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“W- What did you say?” Zax asked with a quivering voice, heart throbbing and head feeling like above it a storm is brewing.
“I’m pregnant”. Anet repeated, amused by Zax’s response. “Soon I’ll be a mother and you’ll be a father!”
Zax heard a thunder rumbling in the sky of his Inner Panorama and a black glint reflected in his eyes, quick as lightning. He simply had no idea how to digest the notion of him becoming a father. Yes, he assumed that he would become one someday in the distant future, after all, for cultivators at his and his wife’s levels, even though they just married, thousand years later they would still look the same and very much capable of procreating.
‘Am I… fit to be a father?’ This question was his biggest concern.
“Relax”, able to read his mind, Anet warmly caressed his cheek. “It will all be fine, you’ll see”.
Pulling her closer to him with one hand and with the other holding her hand, bringing to his lips, Zax drew strength from his beloved.
“Yes, it will be”.
The entire Martial family gathered beside the pavilion.
“I want to join!” Mes shot up to his feet and declared. “When you first left to Ercas Mir, worrying to my safety, Master did not let me come along. Now, my little Martial brother is practically unrivaled both below and on this earth. Moreover, this is just a short trip!”
“Shut up, Mes! The main topic is that little brother Zax and little sister Anet are about to add a new little member to the family; be tactful!” Rarahel snapped.
“Little brother Mes, little sister Rarahel, stop arguing”. Simel rebuked. “Little brother Zax, little sister Anet, congratulation!”
“You humans mature rather slowly, but why is it when you reach adulthood you still look like children”. Laivien jeered. Her big doe head was down and on her face climbed a little figure, Jingrow.
Neither Zax nor Anet were offended by her comment. When playful, Laivien loved to lovingly tease. Besides, apart from Grandmaster Kartion and her elder brother Kartius she regarded all members of the Martial family from a parental viewpoint.
Ignoring his little sister’s comment, Kartius examined his sole apprentice and daughter in law. “Good, Martial son! Good, Martial daughter! This Martial father has no other blood expect his sister, yet I somehow still managed to become a grandfather. Thank you…”
“Don’t, Master!” Zax rose to his feet, deeply shaken. “From the moment you accepted me, you treated me as a son, while like Laivien said, I was slow to realize I gained a second father. It’s I that should be thanking you!”
“Thank you, Martial father!” Anet quick wittedly said.
Grandmaster Kartion watched as Laivien played with Jingrow. Up till now, he was the only one to remain silenced. Perhaps, of all present members of the Martial family, only Kartius, who was the first to be taught by him, Simel, who spent most time with him and Raroen, his eldest apprentice, were able to comprehend the sorrowful emotion in his eyes before it concealed itself.
“Thank you, Anet”. Zetsa interrupted, heaving a deep sigh and held Grerown’s, her partner, hand. “Mom and dad will surely rejoice to learn that you are pregnant”.
Once, Marco and Laylen could do nothing but dream of their children someday, in the distant future where only cultivators can live long enough to be part of, settling down. Thirty three percent of this dream turn a reality the day Zetsa discovered she is pregnant. Of their remaining two children, the old Zel couple was not worried about their youngest, Liz. However, they were concerned about their middle child, Zax. In fact, even after he got married, they did know what to assume of the future. Familiar with his and Anet’s temperament, which resembled what was frequently talked about in the low and middle class forums, they were not sure whether in this century or the next, meaning in this life or the next, their son will bless them with a child of his own.
“They will be angry that we did not tell them immediately, but you remembered how they reacted when you announced your pregnancy with Jing Jing. Considering that Don Ram might also get involved, it’s hardly probable that for the next nine months they would let me out of their sight…” Anet admitted the reason for which she and Zax decided to first share the news with the Martial family.
By the side, thinking about his parents’ reaction, Zax shook his head wearily.
‘At least I can now be considered as being filial…’
“Hurry, Anet, come close for us to check you!” Laylen, as well as Anet’s mother, Beka, urged.
“Mom, aunty, there is nothing to check, I’m not even a week pregnant”. Despite saying it, Anet yielded. “Don Ram, you too…”
“Twenty five years old and about to be a father, hahaha!” Marco could not believe his ears, yet could not be happier.
“Oh Zax, you did not disappoint this old man”. Anet’s father was also gratified. “Allowing you to marry my girl was a good choice”. He and his wife kept it to themselves, but initially they both hoped for their daughter to ultimately end up with someone aligned to their standards; not necessarily someone more outstanding than Zax, but a man with accomplishments on both the cultivation path and status, that is, a member of a high class family that would be suitable to the Tal of a Dauch heir.
