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The formation laid in the garden erected a woodland mirage; its sources of energy were buried in forty eight key spots.
When Zax’s fist hit the mirage the energy it discharged was absorbed into the vista of woodland.
‘Hm? Does it require more than brute force?’ Zax doubted, but the energy he unleashed seemed to just vanish in the mirage. ‘No, it sufficed’. His eyes shone in satisfaction as the effect of his blow begin to appear.
The vegetation in the woodland grew and multiplied increasingly fast, as if in an effort to suppress something erupting from inside. Nevertheless, just as it continually grew anew, so did it even faster wither and die.
Soon, seeds that spread in order to instantly become ginormous trees turned to ashes before feeling the earth.
The woodland mirage exploded and a gooey, grayish wave with properties of dark attribute surged heading straight to the estate and several other directions.
The gooey wave was an unforeseen byproduct of the combination of Zax’s dark attribute energy and the lavish garden, which was actually a complex formation. It consumed most of what was in its path whilst evaporating since its state was unsustainable.
“No!” Mayor Deg shrieked when he saw the base of his family estate slowly sinking and the walls corroding. Inside, among servants and guards, were the core members of his family, roughly two thousand people that should have been protected from even a Beginner third level Martial Mortal!
“Zoey, cousin Duvwen, block it!” He yelled his heart out!
Two figures shot out of the Dewgong family estate, a plumped yellow woman and a brown skinned, black haired woman. The former's fluctuations gave the impression of an Intermediate first level Martial Mortal and the latter's of a Beginner second level Martial Mortal.
Watching the progression of the gray wave and its corrosiveness, great aunt Zoey's complexion blenched. "Come and help us!" She shouted into the estate, ordering the guards as well as all capable family members. "Duvwen, start the formation. The rest of us will send you all our energy!" She asked the brown skinned slanted eyes woman, who right away retrieved from her spatial rings eight jet black metal rods and by applying her windy green aura to them erected a paper thin solid green blanket over the entire wave.
"Support Duvwen!" Great aunt Zoey yelled and fiery red, complementary mist energy streamed from her to Duvwen.
The guards and Dewgong family members at the first realm crowded behind windows and atop verandas, sending their mist energy, too. Those few family members in the second realm acted the same while the fewer among them who mastered flight techniques floated closer the nucleus of the formation, Duvwen.
At first, the untied effort seemed to reach a standstill with the gray wave, but due to it evaporating faster than the Dewgong's forces lost energy, in brief moments they attainted the upper hands.
Mayor Deg heaved a sigh of relief, for an instant forgetting the quiet Zax's presence.
"Was I not clear?"
The instant passed and mayor Deg shifted his gaze up in astonishment.
"Since my strike passed, blood must flow". His words barely fell into mayor Deg's ears when the old man's hands and feet on the ground felt a sudden tremor.
The diminishing wave exploded and from within it dark beam of black light tore a hole in the Green Blanket formation.
Duvwen first instinct was to fix the hole in the formation, but just as she set her mind on it, the tiny hole spread and grew in a spiraling motion, literally becoming a Black Hole. By using her body as the nucleus of the formation, she placed herself as part of it and so could not escape the influence of the Black Hole. The further along it spread across the Green Blanket formation the more chaotic her mist energy became in her dantian and mist channels.
Those who previously shared their mist energy, although were not affected by the damage to the formation, now faced the peril of being swallowed by the black hole. Great aunt Zoey and the Core Masters next to her who can fly were better off, but most family members and practically all the guards were facing imminent catastrophe, not to mention the rest of the people inside the estate, should the black hole would be allowed to continue to spread.
"Stop it! Inside the estate are thousands of people, only a fraction of which are cultivators! Will you massacre innocent people!" Mayor Deg confronted Zax, the black hole was an attack he never before seen, abundant with so much dark attribute it was incredible terrible!
"I can't". Zax said nonchalantly, deciding in this moment not to squabble over who was at fault for birthing this upheaval. In all honestly he was inwardly astonished. He knew the swallowing, devouring nature of the dark attribute, he in his current attainment of it, he could not make it so strong. 'The illusory formation fueled it to a degree that broke it out of my control. To stop it now I'll have to do it forcefully, as an external entity or else it will only vanish after fully consuming this green formation'. Though he realized what needed to be done, the consequences of inaction were of no real concern to his despise of the Dewgong family.
