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Two icy blue streaks flashed from somewhere outside the Earthly Crater. They passed through the seventh to the fourth rings without a hint of slowing down. Crossing to the third ring, the gravitational force had finally become too strong for them to ignore, thus revealing their true forms.
They were nearly two kilometers long and covered by an exoskeleton armor of bony dark blue scales. Just behind their giant heads, three additional azure scales adorned the back of their neck.
Some were aghast by the existence of more than one, others confused them with the renowned Overlord and the sharpest few had managed to catch a glimpse at the irregular defect in the third and smallest azure scale of each Horned Eel.
“Roar!” The two Horned Eels launched at Galu with the obvious intent to kill, in the process demonstrating to all who had doubts that even if their Overlord is not around, they will abide his rule.
“Can they keep grow with damaged scales in their neck?” Zax asked Saulalu. The latter was an Intermediate second level Martial Mortal, his eyes even enchanted with mist energy, could not compare to Zax’s. Nevertheless, it was not as if he was unaware of the condition of the Horned Eel Overlord’s progeny.
“No, the sea Overlord saw to it so they’ll never dethrone it. That being said, you better not underestimate them. From things I heard and now see, their strength roughly equivalent an Advanced fourth level Martial Mortal. Galu broke through the fourth level merely half a millennia ago. Her hope to get to the second ring should rely solely on her attainments from the Earthly Crater”.
“You also need to factor her resistance to the gravitational force”. Zax reminded Saulalu.
In this field of battle, close combat was typically the only method of fighting, at least for those restricted by the gravitational force.
“Overgrown warms, your daddy is not here, yet you still have the audacity to act up?” Galu turned around, to meet the two Horned Eels. The second ring just tens of meters from her.
She raised her right arm with opened hand and five stretched fingers as if it was a sniper. “Let’s see, if this won’t affect you, then I’m in trouble. For some reason, though, I’m feeling confident”.
Purple aura erupted from within her body and swayed like a violet lightning, validating that she is not limited anymore by the gravitational force. Swinging her arm, violet electric jolt crackled from the palm of her hand. “I remember that Debuk Jin came up with lances. For me, I discovered something else”. Purple whip materialized in her grip.
She flogged at the quicker of the incoming Horned Eels.
A series of explosions resounded like the rumble of apocalyptic thunders storm before the whip even hit. Each explosion released pulses of lightning and created distortions in the sea.
The Horned Eel perceived the tip of the whip instant before it reached the space between his eyes. In terms of cultivation, Galu may not be his match, but as far as speed goes there was probably no one currently in the crater that could rival her.
The Horned Eel rammed the lightning whip and then howled in pain as a huge, bloody gash engraved on its head. The pain was excruciating, paralyzing even. The attack discharged from the whip breached through all of its defenses and sent shocking current to its every cell whenever it attempted to move.
The second Horned Eel saw its companion being severely damaged and got angrier. Its Overlord rubbed them from their true potential as three scales Deformed Beings and their shared miserable fate created an unbreakable bond between.
“Roar!” In its rage it gotten faster, more ferocious, but alas, the whip once again proved to be unparalleled in terms of speed.
The collision resonated and each human, beast and Deformed Being in the crater felt a minuscule portion of the pain the two Horned Eels suffered.
“Tsk!” Despite thing looking in her favor, Galu was unsatisfied. ‘The real purpose of this Fervid Lash is to attack the soul. Against Deformed Being its strength is lessen by thirty to fifty percent’. She dispersed the residues of electric aura, which without her support crumbled in the face of the third ring’s gravitational force. ‘If they weren’t constrained by the battlefield… Could I have still won?’ She turned and continued to close the gap to the second ring.
Eventually, in the short span of two seconds the Horned Eels recovered, but by then Galu had made the last step to the second ring.
“Ha! Ha!” Two charming syllables escaped Galu’s mouth the instant she crossed. Her countenance looked almost entranced. She did not advance another step after the initial in, simply retained a standing position and with a giddy smile closed her eyes.
‘She made it!’
‘It’s… She’s… the first to ever reach the second ring’s region after the Horned Eel?’
‘Is that it?’
‘Why isn’t she moving? It doesn’t seem like she is resisting the gravitational force of the second ring?’
‘No matter one, this is my chance!‘
The first to follow Galu to the second ring was none other than the second figure who was meditating in the third ring; an ancient looking woman with long gray hair, donning a set of robes. Standing up, she supported her weight holding a cane that seemed to be curved out of some special wood. “Respect the elderly”. She said, talking to herself, but her voice traveled to all the eager ones wanting to reach the second ring, filling them a sense of dread.
After her, Olaf was the next to follow, subsequent by eight more experts and a Deformed Being the size of a mouse and with the frame of a four legged beast, that up until now remained very inconspicuous.
The Horned Eels were infuriated, but failing to stop one lawbreaker was akin for their Overlord to failing to stop all of them. Their option to survive the wraith of their Overlord was to either by pleading for mercy or escaping to one of the oceans that is not under his sovereignty, and so they left.
“They all just stand there”. Zax said. “Their expression enthralled, are they having enlightenment at the same time?”
