Chapter 30 – Barbecue
“I won’t leave again for extended periods of time”. Zax resigned to his mother.
Besides, back then two years were chosen because he did not have the strength to go and come whenever. Now he did and the next goal to accomplish is to have the capital to do so right in front the five powers!
“I will, now and then take trips, but they won’t be over three months. Is that acceptable?”
Laylen deliberated. She wanted to say “of course not”, but there were subjects to argue and subjects to compromise. “As long as you won’t break this promise, and you have to compensate your sisters, that poor girl Anet and the rest of the family for every time you make them miss you!”
“Fine”. Zax nodded. He felt relived in his heart, not for complying with his mother, but because he, too, wanted to be there with his loved ones. Now that his mind is set, he will no longer be troubled by the issue.
Laylen smiled. She and Marco held hands and her grip tightened with great strength as the knowledge that she finally regained her son invigorated her.
“Oh, right! Zax, come with us tomorrow to visit your grandparents at the farm”. Marco said. “Zetsa will be there and your grandpa Ger… ever since we told him and grandma that you died, grandpa’s spirit weakened and his health is on the decline. The doctor said that he doesn’t have anything and that the symptoms of deterioration are due to depression”.
Ger Zel has quite a few children and grandchildren, but for the old man who appreciated Martial cultivators only two infused him with rejuvenating pride. When he heard that one perished and that his body cannot even be retrieved, in addition to the anomalous concept of a grandparent burying his grandchild, the robust grandfather nearly collapsed from sadness.
“Okay”. If it was not for his grandfather’s health, Zax would have not agreed and it was obvious in his mulling tone. “Grandpa Ger, grandma Ney, Grandpa Shi Chin and grandma Shi Oh, other than them, big sis and the people in this room no one else in the family can know that I’m alive”. He drew a line. “And apart from Liz, if you think that in this group there is someone who will struggle to keep this secret, then for the time being they can’t know“.
After everything he told them about his venture and encounters, about the powers who rule the planet and the laws they enforce, Laylen and Marco could understand his demand.
“We will invite my parents to grandpa Ger’s and grandma Ney’s farm. Tomorrow we will meet up and explain them, slowly, everything you told us. You can trust them. As for Liz, we planned to give her time off school”. Laylen looked at Marco.
“We promised that she will have fun. Naturally, we have to follow through with it”. Marco said.
Laylen continued. “We will make sure she understands that she cannot tell anyone about you. She is a smart girl, always was, but not the child you remember”.
Zax lowered his gaze to his little sister. No matter how mentally mature she is, he did not believe that he will ever see her as anything but a fragile treasure he must protect.
“I’ll send Anet a message to also come”. Laylen attracted his attention back to her, arousing a strange ripple in his heart. “Her Caller is mostly off or out of range but she always write back within twenty four hours. Hopefully it won’t take her long to read this one”. She then proceeded to write Anet with her Caller while Marco prepared for bed and Zax carried Liz to her room.
“Don’t tell them anything, yet, Liz, okay?” Laylen said.
Marco parked next to the farm’s truck and they exited the vehicle. Laylen’s parents received a late evening message from her and gave their confirmation of coming early in the morning.
“Hahahaha! Big sis Zetsa!” The moment Liz saw Zetsa in the terrace, already waiting for them, she yelled, let go of her mother’s hand and dashed.
Seeing her so happy Laylen was both happy and a bit worry. Due to her excitement, whether Liz internalized what they discussed on the way and during breakfast was completely up to fate more so than her understanding little mind.
“Liz”. Zetsa lifted her up. On her face was a smile but beneath it was a shadow of an aching heart.
“Big sis, mom prepared a bag for me, so can I come with you to Shulip and everyone?”
“Let me speak with mom, sweetie”. Zetsa put her down, rubbing her head. “Go see grandpa and grandma; they need help moving the food to the yard”.
“Okay, there is something very good I want to tell everyone!” She giggled and ran into the house.
“Hey, dad”. Zetsa maintained her smiled as Marco followed Liz in.
She had no suspicions over what her little sister wanted to say to her Martial family, as their parents spoiled her with all kinds of things that she would boast about.
“Sweetheart, go to your mom”.
Laylen waited by the vehicle, and, for some reason, when she looked at her, Zetsa had an uneasy feeling.
“Zetsa, come here for a moment”. Laylen called.
Zetsa got down from the terrace and walked to her. “What’s wrong, mom?”
She barely finished the sentence when she felt a warm breeze at her back. Someone appeared, moreover faster than she could perceive, and she was a Beginner second level Core Master!
Since she received the news about her brother, Zetsa dealt with the grief by drowning herself in cultivation and refining her Martial art through constant battle with both beasts and human in Valgarel. It was as if her temperament regressed to the rampant girl she was before to the monumental events that changed her life, the day her Master accepted her as his apprentice and the birth of her brother.
As a result of her behavior, she made a number of enemies, but none gave her the impression of taking their feud on regular people.
A ferocious glint reflected in her eyes, her aura surged, about to burst, she was ready to turn around and strike.
“Big sis Zetsa“. A voice whispered in her ear and she felt a jolt running through her spine. She choked. Her aura dispersed; suddenly she did not have the power to muster it. She lost the sensation in her legs and stumbled into her mother’s support when an additional pair of hands grabbed her arms from behind and balanced her.
Through the touch, Zax sensed the turbulent fluctuations of soul energy in her sea of consciousness.
He thought that she will be stronger than their parents. He was wrong.
Channeling soul energy, he attempted to calm her soul. “Big sis”, he helped her turn.
