They continued on their way to the third layer in a rather silent way. Neither boy spoke to each other after the little conversation that they had. The mood was awkward since it seemed like both boys wanted to apologise but they kept faltering in their attempts. Shi Die's hesitance seemed to be more visible compared to Yan Guo's who kept an emotionless mask on his face.
Tian Bai had woken up from the little nap that he had taken and he was amused at the conflict of emotions that both boys seemed to be in. Tian Bai was not a nice person. He liked to play pranks and the awkward silence between Shi Die and Yan Guo was entertainment enough for him, considering that there was nothing actually interesting in the Underground that had caught his attention just yet.
As much as Tian Bai enjoyed the silenced that was prevailing between the two, he decided to break the silence since he wanted to know more about the Underground. Yan Guo's explanations and stories about the Underground were certainly more interesting than the silence.
"What else can you tell us about the Underground. You've talked about the major factions that seem to like fighting, Give us more details about these major factions." Tian Bai started to tug Yan Guo's hair to get his attention. He found it funny when Yan Guo seemed to tense up every time his hair was pulled. After a while, he stopped since he still wanted to hear Yan Guo's explanation and continuing to annoy him would not do him good.
Yan Guo was glad for Tian Bai breaking the silence since he felt rather uncomfortable with it. "The major factions of the Underground? There are seven major factions and even rule over a portion of the Underground. They have many sub-factions that help them manage the first and second layer but they all report to a major faction. Factions that aren't underneath the major factions, usually have an alliance with one of them due to the need for protection from others."
Yan Guo glanced over at Shi Die who seemed to be listening intently, he continued with confidence now that he knew that Shi Die was interested. "I've mentioned before that violence is basically a daily occurrence for the Underground but that's mostly due to the tensions between alliances. They don't fight over land, property or whatnot, They fight for the benefits that they could receive if their combat superiority is recognised."
Shi Die tilted his head. Yan Guo noted that if Shi Die had a dog's ears, it would look extremely cute. "Benefits? What do they receive from these benefits that fights are so common? These benefits must truly be worth it if these people risk their lives on a daily basis."
Yan Guo tore his gaze away from Shi Die and adjusted his facial expression quickly. "Those that get recognised by their faction would start to be assigned missions. Do note that these missions that they get assigned are just as dangerous as the fights. No, the true benefit that they get is Faction Points. Faction Points can be used regardless of faction. They can be traded for anything, and when I say anything, I mean it."
"Faction Points can be traded for whatever you can name. As long as the Underground can get their hands on it, and you have the appropriate amount of Faction points then you can have it. The major factions usually are the ones that set the prices for specific things and nobody dares argue over it."
"The seven major faction's names are related to flowers: Azalea, Lotus, Chrysanthemum, Hydrangea, Orchid, Rose and Violet. The Rose and Hydrangea factions consist of only females. The other factions are a mixture of both genders. Each faction has their own speciality that they teach to members that have contributed to the faction highly. Distribution of the techniques taught equals to death."
"The major factions rule most of the things but obviously not everything. There are several other groups that have substantial power comparable to the factions though they are neutral when it comes to anything that happens in the Underground. They are just the powerhouses that don't really care about anything that happens. They just go with the flow. My father is one these Neutral powerhouses. Master Gua Gua is also a Neutral powerhouse and he trains assassins that are hired by all factions and groups."
Yan Guo sneaked another look at Shi Die and was glad that he had managed to keep Shi Die's attention on whatever he was saying. He was slightly apologetic about his defensive behaviour against Shi Die but he still felt like he had said the correct thing. He knew that Shi Die had his best interests at heart just like everybody else in the group, after all, he was the same for the others as well. It was because he didn't want others to question his father's ethics when it came to training. He was his only living relative.
Yan Guo could see that Shi Die wanted to ask a question so he stopped talking for a moment so that he had a chance.
"How'd your father get involved in the Underground? I'm certain that you'd know of the Underground through rumours and all that but how'd he become a major power in the Underground? He's the Vice-principal of the Academy so I see no reason for him to be involved with groups that could be considered to be criminals."
Yan Guo wasn't very sure how to answer that since he didn't know too much about how his father had gotten involved with the Underground. He only knew that his father had gotten involved with the Underground when his mother had died. "I don't really know how he got involved with the Underground but I can probably guess the reason."