“We cannot join them, so forget it and focus on our agreement”. Saulalu demanded, though he could not help himself and stole envious glances at the twelve.
“You are right”. Zax conceded. “I haven’t really had enlightenment; I can tell you my speculations but you’ll have to also pitch in”.
“No enlightenment?” Saulalu repeated, disheartened. “You sure that you can move to the fifth ring? It’s not just stronger gravitational force there. If your understanding of your attribute is insufficient, the earthly attribute gathered there will generate soul attacks”.
‘So it’s more complicated than physically enduring the gravitational force…’ Zax thought. “I can manage”. He replied. After assimilating wholly with his evolved sea of consciousness and Inner Panorama he wagered that his soul, that was already unique to begin with, will contend well now against the soul attacks of weak third level Martial Mortal, and did not even have to transform!
“It’s your business, so I won’t raise subjects relating to survival anymore”. It was fine with Saulalu to get right to the insights exchange.
And so Zax divulged his entire experiences of two mediation sessions, in between sentence allowing Saulalu moments of contemplation.
“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘earthly specks’, also, I neither heard about experts naturally collecting earthly attribute’s essence. Earthly attribute’s essence is probably the scarcest in Ercas Mir, if experts thought that they can obtain it by sitting on their asses in their crater, this place would have been by the thousands, perhaps more! I recommend you to keep this information to yourself, the sea Overlord will not accept this level of invasion and the world experts will not agree to let him hog the crater for himself anymore. This could lead to a war I know I don’t want to be responsible for”. Having cultivated in the Earthly Crater for close to a century, Saulalu had preferred to maintain his peaceful life of chasing after the secrets of the crater.
“Who will believe it if I’m the only one absorbing earthly attribute’s essence?” Zax said to assure him.
“Truth be told, I, too, have doubts about your claims”. Saulalu sure was fine with being direct.
“Back to what you first said… are you saying that your attribute doesn’t react at all to the worldly earthly attribute?” In a sense, Zax’s dark attribute also did not react to the worldly earthly attribute energy, but to the essence manifested by its abundance accumulation in the crater. Nevertheless, he wanted to cover all corners.
“It doesn’t. Like you, I sense that the crater is special. Many years ago I concluded that there is something drawing the earthly attribute here, and that ‘something’ also supported the advancement of the handful experts that are no longer affected by the gravitational force. That’s not all; thirty two years ago I’ve had an insight that eluded you in your short time here”.
“Pray tell”. An insight he had yet to make… Zax yearned for a profound understanding in whatever that can make him stronger.
“The gravitational force is originating from the peculiar ‘something’ hidden in the crater”.
“Yes, but you still missed a crucial thing”, Saulalu mocked inwardly the brat who is not even a month in the Earthly Crater. ‘Such arrogance was typical to young human experts’; having known this he figured Zax’s age, as well as the brat’s concealed scary potential. “Did you know, ‘mass’ is the nature of the earthly attribute and ‘gravity’ is a property of it”. Recognizing the nature of an attribute was a piece of information that was not easy to come about unless one has adequate understanding. Saulala did not have this kind of understanding in regards to his own attribute, much less the earthly, but sometimes one stumbles upon the fortune of learning from someone else.
Comprehending Saulalu’s statement, Zax’s heart palpitated before the former had enough speaking. Whether it was useful or not, discovering the nature of a personal attribute required painstaking years of deliberation and luck. Zax had the amount of luck to compensate for the deficiency in the first prerequisite. To be told the nature of an attribute he had zero affinity toward, though it was not the same as understanding it with by his own efforts, could still contribute to his cogitation.
“It’s not easy to encounter, much less produce, but I lived long and met many types of cultivators and so, when Debuk Jin made his breakthrough and demonstrated here his gravitation attack, I was around to witness it. Though I made the distinction centuries late, the sense I got from his attack was both different and familiar to the crater’s gravitational force”.
“In what way?” Zax asked while reviewing in his head the memories of the earthly specks.
“This… I’m not sure”. Saulalu confessed. “It’s not something that I only detected. I discussed it in several insights exchanges, but the topic remained obscure. Besides, half the complexity of the problem arise from an attribute that is not my own, or yours. Great quantity of earthly attribute’s essence could help get closer to solving it, but we talked about it…”
Minutes of quietness elapsed as the two reflected on the exchange and what more they could share that could benefit both.
‘If not in the fifth, then possibly in the fourth there will be the amount of earthly attribute’s essence that I could make us of’. Zax found no other solution.
“I’ll be going to the fifth ring, then”. Stepping stone had no need for words of farewell, and that is what the experts in insights exchange were to one another. Saulalu did not bother to say anything, anyways.
‘The gravitational force should be ninety percent of what above the Gentic Belt’. Zax was sure to remember. ‘I could do nothing then… ninety or one hundred don’t make such a difference. Then again, the terrain, the solid ground beneath my feet can be used as the supporting platform to carry my weight’.
He raised his left leg and shifted it forward, to the region of the fifth ring, when a spark of insight struck him…
‘I know what it is!’
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."
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