Chapter 15: Earth Shattering Brown Digger
A strong pungent odor burned Zax's respiratory system through his nostrils and rose to his brain, the body organ which contained the soul.
Zax woke up from the smell, but when his eyes opened what he saw was foreign. All he could see as he stared above was the ground as the ceiling and a dim light illuminating from somewhere. The last imagery that Zax could remember was the earth he was lying on splitting and a black shadow, like a long and thick whip, moving quickly out of the cracks, tossing large pieces of the shattered earth.
"Urgh..." Zax moaned when he tried to get up. His stomach and back were in pain he was not aware of until he slightly moved himself up. Before he could achieve a measly one hundred and sixty degrees position, Zax's body fell back and acute pain circling his abdomen and lower back specify the area of his injuries.
"Gural ... Gural ... Gural..."
The sound was getting closer, from the direction that his feet were turned to. At the same time Zax also heard "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP..." which was the sound of his heart throbbing.
The same thing that made the "Gural" sound stomped the ground.
"It's getting closer". Zax said aloud only because his mind was busy sulking in misery.
"The unsafe zone ... it wasn't unsafe because its proximity to the REALLY unsafe beasts cave, but because there were still beasts roaming in the searching cave ... I was such a fool! How I didn't think about it?! If it was the entrance to the next cave that they didn't want us to get close to, they could have just placed Guardians at the tunnel..." It was the voice of a child that learned his lesson which rang in his mind.
However, apart from his own natural sprouting temperament, there was one other voice that Zax listened to and in the past few days it can be said, if one looked deeply, that it bewitched his soul, so much that it entwined and became an integral part of Zax's foundations.
The other voice was soundless, so Zax could only interact with it by accepting how it made him feel. The one dominating sensation was arrogance. The same arrogance that made Zax to so easily believe that his hardships will be to sneak into the batch of new participants and avoid the staff members and different Guardians as he crosses the searching cave, than facing the populated beasts' cave he was heading to.
In this moment, it was the sense of arrogance that made Zax to act, rather than keep sulking. Unsure if he should use his Soul Sense and if he do how it will affect him, Zax preferred to first bet on his Qi to survive the, might be, approaching confrontation, since it felt like his Qi was back in order, though surrounding the Earth's Core in his dantian due to its inexplicable powers of attraction.
Zax folded his knees and in both of his legs started to stream and to accumulate his Qi. In his mind he prepared himself to kick with his feet, to force himself up and find a way to escape, to threaten the beast – because, yes, he was sure that he was brought to this underground place by a beast – even to kick the ground and create lots of noise in hope that someone, a representative Guardians, an event's Guardian will hear him and come to his rescue.
Regardless of his chances to preserve his life, Zax was determined to retaliate.
As the beast, a few meters from Zax, noticed his action it instantly halted its movement and only its voice continued to reverberate. "Gural ... Gural ... Gural..."
The growling sounds repeated but the urgency changed. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Those were the only fluctuations that Zax's human ear perceived. What was the meaning, the desire behind those sounds? Even if his mind was unruffled by the current situation, there was little chance that he will know the answer.
"Is it not coming?" The question dared to slightly calm the uncertainty in his heart.
As if to give him an answer, or maybe Zax did, unconsciously, understand the beast, the creature, which was no more than three meters away from his feet, stomped the ground with its heavy steps.
Until now Zax raised his head to see the appropriate, probably futile, moment to kick when the beast came close enough. It hurt more in his stomach muscles than in his lower back when he bent his neck and body a bit up, but it still did not provide him a clear site of the beast. Zax only had a full impression of one part of the beast's body when it turned around and stepped away. What he saw was the perfect shape of the beast's tail that like a thick and long branch, crossed the distance between them and fluttered over his body. The whip like tail was covered by brown scales and the moment Zax saw it, no more than a meter above him, he knew that he could not obstruct such a massive thing.
"It's going!" It was like a scene from a dream or a late night movie. The monster was leaving and one person, although injured and shaken, got to stay alive.
Zax concentrated his strength and endurance on getting up again. Being aware of the pain made it easier the second time, and although it was not less painful and felt as if a giant stone was weighing on his stomach, Zax managed to gradually move his torso up.
