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His gaze converged on the two boys and instantly softened.
His initial desire was to protect them, the most fragile part of him, but as Zax considered along the way and was more than gratified to learn that he was right; following Niel and Jingrow’s escapades through the High Rankers' Trials alleviated the tension from his heart.
To pass this year’s High Rankers' Trials the participating mercenaries had to accomplish one of three objectives. The first one was to capture a very elusive two scales Deformed Being. The second was to capture, dead or alive, a fugitive from a preselected list of persons. The third was to traverse one of five preselected paths that stretched across the Western Continent.
Niel and Jingrow began with the goal in mind to capture the requested Deformed Being.
The target was a Footloose Squeaker, a Deformed Being the size of an adult man’s hand. It has five thin tails, a chipmunk’s head and a jerboa’s body. Overall it looks like a cute azure little thing.
Many participants chose to go after it, mainly because it seemed like an easy target and the Mercenary Association disclosed its most frequent whereabouts. Subsequently, almost twenty percent of the participants who went after the Footloose Squeaker ended up losing their lives to its lethal speed, which could effortlessly pierce the defensive means of most Core Masters and even some first level Marital Mortals.
Niel and Jingrow were lucky to be among the eighty percent who escaped with heavy to minor injuries. Afterwards, the twelve and fifteen years old decided to change their pick for the third objective and headed to the closest path to them, at the time, of the given five.
‘They will be fine’. Zax decided to withdraw. Besides, he was starting to feel bad for Shadow for tailing him as he also followed the two boys in secrecy.
‘Silternjan departure a week ago did not stir trouble, yet’. The church Child spacecraft’s take off was not exactly inconspicuous. ‘Senior Gid thinks it’s an ominous sign and convinced others the same thing, which ultimately is good. The tribe leaders, patriarchs and matriarchs are now working almost enthusiastically to reseal New Earth when the time will come’. He flew to New Earth, contemplating.
‘The stride and a half my spirit has left to reach the sixth bottleneck of insight… I need to prepare for it, so if it won’t happen naturally, and it probably won’t because of the lingering Godly Retribution, I’ll be able to force it in a moment of life and death’.
Valgarel, Grandmaster Kartion’s cave and the Martial family’s home.
“Master”, Zax found Kartius in the Essence Cave, spending time with Laivien.
Even after so many years she had yet to give birth, was could still not transform from her her animalistic White Doe form, confined to her pavilion with a big violet stone beside her and in reliance of her caretakers Krikitories.
“Little Zax!” Pleasantly surprised, Laivien gestured for him with her giant doe head to approach her. “Why is that the only times I see you are when there things to celebrate or when you look melancholy?” She nudged and bit his thick head, unafraid of harming him. She could not even if she wanted to…
“If I’ll say that I’ll come more often, will you forgive me?” Zax rubbed her muzzle.
“Will you lie again?” Laivien released him, uninterested in his answer she asked. “What do you need your Master for?”
“Come here, Martial son”. Kartius instructed in his giant animalistic form of a Black Stag.
Sitting crossed legged on the ground; Zax pulled his head back to view his Master’s face. “I wish to prepare, but I don’t know how, Master. My mind is settled, my heart is clear and my spirit abiding. It’s only right that I should feel at peace with myself, be in top condition… Yet, perhaps recent event made me overthink the repercussions of failure that I can’t seem to bring myself to decide on my own… or maybe I just need your blessings? I’m not sure, so I came. Please guide me, Master”.
“Martial son”, Kartius opened after a deep contemplation, his tone suggesting of mixed emotions. “I can’t help you”.
“You can’t?!” Zax repeated, flabbergasted.
Kartius shook his head, spreading gales of wind. “You surpassed me, surpassed big brother, His Valor Ozeyn, as well as the heroes of your Kingdom Earth. It’s time for you to recognize it... Your Martial father cannot outthink you, suppress you, fathom your insights…”
“Master…” Zax uttered in disarray.
“Big brother…” Laivien saddened.
“Indeed”, Kartius ignored them. “I’m still your Master. I nurtured you, taught you, reprimanded you… These are my accomplishments that will forever stay true to both you and me, Martial son”.
Tears streamed in two smooth lines down Zax’s face. His Master’s refusal was also a form of revelation that he received in this, final lesson. “Martial father”. He did as he was told not to since their first meeting and kneeled.
“Frivolous child”. Kartius, too, shed two trails of tears that made his black fur shine.
Laivien could not look. She turned her neck and grazed her stomach, tenderly listening to the tiny heartbeat of her and Grandmaster Kartion’s child… a pregnancy that lasted far, far too long for all but herself and loved one to hold on hope for.
Suddenly a hand gently pressed her abdomen.
