Chapter 16: Out Of The Second Cave
The glassy sand that covered the soil was really like a carpet of treasures. Carl halted his search for the roots to help Zax to sweep the soil. In this job his mist energy proved to be most effective. Because Carl had to maintain a multiply layered mantle, he could not just brush the sand with a wave of mist energy, but what he could do was to use the layers of defense to sweep the sand with his hand without touching it directly like Zax.
Quite often the two found a new plant, whether one that they looked for or another. However, those plants that they did not come for the two refrained from collecting. There was only so much place inside the beast skin pouches and some plants, if handled poorly, could spread toxins that according to Carl: "Too dangerous for even us to deal with!"
"Nine red stalk flowers and four green stalk flower". Zax said and tied his pouch to his loincloth. In short, these were the flowers he sought and the most the he and Carl could find.
"Let's head out to hunt before we dig". Carl said. "In the past two days we both wasted a lot of energy enduring the gravitation force".
"I can also eat something", Zax agreed. "The bird type beasts we hunted before were annoying to deal with, but their meat was delicious". He reminisced.
"Then bird type beast it is-"
Tremors in the ground interrupted Carl. The ground shook violently as if something massive inside of it was moving, and above it fluctuation in the gravitation force emanated.
For a fragment of a second the gravitation force increased ten folds and brought both Carl's and Zax's knees to the ground.
"Hold on!" Zax saw that Carl was struggling more so than him and supported him.
The ground exploded and a few hundred meters from them a figure appeared near the entrance to the tunnel.
The ground stopped shaking. The fluctuation in the gravitation force ceased. Zax and Carl, however, stood in utter bewilderment, not daring to make one step or breathe too deeply. Like statues the two stood and watched the figure that came out from the tunnel to the second Savage Cave.
A man, about as tall as Carl, stood with his body half turned to the two. His upper body was bare and apart from the short needle like black hair on his head, his skin was red and steamy. At the back of his neck was a tattoo of a spiral cube. To his lower body he wore black sturdy long pants with six pockets on each side. The sleeves of his pants were crammed inside his dark green shoes.
The man stood slightly bent and panting. From his profile he looked to Zax and Carl disoriented and mad. Low growls left his throat, the countless amount of steam that emanated out from him gave the impression that under his skin he contained a blazing fire.
"Graaaaa!" He suddenly released a deafening roar to the cave ceiling.
The sound wave hit Zax and Carl and threw them back. Covering his ears, a terrified expression appeared on Carl's face. "Zax! Go! Go! RUN!" The sound wave repelled the gravitation force and the two could manifest the peak of their strength to escape.
When the roar hit Zax cracks all over his body began to sound. The same was with Carl, but his mist energy supported his physical structure. "Carl..." Zax was still dazed from the roar. His soul was clearly inferior to Carl's and apart from the wave that followed the roar, the man exuded a magnificent dominance which assaulted Zax mentally.
Zax's eyes fixed on the man; they saw it when Carl tried to speak to him but was too slow compared to the man's next actions.
The man lowered his head from the roar and an oval shaped black object appeared in his right hand.
The man bit the object and a crunching sound echoed.
The second bite devoured completely the black object.
A series of pulses resonated from the man's body, abruptly halted and a last thunderous pulse burst from the head of the man as its epicenter.
With the last "THROB", from the man's head a black dome was released and spread. The last thing Zax saw before it engulfed him and Carl was his own dark reflection on the dome.
Both Zax and Carl lost sense of reality and self awareness. Inside the dome their souls swelled as if infected and the pain was inconceivable!
"Graah!" Carl wriggled and coiled, mist energy hissed from his body and his voice deepened more and more.
"Grr!" Zax greeted his teeth. His body bent backward from the initial pain and Carl was right in front of his eyes. He saw him hitting himself, hitting the ground, roaring and twisting as if possessed. What shocked Zax was that while Carl seemed as if turning savage from the pain, he, on other hand, managed to cope with and overcome it to some degree.
What Zax did not notice was that inside his dantian, two black streams of energy were issued from the Black Core, both to his sea of consciousness.
