In the evening, as a Nightly Cover formation, much like those in Kingdom Earth, was activated, the ceiling of the undersea cave shimmered and gradually dimmed to star full, dark blue sky panoramic view.
Zax was sitting by himself at the garden of Gadgel's and Xiao Kirin's family home. He requested the peace and quiet without telling why or needing to. Basically, he just wanted the comfort of being alone and rest his mind, until Gid Chu will call him and the imminent confrontation between him and Yurnal, over the Black Core, will commence.
'Zax, please come to the central edifice'. Gid Chu's voice was transmitted via the communicator.
Lingering for one or two breath on the wooden chair he sat on, Zax pressed the armrests and pushed himself up.
They were waiting in A-1.4.1 vault, a training hall that took much of the space of the first floor that under normal circumstances anyone in the cave could enter.
A total of seventy two people were sitting on plastic chairs in an oval arrangement, humans and beasts in human form, men and women, seemingly young and old.
The great majority of them were Martial Mortals on various levels while the rest were at the Peak of the Core Master realm.
Among them, Zax recognized a few faces he was acquainted with. Other than Rockwell and Riv, there were also Zechariah, Linor, Duthur, Lenrah, Varinka and of course, Giant Havreim.
At the center of the oval sitting arrangement was an empty plastic chair, evidently for Zax.
Overall, it was a tad ridiculous sight, seeing so many experts converged in a manner that was more similar to Parents' Day, than a group meeting of the most notorious criminal organization.
'Don't take offence, Zax'. Gid Chu hurriedly sent. 'This is how we typically review the results of members that returned from a mission. Most won't speak, only several of us and in turn. In essence you only have to reply to my and Second Leader Yurnal's questions, but I gather that nobody would ask something out of place. At the end we will discuss the matter of your payment as an outside contractor'.
Although he was not fond of the ambiance and the idea of being evaluated for a successful task, Zax grudgingly complied. He sat on the plastic chair, noticing the mixture of faces, the plain, the welcoming and the criticizing. 'They don't hide which of them are of the same mind about me as Yurnal'. He discarded the uncomfortableness of the situation and the opinionated looks. In the end, all that mattered were the Black Core and the remaining amount of dark attribute's essence he required to reach the second stage of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique.
"You know the rules, everyone", Gid Chu opened. "If you have anything you want to ask, do it after a preceding issue was concluded, whether it had been decided to leave it open or it was closed". Getting an affirmative response from everyone, he continued. "Some of you aware, others aren't, so I'll first narrate Zax's acceptance to the chain since his first encounter with Rockwell and Riv. Then, I'll expound about the task he was given and its final results".
Thus, Gid Chu proceeded to recount everything there is to know on Zax, even their exchange, though he did not elucidate on the techniques both of them used. For one reason, it was for Zax to choose who he wants to know about his Dark Titan Storm form and other techniques. Another reason was Yurnal… Gid Chu believed that Zax was still reluctant to forgo the unique Core in Yurnal's Blue Stone. Should the state of affairs escalate to a battle, he would rather refrain from wronging Zax by revealing his skill to his opponent, whom he knew nothing concrete about, as far as bottle powers goes.
After forty minutes passed, Gid Chi finished bringing everyone up to date.
"Leader, is it really true? Did we really incapacitate the communication between the five powers and the Immortals behind them?" A second level Martial big guy with short and spiky black hair, wearing everyday clothes shielded by engraved metal plates, slapped his knee excitedly.
"It is, Jailson. Although the five powers could always break their word, as I see it, it won't happen until a fairly long time in the future". Gid Chu assured.
Zax looked at the short and spiky haired man, called "Jailson", and remembered him being one of those who had ugly expressions on their faces since his public argument with Yurnal.
Brimming with elation, Jailson's thin dark lips stretched to a big smile. "Yes, yes, Leader, I see what you mean". His mind did the calculations. Adding what he knew as a high ranked member of the chain, it took him an instant to make the same evolution.
As others also wanted and were about to express their thoughts, Gid Chu coughed, instigating silence. "I will start with the first question. Second Leader Yurnal will follow next and we will proceed clockwise. Zax, explain to me, please, why you could not disconnect the Galactic Communicator properly and ended up doing so manually?"
"Because I had no time. The Grand Abode, some of it is protected internally by formation and other parts are made from extremely sturdy metal. The door and the entirety of the communication room were made of such metal. Even in full force I was barely able to budge it enough to squeeze myself in. If I insisted on disconnecting the communicator using its program, you would have still seen me today, but empty handed".
"Be mindful of how you phrase yourself". Yurnal said in a warning tone.
"Don't ask me questions you wouldn't like to hear the answers to". Zax shot back.
On the sidelines, Rockwell, Zechariah, Linor and the rest who were a bit familiar with Zax sighed inwardly. Being further enlightened about him by Gid Chu, they naturally acknowledged his capital to act however he wanted. Nevertheless, if Second Leader Yurnal had a chip on the shoulder for him, why could he not be the better man, instead of antagonizing even more the much older and stronger?