Dewgong family estate was gradually collapsing be the vibrations and pulling force of the black hole. Screams of fear and pain were echoing from inside while guards guided the retreat of all residents to the far side of the estate.
"Zoey, stand back, cough! I'm going to terminate the formation, cough! I fear it's the only way to prevent it from destroying the estate, killing everyone inside". Duvwen believed that if she was not connected to the Green Blanket formation, she could have put to a halt the black hole, but it caught her unprepared and now she had to pay a price for something no one could predict.
Great aunt Zoey was about to say something, but eventually refrained from interrupting the already steadfast Duvwen. "Draw back, protect the family!" She ordered the experts by her side.
Retrieving a long sword with World Gathering Bone as its blade, Duvwen swung the long sword, hacking tens of thousands windy threads that were embroidered to her body, linking her mist channels to the Green Blanket formation.
Slowly, Duvwen began to separate from the formation, however with each tens or so clipped threads her the disarray in her mist channels issued wisps of chaotic mist energy that further damaged her internals. At the point where less than five hundred threads remained, Duvwen could not prevent anymore the blood from surging up her throat.
Finally, the last thread was cut off. With the last of her strength, Duvwen pointed the long sword's blade at the weakening Green Blanket and black hole. "Be gone!" She roared, spun and thrusted. A green light emanated from the sword, clashing with the black hole denting it. Then the spinning long sword descended, piercing precisely at the dented spot. Duvwen followed next, reaching down she grabbed the hilt of the sword while half of it came out the other side of the black hole. She released all her excess mist energy through the World Gathering Bone blade, in the process rupturing a few mist channels, yet augmented its sharpness several folds. A green wave extended, spinning at the same direction as the black hole, ripping it from its center.
"Duvwen…" From the periphery of the Dewgong family estate, mayor Deg watched his cousin placing her life on the line for the sake of the family. A deep, meaningful expression surfaced on his face. "Duvwen!" He repeated, his countenance vicious, resolute, mulish. 'The dark attribute's essences mustn't be returned. Our losses will be the fee for procuring new horizon for the family's Martial path!' He was prepared to die if only to obstruct Zax for one calculated moment.
Should Duvwen not come out of this ordeal alive, his wife, Dewgong family's great aunt Zoey, was another candidate for absorbing a dark attribute's essence once it has been refined. The family had more potential candidates in its reserves, but right now their cultivation was insufficient. Either way, today's sacrifice would only matter if his wife will manage to escape, preferable with the rest of the family or at least a few future prospects. Mayor Deg was confident that by then his acquaintances will reach Monivore city, giving his wife the opportunity to ensure an escape route. To further motivate his determination, mayor Deg recalled the identity of the person he found to refine the dark attribute's essences. Though the cost will be huge, that person was trustworthy, his wife will not need to fear him scamming her.
"The protective formation is destroyed, your estate is in ruin, many of the people inside are critically injured, some dead and of your strongest experts one is incapacitated, not that it's matter, when the formation crumpled you lost your lost line of defense". Saying that, Zax released his Soul Sense, looking for his spatial rings first, then all and other fortune he might find inside.
Mayor Deg knew that it is time for him to act. He was selfish, favoring himself over everyone, but he had a few exceptions… His wife and the cohesive fate of the family.
"How cocky". A voice suddenly rung out of nowhere in his ears. Mayor Deg's heart tightened. Was Zax going to kill him before he had the chance to make his move? 'Wait, that's not his voice!'
"Who?" Zax asked, he heard the voice, too, or rather; its resonance was aimed at him. Searching with his Soul Sense it was none of those inspecting from afar, actually, they also seemed perturbed.
"You killed my cherished subordinate… Helev Hetra, then go and cause mayhem in an army's city. Sure, Monivore city is situated at the outskirt of the army's territory and the troops here are lesser in numbers and cultivation base than the troops stationed in most of our cities, but still… isn't your attitude a bit too rampant?" The voice settled and Zax felt immense pressure focusing on him.
A brown beam shuttled the sky like a long lance. It flew fast, Zax barely caught a glimpse of it when it was already too close to evade.
The lance beam penetrated his Dark Titan Storm form and embedded itself in his leg.
