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Book 2 – Black Core
Chapter 17 – Diagnosis
While Zax’s body experienced convulsions as a result of the intolerable pain, his consciousness abandoned the three aspects for a place where none of them could influence him. Within the sea of his consciousness, in the center which was the most conclusive place of the soul, Zax was cuddling, or more properly, the spirit that was Zax Zell took the naked form of a ten years old boy, holding his folded legs close to his chest, submerged in a deep sleep.
When the Brown Digger woke up, it was no longer under the control of the Black Core and the black radiance also vanished from in between its eyes. Confused by its surrounding, the burns on its paws and it exhausted state; a great hunger howled from its stomach and from his mouth came out a cautionary growl toward the ominous smoky mist that its instincts kept warning about.
“Sniff… Sniff…” The smell of blood was distinct, close by. The head of the Brown Digger turned to Zax’s body. With its nose the Brown Digger could easily smell the blood splattered beneath Zax torso – he spat it involuntary when his body started to spasm. On that note, the Brown Digger sense of smell was more unique than strong, since it was known to be capable to actually smell Qi or mist energy, even when inside an Earth’s Core’s shell.
“Gurrrr!” The Brown Digger got close to Zax, his sharp claws ready to separate meat from bone.
A heavy hoof stumped the head of the Brown Digger and a voice that was sneering expressed his disdain. “Vermin…”
Another hoof sent the body of the Brown Digger flying. However, before it touched the ground again, the smoky mist corroded the giant rodent into nothingness.
“That stone!” The remaining Black Core caught the attention of the husky voice. “I should take it to big brother. Better hurry now, creating another entrance would be tiresome”. A pair of black round eyes turned to Zax. “A human child… Must be Zetsa’s little brother”. An azure luster gleamed in the black round eyes as they surveyed Zax, in and out. When an assessment had been made the eyes closed and opened again, the azure luster vanished. Two muscular arms adorned by shining black fur picked Zax gently from the ground. “Unfortunate, how very unfortunate…”
“I will say it again, my dear, his physical condition is stable, and in the past days I treated him to the best of my abilities. As you saw, and from what I read in the report, there were none external injuries and the inner ones were small and in the process of healing when you already brought him. For his body, he will need only couple of months of rest. It is also, probably, what prevents him from regaining consciousness. I hope you understand that we will have to wait to know for sure?” The man speaking was of age, bald and wrinkled, also a proficient practitioner that embarked on the path of medicine over a century ago. “His Qi channels and soul however…” The man sighed and laid his hand on Zetsa’s shoulder.
“I don’t understand, Doctor Nijima, that my little brother’s body needs to heal to wake up, yes. But what about his Qi channels and soul?”
Zetsa wished that she could scream at Doctore Nijima, but her parents sat not far from them, inside Zax’s room, besides his bed and the supportive care unit which was connected to Zax’s vein and supplied him fluids – different species, different methods…
“It’s the third time this week… you said that your research will be concluded days ago, instead you came two times to diagnosis my little brother’s condition, each time you promise to return with explanation, and this is the third time in four days and I still hears the same words. If you cannot accomplish anything in your, supposedly, vocation, than ask them to send someone else, a team, if needed, but stop dragging time!”
Nine days had passed since Zetsa returned from the beasts’ territory with Zax in her arms. When they, the comity of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, heard of the return of the young felon, they wanted to immediately address the matter of Zax’s inexplicable, illicit actions. As it so happened, for several reasons, things went the other way and they had to restrain themselves.
First, to hold back the hostile treatment that any who breaks the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit’s rules receives, Zetsa sent a detailed message to the comity, highlighting the inadequate and irresponsible regulation and supervision the event upholds, which allowed a ten years old boy to sneak past all the event’s staff and the so called experts that are hired or volunteer as staff, and disappeared underneath their noses in the hunting\searching cave. Zetsa, with her parents involve, made it clear how far and wide the news of a ten years old missing during the event could spread in the kingdom.
Following that, there was the reasoning that the case of a participant sneaking to a second hunt was a first and something so implausible, that the comity never thought they will have to officially explain it to the young participant before their hunt, among the other laws that they inform them about. To top the weirdness of such deed, the comity had to deal with the fact that the boy, Zax Zell, according to his report, had found and formed a Link with a medium quality E level Earth’s Core, in the undisputed names of the Supreme Rulers!
And then there was the matter of the young felon physical condition. Frankly, for Zax to be brought back alive, it surprised anyone who knew about the case. For Zax to return uninjured, that is externally, was also quite a shock. And since regardless of the actions the family of the young felon threatened to pursue, in one way or another, the event’s comity had to get involve in some way.
