‘This should suffice’. Zax determined after analyzing the crude template of the bodily refinement technique he devised. ‘It’s not at the top of Ercas Mir’s bodily refinement techniques and very much in its diapers, but it’s not like neither of us willing to trade a final product’. It had several of the insights he made on his own, in addition to theories he could sell as probable, overall good enough for twenty hours work.
“Bogon”, Zax waited for after the second evening’s dinner to approach him again.
“Karim, you seemed prepared”. Bogon scrutinized him. “Let’s go to my chamber. We can discuss until dawn. I want to meditate before tomorrow’s trial”.
Four o’clock in the morning. Zax left Bogon’s chamber to his own with quite a lot on his mind. Bogon’s clan came up with very interesting perspectives regarding bodily cultivation, which stemmed from trying to harmonize this type of cultivation with the innate talent of their beast’s species, “Dry Shell Tortoise”, as well as their incompatibility with most mist cultivation techniques in Ercas Mir.
‘It’s kind of a riddle’. Zax mused. ‘The Borvornd clan bodily refinement technique is fairly ordinary, but since it compliments their nature and innate talent, they get thrice the results than others. How can I attain similar harmonization with the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique? The bodily maneuvers are a form of a personalized technique; however it was Master who tailored them for me. Can I find the solution in my dark attribute maneuvers?’
It was near impossible to deduce, at the moment, since the closer he got to complete the dark maneuvers’ first set, the harder it was figuring the next movement in the sequence and unlike his Master, he did not have a template from Grandmaster Kartion to guide him.
‘I’m biting more than I could chew’. He sighed inwardly. ‘Even with this boggling question I’m still in a more favorable position than others…’ It was a fact he could not deny.
He already had all he needs for two out of his three paths of cultivation, himself… to continue developing the dark maneuvers and perceiving the sixth bottleneck of insight. Only for the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique could he shorten time, with the help of external sources. Simultaneously cultivating in all three was more than enough on his plate, and that is without mentioning the matter of his task…. exploring the ways to go from the third to the fifth floor undetected, from encountering members of the church at almost every corner, Zax eventually got the sense that the exploration in itself was a risk that would force him to either commence the operation or abort it. Hence, he chose to delay further action until a later date, during the tryouts, when Archbishop Silternja will invite the contenders again and perhaps will permit entry to the fourth floor.
Nine o’clock in the morning a postulant knocked on the door of Zax’s chamber, informing him that in one hour the second trial day will officially start in the big square.
Zax received the reminder and spent the last fifty five minutes in his chamber, before leaving the Grand Abode together with a cluster of contenders.
The crowd was already seated on the seating stages and priest announcer Armin just finished his opening segment. “Brave Participants, today I ask you to join us once more atop the grand arena!” His amplified voice reverberated, alerting the spectators to the presence of the arriving contenders, those who stayed at the Grand Abode and those who did not, a total of two hundred men and women, humans and beasts.
Soon after Zax and the one hundred ninety nine, the high echelon of the church filled their seats with Archbishop Silternja, Cardinal Northstar, His Young Eminence Stelero Mars and Sister Iaura arriving last.
Archbishop Silternja said his customary peace, before Armin opened up in narration.
“Today’s trial is a test for the most mysterious of the three aspects, the soul!” He left the arena in flight and halted midair. “As you all know, the path for Martial cultivation start with the soul and end with the soul. It is the keeper of balance and neglecting it in favor of the body or dantian is a recipe for disaster”.
Many in the crowd could not help but nod in acknowledgment, especially the common people who were only truly versed in the basics of Martial cultivation.
“Your grace Archbishop Silternja…” Armin caught everyone by surprise when he suddenly to Archbishop Silternja as if asking for support.
Archbishop Silternja smiled and got up from his seat flew and hovered above the arena.
Armin turned to the wondering crowd and contenders in explanation. “To determine the quality of the soul of a large group of people with high cultivation is an intricate task. Moreover, it is an intimate test that takes place in the sea of consciousness. To test so many people at once, the church certainly has the means, but to allow you, dear guests of today, to have view at the waging challenge in our brave participants’ sanctum, his grace Archbishop Silternja has agreed to giving us an helping hand”.
“Don’t worry, everyone”, Archbishop Silternja said the contenders from above as his hands glowed in white and released a flood of thousands bizarre shapes and symbols that encompassed the arena in a dome like formation. Ending his odd execution with a clap, the white shapes and symbols turned invisible. “Priest Armin, please proceed”.
