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It was so close he could imagine its spherical smoothness in his hands. No matter how strong he would clutch, it will never break. It was a quarter of a whole, yet, for him, it was more perfect than any of the alternatives out there.
Zax averted his outward attention from the young woman to the hallway and started walking.
The young woman gasped anxiously. Her baby was napping in the nursery and the intruder was proceeding to the hallway. Additionally…
She stumbled, fixed her posture and ran, as if hers and the life of her baby depend on it. She passed Zax who was calm and steady in temper, so much that he even moved a bit from her away, else she would stumble a second time.
“L- Leave, sir, this home has only me and my son. We have Splinters! Yes, my husband left a sum, until his return, but we can do without them. Please, sir…!” The young woman stood next to the cradle, her baby boy in her arms. Overwhelmed by the pressure, she forgot to close the dresser‘s drawer.
Zax smiled, partly amused, partly awkwardly. She could move the Blue Stone, actually, she could hide it wherever she wants on her body and not just in her blouse, and to him it would not matter. In this world there was no formation, no special technique and no means of obstruction that had the capacity to unable his connection to the Black Cores.
“Give it to me, technically it’s mine, but I guess you wouldn’t understand…” His state of mind was so fixated on the Black Core, he jibber jabbered when the opportunity to speak occurred. “A better one was kept in this room?” Just as he crossed the nursery’s thresholds he noticed, but then it was already too late.
The cradle exuded strange fluctuations and on its wooden frame runes and shapes that shone, in hard to tell yellow or gold, spread to the floor and all around the area the young woman was standing. A nearly transparent pillar of the indistinguishable yellow gold shade emerged from the floor, up to the ceiling and sealed from above and below. In its center were the cradle, and the young woman and the baby protected beside it.
Amazed at the ability of the formation’s constructor to conceal it, Zax stepped into the nursery, stopping twenty centimeters from the barrier. “You went and did it…” He said, indicating in his tone his unhappiness.
Within the barrier the woman began to express signs of relief, regardless of Zax presences. She could hear as well and see him and gathered that he took the defensive formation for a headache he will not be able to deal with.
“Your husband… when is he returning?”
His question aroused astonishment as well as confused her.
“Your husband! Is he gonna back soon?” Zax repeated, pushing for an answer.
The young woman’s mouth hovered opened for a second or two, undetermined whether to answer or not. Eventually, she closed it shut. Her look of uneasiness changes to obstinate.
Zax sighed, curious to how old she was to handle the situation in such fashion. He already said that he was not here to do harm. Yes, he barged in, but that was the full extent of his misconduct. He shook his head. “You somehow activated this formation without considering the consequence, did you?” His words seemed to resonate in a manner that caused her confidence to waver. His saw that she was conflicted with the idea of having a conversation with an intruder, so he did her the favor of explaining himself. “The Soul Sense obstructing formation, when I arrived to the city I could detected hundreds of it etched to all kinds of structures. Although it’s rather unusual that someone bothered to erect one in an unassuming place like this, apparently it’s common in this city – is it offered cheaply or something? In any case, it is the reason why I, and other experts, do not concern with looking up things of value that may be hidden in such places”.
In short, when something rare turns common interest in it is lost.
“Your problem, which I supposed is my fault and that is why I’m trying to reason with you, is that the protective formation you triggered… it is on an entirely different level than the one etched to your home, something that is a waste on an ordinary place such as this, unless...”
There was no need to elaborate what “unless”. The young woman’s countenance further worsened in realization.
“This formation’s fluctuations spread not just around this room, but even the restaurant under and the floors above. For sensitive and vigilant experts it is also not a problem to sense it from kilometers away. Are you getting what I’m trying to say? Right now you are locked at the center of a beacon, a very suspicious beacon, that will soon drag here problematic bunch of-”
“You are wrong!” At last, she spoke, cutting him midsentence. “Please leave us alone”.
‘I’m here for the something, but staying to protect you. In a matter of seconds now-”
Yet another incomplete sentence…
Through the nursery’s windows and the veranda out in the living room, swift silhouettes entered the apartment with clear, hostile intent.
They were four in total, humans, or at least in human form, Peak Core Masters, moving in unity.
He was not a mist cultivator, so they could only assume. Bodily cultivators whose strength rivaled the third realm of mist cultivation were too scarce to expect an encounter with.
A hand reached out, muscular, long. It grabbed Zax’s shoulder and pulled.
Zax did not resist. ‘Are they her protectors?’ He guessed why the young woman was contradicting him.
They wanted to take the fight outside the building. Once in the open the man holding Zax tossed him diagonally.
Crushing would of caused too much of a commotion. Zax halted midair a meter above ground. Straightening, he raised his head, meeting eye to eye the over two meters and thirty four centimeters, bearded giant and his three companions as they stood on the stone railling of the veranda and scrutinized him.
“Let’s not escalate the situation. I’m only here for a personal matter and have no intention to trouble the woman inside, or her baby”. Zax jumped toward the veranda to make a point, if they wanted a fight outside, then it was up to them to make sure he does not get back in.
It should be noted that this ordeal could have ended in an instant. Nevertheless, the four, alert by the implementation of the defensive formation, come here to protect the young woman, which was also his goal, until her husband or someone else familiar to her will show up and take on the responsibility, perhaps would be even willing to listen? Perhaps not…
Two men, two women, two azure auras, one fiery red, one windy green flickered brightly.
Of the men, the shorter with light brown hair and light brown skin carried duel pistols and was the only one to stay on the railing after the other three plunged at Zax.
The white haired, white skinned giant swung a just as giant two handed, double edged sword. He was the first to pounce.
