Chapter 4: Grandmaster Kartion
"Prepare yourself to greet Grandmaster, Martial son". Kartius repeated a last time and averted his gaze to the staircase. "Big brother, I'm sure that you know ... We are waiting for you here". He called and then straightened his black humanoid form.
Seeing his Master getting tense up Zax mimicked him and fixed his posture.
Heavy hooves stomped stair after stair after stair with a dominating sound that reverberated through the room, to Zax's head and across every corner of his sea of consciousness.
A presence, mighty and aloof, was the first thing Zax faced. A weight he tasted once in his life, he now encountered a second time as it tyrannically invaded to every part of his three aspects. The power of a third realm expert!
Large and lofty light brown eyes materialized in front of his soul, a severe gaze that made Zax's awareness retreat to the inside of his blurry soul.
To these lofty light brown eyes the sphere of soul energy Zax created was an obstacle as much as a blade of grass was to a truck. They watched, studying Zax's soul as if they knew of its uniqueness and looked for what made it as such.
After several observations, without giving the slightest of impressions for their thoughts, the large eyes turned their attention to the two majestic gates, beneath the soul, which belonged to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement Zax practiced.
Seeing one of the gates, the lowest one, black, a glint of surprise appeared for a brief moment in the large eyes. To the above gate the large eyes only gave a single look before receding.
From within his soul, like an obedient child, Zax waited for the large eyes to finish seeing what they wanted. He was not doing it out of fear, but through a sense of acknowledgement. The owner of those eyes could do as he wished and fighting against his will was a fool's errand, at the very least, to Zax in his current level of cultivation it was.
Following the inspection in his sea of consciousness, Zax felt a foreign force passing like a tidal wave in every component that composed the aspect that was the body.
Whilst his body was being checked, bit by bit, Zax's awareness spread out from within his soul to his sea of consciousness and stopped there. As it did, Zax could better sense the foreign force within his body. Before, Zax immediately confined himself to boundaries of the blurry soul. As a result, he could not assess much of the power of the lofty light brown eyes. Now, what he perceived from the foreign force was as if countless lofty eyes were looking at him, in and out.
'Is that a Soul Sense?' Zax could not help but wonder. The foreign force did act like a Soul Sense, and toward someone with a lower soul level Zax, too, could have invade the other's three aspects. Still, the foreign force had something more to it that Zax struggled to point out. 'Could it be the difference between a third realm Soul Sense and a first or second realm Soul Sense?' Generally speaking, between the Soul Sense of the first realm and the second's, the sole distinction is in the reach of each Soul Sense.
Incapable of coming up with a decisive answer, Zax was stumped. 'At my level right now I can only speculate'. He sighed inwardly.
Finally the foreign force retracted itself from every cell in Zax's body and concentrated again into a colorless sphere inside his lower dantian.
Two black cores were seen inside Zax's dantian. One was the odd Black Core; the other was Zax's original Earth's Core.
The concentrated foreign force glanced at the originally brown Earth's Core and then paid it no more heed. Instead, it seemed to be fascinated and attracted to the Black Core.
A stream of energy extended from the foreign force, split to many more streams and interlaced to create one colorless durable string.
A whistling sound echoed and the durable string shot toward the Black Core.
The string collided with the Black Core, but failed to cause a reaction from it.
The foreign force gathered the string and unleashed it again.
Failure after failure after failure ... Not only that the string could not create the smallest scratch at the Black Core, it could not even budge it from its place in Zax's dantian.
After the eighth time the foreign force retrieved the string, but did not shoot it as it had repeatedly done before.
The foreign force released eleven streams of energy and from each of them created similar strings. Twelve durable strings floated in a raw, connected by their tails to the concentrated foreign force. A thirteenth stream of energy was released; however it did not split and interlace to create another string. The thirteenth stream formed a wide formation underneath the twelve strings. The twelve strings shuddered and then one by one they began to interlace into one superior black string.
The black string maintained its connection to the foreign force through its tail, and like the first durable string, shot at the Black Core.
Nearly tearing the space of Zax's dantian in its flight, the black string sped toward its target and collided with the Black Core.
There was no "TING" sound when the two made contact. The impact did not budge the Black Core from its place yet again, but the tip of the black string did remaine jammed in place.
An earsplitting sound reverberated as a barely visible crack appeared on the Black Core, where the tip of the black string stuck.
An enthusiastic wave of emotions emanated from the sphere of foreign force, yet it only lasted a fraction of a second before it changed to sheer terror. The crack on the Black Core latched to the tip of the black string and a surge of black mist energy infected it. The black string was like a vein to the black blood that was the mist energy of the Black Core.
The black string squirmed like lightning as the black energy advanced along it.
"Grah!" A pained cry was heard from the foreign force as it fought to sever the connection to the black string before the black mist energy would reach and consume it.
The tail of the black string shattered and the foreign force withdrew from Zax.
As this course of events took place, the span of time in which it occurred was too short for Zax to notice before the foreign force disappeared and the crack on the Black Core closed.
All that remained as evidence to what happened inside Zax's dantian was a black lightning bolt, the former black string.
'This power is like back then!' Zax could not believe his own senses. The feeling he got from the black lightning was one and the same with the black dome that was released from the man who came out from the second Savage Cave!
'Eh!' Zax felt his soul suddenly responding to the black lightning. Ignoring the protective sphere of soul energy, a strange dark force was released from his soul and practically attacked the black lightning, swallowed it and retreated back to Zax soul.
'My soul is getting stronger!' Zax was both bewildered and ardent. The dark force in his soul was perceptible and empowering. It gave Zax a sense of clarity, a wider view on the path of soul cultivation and a glimpse of something that especially caught his interest.
As for the swallowed black lightning ... a series of explosions took place in Zax's sea of consciousness, all originating from his soul. The dark force was refining the black lightning, merging all of its power with the soul until it abruptly stopped.
'Hahaha! In one leap and with no effort, whatsoever, I reached the Peak phase of level B with my soul!' Zax had no explanation for this joyous outcome, he only assumed that Grandmaster had something to do with it, since he already figured out that the foreign force that surveyed each part of his three aspect was his.
'Now I wonder if even Don Ram can probe my body with her Soul Sense'. It was not a gigantic leap of one whole level, but it was enough for Zax to reevaluate the strength of his unique soul and his ability to block the Soul Sense of second level Core Masters.
The first floor of the blue tower was quiet as a grave. Not even the sound of breaths could be heard. Zax resumed his control on his five senses, and vision returned to his eyes.
He was still was in the same stiff, straightened position he had when he readied himself to greet Grandmaster together with his Master, Kartius.
As the scene in front of him became clear, a new figure was already before him, meeting him first with its large and lofty light brown eyes.
A crown of grandiose brown horns was connected to the head of the lofty eyes, the face underneath them was similar and yet not entirely the same. A sort of resemblance to his Master's face it had. The face was that of a brown fur stag. A humanoid beast with the head of a stag, sitting crossed legged, his forearms were resting on his thighs. If he stood up, his height would certainly be more than a head taller than Kartius.