I should have known. I piped everything I heard, saw, felt, and sensed right back into Tree from the moment I entered the Cultivation World. Of course, letting masses of people have access to that data is going to set things in motion. And letting people have access to months of time while my progress is virtually at a standstill is also far from a great idea.
And they could see what I’ve been up to this entire time. I got so embarrassed by the sheer mass of people wanting to have a word, that I legged it before even a tenth of that line had gotten to me. Database and Tree keep bugging me about requests that people have sent my way, but I’ve just fobbed that task off to a large process. I have no qualms about making a part of my mind do that. Yet the images of those people, all of their smiling faces and star-struck expressions just keep coming back to me.
There were even some flustered women who wanted me to sign pictures. One pretty woman showing me an image of the Blood Willow licking my face with its many tongues, lovingly recreated in extreme detail, was one of the low points. The girl looked at me with a feverish blush on her face while she was holding out the image for me to sign. I’m still not sure what I feel about that ordeal, so I decided to try and forget about it.
I once again make up my mind, and before I can change anything about my sensory data stream arrangement, I step out of my room. I spent a couple of days there, cultivating and getting a portion of usable qi back, but I want to get moving again.
As for my pursuers, the large organizations have given up. The fact that I haven’t left the Flowing Spring Overlook Inn since entering means that I’m no clueless Jianghu newbie who has stumbled onto some treasure. Only the less fortunate groups still have people waiting for me outside the inn’s entrance. Those organizations have much more to win by following me to my supposed stash, and wasting personnel on keeping watch is worth the effort.
Doing one last check, making sure that my disguise as a scholar is well and truly perfect, I step onto an elevator. I’m wearing white robes with black trims, black cloth shoes, and a black hat. The square hiding my hair took the longest to make and put on, as I had to make sure that my short hair isn’t visible at all. I also didn’t have a scholar’s hat lying around, so I had to do some qi-powered sewing to create the thing.
I have no desire to be followed over having sold a couple of bones, so I once again make sure my disguise is perfect and step from the elevator. The woman manning the desk looks at me weirdly, but I ignore her and walk outside. Then I realize that it’s perfectly dark out and that I will not be able to exit town without raising a massive amount of suspicion like this. I just rub my hands a bit, take a deep breath, pretend to enjoy the cool night air, and turn around again.
A few hours later, I once again descend into the lobby. Ignoring the grinning receptionist, I stroll outside. I keep my face serene while walking past the small cohort of people waiting for me, and start strolling towards the north. I keep my eyes in front, only occasionally glancing to the side, just so that I can exude a nice and scholarly aura. Actual scholars are pretty common in older, more developed areas. A small border city like this one usually has little need for mortals or civilian cultivator scholars of higher learning.
I have always appreciated their way of life, though. Depending on the kingdom or empire, scholars can be seen as just below actual immortals. The fact that a lot of large organizations give their learned people enough cultivation resources to stave off death is pretty cool. This is also one of the few ways that non murder-psychopath immortals are created.
As I walk, I let my eyes wander over the city. From its design, I can see that it’s a city planned and formed by cultivators. The wide roads, geometric street patterns, and neatly sectioned parts of the city show that this place is designed from the ground up by people with a long term plan. Outpost Long Reach seems to be one of the places ruled over by a neutral governing body made up of high-level cultivators. For mortals, this place is actually one of the better ones to live, I conclude sadly.
The three main types of cities I’ve come across in the Cultivation world are mortal, cultivator run, and sect cities. The mortal ones are usually deep inside sect territories, in places where qi levels are low, or little cultivation resources can be harvested. They are what I imagine a medieval city would look like if all the people were about twice as strong as normal.
The cultivator-run towns are highly variable in terms of living conditions. On average, those towns are run by a cultivator who couldn’t make it in the sect. Gathering and protecting a couple of thousand mortals to rule over is child’s play, allowing them to live like mortal kings. Then there are sect towns, places where cultivators live, train, fight, work, and more. This town seems to be a mix of sect and cultivator-run, with a lot of mortals and a lot of cultivators.
The stalls that are appearing now that I’m leaving the fancier district also indicate this demographic ratio. Most stalls are selling normal food, clothes, ordinary tools, and simple iron weapons. Then there are the cultivator stalls, which are recognizable by the fact that they are always standing alone. The people manning these stores are a lot more imposing than the usual mortal rabble hawking their wares.
I try to retain my image of an aloof scholar some more, but by the time Database bugs me for the twentieth time that it spots an item that people have requested, I decide to just to give in. I never really expected the people inside Tree to get as organized as they appeared last night. They seemed to have all their stuff together, some new highly talented people have appeared, and a lot of the tedious work that constitutes true progress is done in a competent manner. I might deify chaos and adventure to a near perverse level sometimes, but that all needs to be built upon a foundation. And building a foundation is a lot of hard and tedious work.
And the least I can do to show my appreciation for all this hard work is to buy a couple of things.
Walking over to the stall with the most useful knickknacks, I start loading up a process I haven’t used in years. I plug the correct location into the thing, assign the correct language, give it a goal to strive for, and let it control my face. I then take a step back and prepare to watch the show. My face keeps its same placid expression, and I glance towards a single item on display briefly. “What specific sub-region of the Sweltering Fowl mountain range is this piece of Feathered Glowstone from?”
“Most honored scholar, this precious stone is carried here across many miles after it was won from the main vein.”