Following behind, coming second and third, were the two women. A black haired, white skinned barehanded and a red headed white skinned with fists clenching something or things tiny.
Brimming azure mist glowed on the blade of the double edged sword. The giant man sliced, though without exhibiting the intent of a killing blow.
Zax caught the blade, his momentum from the jump unaffected by the impact. Shaking the blade, a vibration passed through it to the hilt and then the hands holding it. The giant man felt his bones cracking and suddenly his grip loosened.
Releasing the blade, the sword fell along the giant man who could not be in more of a hurry to return and stop Zax.
“Who are you?” Zax asked the barehanded woman as he caught her by the wrist, millimeters from delivering a palm strike to his chest. He wanted to know if they also had a connection to New Earth.
A green luster reflected back on him from the woman’s eyes. She was almost impressed by the way he shifted his weight to maintain momentum and his quick reflexes, managing to hold her hand… but unlike the other three she invested herself in cultivating her bodily Martial art.
Inhaling, she drew her hand, making Zax feel as if he was holding onto air. She rested a hand on his shoulder as her body soared upside down, whilst attentive to each of her opponent’s motions. Her body spun; her hand acting like the tip of a spinning top. Fluctuations of mist and windy attribute swirled around her like a mini tornado. She thrust her legs up and the tornado shrunk, concentrated with each kick into her body.
‘Pushing me down?’ Zax was amused. She was fast, astoundingly for a Peak Core Master and her bodily technique was elegant and beautiful as her well carved figure. Still, the difference between their bodily controls was akin to the gap between the heaven and the earth and even his most minor insight into the dark attribute maneuvers was vastly superior to her Martial art.
Raising a hand, Zax tapped her by the shoulder. Her heart sunk, with her skills it should have been close to impossible for him to pry her hand off his shoulder, much less get a hold of her swirling body. Yet he managed, and when he did the inertia of her movement abruptly ceased, as if it her tornado was blown by a much greater, little did she know it was the difference of understanding the natural elemental forces.
“Get down”. Zax wrenched her from her upper position, throwing her at the giant man. “Next”. His gaze turned to the red headed woman as his body still went up to the veranda. “Show me what you got”. If they sought to entertain him, he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, the red headed or the last fellow with the duel pistols might surprise him and momentarily thwart his advancement.
An azure gleam mixed with the red of each strand of hair. The red headed woman released the tension in her clenched palms, from which a pearly colored powder scattered in the air, forming a pinkish cloud.
Using powder as a weapon was a first for Zax to witness, but he could still guess the purpose of the usage by past experiences. For the red headed woman, powder was her unique tool intended for erecting formations.
‘Formations expert!’ If anything, Zax was most interested about soul formations and therefore hoped that this was her type of specialty.
It was just him and her inside the cloud. Everything beyond was blurry, hardly visible even to his exceptional vision.
Explosions reverberated from every direction.
Zax felt a blast right at his face.
Another one went off at the back of his neck.
‘A soul formation!’ The red headed woman gifted him exactly what he wanted. ‘Let’s see…’ He preferred not to, but without his Soul Sense he could not thoroughly examine the formation and it would have been a waste to rashly break it by sheer force.
His Soul Sense stretched far enough to perceive everything clearly through the pearly cloud.
The red headed woman used her own hair to construct the layout, shapes and forms that amplified her consciousness and channeled it with the powder. In essence, extended the domain of her soul beyond her mortal body and trapped Zax within it, in the process nullifying the physical, extracting and isolating the spiritual.
‘Remarkable!’ Even though he perceived it all, he had troubles comprehending it. ‘If our souls were on the same level… no! if mine was just a bit weaker and could not support itself with the dark attribute…’ He somewhat had a sense of dread.
‘Fortunately she is not that kind of opponent’. He felt embarrassed for having this thought. ‘Now, lingering any longer and I will really be pushed back’. Awakening his numb body, resuming the connection with the soul, the explosions dimmed. ‘Still not under its effect…’ A very minute influence, but influence nonetheless.
Breathing in, compressing air in his lungs, Zax’s cheeks inflated and he blew.
“Lenrah!” The duel pistols guy shouted.
Simply blowing air was not enough for Zax to assault a Peak Core Master, but when adding high pressure and catching them unprepared, he could certainly give them a scare.
The cloud collapsed and the powder scattered with the wind. The aghast red headed woman, Lenrah, felt something invisible hitting her abdomen and though it was painful no real injury was done.
Enraged, the duel pistols guy shot at Zax, who was roughly a meter and a half from reaching the veranda and by now had his fill from testing his opponents. Besides, the formation on the pistols seemed to only generate strong, penetrating bullets that as dangerous as they are, against a bodily cultivator they were most useless.
His final assessment… ‘There is definitely a genuine expert behind these four, but is it really the husband of the woman upstairs?’
A foot on the stone railing, Zax caught the five bullets, so they will not ricochet into the apartment, and punched the last of the four.
“Duthur, stop him”. As he and the two women regained their footing, the giant man shouted at the duel pistols guy, Duthur, but how could he?
‘Have they not got it?’ Zax wondered what the chances were for all four to be so dense and not recognize their inferiority.
“Stand back!” Two voices echoing as one resounded in everybody’s ears.
Zax was a step inside the apartment when he had a tingling sensation at his back. He turned around, prepared to confront with the man or woman with the capital to order the four and maybe the one who trained them?
He could not see them, as they both were invisible, but certainly feel their oppressive demeanor.
From the left sliced a crescent and sharp blade of a scythe.
From the right rammed the heavy, deceive and vicious head of a mace.
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