced toward Zax’s direction with ill intent, intending to cut him open and retrieve the dark attribute’s essence.
Realizing Boolian’s intention, His Young Eminence shot a furious look at him. “Halt, you imbecile!” He commanded angrily.
“Humph! Regardless of your status in Luminous Church, in this Western Continent, no outsider has the capital to order me“.
Seeing that Sister Beatriz was preoccupied with Rockwell and Riv, Boolian knew that this, most likely, would be his best chance to make a move for the perfect dark attribute’s essence and afterwards expend every available means in his possession to hurriedly evacuate the scene to the troops’ headquarters.
“Are you damned deaf?! Halt your steps, foolish Agama!” Colonel Rijok barked, purple lightening flickered around him and in a split second he overtook Boolian.
“Rijok… Are you really willing to submit to Luminous Church because they sent an Extreme Expert? Once news of this will arrive to my Violet Scaled Troops and Blessed Army, will you share the consequences of lending a hand to this violation?!“
“Are you so obsessed with obtaining the dark attribute’s essence that you have gone senile?!” Colonel Rijok rebuked and lowered his voice till finally deciding to convey his words via Sublime Soul Sense. ‘An Extreme Expert following and obeying a Core Master, referring to him as “Young Eminence”, should I say more?’
‘Young Eminence…’ As a reclusive member in the troops, Boolian paid heed only to information relevant to his duties. Hierarchy and honorific of the other powers did not interest him, especially those as complicated as Blue Sea’s and Luminous Church’s.
‘An “Ascended Elite”, can this you understand?’ Colonel Rijok rephrased. In his heart he too, now, understood why he was ordered by the General to avoid contact with Luminous Church’s group.
‘Future Immortal!’ Boolian’s aura faltered and dispersed, his pink eyes dilating.
Be it in the Blessed Army, the Violet Scaled Troops, Golden Desert Fort, Luminous Church or Blue Sea, “Ascended Elite” was the widely given title to any of those with the clear potential to become Immortals. Their numbers were few, countable on one hand at each of the five powers. Their status, for the likes of Boolian, impossible to measure!
‘Sister Beatriz is one thing, and this youngster she accompanying is another on a whole new scale. It won’t be much if others irritate him, but, Boolian, Helev Hetra, consider the frictions that you might cause among the powers should an incident relating to an Ascended Elite would transpire from your actions‘.
‘Boolian’, Helev Hetra joined the conversation. ‘For now, endure’.
Nodding his reptilian head, Boolian slowly floated back with Colonel Rijok and Helev Hetra at his pace.
Were the situation not critical and Sister Beatriz was by his side, His Young Eminence would have certainly settle accounts with Boolian for his gall. Nevertheless, the most important thing right now was the perfect dark attribute’s essence.
Staring at Zax with his mind reeling, His Young Eminence weighed his options with bated breath. ‘He won't survive, this heathen is soon to suffer a slow, excruciating death, that is certain. However, the dark attribute's essence… It's lost! It's lost! This… This malicious BASTARD ruined a Godsend perfect dark attribute's essence!’
Grinding his teeth, protruding veins on his youthful face, His Young Eminence knew that any interference would risk total destruction of the dark attribute's essence. If by the end it will maintain ninety percent potency, then it would still be acceptable.
Rapt in nerve wracking waiting, he had not noticed Sister Iaura coming by his side, wishing to solace.
A God composed it from soul fragments and dark attribute, intended for it to be the Core of a wraith’s being, an intangible creature, absent from mist or Qi.
A black thread appeared before it, dark, hardly a substance. It probed briefly its peripheral zone and then touched it.
Surrounded by a vast gray sea, beneath gray sky and situated at the epicenter of black and flourishing patch of land, a tremor passed through Zax’s soul.
“Graaaahhhhh!” A shrilling, miserable yell suddenly resounded out from his pressed to the ground face.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” It grew louder, painful, everlasting.
Zax’s body, weakened to the point of previously not even having the strength to speak, shook and began to spasm. His legged stretched and stiffened, his teeth biting and cracking. Extending his three limbs, even messed up left arm, and then flipping abruptly, he rolled whilst continuing to shout and spraying blood from his worsening wounds and virtually every pore on his body.
“How terrible!” Holding her hands over her lips, Sister Iaura could not help but pity the agonizing Zax. Taking a step forward, she wanted to put him out of his misery.
