Chapter 4: Birthday At Grandpa's And Grandma's Farm
August thirty one, year 5784. Last vacation day.
After much consideration, Marco and Laylen Zel arrived to the conclusion that it will be better to wait to after the Great Earth's Core Pursuit before enrolling Zax to a post Core School.
For the past month they weighed the pros and cons of sending their young boy to a post Core School right after his vacation. It was a dilemma of many parents in Kingdom Earth.
The fourth grade was unique. Unlike any other grade, although still legally obliged to enroll, enrollment to fourth grade was allowed to be postponed until January. Then, when the date to the next Great Earth's Core Pursuit is revealed to the public and is not later than the following June, enrollment can be postponed until then.
The reason of this leniency was the various changes that children go through after absorbing an Earth's Core ... When registering to a new school year, especially at post Core Schools, switching schools is not permitted throughout the year. In the fourth grade children are mostly being prepared to the Great Earth's Core Pursuit. During this event, the potential of many children to embark on the Martial path is easier to assess when they are participating in the last stage of the event. Therein lies the problem, if by chance a child shows great promise in the evaluation method, his or her name will then be entered to a special registration list that mostly high tier Martial schools, high class families, successful organizations and such ... dare to spend vast amount of their money for its yearly subscription. If a child's future prospects are determined as "above average", but the child already enrolled to a post Core School and the school finds out the results of its student in the evaluation method, it might not let go so easily from this "raw gem" and try anything to preserve it, resulting in even harming the potential of the child by rough and rush polishing.
Marco and Laylen made their decision by having faith in the potential of their son. He was milder than their older daughter, Zetsa, and they put a lot of effort not to make the same mistakes with him, but by doing so they overlooked and missed his uniqueness up until they learned of his extraordinary accomplishments in the Young Mist Users Conference.
For the time being Marco and Laylen gave their consent to the intense training regime that Zetsa formulated to Zax.
December thirty one, year 5784.
Zax sat on the white mattress in his big sister's one-room apartment. The yellow patterns and diverse symbols of the activated Inner Spirit formation covered the four walls, floor and ceiling with blinding light. Nearly five hours have passed since Zax began his training. A layer of frost covered him, giving the impression of an ice statue.
Hot cloud of steam came out of Zax's mouth as he breathed steadily. The temperature lowered again and the breeze, which struck like a cluster of throwing knives, pierced through the outermost layer of his skin as it passed.
Zax released another cloud of steam and waited patiently. It was still too early. The temperature was not cold enough and the wind was too weak.
Five hours were a long time to spend in the Inner Spirit formation, but Zax was not worried that the time outside of it will elapse as fast as it happened a few times in the past. Presently, the formation restrictions remained at the same level that they had been before he reached the Advanced phase of level G and by now he already properly crossed to the Top phase. With his ability to cope with the formation's current level strengthening, though the effect of the training was reduced, the gap between the outside world and the inner world was shrinking.
An additional benefit of keeping the restrictions on the formation was the longest time Zax spent in the Inner Spirit formations the more insights he attained. For instance, when he first started training after crossing to the Advanced phase of level G, Zax realized that the body that froze and shattered every time he trained was a manifestation of his soul. Grasping this discovery, Zax began to experiment, using his soul energy while training in the formation as if it was Qi or Mist energy. By doing so he found out that it is ten times simpler to perform a soul defense than a soul attack, which in turn made it possible for him to drag his training for hours on.
Now, whether a coreless boy at the Top phase of level G should be able to perform either soul defense or a soul attack was another matter entirely that Zetsa, after having the conversation with Zax about what happened in the Young Mist Users Conference, made sure he will not reveal before she will obtain a clear understanding of how he managed to execute this wonder.
The low temperature finally began to affect Zax's efforts to endure with the soul defense. "Qi is useless..." Zax gritted his teeth. He attempted before to have his Qi energy as an additional support against the formation's extreme cold but it ended up being unproductive. The formation severed the connection between the body and soul. The fists that he clenched, the teeth that he gritted the breath that his lungs released, just like the cold and the wind, they were all an illusion. Hence, the Inner Spirit formation's categorization as an illusionary formation.
After seven hours and thirty nine minutes Zax's neck cracked and his head fell to his lap. Following a warm slender touch at the center of his chest, a gushing river of lava spread across the broken fragments of Zax's body. A short while later Zax opened his eyes, facing once again the windowless, dark one-room apartment.
While circulating his breathing, Zax took out from a bag besides the white mattress a flask of green tea and drank half of it. Next, he left the room to check the time in his wristwatch. It was four o'clock in the afternoon. He started training in six o'clock in the morning and only ten hours have passed, which showed his improvement.
"Tomorrow is my birthday". His parents discussed this with him couple of time during this month. Tenth birthday had great importance in Kingdom Earth, in a way it was what many adults considered for the younger generation as the coming of age ceremony.
"I won't be able to train..." He pondered if he should go back to sleep at home or at his big sister's place as he done so already since the beginning of the new school year. "Got to train, got to train. The bottleneck to the next level, a Mist User's level is so close!" He made up his mind. Zax closed the door and went to the white mattress. Sitting and closing his eyes he started a Somnolence Meditation.
January one, year 5785.
"What should I do, grandpa Ger?"
Being unable to train to his heart's content, Zax helped his two grandpas and two grandmas to set up the birthday decoration. It was weird, papering your own birthday. Usually loved ones were solely responsible for this job, but since Zax did not go to school his mom sent him to help and also spend some time with his grandparents.
"Nothing, Zaxy, Laylen sent you hear because we rarely see you this days. Let your grandpas arrange everything. Sit on a chair and tell us how have you been doing?"
Their whereabouts were at Marco's parents' farm. Grandpa Ger and his wife, Ney, had an agricultural farm. They grew all kinds of vegetables, fruits and beneficial plants. Because they lived pretty far, even if in the same cave, Zax visited them once a week or so, however, since the new school year has started it somewhat stretched to a visit or two in a month.
Narrating aloud his daily routine, Zax for a time stayed in the barn with grandpa Ger and grandpa Shi Chin, Laylen's father, and for a time went to the kitchen to taste the food and refreshments his grandmas were making.
At three o'clock everything was ready, but there were still four hours before the birthday party supposed to begin, so Zax and all of his grandparents sat together outside for a while and after grandma Ney packed a bag of sandwiches and cold drinks they traveled through the pastures to see the cattle and sheep, some of the livestock which humanity brought to New Earth and managed to restrict their evolution in contrast to those they labeled as "Beasts" and had a separate territory in New Earth.
"Heavens, Zaxy! Is that Qi?" Grandma Shi Oh, Laylen's mother, almost lost her footing and fell backward.
"My life, Zaxy! No wonder you and Zizi are sister and brother!" Granpa Shi Chin helped caught his wife. He had the same startled look as the other three elders and could barely believe his eyes. Is own coreless grandson could utilize his Qi!
"Hahaha ... Zaxy, unlike Zizi who had a strong soul and could use her Qi at an even younger age you are a bit behind, hahaha..." Grandpa Ger lifted his juvenile grandson and stroked his hair. "Don't mind it. I bet there isn't one boy or girl in all of cave twenty five that can use their Qi, hahaha ... Ain't it proof that you are my blood! Marco, my son, you have pleased me not once but twice, hahaha..." Granpa Ger laughed to his heart's content. In his speech he might have discriminated his other children and grandchildren, but as the only D level Mist User in the family, the most advanced Mist User in the whole family by far, he was extremely overjoyed with his grandchildren who had high accomplishments in such a young age.