Book 8 – Element
Chapter 22 – Fate
“Third realm bodily cultivator!” If he was shocked before, now Zax was utterly flabbergasted.
As far as he knew about the state of bodily refinement techniques in both New Earth and Ercas Mir, the latter was far behind and the former had only three noteworthy bodily refinement techniques, one of which, arguably the best, was Grandmaster Kartion’s Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. Another, most famous yet in second place, he encountered in the Martial competition, Elijah‘s Scarlet Armor. However neither Grandmaster Kartion nor Elijah had yet to create the third realm phase of their respected techniques, at least it was ridiculous to imagine that they managed to in the relative short span of time that passed since he left.
“Aren’t you a soul cultivator?” Instead of considering other techniques, Zax concentrated on examining Gid Chu’s physique through his stature and what little he could see of his exposed skin. There was nothing peculiar, to be fair he was not sure that he could find any prominent indications that will expose the man before him as a bodily cultivator, he met very little of them… but not all signs could be hidden, something that would rouse his instincts, should he care enough to pay attention, had to be somewhere. Nonetheless, he still detected nothing and therefore doubted Gid Chu’s claim.
“Don’t bother”. Gid Chu recognized the scrutinizing gaze in Zax’s eyes. He gave him that same look when he first saw him, only better concealed it. “It wasn’t that I was a soul cultivator as a last resort. I terminated my mist cultivation after reaching the first Martial Mortal’s level. By then my soul on its own was capable of dealing great damage to most Core Masters and my body was honed by the energies of the third realm breakthrough. At worse, I altogether had the battle powers of Beginner third level Core Master”.
‘That’s right’. Zax concurred. ‘My mist cultivation is held back till I gather all Black Cores. I had forgotten that Mist Users also strengthen their body with each breakthrough’. “Which refinement technique is it?” On a personal level it was more important for him to know the first bodily refinement technique to pave a path for the third realm, than continuing to discuss the five powers and their Immortal powerhouses.
“Infinite Transformations Altering Body, Yurnal’s own creation. You, cultivate Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, right? Well this is another Valgarel’s bodily refinement technique and from the mouth of one of the strongest being on this planet, Ozeyn, it’s qualified of being the third best bodily refinement technique”.
‘”Ozeyn” as in “His Valor Ozeyn”?’ Zax did not ask out loud, pretty much sure of the answer. Furthermore, receiving a reply to his initial question, the tremors in his heart ceased. ‘It can be ahead of the curve, that doesn’t make it better than Grandmaster’s. There got to be shortcomings in this bodily refinement technique that in my perspective wouldn’t be worth the haste’. Though ego was somewhat involved, the fact of the matter is that if he could go back and choose, Zax would have still preferred to cultivate the slow, even incomplete, yet best, than third or second best regardless how easy and fast they were in comparison.
“Are you satisfied? If not we can exchange pointers later. Infinite Transformations Altering Body’s third phase might not be better than the subsequent basic tempering the body receives from mist energy when Martial Mortal attains the fifth level, not to mention the whetting from the other superior techniques, but it has its own benefits that should not be underestimated”.
Zax said nothing in response, nevertheless it was determined that later he will verbally accept Gid Chu’s offer, if anything, to examine how well he can match himself against someone comparable to fourth level Martial Mortal. As for avoiding Yurnal because of the commotion he made and the Black Core he was reluctant to give up, unless the reputed Sinister Chain’s Second Leader will suddenly show up, he will reflect over his options after the exchange.
“How much of your information did you get from your hostage?”
“’Prisoner’. We had no intention of giving her back. It was already implausible for Yurnal to grab her before Blue Sea’s Admiral interfered”. Allowing killing intent to ooze out, Gid Chu wanted for Zax to understand the kind of conclusion there is and will be for anyone from the five powers. “She just recently broke through, yet still compelled Yurnal to a desperate situation and took the lives of six members in the process”. He settled down and proceeded to both answer and explain. “Breaking a fourth level Martial Mortal required effort meticulous and radical. It wasn’t that eventually we could make her talk… we isolated her spirit, smashed her soul and amassed whatever we could before the fragments dissipated and her spirit moved on. If she had the resolve to suicide at the time her captivity was imminent, she would have got the chance to exhibit one last act of devotion. In the end she probably deluded herself thinking that her Admiral will save her, which is why you might as well say that she willingly provided us with information.
“To your query, of all the things we know, perhaps seventy to eighty percent came from her”.
“So much… are you certain of its reliability?”
“Have you ever tortured someone’s soul? If your skills are up to the task, the disparity in soul cultivation isn’t significant and the subject did not cultivate a relevant soul technique, then distinguishing results won’t be as challenging as you may think. Would you like me to pour you a second cup?” Gid Chu collected his cup and saucer and got up from the chair, on his way for a refill of his apparently delicious coffee.
“No”. Zax said and waited for him to return from the kitchen.