I can feel the information being loaded into the process; my train of thought automatically going over the possible ways I can take this negotiation. From the look of the vendor - a pudgy man with scars everywhere and simple clothes - he is just a merchant student or possibly even a bodyguard. Time to pull out a big gun to scare off the raffle. “You claim this piece is over eight hundred years old? Did they re-open the main shaft? Did that Heaven Realm Molten Scaled Wormbeast find a better lair, then? This is new information for me, how many spirit stones do I owe you?”
As predicted, the buff man goes pale. The lout probably has never even seen a spirit stone in his life, and here I go claiming that his bluff is information that’s worth at least a couple. A smiling woman suddenly appears behind the man, her stance low, and her eyes cast down in a rather demure manner. “You may kill this servant for being insolent. I have tried to teach him many times, but I fear that we have been negligent in his teachings. We have not heard news of the main shaft re-opening, my honored sir. Shall we have him flogged for not seeing what is clear to see?”
“No, that’s fine. You may pay for his transgressions, however.” I wonder what my hardcore negotiation process is doing for a moment. Then I realize that there is another party present. What follows is a tense silence. The woman goes equally pale as the meaning of my words sinks in, and the pretty lady no doubt imagines a rather harsh future for herself.
“Scram,” comes from behind the back of the tent. The scarred man and pretty woman both scurry off to the back, and a wizened old man shuffles to the front. He looks me in the eye, and I feel several thin webs of qi flick from his yellowed peepers. The webs lay themselves over me like a shrinkwrapped sheet, no doubt some form of lie detection formation or spell. “Scholar. What interests you?”
I mentally roll my eyes at the entire display of bullshit. The line-up of the bodyguard, mid-boss, and end-boss is kind of predictable, and I fear that this is just one of many such encounters that I will have to go through today. I love talking to people and having a genuine connection with someone. This is just posturing and hiding behind layers, however. My negotiation process finds that the most likely chance of success is to just point at stuff. So I jab a finger at the large piece of Striped Spark Iron, a relatively cheap form of precious metal used in the production of top Human Realm armor and weapons.
I feel the webs of qi restrict for a moment, and I can see the dusty wheels in the old man’s brain creek. “Two spirit stones.”
My braincore negotiating process deems it necessary to raise a single eyebrow. “Negative nine hundred gold and two copper,” is my reply.
The old git then cuts the webs of qi coming from his eyes, letting the odd intent of his cultivation base dissipate into ambient qi. A broad smile splits his face in two, showing me a large number of white teeth. “Yes. That is the most reasonable price.”
I do my best to suppress a sigh. At least that stupid trick managed to show the old coot that I mean business. Negotiations go a lot faster now, which I’m glad for. The old fossil does keep sending weird and wasteful techniques at me, however. I just ignore them all and focus on buying as much of the needed items for the lowest price I’m willing to give.
Fifteen minutes of intense haggling later, I was away, a nice large bag filled with items hanging over my shoulder.
Feng Pei Xian, disgraced elder of the largest sect on a different continent, is elated. For the longest time, he thought that he would be wiling away his remaining millennia on this primitive land. For centuries, he thought that his exile from this birth-continent was going to be his death. That is until some young whippersnapper walked up to this cover stall and started scaring his employees. Scaring the shit out of his bodyguard and bed-warmer with just a single sentence is not that easy, but surely not extremely hard. Avoiding the detection of his Two-Tailed Spirit Boa Stare cursed eye technique was a massive surprise, however.
The young man then made a joke about the price. Adding their two ridiculous offers together came out to an acceptable market price. Pei Xian had tried many techniques then, none of them even allowing the ancient cultivator to grasp a hint of what this man was truly thinking.
This left two possibilities open - the first one he had dismissed out of hand. There is no reason why anyone would go through the effort of manually controlling their natural bodily reactions. The other possibility is that the fellow is a body cultivator. The only reason for anyone to cultivate their mortal body as opposed to the Path of the Heavens, which is cultivation of the mind, is if someone was bored enough to do that. Or, and this is the scary opportunity, the person reaches a high enough level that their body is automatically cultivated. Every single cultivator in the late Heaven Realm reaches that stage eventually.
So the conclusion that Feng Pei Xian had initially come to was that some patriarch had felt like having some fun. Then the old man realized that he had felt no aura from the man at all. This means that he had been of a higher realm, out of Pei Xian’s spiritual sensory range. And because Pei Xian is one step away from reaching the top of the Heaven Realm, that means that the scholar is a True Immortal!
How else could he have the money to buy the precious wares in his stall? Why else would he have walked away with a large bag instead of using a spatial item? Immortals have no need for mundane matter, no matter how precious. This means that this immortal has bigger plans, plans that require resources and investments.
And an Immortal Realm cultivator descending to this plane means only one thing. It means that chaos will soon follow and that there will be many opportunities for gaining treasure. Fate will start moving again, he is sure. Only one step stands between the ancient cultivator and Immortal Ascension, after all.
He had thought that step locked away from him, taken away the moment he was banished from his native lands. No longer, though. Surely powers will fall, and sects will crumble now that a descended Immortal walks the lands again. Shouting at his two employees, Feng Pei Xian orders them to gather up his stall. No need to let a good disguise go to waste, after all.
He does think that two things were quite odd about the man, however. Firstly, he thought he had felt the aura of a low tier Earth Realm cultivator from the man a couple of times. This is easily blamed on a sentimental artifact of a similar low power level, however. Pei Xian hadn’t dared use his Heavenly Sense in order to scan the man, as that would have been a severe insult. Shaking away the oddity, he did find it odd that there had been a barely perceptible bunny on the man’s shoulder.Previous Chapter Next Chapter