Shi Die waited for Yan Guo to continue but he never did. Shi Die prompted him to tell him more. "What's the reason? You can't just leave me hanging." Shi Die, the one who was usually able to grasp the mood of the conversation was distracted by his own curiosity to notice that Yan Guo didn't want to say anymore.
Clearing the emotions that he was feeling on his face, he spoke in a dead tone. "He was involved with the Underground after my mother's death. He never really got over her death and the Underground became his way to vent his frustration. The current principal, San Guo had my father become the Vice-principal due to the ties that he had to the Underground. It boosted the Academy's strength and it became much safer when agreements were made with the major factions to have them stay away."
"The Underground became a bloody battleground during the few years that my father was truly invested into the Underground. From when he joined to the moment he formed the agreement, fights broke out every day and casualties piled up. Those that weren't involved with the Underground had absolutely no clue, only the major powers of the city really knew what was going on below them."
"After the agreement was formed, my father was less involved with the Underground but he was recognised as a major power and neutral party due to his influence and strength that he held in the Underground. I believe my father fought many battles in the Underground which is why he is so respected. Other than that, I know nothing else."
Shi Die was feeling angry with himself due to the insensitive question that he had forced Yan Guo to answer. He should've stopped trying to push Yan Guo into answering the question considering that everybody had their own secrets to keep. Shi Die also knew that he should've noticed the signs that Yan Guo didn't want to speak with just his nose. He could smell emotions after all.
He apologised because he was sorry and not because it was the right thing to do. "I'm sorry for pushing you. I should've realised that you felt uncomfortable with the conversation and left it as it was."
Yan Guo smiled. "I'm sorry as well. I didn't mean to react the way I did when it came to things about my father. It's just hard to break the habit after doing it for so long. I'm still not quite used to having others care about me so much in such a way. My father cares about me in his own unique way, twisted as it may be."
Tian Bai snorted at the atmosphere that had been created. "This became so corny. Why'd you both have to ruin my fun." Tian Bai pouted after he spoke.
The two simply laughed at Tian Bai's adorable expression, all tenseness in the atmosphere forgotten. "How exactly does the Black Market work?"
Yan Guo took up his lecturing tone once again. "The Black Market is split into two portions. The first portion is the general market where you can simply stroll through the streets and look at stores or stalls for items that you need. The item quality that is sold at these stores and stalls are all kept at a standard. The factions play a major role in keeping these stores and stalls stocked with items since it provides a substantial income."
"The second portion is the Auction Tavern. It's basically the Auction House for the normal citizens but for the people that know of the Underground. The items here... we get rarer items on a common basis due to the illegality of the methods that the items were retrieved. We're searching for antidotes for rarer substances so we'll have to be going to the Auction Tavern. The things that Hua Fei used isn't too expensive so I should be able to shell out the money that is needed for it."
"We'll also be lurking around the Auction Tavern after we find the antidotes. They have quite the selection of items as long as you have the money and authority to buy them. Luckily for us, I have my father's permission. What that means, is that I basically have a badge that symbolises that I'm at the Auction Tavern in his capacity and I can basically do everything he can."
Yan Guo's explanation of the Underground was enlightening for both Shi Die and Tian Bai. It seemed as if that there was truly so much to see in the world, they hadn't even finished discovering all the secrets there were to be discovered in the city. Shi Die was also glad that Yan Guo's attitude towards him was no longer as cold as before when he had broached the topic of his father and the Underground.
Seeing that Yan Guo was no longer speaking, Shi Die decided that he would at least make the conversation normal and to make sure that the atmosphere didn't become as tense as it had before. "Don't you think that our journey from the Academy to the Underground seemed relatively safe? I'm surprised we haven't met anybody that had a grudge against your father or anything."
Yan Guo sighed. "I feel like you've just cursed us to a bitter fate."
"That would certainly be amusing, at least your bitter fate would bring amusement to this dreary trip." Tian Bai was mumbling his words as he was about to take another nap.
The two finally entered the third layer of the Underground and Yan Guo steered Shi Die towards the Black Market's entrance, the sign visible to all who could see and read.
Of course, how else would a trip become interesting if the danger wasn't lurking around in the shadows? Several pairs of eyes stalked the two figures that walked into the Black Market. Why would the Underground keep the pair safe from prying eyes if they weren't even safe from them above-ground?
Yan Guo and Shi Die had absolutely no clue for what they were about to face.