Chapter 31 – Green Snow
‘I will beat them. Believe me; I’m close to gaining the sufficient strength! Then, we, all our New Earth’s kin, won’t have to hide and cower from anyone!’ Upon finishing narrating all that happened to him since he last departed Kingdom Earth, apart from the conversation with Archbishop Silternjan, Zax included every detail and made a firm pledge to Anet and Zetsa.
The convoy was on the move and the hour was nearing early noon.
It took a while for both women to transmit a message back, as Zax taught them. They were lamenting on the new kind of danger that was made known to them, reflecting on the manner to respond.
‘Our families… our friends…’ For the very first time in their relationship Zax heard a tone he did not recognize, directed at him from Anet.
‘Take the communicators back, Zax. We need time to think with no distractions’. Zetsa hurriedly said. She sounded mad, and certainly was, but her true intent was to terminate the communication between her little brother and his girlfriend before the conversation will escalate and someone will say out of anger something that he or she does not really mean.
‘Take it’. Though Anet had other things to say, her heart told her to listen to Zetsa.
Zax grimaced and neither could see, but his lack of response as well as the sensation that the foreign object in their ears is gone, gave Anet and Zetsa an idea as to his current disposition.
‘Did it go how you wanted?’ Lili asked as she received the communicators.
It took Zax a moment to answer. He needed to compose himself. ‘Honestly? I don’t think that it could from the first place’.
‘At the very least’, Zax secretly thought. ‘They know now that nothing bad is or will happen to them’.
Early evening of the third day.
‘Bandits?’ Zax raised a doubtful brow. ‘Fifty. They ride Two Headed Stallions Deformed Beings. The strongest among them is weaker than the leaders of those Gray Lords from back then, at the Peak of the Mist Lord level’.
Since the deconstruction of the Gray Lords bandits at, mostly, his hands, no new group of lowlifes was able to take their place and dominate the Titan Kapok Trees forest. However, from time to time, someone will gather a group of meager experts to try their luck at the task, such was the band of bandits his Soul Sense detected.
‘They are heading at our direction. Why?’ He wondered, and then sent. ‘Who else noticed those bandits approaching?’
A chain of responses resounded in his sea of consciousness.
It was determined early on that Zax will act as the convoy’s surveillance for the better part of the trip. His Soul Sense could only be perceived by fourth level Martial Mortal or higher and its scope was the largest. Hence, almost no one knew about the bandits before he alerted them.
‘According to the forest’s map, there should be a village four kilometers east of us’. Riv said.
‘That small place…’ Not just Zax, but everyone in the group had a Soul Sense or Sublime Soul Sense with the range to locate the village.
‘I’m erasing our traces. Those bandits will miss us if we’ll hasten our pace for couple of minutes’. Gadgel made a quick calculation five hundred meters behind the convoy.
‘Continue going at a higher pace’. Bonjier ordered.
Zechariah complied, commanding the people to increase their pace with the excuse of wanting to find a place to settle for the night due to “bad weather”, which Martial Mortals at Bonjier’s and Kloky’s level could marginally stimulate.
The third day’s evening and night passed smoothly.
As most were resting, Zax monitored the Howling Heads, the bandit group he discovered.
After arriving to their destination, they sure acted haughtily and done some damage to the village’s homes. Nevertheless, in the end it seemed that they were more bark than bite. Their goal was to solidify their menacing status, first, steal and rob, second. As for kidnapping and murder… they avoiding executing these heinous acts and when they left the village, as Zax listened to their talks he learned that they did not have the steel for such things.
‘The villages and tribes in the forests don’t have the protection of cities and clans. They have to waste their Splinters on mercenaries and that too is a temporary solution. If these Howling Heads will reign over them, at least they’ll be a deterrent to those with worst principles’.
For this reasoning he let them live as they continue to move on.
‘Giant Havreim and Varinka return, but there is someone not too far behind them’. Zax alerted everyone, though he was not cautious of the tailing stranger.
For the first time since they left the pathway and he caught up with them, Kloky send to scout ahead to of their thirteen, without explaining why.
‘Zechariah, stop the convoy. Zax, come with me’. Kloky ordered and without further delay flew toward the direction of the incoming three. ‘Converge with the rest’. He told Giant Havreim and Varinka as they passed them.
“Why did you ask me to come with you?” Zax asked.
Kloky’s line of sight intersected with the stranger, who halted his advancement on a wide and high branch, waiting.
“The person we are going to meet… if I haven’t told you to join me, would you have used your Soul Sense to eavesdrop?” Zax stayed quiet. “Might as well bring you with me… Besides, it’s because of you that we have to trouble this person”.
They arrived to the branch and the stranger welcomed them with a nodding smile, which Kloky returned.
“Zax, meet, Mister Huland”. Kloky introduced the young man.
He was clad in exquisite earthly beast fur from shoulders to ankles, a young looking man with short brown hair and dark brown mustache. His skin was pale white and his eyes deep blue. His height was about Zax’s shoulders, but his width was the same, hence, unfitting his frame.
‘Advanced first level Martial Mortal’. Zax deduced in an initial, shallow examination, but by Kloky humble conduct he figured that there is more to Huland.