“They like the flavor stronger here, in this part of the world. After getting used to it, finding a decent brand in the Western Continent, back home, even in the eastern and northern parts of this continent is practically hopeless”.
“I’m fine”. Zax repeated to close of the topic of the coffee. “Why the five powers are a threat and not the immortals behind them? Say that we’ll uproot and exterminate anyone and everyone from the five powers, won’t the Immortals put aside their differences and come?”
“You are taking the notion of their existence pretty good… It’s a good point. It was a problem that we, too, thought of, but then we extracted a soul fragment that gave us the solution. When the five powers found and arrived to the planet, the fifth level Martial Mortals who lead informed their subordinates, only those who originated from the same place as them and were and reach the fourth Martial Mortal’s level (see why big brother still in the dark?), that only upon completion of the excavation their Immortal leaders will ‘descend’. I suppose they want to swiftly clear what treasure our planet has, and to avoid prolong struggle agreed to come for it only after it would be found. Considering that thousands of years gone by yet other than their attitude toward New Earth’s natives, nothing changed in the workings of the five power nor they were ordered to expedite the excavation, we can assume that time is not of the essence for Immortal beings and therefore we have plenty of it to nurture an Immortal from our own as a backing. That means that if we do exterminate the five powers, we’ll need to do it before they could alert their Immortal leader so we’d actually have the sufficient time to prepare for them”.
There was it, ‘Sinister Chain’s grand plan’. Zax thought. “Immortals… I’m capable of having the upper hand against third level Martial Mortals; it’s commonsense for me to start and aim higher, which is why I want to ask… Is ‘Immortal’ the name of the realm after Martial Mortal?” Though he knew that the Martial path leads to Immortality, to use the concept freely in his questions without letting Gid Chu suspecting how he knows about it, he had to play dumb for a bit.
“No”. Gid Chu’s answer caught Zax by surprise.
‘Was he misled?’ Although his own knowledge was also limited, Zax was sure that the expert was fully candid in his messages.
“Calling it ‘realm’ isn’t entirely incorrect, but a better term to call it would be ‘Second Stage’ of cultivation. The first one is Mortality, afterwards comes Immortality. Immortality is also divided to different levels, possibly realms, but this is a subject we know very little on. We primarily got from her the importance of the second realm’s six bottlenecks of insight and that for third realm cultivators to achieve Immortality they must pursue a pinnacle comprehension of an attribute. The first is a prerequisite for the success of the Martial path; the second is a requirement for ascension”.
Zax sighed inwardly. ‘Maybe they don’t know more than me, but I was just lucky to receive the guidance of the expert. Ultimately joining a large faction, larger than yourself, is truly more beneficial than being a loner’. It was a fact he could not deny.
“So that’s how it is…” He acted as if he was completely oblivious, for a while silent, seemingly contemplating a thought, an insight. “Can someone really make it, a human or a beast from New Earth, is there someone with the potential to reach Immortality and back those of us with linage from before the great immigration?”
“There is, two actually. Big brother Ariel and ruler of Valgarel, Ozeyn”.
“Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn?” The farther the conversation went the more incredulous certain portions of it sounded to Zax. It was actually due to the confident manner Gid Chu elaborated on each matter, but neither could be blamed. “My Master and Grandmaster told me that senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn are equally matched, or at least that is the common belief of New Earth’s experts. But should not senior Ariel be a fourth level Martial Mortal? The five powers not only have each fifth level Martial Mortal, their history, if everything you told me is true, is more abundant. Even if senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn indeed reach Immortality”, he wanted to say “Evolutionary Ascension”, but Gid Chu did not mention it so he picked his words carefully. “It’s likely that each of the five powers will have by then an additional Immortal or more in their ranks. Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn won’t be able to face alone eight Immortals and do you even know how far the current Immortal powerhouses behind the five powers are in their Immortal path?”
“There are no bulletproof plans, Zax”. Gid Chu emphasized. “Of course we, I, want to cover all aspects of our plan, but not all issues are solvable and to deal with them, to minimize deficiencies, we sometimes need to place bets on ourselves and be prepared to make a sacrifice”.
“That sounds to me like glorying needless suicide. Why can’t we let the five powers excavate what they want and leave-”
“Who said that they would leave?” Gid Chu interrupted. “Forget for a moment that they might drain this planet for all of its valuable resources for cultivation, why they populated the planet if not for assimilating it? There is only one occasion in which Nature’s decree that ‘the strongest rules and the week cannot complain for being subjugated’ can be disregarded, and that is when the weak’s life is threatened and there is nothing else to lose. That is our situation. We are oppressed, confined and vulnerable. There is no freedom in compliance, nor opportunity to forge our own path. And it’s not just we who are native to this Earth for countless generations. Those the five powers used to populate the surface of the Earth might be next in line, but in the same boat”.
“So there is no other choice than objecting them…”
“Exactly, and fighting back, that is the fate of those at the edge of the wooden board. Otherwise, death”.