“Little Zi…?” She muttered half absentmindedly. She was only tall enough for the top of her head to reach his collarbone. She raised her gaze as glittering pearls descended her cheeks.
The features she that were etched to her mind and those she saw were all too much alike that she doubted her sanity. “Is that really you, little Zi?” She asked, plead for a Yes.
“It’s me. I didn’t die, only made it seem like that to hoodwink some people. Regrettably, you were all informed false information, though not by ill intent”. He explained concisely.
Strength returned to her arms. She raised and curled them around his neck, wishing for a hug.
He leaned for and drew his back up, lifting her. With her head next to his he heard her trying to muffle her weeping voice.
“I’ll say to you what I told mom and dad, what I decided”. He spoke in a straight, determined tone. “For now on, I won’t leave home for as long as I did. No matter what I’ll obtain the strength and exceed all those who currently can threaten this promise”.
“Mm”. She nodded. Knowing almost nothing of what happened to him above ground, at the very least she could understand the harsh entanglements of the Martial path.
“Zax, honey, let’s get inside. We still have grandpa Ger and grandma Ney to see, and then my parents, when they’ll arrive”. Layen whipped the tears from her eyes and reminded.
“Big sis, go ahead with mom. Talk to them before I’ll appear. I’ll help their souls a little to relax. Good timing! Grandpa Shi Chin and grandma Shi Oh approaching. They will be here in less than five minutes”. Zex detected with his Soul Sense. Zetsa, too.
“I’ll let you go… for now”. Zetsa grudgingly separated from him. She regulated her breathing, a feeling of happiness budding in her heart. “That rascal, little Liz, actually fooled me!”
Marco, Laylen and Zetsa took their confuse parents and grandparents to the living room, whilst sat on a Rattan Armchairs, drinking juice with a straw and watching the seven as if they were in a family therapy show.
It paid out for Zax to have his parents and sister prepare his grandparents. At first he swiftly moved between them, channeling soothing streams of soul energy to their sea of consciousness. Manipulating others’ souls was not his expertise, but it was useful with his parents and sisters so he kept applying it. Next, he waited as time and time again his parents and big sister sought the proper words to answer their elders’ questions and assure them that they are not misunderstanding. Ultimately this patient process allowed Zax’s grandparents digest the fact that he is not dead, furthermore, will shortly arrive in person to prove them.
The moment he entered the living room the four elders greeted him with radiant faces.
“Grandpa Shi Chin!” Zax hugged with a laugh the first to approach him.
“You gave us a scare, Zax, you, you, don’t frighten us anymore”. Grandpa Shi Chin’s old bones shivered. In contrast to his daughter’s in laws, he and his wife had only two children and four grandchildren overall. His second daughter also lived in a distant cave and visited only in special occasions. Mentally, he and his wife could not afford losing any of their descendants.
“Release him, let me see my child!” Grandma Shi Oh scolded her husband. “Boy, look at you!” She grabbed his muscular arms and assessed his physical state. “You got so thin”. She remembered his much bulkier. “Is there nothing to eat above ground? No matter, we are having barbecue. I’ll make sure you stuff yourself well”. Her joy seemed restless, but in fact it was moderated to a degree in which she could express her excitement without affecting her blood pressure.
“Get up Ger, your grandson returned”. Granma Ney helped grandpa Ger to his feet. He was well capable of standing up on his own, but his heart was coping with both the thrill if seeing Zax and the depression that assimilated so deep since the initial news…
“Move, Ney, I’m still running this farm daily!” Grandpa Ger made an angry face that could not deceive his wife.
“Fine, old fart, show off to your grandson!”
“Hahaha! Grandma Ney called grandpa Ger ‘old fart’, hahaha!” Liz laughed outloud.
“Little girl, laugh at your grandfather and I’ll burn all your food later”. Grandpa Ger pointed at Liz.
“No! I don’t want burnt meat!”
“Then who is an ‘old fart’?”
“Good girl. Grandpa will grill his best hamburgers for you. Zax, come to your grandfather”.
“And your grandmother”. Grandma Ney joined, not wanting to be the last to hug her grandson.
“Tsk! Do you have solid iron transplanted in your arms? What level of cultivation you reached? Your sister, and that is a secret in the family, has already become a Core Master. Core Master! Not sure why her father’s talent so poor. It can only be that my passion skipped a generation and morphed into a worthy talent”.
“I’m talented too!” Liz rebuked.
“You are dear, shame you don’t cultivate to prove it”.
“It’s boring and I fall asleep”.
“Enough! No more talks about cultivation”. Grandma Ney granted. “If you have nothing better to say, Ger, let me peacefully see Zax”.
“Wait, I haven’t even hugged him yet. Come here, boy!” Grandpa Ger pulled him. Luckily he was a tall man so not much effort was required.
“I’ll tell you later about my cultivation, grandpa”. The old man’s stubble and cologne never changed, forever a signature of his grandpa Ger. Zax was happy to see the grandparents whose condition worried him the most exhibiting early signs of recuperation.
“Am I last, Zax, or did you forget your grandma?” Grandma Ney dragged him down to her height and showered him with kisses. “Child, life were good to our family, both families. We have a shortage of nothing, but it doesn’t mean that our grandchildren can go before us. There is a line, and you better not skip your place!”
“I know, grandma, I’m sorry”. Her pain resonated in her severe words and pinched at him.
They all got to greet him without interruption. The four grandparents finished hugging and examining their grandson and everyone left to the yard. The matter of not sharing his return from anyone else was mutually understood. Thus, the barbecue began with the hope for one more guest to arrive.