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“She can come back, but she chose to stay?!” In his humble bedroom, Archbishop Silternjan received Sheldon’s transmission and replayed it several times just to make sure he is not yet demented.
‘In the name of The Almighty, Sheldon, don’t you dare send a message to avoid direct communication!’ Archbishop Silternjan sent back, but alas, mediating between the church and Zax for Sister Iaura was not his problem anymore.
‘Oh, what am I supposed to do now?’ Archbishop Silternjan inwardly wailed. Looking up to the ceiling and through it to the blue sky, he prayed to The Almighty for mercy. ‘She must return before then…!’
Roughly two and a half months later… The long awaited day arrived.
“Remember that you must contact us at least once a week!”
“Don’t eat whatever you find. Even Deformed Being can be poisonous, not to mention dangerous to hunt, so if you can’t identify whether it’s safe, wait till you get someplace populated to buy food”.
“Always be sensible! Should you run out of Splinters, it would be up to you to earn more”.
“Exactly, it was your choice. According to you ages, you are still children, but your cultivation entitle you to be called ‘Experts’!”
Having completed the perquisites given to them by Zax, Jingrow and Niel had gained his approval to go adventuring in Ercas Mir. And now, Zetsa, Anet, Zax, Grerown and Shadow said their goodbyes as they sent off two boys beneath the blue sky.
Venturing into the Titan Kapok Trees, Jingrow and Niel’s blood boiled in excitement. Soon after they shifted their gazes from their loved ones to the road ahead, with small backpacks and concealed spatial rings their small frames vanished in the vicinity.
“Don’t cry”. Zax told Anet and drew her to his embrace, whilst he, too, felt fatherly concerns for their son and nephew that threatened to break his promise not to follow, not even with Soul Senses.
“They are strong. Even if they will meet an adult Black Chrome Alligator, worst case scenario they’d be able to escape with light wounds”. Shadow remarked.
“Truly tactless”. Grerown shook his head as he and Zetsa held hands.
“Shadow, in such occasions you should wish for an auspicious journey”. Zax chided.
“Yes, Boss, may the both of them have an auspicious journey”. Shadow said detachedly.
“Obdurate”. Zetsa murmured what everyone thought, but since it was only a matter of a hardheaded decorum none kept pestering.
“Zax”, Anet called him as he turned around.
Her expression told him what was on her mind, so he said before she could. “It’d be fine”. His air of confidence blew vigorously and reassured her.
“Be safe”. She said nevertheless.
Their exchange attracted the others’ attention, but Zax did not give explanations. He looked to Shadow. “Set out”.
“Ready?” Zax asked the man waiting leisurely on a two meters tall boulder within an Essence Cave.
“It’s like a sauna for Core Masters and above cultivators”. Bin Bin drew a long breath and exhaled in comfort. He jumped down from the boulder. “Yes, for three months now”. He eagerly stretched in preparation to scuttle. “Shall we?”
Zax smirked. “Take the lead. Something tells me you already know the way”.
Without answering, Bin Bin kicked the ground and bolted, choosing to exercise his body instead of flying.
There was more than a single route for the cave before the Savage Caves and the one their traversed was the shortest from the Essence Cave.
‘From what he told me this is his visit to New Earth and since he came he never strayed so far from Kingdom Earth, yet he seems to know the layout of Valgarel so well…’ Zax squinted.
He was additionally aware that Bin Bin cared zilch for being discreet, but had not decided whether it was because of his blithe temperament or certainty in coping with him when the time arise, should it come to that…
Entering the first Savage Cave, Bin Bin sighed in relief. “I thought the pressure here would be tedious to get accustomed for first comers, regardless of cultivation level”. He looked back at Zax and jeered. “Sure I feel savage force increasing as we go deeper, but I’ve seen worse from an angry Liminton”.
“We of New Earth aren’t as extravagant as those above. This natural tempering land, fit for those below the third realm, is a great blessing that has our gratitude”. From him it was gratitude for Gogetna, from the rest of the world it was for Nature, which is why he did not specify.
“I supposed…” Bin Bin’s line of sight nonchalantly shifted to farther ahead, however something in his acceptance to Zax’s outlook hinted on more profound contemplation.
Keeping the same pace, they made it to the tunnel connecting the first and second Savage Caves and only upon arrival to the other side did Bin Bin slowed down to Zax’s position.
“Here is the place…” At last, hesitation revealed itself fleetingly.
“From here on our advancement won’t be parallel”. Zax notified. ‘Somewhere in this place is a chamber with one of the three locks to the Godly Law Template. Except from it, this place is only good for mainly cultivation the soul and collecting attribute essences. Which is it that made you want to come here?’
“I can sense it”. Bin Bin agreed. “Say, will you interfere with me?” He suddenly made eye contact and examined the tiniest ripples in Zax’s aura.