"Gural ... Gural ... Gural..." The beast persistently returned and this time Zax got to see all of it, or at least from its front appearance, recognize it.
In Kingdom Earth there were only two sole lessons which bothered mentioning to children the existence of the beasts. One was History lesson where beasts were talked about briefly and to the point. The other one was Geography lesson where the students learned in an abbreviated manner about the sort of beasts that ruled some of the major mapped caves in the beasts' territory.
To recognize the beast in front of him, it was not thanks to the history lessons or geography lessons that Zax knew it, but by watching beasts' related shows on the Screen and being exposed to reading materials about the beasts' territory that experts have published online.
The beast that dragged him to this cavern was, in its full name, an Earth Shattering Brown Digger.
The Brown Digger was a mammal type beast from the giant rodents' family, even though it had brown reptilian scales covering its tail and hind legs. Its body shape was similar to that of a rat with brown fur. Its limbs, however, were short and vicious, adorned by long and tough claws that could tear through the earth as if it was a giant piece of tofu. The head of the Brown Digger was its least impacting feature. The head was large and not completely round, though it had reptilian eyes, the rest, even the snout, was covered by puffy layers of fur. Only the knowledge of its hidden sharp teeth could truly alert others from this not far from being adorable face.
The Brown Digger that appeared before Zax was clearly an adult one. From the tip of its tail to its hidden snout the length was more than four meters. Its height when on its four limbs was around a meter and fifty centimeters.
Zax stared fixated at Brown Digger preying eyes. When he moved up most of the accumulated Qi in his feet dispersed. If the Brown Digger could sense his Qi accumulating once more, Zax was afraid that he will strike first and kill him. At this point, not even the arrogance sensation could supply him with an idea of what to do, for the most part not by using his Qi.
"Gural ... Gural ... Gural..."
The Brown Digger expression was impossible to decipher. It growled and motionlessly looked at Zax's direction. The one thing which differentiated it from a statue was the long scaly tail that was swaying and rubbing the ground.
The standstill between the two had mentally and physically exhausted Zax. He tried to stay watchful of any sudden movement of the Brown Digger, but how long has it been since he last ate or drank something? He was not craving food or water due to his emotional state, but his body, the Qi, the soul ... The three aspects of a living being were hardly bothered by emotional disposition when it intersected with the basic need for nourishment, for survival.
Gazing at his wristwatch could also arouse the Brown Digger's hostility, so Zax could not even tell how long he stood there while unknowingly grabbing his stomach right where it hurt.
It was not long before Zax started panting. A few minutes of short and painful breaths brought him back to the coarse earth, this time on his bottom.
"A soul attack..." Zax was panting even slowed the thought in his head. If it were not for his inner mind, his head would have being been utterly blank. "A soul attack with all my might ... and then try to escape..." The cavern was embedded with a few Sun Stones in the size of a rise grain. Looking past the Brown Digger, because of the dim lighting, Zax was not sure if the cavern was sealed by the Brown Digger or connected to a tunnel that might be the means for his escape.
Ten minutes, without a doubt, have passed since his bottom touched the earth. Another fifteen minutes as surely also followed as Zax and the Brown Digger continued their oppressive standstill.
"An hour... ? An hour has definitely passed since I woke up ... Two maybe... ?" Zax head was boiling. Not just because he fought to restrain his bodily needs, but also because of the odor of the cavern. The more and longer that the foul odor had entered Zax's nostrils, the harder it was to bear it.
In the end, a ten years old is a ten years old and in terms of his physique, Zax could only be said to be slightly better than an average ten years old boy. Thus, he collapsed.
"Gural ... Gural ... Gural..."
The growls hovered so close to his face.
"Crunch ... Crunch ... Crunch..."
Was he been eaten by the Brown Digger?
"Flup ... Flup ... Flup..."
Something wet and smelly, though less smelly than the cavern, constantly rub him.
Zax opened his eyes, wondering if he broke some kind of a record in passing out. The thought was not the first thing to cross his mind, but for some reason Zax felt that before anything, he should cling to this one pearl of amusement, It was his coping mechanism in case the Brown Digger was really eating him and his body had been torn to the a state where he could feel anything.