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76 Chapter Seventy Five - Reasons for Weakness

    \"How is it, Master?\"

    Ren Zexian removed his fingers from the last newcomer's wrist, his mind only partially on the task that his apprentice had placed upon his shoulders.  In all honesty, he hadn't wanted to stop and test these people, wanted instead to chase down and speak to his Nathan to understand what was running through his mind.  However, he'd been cornered not just by Chang Min, but also by Dexter.  The newcomers had doubts that their abilities could be strengthened here, they wanted to prove them wrong.

    He indicated to each with a curt nod of his head as he announced the results.  \"The one called Luke has the major water root and also feather and illumination body roots.  Thomas has earth root and lightning root.  This man, Theo is in possession of wood and curse body root, while this Zak has a single root, the secondary Light root.  And the woman, Miss Faith has the secondary steel root.\"

    \"What does he mean?\" Faith whispered beneath her breath to her companions, but Chang Min and Ren Zexian both clearly heard her words.

    \"You have noticed that you have abilities beyond normal people,\" Ren Zexian said, calmly, the cadence of his voice reminding them of a few past teachers and lecturers.  \"What you may not know is that your abilities are due to spiritual roots within your bodies.  You have always had them, but before the world changed, they remained dormant in any born with them.\"

    \"So our root reflects our powers?\" Luke questioned, excitedly and then his expression became one of confusion.  \"But I never had any more than the one ability.\"

    \"Neither have I,\" Thomas said, curtly.  He didn't believe any of this **.  He had been cynical when Officer Hughes had asked him to be involved in this farce.  It had been the opinion of the man that Thomas had had some connection with Chang Min when the other had been a part of their base, therefore he could get along with him better.  He reckoned it was Hughes' wish to get the oriental guy to return and work for them again.

    \"Body roots are not very apparent,\" Ren Zexian explained.  \"They will have manifested, just as the water root, wood, earth... but you may not be as aware.  You may even be like Dexter's people were, only thinking that each person had only one ability, therefore not recognising any others.\"

    \"Then what do feather and illumination roots do?\" Luke pressed on.

    \"Feather root affects speed and agility, while illumination...\" Ren Zexian wondered how to put the term 'waste' politely.  \"Well it could be said that it is a weaker version of the Light root.\"

    \"Those with light or dark roots are especially good when it comes to things like exorcism,\" Chang Min added, helpfully.  \"People with light and illumination roots repel the undead, malevolent spirits and ghosts, while those with dark roots attract them.\"

    \"I repel zombies?\" Luke naturally looked quite pleased by the prospect as did Zak, who'd assumed he'd got some trash, pointless ability that was simply an embarrassment to a fighting man like himself.

    \"That is uncertain,\" Ren Zexian dampened their enthusiasm quickly.  \"The undead zombies are not simply restless dead, their bodies contain a poisonous yin energy.  I cannot say for certain whether your abilities will repel them as easily as walking corpses that we had met before.  Also, strengthening the illumination root will be difficult for it is always harder to advance the more roots one needs to share spirit with.\"

    Thomas let loose a loud snort.  What a load of baloney!  \"What is 'cursed body'?\" Theo questioned, worriedly, earning a sneer from the cynical soldier.  He frowned in response.  Fair enough that the man didn't believe, he was having trouble himself, but there was no way he could ignore the idea that he was cursed!

    Ren Zexian smiled, gently as if understanding his concerns.  \"It is not as bad as you think,\" Ren Zexian advised him.  \"Good luck follows bad and bad luck follows good.  You won't suffer some horrific fate because of your root, fate is a separate entity after all.  However, it may affect your main root, wood.\"

    \"Wait,\" the man suddenly felt enlightened and despite his doubts, he couldn't help but wonder if everything this man was saying had some basis in fact.  \"Could that be why my ability only seems to be being able to 'rot wood'?\" After all, couldn't such an ability be considered a bit of a curse?

    \"En,\" Ren Zexian agreed, \"those with single wood roots would have an affinity to the material, reproduce it, speed the growth of trees and connect with plants.  In a similar way to Nathan.  However, from your words, the cursed root is certainly affecting this.  Do not worry, I can help you control the cursed root, turn a hinderance into a help.\"  He lit a single flame in his palm, it was an amber and red calm light with little heat, but in the next moment it changed into a blazing hot, black flame, oppressive and dark despite not changing in size.  \"I share this curse root, do not be alarmed.\"

    \"I have a question,\" the female soldier suddenly spoke, just as Ren Zexian extinguished the flame.  \"You called mine 'steel'.  Why not metal?\"  After all, she'd been able to manipulate all sorts of metal, not just steel, although it was only a little.