“You claimed that your actions won’t cause problems. Don’t make me think otherwise and I’ll let you be”.
“In that case, neither of us has to worry”. Bin Bin laughed. “I could make fun of the first cave, but not of this one. And being someone who cares dearly of his life, even if you weren’t sticking to me like glue, I wouldn’t want to do something to agitate the forces in this cave”.
Finding that their agreement still holds, Bin Bin left Zax at the entrance of the cave and began to proceed alone in moderate strides, contending against the gravitational and savage forces.
‘Last I’ve been here I made it to the twelve hundreds and seventy three meters mark, all thanks to my rising understanding of the dark attribute. At the time, I could even take dozen more paces to the thirteen hundred mark with extra effort. Bin Bin has robust mist cultivation and decent understanding of his attribute to match someone beyond his level. The one hundred and twenty meters mark should have been his limit… how come he is almost at the one hundred and fifty with no sign of slowing?’ Zax could only rely on his eyes in the second Savage Cave, and by choosing to remain behind he could only see Bin Bin’s back.
He took a step forward, intrigued by Bin Bin’s methods more than what he wants to achieve, since he knew the consequence of breaking a lock and how immensely more adverse could be the results of how it broke.
He caught up to Bin Bin on the three hundred meters mark, way past his threshold before the Elite Tryouts, but the latter did not react or even seem aware to his approach.
Sanguine glow shone in his eyes and blood slid from a cut in his forehead.
‘He isn’t conscious…’ Zax followed the thin trail of blood that split below the eyebrows to each eye, as if to refuel the bloody radiance. Despite his intense concentration, his vision failed to penetrate the scarlet veil.
Circulating his breathing, he stirred the vitality of his body, then dark attribute energy and finally portion of dark element energy; converging them in the form of a three layers formation in his pupils. It was an arduous task that required complexity to equipoise the risk of channeling dark element energy to his eyes.
By the four hundred and fifty seven meters mark the formation was completed and Zax breached a minuscule section of the scarlet veil in Bin Bin’s left eye.
‘Incredible! This can’t be a Mortal technique and there… this!’ A waning green droplet appeared through the crack in the sea of blood. ‘It resembles the Diluted Element… Green is the hue of the windy attribute, is it pure windy element energy? But it’s different than the dark element energy I can muster. In terms of quality I can’t even deduce its potency’, he averted his gaze to the right eye. ‘And Bin Bin utilizes a drop in each eye!’
Zax’s heart faltered. If the droplets of windy element energy were counted as tools, in this situation, then their application at the hands of a mere Martial Mortal demanded an absurd amount of intricate deliberation.
The seven hundred mark.
‘The windy element energy both protects and assists Bin Bin in surveying the cave… for the hidden chamber?’ There was nothing else in Zax’s opinion worth going to such lengths to obtain, as far as he knew.
Eight hundred, nine hundred…
Drenched in sweat and with turmoil in his Inner Panorama, due to the condition of his soul and spirit, Zax realized that it will be impossible for him to reach the thousand meters mark, much less his old record or Bin Bin’s ultimate destination.
He halted and watched Bin Bin getting farther away.
The cave was roughly twenty kilometers in a straight line from its entrance.
Thousand meters, two kilometers, three… five… ten…
If Zax was still beside Bin Bin, he could see the green droplets depleting at an accelerating rate. Without them, Bin Bin will have to withstand on his own the two forces of the cave, in other words, dealing himself a quick death sentence.
‘Stopping just past the eleven kilometers mark… is the entrance for the chamber situated around there?’ Zax attempted to search but found nothing peculiar. ‘What’s that? Did he remove one of the drops?’
Zax read correctly the motions of Bin Bin’s body from the back. Indeed, he removed a droplet and let it fall on the earth. Meanwhile, the remaining droplet was blocking the brunt of the two forces with only second before being fully consumed.
The falling droplet made contact with the ground and was absorbed to it almost like it was part of its larger whole.
All kinds of lights emerged from the ground, depicting visual aid to the Three Locks formation, as well as sounds, scents and touch.
A multicolored gale blew toward all direction, sweeping with it the two forces of the cave. Zax felt a soothing breeze washing his body and sea of consciousness. To his amazement, his soul and body abruptly healed from all the wounds taken by the Godly Retribution’s onslaught and even more shockingly, his kneeling spirit shuddered as its knees gradually lifted up.
With the two forces not there to obstruct, Zax dashed to Bin Bin and to the opening in the ground that appeared right at his feet.
His eyes were closed and dry blood smeared his face red from forehead to chin. He, too, was in the midst of recovery. In the end, the last part of his method was more harmful to the executioner than the environment and spectator, and in preparation for that the healing wind was implemented.
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