A wave of overwhelming excitement, with only a tinge of reservation, surged in Zax.
'There is a high probability that I'm correct! I must confirm'. To do so he had to proceed as close as he could to the center of the Earthly Crater. At the moment it was still too much for him just in terms of dealing with the gravitational force, so he resorted to what can be done now and advanced the last step to the fifth ring.
"Arhg!" Zax clenched his teeth as his back bent forward and his arms nearly reached to block to fall to the ground. Breathing heavily he slowly raised his back up, stabilizing his stance with his hands grabbing and supporting the knees. 'I can't use the Dark Titan storm in the vicinity of the crater, but I can operate it inside my body'. He stopped relying on his bodily strength, the moment he channeled the dark attribute energy accumulated in him – a tiny portion of it was unexpectedly generated from his sea of consciousness – he felt light as a feather.
"Mmm…" He uttered in discomfort. 'The increased attraction of the earthly attribute turned it violent. Its attacks on the soul can't harm me, but they do interrupt my concentration'.
He sat down on his own leisure, manifesting in his sea of consciousness. 'A soul defense will allow me the freedom of meditating peacefully'. It was an obvious solution to the unceasing soul attacks and a simple one at that.
His intent was not to make it a complex soul formation, he preferred to not waste time when his soul and dark attribute energies were practically one at the same after the assimilation. Hence, he was very capable of fending off the soul attacks with an easy to erect defense.
'It probably won't hold in the fourth ring, and without transforming I'm not sure my body will hold, either. I'll meditate up to two months and choose to stay or leave depend on my accomplishments. At the latest I'll recommence the search for the third Black Core after being here for three months. I rather not test how long the Horned Eel Overlord plan to prolong its absentness'.
With that Zax completed his preparation and refocused on proving his hypothesis.
'The specks of earthly attribute's essence gathered faster in the fifth ring'. In less than a day the first speck descended to his sea of consciousness, following which it was eliminated by the dark light. 'The dark light emanating from my soul is triggered by the presence of the earthly specks', he tried to delay it, but found it extremely rigorous on his soul. 'Why? Is it really because of Nature's rules or…' He could not negate the possibility that it opposed the earthly specks them from turning from unassuming phenomenon to a source of harm. 'Two are all I need'. He compromised, though it was meaningless for making the dark light less hindering.
Two days later two specks were floating next to each other above the black desert that the Inner Panorama became.
'Good'. Zax was relieved, the dark light was contained. Calmly, he examined the specks. 'They repel using a gravitational field, yet not affect one another and remain in the same fixed position' He squinted, despite the action being useless when done in his sea of consciousness. 'Swallow'. He initiated the devouring nature of his dark attribute.
The earthly specks shivered and then began to move in a very slow pace toward the not so far point where Zax commenced the drag.
'Hahaha! It really is like this, hahaha!' Everything was now clear! 'The Earthly Crater doesn't generate the pulling force of gravity, but that of suction of swallowing! The Earthly Crater should be renamed the Dark Crater, that "something" deep in its center must be dark attribute related'. It was merely the initial observation; there were other aspects to analysis, questions to be answered.
'I can tell that the crater is using the swallowing property of the dark attribute', Saulalu's elaboration helped him decide to categorize it as that, at the chance of misconception. 'Yet how come it has undulation mine doesn't? Also, why it only attracts the worldly earthly attribute?' These were not the only things he wanted to know, but the ones he believed to be most simple to tackle.
In the days that passed Zax diligently meditated on three things with one common denominator, "Drag". He matched and compered the two types of swallowing, his and the crater's, along with the gravitational field of the specks that daily appeared in his sea of consciousness.
'Gravity and swallowing, gravity and swallowing, gravity and swallowing…' The more he looked into the two kinds of properties the more confused he was. 'The crater's swallowing pulls down everything in its domain, but it only sucks to its center earthly attribute. The eruptions and whirlpool in the Gentic Belt are only side effects, the combination of the undulation and the ripples from occasional bursts of earthly attribute's essence. Why? Why it's like this?'
Zax was frustrated. 'Today's!' The daily earthly speck descended and the dark light went wild in an attempt to set itself free from Zax's control and banish all three specks. 'Get lost!'