When Zetsa brought over Zax, she took him to the closet medical facility, which was the Medical tent of the event in cave one hundred and thirty nine. From there, things proceeded as one doctor after another came to see Zax only to shake his or her head submissively. The event’s comity had the decency to still treat Zax as a participant, and to mellow the situation that a mere child caused the used any means to first support the family. When their doctors came up with no results, the event’s comity began to even develop a sort of personal interest in the wellbeing of the “Felon”, “Boy”, “Young participant”, “Zax” – after couple of days each member of the comity had given his or her own name when talking about Zax.
Doctor Nijima had a private practice which only high class families could afford. He had no obligation toward the national event, Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, so naturally the event’s comity had to pay a great sum to ask for his diagnosis.
He ended up being the only medical practitioner that took care of Zax in the past four days. In the beginning it was for the money, since he was sure that with his century of experience there could not be something new with the ability to surprise him. It was easy to point out the physical condition of the patient, and so it was the first thing he did. Unfortunately, diagnosing the reason for the clots in Zax’s Qi channels, how his Qi liquefied and how the soul of a ten years old boy, or a soul in general, could have a hint of black in its color, were all things he never encountered which aroused his dormant curiosity.
And what about the public hospitals which were in each populated cave in Kingdom Earth? The name would suggest the answer of why not turning to them…
It has been a long time since the last time a family member of a patient of his, Doctor Nijima, dared not speak to him in a reserved manner, even when he was a sixty years old lad on the path of medicine that already could cure most diseases or odd conditions of the three aspects he faced. After so many years it was both refreshing and bitter.
“Would you like some tea?” Doctor Nijima replied to Zetsa calmly.
“What?” The question startled Zetsa for a short enough moment to make her forget her frustration and for Doctor Nijjima to make us of it.
“I have my own kit for making tea, all I need is water”. Doctor Nijima spoke with his back to Zetsa, already leading the way to the kitchen.
“Doctor…” Zetsa followed with a mixed expression on her face displaying anger and bafflement at the same time.
“Herbs? No need. I’ll let you taste my personal mixture”. Doctor Nijima said nonchalantly. He opened the tap and let the water sprinkle on his finger before tasting it. “Terrible, terrible! You want to let an old man drink such poisonous water?”
“What? Poisonous? The plumbing is fairly new…” While saying so, Zetsa asked herself why is she the one to speak defensively.
“Then the water is fairly poisonous”. Doctor Nijima closed the tap in dissatisfaction. “Forget it. Go buy a bottle of clean water, it is fine, I’m willing to wait”. He sat on a chair and put his bag on the dining table.
“Doctor”, Zetsa felt her head growing dizzy that in any moment she could flip and slap the face of the renowned doctored before her. “I’m not in the mood for tea and care nothing of how well and tasty you can make it. Talk to me about-”
“Zax, your “little brother”…” He repeated with the same sound that her voice carried whenever she mentioned him. “You want me to tell you? Fine, there is not much and you can’t do anything with the information, but I’ll still do as you wish”. He opened his bag and took out a smell teapot made of several types of minerals along with four cups made from the same materials. “However we will talk on a cup of tea. So go on, go on, and bring me a bottle of clean water. Then and only then I will talk to you”.
Facing the decisiveness of Doctor Nijima, a man Zetsa just realized is not a mere geezer, but an annoying one at that, Zetsa clenched her fists and turned to the door with fiery eyes. If only she could use force to make Doctor Nijima answer her question, she would have done it already. But alas, the annoying geezer was dimensions above her even on the path of her choosing, the Martial Path.
As many who paid attention know, though the primary path of Doctor Nijima was that of medicine, one cannot just leave for over a hundred and fifty years without also cultivating the three aspects. And as many who lived long enough know, the name which virtually known today as Doctor Nijima, held two meanings. “Doctor” was not just an attached title due to his profession, but after years of painstakingly learning every possible thing on his field of research, it has become an inseparable definition of who was the Man. “Nijima” was remnant of the past, a name once widely known in Kingdom Earth of a boy which by the age of eighteen reached the level of a B level Mist User, Mist Master. Some speculate that if that boy had chosen the Martial path, he would have reached long ago to profound level of a Core Master, instead of been stuck at the Peak of the Mist Lord’s level for so many years.
Zetsa got back with two cases of water, for the sake that if there really is something wrong with the plumbing, her parents and little brother, when he will wake, will have clean water to drink until the problem will be fixed.
“Splendid”. Doctor Nijima said as he received a bottle from Zetsa and began to brew the pot of tea. Not long after, four cups were filled to the brim by a hot aromatic tea. “Bring them to your parents. They stayed in Zax’s room since my arrival”. He offered two of the four cups to Zetsa and affected by the rich fragrance of the tea, she quietly accepted.