One stream followed to Zax's soul, while the other to the fifth gate of the remaining three gates of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement beneath it.
The dark attribute in Zax's soul immediately began to grow and expend, transforming the soul and its energy unbeknownst to Zax.
On Zax's torso the gate to the next level, level B, the equivalent to the Mist Master level of mist cultivators, shined with its black radiance. Much like the dark attribute, the fifth gate, in a sluggish pace, also began to expand as it fed on the energy of the dome.
"Arhwoo!" A howl reverberated inside the dome and Zax looked with a mystified expression on his face.
Carl lost himself and transformed to his animalistic form, an over four meters in height, six meters in length canine, a black fur wolf with red paws.
"Arhwoo!" His howl resonated as if several voices emerged from his maw. Red eyes averted their attention to Zax. "Rhwoo!" Carl pounced at his direction.
"Carl ... he is one of them?" Zax recalled the canines he fought before he entered the first Savage Cave, his Master's enemies. "It ... it can't be!" Any attempts to wrap his head around it went down the drain. The shock was too intensive and by the time he made out the giant wolf intent, a paw struck him and claws ripped through his chest.
"Ahr!" Zax was tossed aside like a rag doll, blood gushed from his wounds and his left arm's bones shattered.
Zax used the momentum of the fall to roll over and jump back to his feet. "Carl!" He screamed for him to wake up. "Carl-" The black fur red paws wolf attacked again.
Zax's legs kicked the ground and his body avoided the coming strike. 'What's happening?! How come Carl lost to the savagery? It can't be! He adapt to it ... Why!' Seeing his companion, his friend, his brother damned to be a savage for no reason, Zax did not know what to do, to who can he call for help?!
"Please! Stop what you did to him". Zax caught a glimpse of the man that came from the other side of the tunnel while moving around.
The man was standing with his hands holding his head, ignoring the two.
"Rhwoo!" Carl aura exploded and his speed increased. His gigantic body became even bigger as his muscles grew and tore past his skin and fur. If under the regular savagery of the first Savage Cave one who loses himself received a boost of fifty percent strength, than just now, that already mighty Carl, under the black dome received a boost of two hundred percent.
His speed surpassed Zax.
Zax raised his right arm to defend, but the assault was too strong and blew him away.
"Carl-" Blood gushed out of Zax's mouth and the word was muffled. "Carl..." He did not care if he was an enemy, his brother's body was expending like a balloon and what would happen when his muscles would not be able to stretch anymore was all so clear.
A heavy paw landed too fast for Zax to react and buried him forty centimeters deep in the hard soil.
"Ca..." Zax held on only because to constant healing and expansion of fifth gate, then again, with every attack the damage to his body was being done faster than the healing. 'Outside of the dome, outside of the boundary'. Zax imagined it as the only solution to bring Carl back.
"Ahaa!" A sharp pain in his shoulder suddenly made him burst in agony.
Carl bit Zax's left arm.
A pulse echoed and the black dome retreated to the head of the man.
Zax was buried in the ground and was barely affected when the dome passed him again, but Carl was thrown fifty meters or so from the man.
At that moment, in Zax's consciousness, the black attribute finished the transformation of the soul and the blur that it was, radiated dark light like a black Sun Stone for a split second and returned to normal. Beneath Zax's soul, the fifth gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement faded. At the same time, the sixth gate appeared at the center of Zax's chest and in but a few breaths black spikes emerged from all over Zax's body, not only completely healing him, but also changing the sixth gate's azure radiance to black.
Zax rose from the ground around the same time that Carl did. Carl's muscles ceased expanding, but his mind was already lost to savagery worse than that of the first Savage Cave. Being much closer to the man, who stood still with eyes close, than Zax, Carl howled and jumped him.
"Carl, no!" Zax's body moved on his own, feeling stronger than ever before and with a clearer mind that dissolve the redness from his eyes and any trace to the savagery from his consciousness.
Nonetheless, with his body fitness level in level B, Zax still could not match the man who was unmoved by Carl's assault. The eyes of the man stay closed, concentrating on what he was doing; all he did to address Carl was nudge his finger a little.