Zax was more than satisfactory to the criteria, but at the same time, his achievements were too great, the Lensi couple could not see through him to decide. All they could determine was that his aspirations are too fixed on cultivation; he cared very little about integrating in society.
“Don Ram, please help see this child”. Beka invited. “Look at her, blubbering she is only on the first week, yet her cheeks are definitely more rubicund than usual!”
“Let me see!” Liz jumped to the fray. Since the word “pregnant” left Anet’s lips, she had been pushed aside by the adults. “Oh, please, aunty Don, say it’s a girl!”
“Stand back, darling, let me examine my Tal’s condition”. Don poked Liz forehead.
“Ouch!” Liz angrily yelped and rubbed the small red spot on her forehead.
“Hush now, little girl. Behave and I’ll later reward you”. Don soothed Liz as her attention focused on Anet.
“There is no need, Don Ram”, Anet really preferred to wait for after the first trimester before letting others to probe her. With her cultivation level, it was within her power to inspect and learn on her own the situation of every nook and cranny in her body.
“Nonsense, Anet, I’m your Mor, therefore I’m the one to decide where there is or isn’t a need”. Don refuted. “Don’t move”. She placed her palm on Anet’s abdomen and used her Peak Core Master’s mist energy to gently permeate in.
“I hope that you three are happy”. Anet scowled. As gentle as Don was, the invasive foreign mist energy still felt uncomfortable. “Next time-” The words suddenly chocked in her throat and her pupils shrank.
“Anet!” Don gasped.
“HAAAAAAA!” An agonized cry of intense pain escaped Anet’s mouth.
The world stood still as everything froze in front Zax’s heightened perception. He was in the midst of idle conversation with his father and Anet’s father when the note of torment reached his ears and his expression turned grave.
His mind was in turmoil, but it did not let it distract him from acting. He nearly lost control when he grabbed Don by the shoulder and almost, instead of lightly pushing her aside, hurled her from his way.
Rest his palm on Anet’s abdomen, Zax’s complexion paled. ‘No! No! No! No!’ He strived to hold himself from going insane.
Just as he made contact, he sensed blood surging down from her uterus and before he could even ask “Why”, he was met by a deluge of contradicting fluctuations.
Dark and fiery attributes fluctuations were wounding, and were very much close maiming, Anet’s innards. The battleground was the uterus and there, the fiery attributes fluctuations were forcefully repressed whilst continuing to surge from Anet’s dantian and through all her mist channels to maintain resistance.
‘Senior Ariel, senior Trey, whatever medicinal treasures you have, bring them right NOW to my parents’ home at cave twenty five!’ He relieved the dark attribute’s fluctuations and urgently sent via his communicator.
What medicinal herbs he had on his person were meant to be concocted into proper medicine before consumption for the full effect, otherwise the range of their unique qualities both varied and was unknown to him. For one reason, due to his bodily refinement technique, for the most part, his body could recover on its own practically from every injury, with or without external assistant, apart from attribute energy; hence he had very little interest in studying even the basics of medicine. For another, everything he had on him were what little he saved for himself from the resources given to him by General Logan, which he was still unfamiliar with.
Feeling as if even when he was thinking and moving so fast, precious time was slipping away nonetheless, Zax spread his Soul Sense past all caves and tunnels until locating Ariel and Trey. He then picked up Anet carefully, making sure not to stir her wounded body and departed from the apartment with the greatest speed he could muster.
“Senior Ariel!” He called from afar, yet shortened the distanced before his voice could reach its target.
Ariel hurried in his top speed after Zax’s message. When he saw the latter with his wife in his arms, a grim looked appeared on his face.
“Help her consume what you brought; the damaged area is the abdomen, specifically uterus! I’m going to bring senior Trey!” Zax said and left, counting on Ariel to diagnose Anet and understand her condition.
It took him the length of half long exaltation to cross tens of tunnels and caves before reaching Trey. Her cultivation was the lowest among the original Supreme Rulers and so she could not even perceive a blur when Zax caught up to her.
“Senior Trey, I came to escort you”. He stalled briefly to say, grabbed her arm and pulled her after him, safeguarded by a mantle of dark attribute energy.
Another half long exaltation later…
“Well?” He asked, anxious and worried, upon his return with Trey.
“She will be fine. Fortunately, your reaction was prompt, so despite her cultivation level the window to full recovery wasn’t missed”. Ariel turned to face him. “I’m sorry”.
Mist energy circulates and polishes the body after each consecutive breakthrough, resulting in a superior physique, yet one unlike those cultivated by bodily refinement techniques, which means the higher the cultivation level, the most likely certain injuries either will be tough to heal from or bound to leave a lasting mark…
In spite of receiving good news, Zax was upset more than calm, all because the last two words Ariel said.
It was not an apology. It was his condolences for losing the baby.
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