The pain of restraining the dark light aroused waves in the dark sea and bombarding echoes in the dark sky. Instead of permitting a fraction of the dark light out to remove the new speck, Zax's emotional state intermixed his intent with the action he was doing, rather than with what he intended to do. The swallowing he regularly operated fluctuated and for the instant Zax's emotions got the better of him, it projected the opposite of a drag, a pushing force that shoved the new speck upwards.
Amazed at what just occurred, the turmoil in Zax's sea of consciousness was abruptly pacified.
'It blew?!' He immediately tried to repeat the feat, but his understanding of the dark attribute was maxed at operating its most fundamental property.
The dark light resistance grew. The third speck could not be allowed to stay. With no other choice, Zax allowed a ray of dark light to shine on it.
There were things that could be figured out in one day and there were things that required years of practice and trial to finally understand. The more Zax dug into his two questions the more he saw them breaking to smaller issues he did not consider before nor believed the he could comprehend in mere three months.
One month passed.
'It mimicked?' It was not just a baseless speculation. After numerous attempts Zax succeeded to reverse the suction into a blowing force. When it happened he sensed feeble undulations, like those of the crater's swallowing, which made him realize. 'It is not the standard swallowing; it's functioning in a similar manner to the earthly attribute's ripples, with no relations at all to gravity!' It was a ground breaking notion… attribute A can bypass its natural characteristics and actually behave like attribute B? That would be breaking through Nature's rules!
Zax was ecstatic. The magnitude of breaching Nature's rules was beyond his comprehension. His joy spawned from something else.
'That is why it has this diverse undulations, why only earthly attribute is influenced and why it is so strong! The source of dark attribute in the Earthly Crater promoted its swallowing property by integrating to it the functioning of a second attribute'. Zax speculated. 'Or maybe it's something that the swallowing property could do all along? A profound method of operation and the earthly attribute reacts because it's a shared quality?'
There were couple of paths to explore the matter, and Zax was pondering which one will contribute more than just a superficial understanding of the swallowing property.
'If everything originating from the crater's swallowing property, I can treat it as a better guide then starting from zero by learning from the earthly attribute's essences. That way I could also improve my understanding of the dark attribute as a whole'.
It was decided. With no further need of the earthly specks, Zax let loose on them the shine of the dark light. Next, he opened up his senses to the swallowing of the crater, whilst in his sea of consciousness trying to grasp not just the theoretical knowledge of how the swallowing property works, but also the practical.
Two months and twenty four days in the fifth ring.
While Zax was meditating, the population of those that came to the Earthly Crater to cultivate outgrew that of those who just wanted to cross the Gentic Belt safely and was short of a vessel that can sail through the Emerald Cross.
Experts arrive despite that any moment the feud between the Horned Eel Overlord and Four Wings Stork Overlord come to a temporary end. For some it was the first time in the crater and so they began in the seventh ring, for others the seventh, sixth and fifth rings were thresholds they already passed.
The twelve in the second ring did not move a millimeter since stepping into it and maintained the entranced expressions. They, and most likely several others, reached the same conclusion as Zax in one form or another, an insight of understanding that time elevated to enlightening breakthrough.
Stand to reason that like them, Zax should also had taken decades and centuries to unravel the riddle, yet he, in a way that is typical for him, spent less than a quarter of a year to brighten his horizon.
He suspected it at a certain point in the exchange with Saulalu, that the one behind the Earthly Crater is none other than the existence who apart from being the origin of his creation, was also the mastermind who designed his unique soul, bestowed him the Black Core and instilled in him the dark attribute.
During the passing months, Zax judged that the deepest part of the crater reaches somewhere in New Earth. It was impossible to tell where exactly, even if he knew the two locations the exists from the passage between New Earth to Ercas Mir lead to, so he set up his mind. What the exalted expert left at the center of the crater, he will go find out upon his return home.
Strands of hair slightly rose and fell down before anyone could see. Zax opened his pensive eyes, his lips stretched to an inconspicuous smile. He placed a hand on the ground and pushed himself up, without extracting strength or channeling dark attribute energy to strengthen his physique. He got up effortlessly, yet was sure to not attract unwanted attention. What others, those who spent an extensive prolonged time of meditation, would think should they discover that a brat, whose time in the crater not worth mentioning, had become the ninth expert to cancel the burden of the Earthly Crater's gravitational force?
'It's time to leave'. Zax declared in content. 'Debuk Jin, I may still not by your match, but the gap had just gotten shorter!'
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