Couple of minutes late, Zetsa returned, took a seat by the dining table and seemed to wait for Doctor Nijima to finally speak.
It took the all cup of tea for Doctor Nijima to begin talking, but eventually he laid the cup on a tray that was part of his kit and said. “About the body you already know. It will heal in a few months, as I’ve told you before. The Qi channels are a bit difficult to describe… it liquefied and formed clots in the Qi channels, that already supposed to mean death sentence, but in Zax’s case is body still sustaining. Do you understand my and those who checked you little brother astonishment? Put aside that mist energy, which is far more pure than Qi, liquefied only when on breaks through the Core Master level. However, even a Core Master will die in a matter of days if the flow in the mist channels will become clogged. With a superficial observation I can tell you that Zax’s Qi and Qi channels have been through some unimaginable transformations and that is mostly the reason that he is still alive. But with a proper diagnosis I can promise you that even if Zax will wake up, unless he will go through another ordeal of transformations, he won’t even be able to use his Qi, and the Earth’s Core in his dantian will remain sealed and unproductive till the day he will die”.
“Unable to use his Qi…” The word cut through Zetsa’s heart and a great pain in her chest caused her body to shudder. She knew about the clots in the Qi channels, but was not sure of their implications until this very moment. It is safe to say that she was relieved to know that first and foremost Zax will live. However to live and yet never to be able to use his Qi, to cultivate, to become a Mist User… She saw the look on her Martial uncle’s face when he gave her Zax and could tell now what he avoided from telling her back then, when she asked him about Zax’s condition. “How can I ever tell this to Zax...?” She knew how much agony this revelation will cause to her little brother, “it will destroy him!”
“Treatment?” As if he read her mind, Doctor Nijima said in her place. “That is why I told you that you won’t be able to do anything with the information. As far as I know, there are no treatment to the condition of Zax’s Qi and Qi channel. Granted, if one cultivate incompetently, there are ways to deal with clots in the Qi channels, but these ways are clearly unsuitable for treating Zax. You see, not only his Qi liquefied; it also did not kill him. That is unheard of! If it will be treated commonly, I’m ninety nine percent sure that Zax will die”.
Zetsa wanted to say something in return, but could not find the words to rebuke Doctor Nijima or to urge him to find a solution since he said so form the beginning that he is still researching.
“Then his soul, my little brother’s soul?” Hope. She had to find some solace. Just a little, it could not be that all is lost!
Doctor Nijima did not immediately answer; he first finished a second cup of tea and motioned for Zetsa to do the same.
“This is also an untreatable situation. However, after overviewing the progression of Zax’s convalescence as a whole… The source of the black color still eluded me. It seems in the midst of transforming Zax’s soul by eroding pieces of it and recreating them, yet without harming the spirit”.
“Zax’s soul is peeling?!” Zetsa choked and rose from the seat. “The… the… the pain he must be going through!” Thought of it nearly made her go out of her mind. Any expert should know it… Not to mention peeling a soul, a simple soul attack such as one that barely shakes the soul can bring down a person. The gap in the severity of pain is even greater than the gap between a Core Breaker, the weakest kind of Expert, and a Core Master, a Super Expert!
“Sit down, I have not finished talking. I’m assuming that is what it does because I detected in Zax’s consciousness scraps, which radiate energy that resemble normal soul energy. What more problematic is that we are still very lacking in means to treat a damaged soul. A normal person, in a normal case, even someone at your level, would most probably die if something will peel three to five percent of your soul. That is because such procedure is impossible to perform without creating repels that won’t harm the spirit, at the very least, that is what I thought until I met your little brother.”
“Zax, on the other hand, you told me that his soul reached level F and is capable of using a Soul Sense that is stronger than that of a Core Breaker? Well, I’ll take that as a confirmation that Zax is not a normal person. And now let me indicate that over ninety five percent of his soul has been transformed. By that I’m saying bluntly that far more than five percent had been peeled from his soul, which in turn makes it a very abnormal case. Is Zax’s soul suffering from the transformation? In my uneducated opinion it is not”.
Doctor Nijima took two more teacups from his bag and poured the remaining tea, with a gesture for Zetsa to take them over to her parents and closed his eyes, absolving himself from anything she might say in protest that he should first finish explaining the matter of her little brother’s soul.
She returned from the room with the two cups that she brought her parents before and Doctor Nijima was pleased that the cups were empty.
“There are all the words in the world for me to pick up, only to say what I don’t know about the condition of Zax’s soul. Conversely there is one certainty of which I’m one hundred percent confident about. When the transformation will be complete and Zax will wake up, his soul level should not be below that of a D level Earth’s Core Holder”.