"Eh!" Though it pierced through his leg, the lance beam's energy did not scatter violently inside him. Instead, it solidified and manifested a gravitational force that hindered Zax's movement of the wounded leg. 'My leg! If I would have cancelled the Dark Titan Storm form, this gravitational force would have torn my entire leg in an instant, probably afterwards pull my bones, flesh and blood!'
"Still resisting?" The voice said indifferently. "Very well, not like you can escape". Finished speaking, another brown lance beam fell down from the sky.
‘Defend!’ Zax shouted inwardly, his mind perceived the incoming lance beam faster than his body was reacting. Throwing his arms up and crossing them, he felt a pinch when the edge of the lance beam made contact with his right forearm.
The lance beam went through couple of centimeters before the dark attribute energy strengthening the arm obstructed its advancement. Nevertheless, the instant it went it, the lance beam solidified and again a gravitational force was imposed on Zax.
Clenching his teeth, Zax did not even consider whom his opponent may be or at what cultivation he is at. He grabbed the lance beam stuck to his right forearm and drew it out, summoning all the strength he add in his left arm while also trying to push it with the dark attribute energy comprising the Dark Titan Storm form.
“Grrr!” It was not the most painful experience he underwent, and his tolerance went up significantly after absorbing the dark attribute’s essence, however facing stronger challenges and adversaries would always introduce new thresholds to pass.
“You succeeded”. The voice said with a bit of praise. “There are no mist fluctuations around you. Your source of power is solely your tempered physique and attainment in the dark attribute”. The voice got closer, arriving from above.
He was robust, with orange hair, white skin and golden full beard. He towered at a height of one or two centimeters shorter than Zax’s and wore shining light blue armor, white pants and a long white cape.
“Let’s see, the orders were to bring you back, but how about we make a deal? If you’ll succeed to pull the lance in your, leg I’d give you a one minute advantage to run away. However, if I’ll catch you, then I’ll count your escaping attempt as retaliation and disobedience against the army’s orders and kill you on the spot. What do you say?” Outwardly, the orange haired man gave the impression that he is placid, yet from his words and previous actions it was clear that he is holding great enmity toward Zax for killing Helev Hetra. “Go ahead and accept the deal, take ten seconds to pull the lance out”.
‘This guy is from the Blessed Army!’ Zax figured by the man’s uniform. ‘A third level… No! His attacks were casually made… A fourth level? Fifth level Martial Mortal?!’ After encountering two Deformed Beings equals to fifth level Martial Mortal, Zax got a taste of the disparity between him and someone at the Peak of mortality. He also was aware that he escaped the two Overlords only because they were vigilance from each other and did not stray from their respective zones.
‘Pulling out the lance from my leg… is that a joke?‘ Starting to feel miserable inside and that soon he will not be able to sustain the Dark Titan Storm form, Zax’s mind ran numerous scenarios for saving himself.
Surrendering and being taken to the Blessed Army? His life might get saved, but his freedom would definitely be wrest away.
Trading the knowledge of the existence of the dark attribute’s essences for a safe leave? The other party seemed bent on subduing him, furthermore, if by some dumb luck he will escape this hindrance, then it would be easier to deal with the Dewgong family than the Blessed Army, regardless of how strong he will become.
Fighting? No. There were no residues of the brown lance beam that stuck to his forearm in his body, but the not so deep wound was not healing and he was still uncertain how fast it will take it in his regular form.
Accepting the deal? ‘The lance in my leg did not just solidify in my body; it’s locked in space, the worldly earthly attribute? I won’t be able to pull it not matter what’.
‘Five seconds left. If you’ll succeed in one, you can add the remaining four to your escaping minute-” The orange haired man halted midsentence, his attention shifting to somewhere far away and he frowned.
When he heard the air splitting and the sound of liquid splashing, the orange haired man knew he missed something. Resuming his watch over Zax, his eyes squinted.
He was back at his normal form, the lance beam still attached to his leg at the same place in space and his hands stained in blood.
“You severed your leg! No loopholes, but for creativity you receive thirty two seconds, you better spend your time praying to whichever God who is out there, waiting on the dead”.
Staring at the orange haired man and commemorating his face to his brain, Zax turned and sped into the far distance, all the while holding back his rage and repeating one word in his sea of consciousness…
“Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!”
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