“Nice to meet you, Mister Zax”. Huland reached out with two hands for a shake.
“Greetings, Mister Huland”. Zax cupped his hands with Huland’s and shook. The verbal and physical exchange caused him minor awkwardness.
Huland radiated an open and cordial charm, a form of mannerism he not often encountered. The impression he gave was of someone who recognizes his Martial inferiority, yet is unconcerned by it and even believe himself competent of achieving equal footing with his counterpart.
“Mister Huland is an ally of the chain”. Klokly said, standing between the two.
“How can I not be when my Master is the Second Leader of the chain?” Huland laughed.
“You are Yurnal’s apprentice?” Zax asked in surprise, only now noticing the hints of his animalistic form on his human one, such as the particular hair of his mustache, which was similar to the thin needles of his furry garments. In his eyes was an almost imperceptible glint that waned through the years, of his time as a newborn wild beast.
“I am”. Huland answered proudly, as if the question was if he is Yurnal’s son.
“Mister Huland, as you can see, these is the group transported by orders of Leader”. Kloky informed.
“So many…” A complicated looked appeared on Huland’s face.
“Can you handle them?”
“If they are obedient, as a favor for the chain’s Leader. You are aware that if the request came from my Master I would have been left with no opportunity to refuse. You kind of give me an opening to avoid the trouble…” Huland chuckled and Kloky only half smiled.
“What are the two of you talking about“. It did not take to be a genius for Zax to know that the pair was discussing the future of his friends and family. “Are we not proceeding to a hideout of the chain?”
“Zax”, Kloky turned, standing aligned to Huland. “Mister Huland is a very powerful ally of the chain. His identities are not for me to reveal. He can mention them to you later, at any case. What’s more important for you to know is that yes, we are transporting your family and friends to a chain’s hideout, but there is also another option to be offered, should you be willing to take responsibility…”
“What’s that?” Zax composed his eagerness. Up until this very moment he gathered his resolve to lock his loved ones in some shelter, like the chain’s cave adjacent to the western shores of the Eastern Continent. For an alternative that permitted more freedom he did not need to think twice before being on the verge of accepting, only be more versed on the matter.
“Mister Huland”, Kloky made way for Huland to elaborate.
“Well, Mister Zax, it would be clearer if first I’ll properly introduce who I really am… My birth name is Huland of the Malignant Monkey clan, seventeenth son of Loond, leader of the Malignant Monkey clan and Feather of Violet Scaled Troops”.
“Feather?” Zax was stunned. “Your father is a fourth level Martial Mortal of Violet Scaled Troops and yet you are a collaborator of the chain?!”
Huland nodded and Kloky stood back without making a reaction. “I am. Furthermore, I’m also the Leader of Dark Glare”. He added and lowered his voice, as if expecting Zax to be rattled again.
“Who is Dark Glare?” Zax saw that Huland waited for his awe. There was not any. He was oblivious to the name.
“Dark Glare, Zax”, Kloky interrupted to mend Huland’s embarrassment. “In the Western Continent it is the only crime organization that could compare the chain’s operations here. In terms of meticulousness, they are even a tier or two higher”.
“We have to, Mister Kloky, do consider the risk’s differences. Unlike Sinister Chain, we don’t have as many third realm experts and our strongest...” Huland rubbed his nose. “Anyway, we are still incapable of committing the same level of audacious jobs as the chain”.
“Don’t be fool by Mister Huland’s humbleness, Zax. It is only thanks what he and his organization achieved in the Western Continent, specifically, Selivereb that the second option is available. Mister Huland, let’s not suspend it anymore, otherwise I’m afraid this friend will lose his patience…”
“This is what I have to offer…” Huland agreed. “Bring your people to my conversion place. In other words, a remote village at the south mountains of Selivereb. If they are willing to abide by its rules, you may relocate them there, instead of the chain’s sealed hideout”.
‘To live in a village…?!’ Zax had a multitude of questions in his head just for the notion. “What are the rules? Can you be more explicit?” He began with the two to draw Huland’s extend explanation without shooting them one after the other.
“Green Snow, that’s the name of the village established by my Dark Glare. Its population is slightly below eight thousand souls and compiled of both humans and beasts. Its purpose is to mainly supply accommodation to victims of the five powers and loved ones of Dark Glare’s members and allies. Those who are welcomed there have two choices. First is assimilation into the villager’s life style. Naturally, we provide guidance and constant supervision to make sure if a mercenary band will come by, which happens rarely, or members of the five powers – an even rarer occurrence – the deception will not flunk. Second, for those who can’t be habituated to the first choice and its restrictive life, there is the option of covertly moving to a city or clan. Of course, we instill, to the point of brainwashing, guidelines and rules so the integration will be smooth and not result with jeopardizing Dark Glare”. Huland halted so everything will sink in for Zax. “There is more to elaborate on, in addition to show for better understanding. However, Mister Zax, you’ll have to first decide what it would be. A hideout in which you can’t leave, not enemy can come and inside there is the freedom to do as you want, within reason. Or the blue sky, you people of New Earth, adore so much”.