"I'll ask and give you the leeway to speak whichever the hell you want, but if your answer won't be satisfactory…"
"Brother Yurnal, my turn is not yet over". Gid Chu strived to separate the two. "Zax, so it's my miscalculation to blame for the state of the Galactic Communicator… Were you able to climb to the above storeys of the Grand Abode?"
"No. Only up to the fifth, where the communication room was".
"Alright, I understand". Gid Chu briefly pondered. "Brother Yurnal, I'm done".
"The Diluted Element and the Solar Basil Leaf… you went in for the Galactic Communicator, but you came out with three things, two of which are practically unattainable treasures. Where are they?" Yurnal demanded, by his tone he sounded as if Zax should have turned over the Diluted Element and the Solar Basil Leaf along the Galactic Communicator.
Zax scoffed. "Aren't we supposed to discuss the task I undertook? I'm under no obligation to mention things I obtained in the passing".
"Is that so?" Yurnal crossed his arms, outwardly unruffled by Zax's response. "I'm curious… what you meant to retrieve you brought back in an almost useless condition, yet what wasn't part of your mission you somehow managed to obtain without a hitch. I just wonder if you were distracted by the two treasures and perhaps chose to get them on the expense of the mission. If my assumption is incorrect, right here and now you have the floor to explain yourself, unless you wish for all of us to scorn you for being a compatriot who is willing to sacrifice his kin for personal benefit".
"So that's what you wanted to know, Second Leader Yurnal". Zax showed a meaningful smile. "Your prior question wasn't clear. I stole the Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf during my escape. It was impossible to conceal the breaking into the communication room. When I sought a way out, I encountered the church's Ascended Elite, Stelero Mars. He and a group of third level Martial Mortals dismantled the protective formations on the casing containing the two treasures. Upon meeting and, I guess, recognizing each other, they tried to attack me. I, of course, returned the same favor and took the Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf in the process. That was after I stole the Galactic Communicator and I could not possibly know that the dumb Ascended Elite would think that he could better safeguard the treasures than the intricate formation of their casing".
There was a trace of condescension in Zax's attitude, not for how Stelero Mars, Sister Beatriz and the rest conducted themselves back then, but for Yurnal. Whether he really cared if Zax was swayed by the Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf to the degree of being negligent with his actual task, had nothing to do with the treasures' current whereabouts.
"That's a reasonable explanation". Gid Chu looked to Yurnal, behaving as if merely voicing his opinion.
"Little brother Gid, the integrity of this answer to my question is for me to determine". Yurnal said with his gaze fixated on Zax. "I'm still waiting for you to reply, where are the Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf?"
"What they got to do with the task?" Zax retorted, not really angry as he appeared to be. He expected that the matter of the two treasures will not be let go.
"You obtained them during the mission, hence they are related. Additionally, the prestige of the Diluted Element and Solar Basil Leaf is far too great for us to ignore. If they can help strengthen the chain and already in the possession of a member, internal or external, then judgment over their usage must be made by those most suited for the responsibility".
"In other words, even if I have them on me, their fate is not for me to decide?" Zax sneered. "Do you think I'd agree to it?"
"Leader, Second Leader, this kid has done immense service by stealing the Galactic Communicator. The treasures were not one of his or the chain's goals. If he managed to snatch them, regardless of how well they can enhance our strength, keeping or sharing them should be left for him to decide". A white skinned, white haired middle aged man with stern face voiced his thought.
"What you say is wrong, Benhamin", the bony and shriveled Nam Ner countered. "He did well by bringing the Galactic Communicator, like he was supposed to do, but didn't he receive from Leader the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique? The communicator cannot be count as payment since Leader already stated that he intended to pay Zax for the task, which means that he still received the transformation technique for nothing. Does that sound to you acceptable? You, new recruit, are you an inconsiderate person?"
'The Bone And Muscle Transformation…' Zax grimaced. 'Any member of the chain who meets the criteria can learn it. It's possible to say that learning it was my right by staining myself more with the troublesome status of a chain's member. Still… my relationship with the five powers was not going to be any better in the future. Having something like the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique would also greatly benefit future endeavors, for my own sake if not the chain's'. He thought about the fourth and last Black Core. 'Dammit!' He did not want to so easily hand over the only treasure he had left, the Solar Basil Leaf, but he felt that otherwise he will earn a vindicated despicable reputation.
He gestured in a slow motion that attracted the attention of all the surrounding members of the chain.
A red orang basil leaf appeared in his palm. "I already used the Diluted Element. The Solar Basil Leaf is all I have left. Grandma", he looked at Nam Ner with no malice, she actually helped him get rid of a debt. "You are right, I should not take for granted learning the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique, after all I am an outside contractor and not a 'real' member of the reputable Sinister Chain". There was a distinguishable detached hum to his tone. "But the transformation technique isn't worth the Solar Basil Leaf and I still need to get paid for the task". He turned to Gid Chu and Yurnal. "Leader, Second Leader, the Bone And Muscle Transformation technique can be treated as an advance, and you can get this tiny, otherworldly leaf, but what more are you willing to offer as a trade". A few thoughts came to his mind. One was sufficient amount of dark attribute's essence; another was of the same nature…
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