“Zax?” She did not notice his approach.
“For this child, too!” He murmured in resolution.
He could not have his Master prepare him. Instead, he found causes to proceed in wishing for others’ future before his own; a simple conclusion to his dithering and an easy solution to his setback, which was good enough to incite his resolve.
“Where are you going, what are you about to do?!” Sensing the change in his apprentice, Kartius shuddered. His intent oozed determination in potency that made one think, he intends to flip the earth and drain the sea.
“I won’t do anything”. Zax assured with a calm smile, but his gaze said otherwise.
“Martial son, Zax!” Kartius rebuked. He did not ask because he will not be of help, but now he got a glimpse to the matter that weighed on his apprentice’s heart. “For what are you preparing?” He yelled to his fading silhouette.
A voice resounded loud from afar, but in fact only Kartius could hear it.
“To confront a God”.
One after the other, priests and nuns greeted with smiles of longing and piety.
The Child spacecraft navigated through space for eight days before boarding the Grand Abode Mother spacecraft.
Archbishop Silternjan, Cardinal Northstar and the Bishops who stayed behind with them hastened their steps through the upper corridors of the immense spacecraft.
Back in Ercas Mir the Grand Abode appeared to be built at the summit of Onzengvas city, yet in reality not only it was the nucleus of The Almighty’s belief on the planet, but also the command center of the Mother spacecraft, while the entire city was the rest of its body!
“Is she awake? Did she recover?” Archbishop Silternjan inquired Sister Beatriz.
“She woke up two days ago, but her mental state… Only one of her three personalities is actually awake and it’s the Princess Of Veiher…” Sister Beatriz’s unwavering demeanor faltered in the brief instance she named the third personality.
“It’s fine”. Archbishop Silternjan unworriedly declared. “Right, Cardinal Northstar?”
“She is a good girl”. Cardinal Northstar asserted.
Sister Beatriz sighed inwardly and continued to lead the way.
The passed gardens, climbed elevators and stairs and stopped in seldom to praise the down and the wary who left their birth planet and struggled to adjust to ungrounded life, without real blue sky.
They arrived to the entrance of shut chamber with a tall metallic door; there they met a familiar figure…
“Your Young Eminence?!” Archbishop Silternjan sent the Bishops to their respective posts in the Grand Abode, to take care of the responsibilities he temporarily put off, therefore only he, Cardinal Northstar and Sister Beatriz could see the strange marking on the potential next Holiness.
Stelero Mars looked miserably beaten. From top to bottom he was scratched, bruised and from some wounds still bleeding.
“This…” Cardinal Northstar said.
“Happens whenever I try to see her”. The composed and confident, almost radiant Stelero Mars actually exposed a disheartened countenance that was nothing but unbefitting for someone with the exalted status of an Ascended Elite.
“Will she do this to us, too?” Cardinal Northstar blubbered in shame, but the others did not blame him. If the “Good girl”, Princess Of Veiher, will decided to rip his face, who will dare stop her?
“She is quite irked at all of us. Well, you, me and Archbishop Silternjan”. Stelero Mars grudgingly admitted. A white light emerged from beneath his skin and in a blink all wounds and blood marks vanished. Once more, his untainted visage dazzled purity.
“Sister Beatriz”, Archbishop Silternjan smiled at her. “Please show us inside”.
“Yes, Archbishop”. Sister Beatriz was a tad reluctant to enter what she deemed no different than the lion's den. She walked forward and placed her palm on the door and a red light underneath it indicated the scanning complete and she may enter.
Just as the door slid up, a broken piece of porcelain hit the floor and shattered into smaller fragments.
“Your Highness, please have mercy on this nun who came to visit you”. Sister Beatriz hastily beseeched in a pitiful voice.
“Cowardly Mars has left? Beatriz, you may enter”. A voice that was similar yet not exactly with the same tune as the other two personalities rang upliftingly.
Sister Beatriz bowed, stepped in and eyeballed the formerly so loveable girl.
Her attire was still that of Luminous Church, but its condition…
Of the silver robe, its lower section and the sliver were mercilessly torn, revealing exquisitely pearly thighs and slender arms, while the metal plate embedded with the words “Luminous Church”, an integral part of the dress code, was dumped on the floor with the imprint of a fist.
Purple hair cascaded down to her hip and discharged electrical currents.
She floated in the room, around her more broken glass, wood and torn stuff that used to be expensive furniture.
In her hands a ball of lightning gathered with domineering fluctuations.
She gazed at Sister Beatriz and then captured a glimpse of the pristine robes of the two men lingering behind the doorstep.
Her grin made Sister Beatriz gulp.
“How come not all guests are coming over?”
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