“Do not move!” His Young Eminence blocked her with his arm, pushing her back, gently. “The sordid heathen chose to go against The Almighty’s decree”. He said resentfully, rejoicing in the pain and suffering over Zax’s complexion, as The Almighty’s decree was for the perfect dark attribute’s essence to be bestowed to him.
“Poor boy…” From a far, in the midst of escaping and evading Sister Beatriz’s staunch assault, Riv and Rockwell noticed the commotion and uttered.
Boolian’s expression was ugly to behold. “This… is because of ingesting the unrefined dark attribute’s essence…” The thought of what would have happened to him should he had ripped it out of Zax after it issued this internecine reaction, made him thankful that Colonel Rijok stopped him.
“No”, Colonel Rijok disputed. “He brought upon this wretched death the moment his soul interacted with the unrefined dark attribute’s essence. Otherwise, he could keep it wherever he wanted”.
‘Well, good’. Helev Hetra sent. ‘Better the perfect dark attribute’s essence destroyed than letting it get to the hands of another’s Ascended Elite, at least in this particular case I assume we all agree‘.
Slightly nodding, Colonel Rijok added. ‘Though not perfect, Luminous Church will still earn a dark attribute’s essence when the boy will die, but indeed the situation turned out in our favor’.
“Say,” Lurvar said nervously to Gong Vreil. “Your captain… If I was to give him the dark attribute’s essence and the same thing would have happened to him…. in how much trouble would I have been?” He was oblivious to the fact that the appalling scene before him resulted from a deliberate improper handling of the dark attribute’s essence, only concerned that he could have been blamed for attempting to assassinate the captain of a Geared ranked mercenary band.
“I don’t know…” Gong Vreil blurted. She too did not expect that the wraiths’ dark attribute’s essence can be so malevolent.
‘Good, good, good!’ Hereb Lish repeated in jubilation. ‘If something like this were to happen to father…’
“You see, Cattelin, eventually he got what he deserves”. Darvajka tried to sooth her exasperated temper.
“He should suffer more; keep suffering, die, Musclehead bastard!” The chance to be the source of his pain was robbed from her, but seeing his deteriorating state, elated her.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” It could not stop, the inscrutable pain. As if to challenge his endurance it intensified beyond anything he ever experienced and soon his body could not take it anymore.
Internally, the black bulb latched to the wisp of soul and emanated a corrosive aura.
Externally, gradually his muscular physique shrunk and his skin turned gray, rotting, detaching from his person one reeking piece after another.
In his sea of consciousness, Zax’s Inner Panorama was encompassed by pandemonium. His spirit failed to find relief even within the encirclement of the soul.
Something ruptured. A tear formed in his dantian, allowing the corrosive aura entry.
Contrary to popular belief, the vastness of the dantian was proportional to fitness level, rather than mist cultivation. As such, it took a bit of time for the corrosive aura to spread inside Zax’s dantian.
Reaching further, eventually the Black Core was targeted, too, by the corrosive aura.
As it touched the smooth surface of the round Black Core, a repulsive sound echoed throughout the collapsing dantian. As if sentient and responding in retaliation, black mist tentacles came out of the Black Core and unhindered by the corrosive aura, they merged to one, extending toward the dark attribute’s essence!
Two opposing forces collided, the black tentacles and the corrosive aura, which was most potent around the dark attribute’s essence.
Zax’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, his voice mute, he lay scrawny, motionlessly in a puddle of blood and decay. When the forces hit, the impact passed through his back, breaking the earth.
At the aftermath of every collision, more of Zax’s feeble body shattered, but parallel to his decline so did the dark attribute’s essence unceasingly cleansed from its unrefined state, proving its inferiority to the incomplete Black Core.
His body was a wreck, yet his soul had yet to be harmed. Nonetheless, it felt the pain vividly even after the body lost all senses, which drove him madder.
Unknowingly, as less of the black bulb remained and the white dwarf steadily regained its shape, new wisps of soul energy were attracted to Zax’s stomach and when they touched the refined parts of the dark attribute’s essence, they actually started to consume it.
A strong pulse reverberated beneath Zax’s soul. The seventh gate, last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, swelled rapidly. The profound making of the white dwarf were the combination of souls’ fragments and dark attribute and while most of it was absorbed by the wisps of soul energy, a portion of the dark attribute was taken by the seventh gate in replacement for the world energy!