    \"Steel root is a lesser form of the metal root, in reality, it's just a name,\" Ren Zexian shrugged.  \"While you can manipulate metal, you cannot create it yourself.  It is also not as powerful as the main root, but it is still good and it can be cultivated with ease.\"

    \"There are people that can actually create metal like I can create water?\" Luke's eyes opened wide with surprise!

    \"En, our friend Shaun has a single metal root,\" Chang Min revealed without censure.

    \"This is so much to take in,\" Faith admitted.  Her mind was a little blown in fact.  She was far closer to believing than some of the others, after all, despite being out of this world, so much of Chang Min's master's words made sense.  Her ability wasn't that powerful, nor were the others if they would be honest.  It seemed there were reasons, hers being that her root was weak, while Luke was because he had too many roots to have one strong ability.  What about Thomas?  She mentioned her thought aloud.

    \"Conflicting roots,\" Ren Zexian said honestly.

    \"What does that mean?\" Thomas couldn't help but enquire.

    \"Abilities naturally have their opposites in nature, as well as those complimentary abilities,\" Ren Zexian advised him.  \"Lightning and earth naturally oppose, but due to the earth root being superior, it reveals itself while the lightning root is suppressed.  While it is possible to suppress one completely and raise the other, it is not without cost.  Still with hard work, I believe I can raise your earth ability within these weeks to be no worse than Cole's was at the beginning and given more time you will be his equal.  How impressive your lightning root will be though, I cannot say.\"

    \"Cole?\"

    \"My apprentice,\" Chang Min said in a warm and proud tone.  \"He has two secondary parallel roots of sand and rock, thus his overall potential is only a little less than mine.\"

    As Faith had already claimed, there was a lot for these soldiers to take in, but while it was not all good news, it was not all bad either.  Chang Min's Master had already suggested that he could help them develop their abilities, though the proof had not yet been presented, most of them could no longer hold onto completely defiant views.  As they were mulling over the possibilities, the man, Dexter opened door to the second mansion's living room, where they were currently seated.  There was a softness to his expression that hadn't been there during his time at the base or as they travelled here.

    \"Autumn wanted me to call you to our kitchen for dinner,\" he told them, with a slightly goofy smile that he himself was unaware he was wearing.  The soldiers were curious, but Chang Min and Ren Zexian didn't mention anything about it.

    \"So soon?\" Chang Min judged it early considering the light still in the sky.  All meals were eaten before sunset, just for convenience sake, but by his judgement, they still had some two hours before then.  Actually, they'd just expected some meal boxes to be sent over for the soldiers, not that these people would be invited over to eat.

    \"It was Autumn's idea,\" Dexter shrugged, but he didn't seem unhappy about it.  \"She decided to add another shift to the evening meal due to numbers.  She considers you guys guests so should be served first.\"  He said this to the five soldiers, none of whom could be said to be unmoved by the gesture.  At the base, they received meals, but it was usually something like corn porridge, maybe with a bit of scrambled omelette and dinner was casserole or soup heavily made up with thin gravy, potatoes or pasta and some all year vegetable like spinach.  Anything else these days needed to be purchased by additional points.  Despite this monotony, the queues to the dining hall were always long, they seldom got to eat at a decent hour.

    They weren't expecting much more than this, after travelling from the second mansion to the first, so were completely shocked by the display of food on the table and even more so by the smiling woman's humble words.  \"I wasn't expecting more people,\" she said as she placed a jug of fresh water in the middle of the table, \"so I quickly threw together a bean and corn soup from some tinned vegetables with dumplings to make up the difference.  Otherwise it's just a green vegetable stir fry with some minced pork and julienned new potatoes, hope that's alright.\"

    \"Minced pork?\" Even Thomas could not hide his interest in the idea of eating meat.  Each soldier began to salivate, gulping sharply as if they could not believe their senses.  It looked great and it smelled delicious.  It wasn't a huge meal, they definitely believed that their appetites wouldn't be satisfied, but when was the last time they had eaten their fill completely?

    \"Yeah, this overgrown porker jumped into our laps and begged to be eaten!\" Dexter joked as he took a seat before indicating the soldiers should do the same.  Curiously, the plump, amicable woman was dishing up some of the food into Tupperware, which she handed to Ren Zexian before he thanked her and hurried away, leaving them to dine without him.  \"So we tried our luck trading some pork for your chickens and got you lot instead!\"

    The soldiers, who had been feeling a little guilty that they got to eat meat, while their comrades couldn't, suddenly had their feelings dry up.  Nothing more could stop them from picking up their forks and tucking into the meal before them.
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