Chapter 19: A Resolute Decision
Hearing about the chance to receive elite’s treatment, the prospect of stretching the Martial path beyond the known horizon, despite not knowing fully what challenges one must go through for these opportunities, moved and excited Zax. Then again, thinking about the current situation has made him feeling perplexed.
“Senior Ariel, if there is such a good opportunity why you and the group of elders need to stand in my way?”
Ariel shook his head with a light smile. He suspected that Zax will ask this question. “‘Standing in your way’ is not the correct way to put it, and the initiative to remove you from the competition is solely my decision, your elders and Supreme Rulers have nothing to do with it other than following my orders and debating the process”. He halted and met Zax’s eyes. “As for why I came up with this decision, it is because I do not wish for you to be examined for the elite’s group nor join any of the five powers”.
Ariel was vague with his reply, which startled Zax when he outright confessed, in what felt like a willful attitude, that he deliberately want him to miss the “golden ticket” for a new Martial world.
Ariel, of course, knew how he sounded and so, without letting Zax the time to assume anything and retort with another question, he proceeded.
“Junior Zax, everything I shared with you till now, apart from the decision to remove you from the competition, is knowledge that will be imparted to all the top ten contenders. However, to finally know the reason behind my actions, from this point on you should know that I will not allow you to disclose the following content of our conversion to any third company, as I also do not intended to involve even my fellow Supreme Rulers. Do you understand?”
“I do”. Zax nodded. The immensity of every one of Ariel’s words weighted on Zax in a sense that made him feel slightly wary. What is there that can make the most revered character in Kingdom Earth be so restrictive in his speech that he has to act so secretively when speaking?
“Good. Take this”. Ariel reached to an inner pocket in his robe. He took out a nail size Blue Stone and passed it to Zax. “Have a look inside after we will finish”. He instructed. “You may find several things, among them the most important is a small scroll. Its content pertain a superficial layout of the world above ground, gathered by expeditions of first realm experts. In the grand scheme of things it will not be much, but it will help you get acquainted and oriented in the approximate terrain to the pathway to New Earth from above the ground. Think of it as a local map, if you want, but be sure to destroy it after memorizing it!”
Zax palpated the Blue Stone in his hand, feeling glad that regardless of his reasons, Ariel sill intended to let him venture under the blue sky!
“The purpose of giving you this scroll and the other things inside the Blue Stone, along with the reason that I asked of you to forfeit the competition, is because I have a task that can only be assigned to someone of your credentials”.
“A task?” Zax asked, wondering what about him could Ariel found apt to his requirements.
“Aye!” Ariel responded in a resolute tone. “After everything I have said, you should have figured it out by yourself. With accordance to the five powers’ rules, second realm experts and above risk being subjugated by the five powers if leaving New Earth, and for first realm experts it is simply too dangerous to freely explore the outside world. You, however, are an anomaly, a loophole in the five powers’ rules. None of your three aspects has surpassed the boundaries of the first realm, yet your strength is superior to most second realm expert! So long as you will not attract their attention, you will be able to assimilate in the territories of the five powers better than any New Earth’s native”.
Being reminded of his virtues, it dawned on Zax that Ariel is right. Was he not saying this to himself also a moment ago? If he does not plan to join the five powers, then he will be limited by their rules. But with his strength he will be less confined then a regular first realm expert if he will leave New Earth and there is no major concern about breaking through the second realm of bodily cultivation. He just broke through to the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, the hardest step. If he will go to the five powers’ territory, unless he would find and consume some sort of treasure, according to his estimation it should take him more than a decade, maybe two or three, to break through the second realm with just absorbing the world energy.
Nonetheless, as idealistic as his condition appeared to be, the entirety of Ariel’s goal as yet to be revealed, which obstructed Zax’s excitement from getting ahead of itself.
“Sir, senior Ariel, I don’t understand. What exactly are your intentions? Why avoid the five powers? And you said it yourself; you joined the Blessed Army and gained many advantages on the Martial path. You should have vast knowledge on the world under the blue sky, why then can’t you give me a clearer explanation?” Zax raised the Blue Stone between his fingers. “An extensive information about the outside world rather than a superficial one?”
“I can only give you this much because I am bound by an oath to keep in secret any and all of my gains from joining the Blessed Army. Although I can renounce that oath and not suffer temporarily, the Blessed Army, and any of the five powers for that matter, has tools to detect apostates”.
“Even in your rank in the Blessed Army this task is still complicated for you to manage ... The world above ground should be a lot vaster than New Earth, senior Ariel, should I comply and take on the task, without knowing more I’ll just end up roaming aimlessly”.
“That is why you were given the Blue Stone. I can’t verbally instruct you, but to ask of you to follow up with what inside the Blue Stone, that is not a difficulty”.
“Now what is matter is whether you will agree to accept the task on yourself?”
‘An unknown task under the blue sky... ‘ Zax hesitated. “Senior Ariel, there is something that you did not mention that I would like to ask”.
“If I’ll New Earth, how often will I be able to return? If it was in New Earth I would not have problems complying to the task, because unlike the world above ground, here I’m free to go to wherever I want and return to my family and loved ones when I see fit”.
Contrasting his childhood days, today Zax was almost always surrounded by the people he cherished, some of whom he never thought to leave for no matter what reason. And to leave for an indeterminate span of time, he mentally was not prepared. If it was not an issue he would have already closed up and attempted to comprehend the fifth bottleneck of insight.
Ariel figured the intent behind Zax’s question and for that, too, he was prepared.
“You cannot let yourself be driven by sentimentality, junior Zax. I, my younger sister and younger brother, in our time, had also to make a sacrifice in order to temper our Martial path. It is inevitable for any cultivator, any person who aspires for the pinnacle in his field and path, to sometimes separate from the mundane for as long as one need for even just one step forward”.
“Junior Zax, as talented as you are, to reach your current level in merely two decades, it stands to reason that without exposing yourself to the harsh ultimatum of the Martial path, your accomplishment would have been much smaller”.
Ariel tone was calm, but to Zax it sounded like he was berated for his question. Still, Zax could not ignore the feeling that these words are exactly what needed to hear.
‘Senior Ariel is right. I’ve completely forgotten how to be resolute!’
Zax was aware of what he needed to do to advance his Martial path since his introspection, but at the time that he came out from his short seclusion, the readiness to concentrate exclusively on his cultivation was still absent.
While Zax was realizing his resolve, Ariel continued saying. “Nevertheless, I will be frank with you and admit that if you will join one of the five powers, you will be entitled to return to New Earth quite often. But if you will accept the task and explore the world above ground as a loose first realm New Earth native, you will most likely only be able to enter the pathway back to New Earth just once. In other words, until you will complete the task or sense the bottleneck to the second realm of bodily cultivation, I cannot permit you to return to New Earth”.
‘For how long can I be apart from them?’ Remaining in Zax’s heart were only two figures he was having troubles to letting go in favor of his cultivation and Ariel’s task.
Anet and little Liz.
‘To obtain a pure Core for Anet I must get stronger. Since I haven’t been to everywhere in New Earth, I can’t know for certain, but if senior Ariel was saying the truth, I probably need to head out for the world above ground to find a pure Core anyway. But also leaving little Liz... ‘
Zax closed his eyes, clenched his fist and after a long moment exhaled through his nostrils a strong current of air.