“Thank you, Archbishop Silternja”. Armin said, returning to the crowd and contenders. “Everyone, the quick formation erection you witnessed and his grace continue to maintain, is of a unique and extremely difficult soul formation to master, called ‘Incarnation Scouring’. This formation will transmit soul attacks to the sea of consciousness of our participants, and manifest an image of the attacks’ incarnation above each participant, as well as the method he and she will choose to counter the soul attacks. Similarly to the first day of the tryouts, our participants will be tested on five different levels, however since we are meddling with the soul, each level will only be ten minutes of unceasing soul attacks, after which the participants will receive fifty minutes break, while you, dear crowd, will be able to keep watching the test in a moderated progress till the end of every hour”.
The explanation time was over. Armin landed on the ground, looking at Archbishop Silternja.
“Eh?” Zax and the contenders on the arena detected a hostile surge of soul energy breaching their sea of consciousness out of nowhere.
A white cloud of light invaded the black sky of Zax’s Inner Panorama.
An ensuing sound of thunder reverberated.
A straight beam of light, far from lightning, struck the land of his Inner Panorama and scorched it.
‘It’s the first level and it can already harm my Inner Panorama’. Zax manifested naked body watched from a distance, though it did not really matter if he was at the spot of the strike when the beam landed. ‘Ten minutes of that and my Inner Panorama my truly sustain an injury, and there are more levels to follow…’
Another beam struck, however, this time Zax blocked it with a stream of soul energy, whilst engulfing the white cloud in a black sphere of more soul energy.
‘Shrink’. He ordered and the sphere shrank, eradicating the white cloud inside it. ‘Mm?’ The instant the white cloud was destroyed and the black sphere collapsed, another cloud appeared. ‘So it won’t end until ten minutes will pass or Archbishop Silternja ceases the formation, in this case…’ He trapped the new cloud, too, only did not order the new sphere to shrink, just stay there. The beam of light could not do it any harm, anyway.
Outside the arena, the spectacle of soul techniques was even more varied than the methods used during the Shelter Of Heroes’ trial.
Each of the two hundred had a personal way of dealing with assaults on the soul. Around ninety percent of them had consumed and combined an attribute to their techniques.
To watch all of them dealing with the same challenge differently had caused many of the spectators, regardless of age or level of cultivation, to either gained enlightenment or get a step away from comprehending an important insight.
In contrast to the first day of the tryouts, today everyone in the crowd sat in absolute silence. They might had missed the underdogs’ challenge of Sioul, Zax and Els and the elimination of eight hundred and three contenders, but all those things paled in comparison to such opportunity.
Ten minutes were over and almost all of the contenders effortlessly passed them. After a fifty minutes rest, Armin announced the start of the second hour.
‘What will it be now?’ Zax waited, carefree. The white cloud had the might of a Peak second level Core Master, but had boundless energy that could easily tire a Beginner third level Core Master. ‘Again?’ He doubted as a cloud resembling that of the first level emerged.
The white cloud floated under the black sky for couple of second, without discharging beams. It halted when he got above Zax’s soul and began to quiver. A head arose from the cloud, connected to a small body. It was a creature the size of a four years old child, white in every of its features. It gripped a piece of the cloud, pulled and a light lance formed in its hand.
‘Ha!’ The creature yelled and casted to lance at Zax’s soul. “Ha! Ha! Ha...!” Lance, after lance, after lance, were thrown in quick succession, so rapidly they looked like a downpour of stronger light beams than the previous ones.
Zax engulfed the cloud and the creature as he did in the first level, blocking all the light beams.
The creature confusedly stopped the assault. ‘Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!’ He resumed it, after realizing its circumstance, and cleverly changed its aim to one small spot in the black sphere.
‘It has even more awareness than the Shelter Of Heroes’ constructs!’ Zax puckered his brows. The torrent could not shatter, at its current level, the black sphere. It was something else that intrigued him to the point of pensiveness. ‘Shelter Of Heroes and Incarnation Scouring are both light attribute based formations and they both function in a close manner, producing near sentience constructs, even assembling them flawlessly. “Creation” and “Sentience”, if these are fixed variables, what in here is the nature of the light attribute what is a property of it?’
With the passage of the second hour, forty three contenders were eliminated.
The second level was comparable in might to repeated assault from a Beginner third level Core Master. Among the contenders, more than sixty percent were in the Beginner or Intermediate phase of the third Core Master level, due to not giving up on the last two bottlenecks of insight. The other thirty percent five were at the Peak of the third level, on the verge of resigning themselves to four bottlenecks. Very few among them had particular souls, not as Zax’s, but better than most, while only a mediocre portion of the rest possessed techniques that could enable them in skipping a phase or a level in soul skirmishes. Hence, for those who experienced or were versed with the Incarnation Scouring formation, the elimination of almost a quarter of the contenders was reasonable, and the end of the trial not later than in the fourth hour was exceedingly probable.
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