“…Aaaaaaaahhh!” The dying Zax somehow flipped, whatever left of his gaunt frame bent forward as his dry throat gave birth to a hoarse, increasingly louder voice.
“How is that possible?!” His Young Eminence, who was prepared to harvest the dark attribute’s essence after it would kill Zax, changed countenance and could not fathom from where the more than half dead heathen got the sudden burst of strength to prolong the inevitable.
While everyone watched, assuming that Zax is putting up last useless effort, His Young Eminence faint sensed a fluctuation that caused his heart to miss a beat.
“It can’t be!” Driven by a foreboding feeling, His Young Eminence moved without thinking. Summoning his wooden staff and white aura he thrust, determined to kill before his prediction will came true.
“Young Eminence, retreat!” Sister Beatriz was second to feel, only barely, the fluctuation; however, what aroused her to cry in trepidation was the scene that her eyes were faster to perceive than His Young Eminence’s.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” Zax arched his back, roaring to the heavens, as countless, meters long, black spikes pierced through his entire body.
The dark attribute nourished the seventh gate till it reached the last bottleneck and then forcefully initiated the breakthrough to the second realm of bodily cultivation. Furthermore, unlike any bodily breakthrough before, this time all the pain he was absolved from during the course of cultivating a technique which main principal was Pain, emerged all at once and then some.
“Your Young Eminence!” Sister Iaura cried and moved the catch him. The black spikes were too fast and when his attack was close to strike; they appeared and stabbed his waist, right shoulder and thigh.
“No!” Sister Beatriz shouted. Ignoring Rockwell and Riv, she dashed to His Young Eminence’s side.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” Zax continued to scream, aware of nothing but pain.
Steadily his body rose from the ground, breaking down only to reveal new healthy skin under the layers of rot. Four thin limbs, skinny chest, boney cheeks, though complete, his physique looked malnourished but quickly gained weight. Bones expending, muscles gaining mass and long light brown hair growing, Zax had gone a thorough transformation.
The first breath filled him with euphoria, turning roars of pain to wild laughter.
As the sound of his rejuvenated voice reached the ears of everyone present, a chill rand down their spine. The voice possessed a sort of pressure, almost as overbearing as Sister Beatriz’s aura!
The seventh gate exploded, with it the black spike disintegrated and Zax softly landed on the ground, standing erect, holding his hands up and clenching them before his eyes and brimming, fierce expression.
“Hahahaha, so that’s it! Hahahaha!” He cared nothing about the surrounding humans and beasts; cared nothing of the wraiths trying to enter the Mo’s Pyramid formation.
The exhilaration of the immense strength coursing through his body was secondary only to his level of happiness from the insights the dark attribute’s essence contained him.
“So much! Kinetic energy, Kinetic Force… it’s all wrong! Master and Grandmaster had it wrong all along despite how close the concept of the steps of Kinetic Force and bodily maneuvers are…”
Lifting his head, breathing and smiling he was more and more assured.
“Grandmaster’s sixth step is almost there, the seventh step maybe? Nah... I probably haven’t got there myself, yet”. Zax loosened his arms, but even limply, overlooking the great power of his enhanced physique, he could still feel under his control the even more awesome dark attribute of the world, as if all of it in a radius of hundreds of meters was his personal domain!
One wraith’s dark attribute’s essence truly was a priceless treasure. It did not improve Zax’s cultivation, but the insights into the dark attribute it gave were easily understood and required no practice or contemplation to comprehend.
They first unrevealed the dark attribute of the world, then instinctively enabled and nourished the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement with its richness, not only improving yet again Grandmaster Kartion’s creation, but also shortening years of cultivation to mere seconds.
Lastly, by sensing similarities to the steps of Kinetic Force and bodily maneuvers and making a comparison, Zax was able to abandon the flaws in what were only a concept and a path he has to stride on his own. Advancing and rediscovering a higher form of energy than kinetic energy, one that always was there but formerly too complex, complements both body and soul, dark attribute’s energy!
Finishing assessing all the changes in him, Zax’s attention fell on the surrounding cultivators.
Killing intent radiating from him, the urge to slaughter erupted.
Lowering his towering head, he met eyes with Cattelin.
Her body exploded to minced meat, yet he still stood afar, motionless.
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