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26 Chapter Twenty Six - While he was levelling...

    The seagull corpses were burned in a small heap upon the road, away from the property that had become their refuge, away from Nathan's precious plants.  Two men, Harry and Winston kept a watchful eye at a slight distance over the crackling flames, the stench of the smoke as unpleasant as watching the dry flesh and bones burn to a cinder.  It was an unpleasant job, but better than allowing those corpses to rot into the soil and possibly contaminate it further.  Instead, they risked the sky.

    Once there was nothing but ash smouldering on the tarmac, the two men reentered the garden, climbing over the fence as usual, though once the thick wall that they had begun to build, attached to the neighbouring property had wrapped about the hedge and metal fence of their newly forming base, they would see about making an easier entrance for themselves.

    "Ugh, it's so hot!" Winston complained and Harry had to nod in agreement.  The temperature of the past few days had risen to what could easily be coined a heatwave; weather of sun and dry heat with temperatures way above what was average for this time of year.  It made the distant air look hazy, burned the pale skin of those who could not tan.  Fortunately, amongst the lotions and potions found in bathroom cabinets had been half bottles of sunscreen, one of which Tyler had already claimed for himself.

    Winston was not the only person to worry about the heat, for Nathan was overly concerned about the drying plant beds where his vegetables and other plants grew.  Although he needed the vegetables and fruits more than the ornamental flowers, it did not mean he cared for them any less.  He had filled a wheelbarrow of wood chips and composted grass, to cover the soil and help keep the moisture from evaporating before the evening water could reach the roots.

    "Where's everyone else?" Harry wondered aloud.  Granted, it was expected that Tyler had vanished into the small library, away from the afternoon sun and Patrick might be found meditating with Ren Zexian as the two men tended too whenever there was a spare moment, but even the dog Aslan and the child Lucy were no where to be seen.  That pair seldom left Nathan's shadow, even moving into the small cottage rather than live in a larger bedroom within the main property.

    Winston shrugged, but both were curious and entered the main house in search.  There they found a crowd surrounding the closed door of the abandoned 'entertainment' room.  Patrick's ear was pressed against the door, while Tyler leaned against the wall close by with his arms crossed about his chest.  Lucy was perched upon Aslan's back and as the large dog whimpered much like a puppy, she was rubbing the tiny hairs upon her small arms as if cold.

    "What's going on?" Winston asked.

    "Sshh!" Patrick said, pressing his ear more firmly against the wood.

    Paul shrugged and informed them; "I don't get it any more than you do, but after the battle, Ren ushered Dexter into that room all of a sudden and sealed them both in.  Can't unlock the door."

    "Was there even a lock on that door?" Harry frowned, to which no one could answer.  In fact it remained quiet for quite a while and Paul and Harry drifted back to the kitchen as stomach's began to rumble for dinner.

    "Do you think we should fix up something for Dex as well?" Paul wondered aloud as Harry peeled some fresh but stubby carrots, placing them along side a couple of decent sized potatoes and some greens.

    The vegetables were being used to bulk up the two heated tins of beef stew that Y was stirring within a pot.  Though there was only the nine of them and one dog, their tinned meat was only going to last so long.  As well as that, the packets of pasta and rice were slowly dwindling, perhaps would only last two or three months at best.  The amount of flour was okay, none of them could cook anything that used it, but the sugar was melting into morning cups of coffee and tea, none of which would last much longer.  Rationing was already beginning to stretch those times as best they could.

    "No idea," Harry replied, though it soon became apparent that Dexter would not be joining them for dinner.  Ren Zexian appeared in the kitchen to obtain a plate of the cooked veg and meagre portion of beef stew, requesting that Tyler work with Nathan to fill a bath of water with whatever reserves the two men could spare.  His reasoning was that Dexter was going to need it if he successfully completed the leap in cultivation.

    Patrick giddily considered what he knew.  As much as he once accused Ren of being a person that never outgrew their love for dressing in costumes and pretending to be a samurai, he was much the same, wondering what he would do if he ever obtained superpowers.  Would he become a hero of the light like Superman or one who risked their life in the dark like Batman or the Shadow...?  Having obtained a childhood dream and gaining abilities that were beyond the mundane, he absorbed all of Ren Zexian's teachings like a sponge.

    From what he gathered, just like in a video game, they and their abilities could 'level up', although it was not through gathering experience points by doing quests and killing monsters.  Otherwise, surely they would have all taken their weapons and killed zombies until they became unbeatable players!  No, he and his fellow ability users could become stronger by using their abilities everyday, extensively or via meditation.  The latter worked better than the former, so long as the cultivation technique was right for that person, though it did not mean they would not gain some strength if it was wrong.

    Tyler had refused to meditate, not believing in Ren Zexian's wisdom and Nathan couldn't quite understand it.  However, both were able to produce water and needed to exercise that ability each and every day until they were drained, so they were still growing in strength despite the lack of cultivation.  He and Dexter had abilities that were best used in combat, although his could also be used in support of the others, so they would not need to use their powers until it was necessary, so cultivation for them was a must.  As for Ren, well Patrick believed for that man, it was a habit.  In his view, Ren was very strong already!  Like boss level!

    And now Dexter was about to leave him behind and become level two!  Although Patrick was a little sour over that (he'd used his abilities a bit in the last battle as well!), he was also excited to learn how much stronger Dexter would be when he broke through to the next stage.

    Patrick absently rubbed his arms that were covered in goose pimples despite the lingering heat of the day.  As soon as their meal was over, he ran to his room to cultivate, hoping that it would be his turn to level up soon.
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