Advertisement
Remove
Settings

CHAPTER 14

IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

 

Lino was escorted into a small house at the very edge of the impromptu-city within the valley. It was more akin to a shack rather than a proper house, but he didn’t mind. Inside the house he only found a single bed, a table, a chair and a simple fireplace. He quickly lied down atop the bed and felt exhaustion overcome his body as he sighed out. His mind drifted away into countless thoughts, some having to do with Vyeala, Endo Clan, as well as the world at large. He learned a lot from his quick scan over the small library, and it would take a while to swallow everything properly.

He doubted very much that Endo Clan – as well as the rest of them – are here by choice. Umbra Kingdom has no cultivation inheritances, making it a simple, Mortal Kingdom, practically a backwater village for cultivators. Yet, three powers full of cultivators were stationed here. He realized that they probably lacked strength to sustain themselves elsewhere, but he didn’t care. After a brief moment, he discarded the thoughts at large; his current priority was trying to figure out how to kill Vyeala without dying himself.

On his way over to the gathering of big shots, as well as on the way back, he carefully inspected the city streets as well as possible blind spots. However, he doubted that knowledge would serve him much; there’s no doubt that Vyeala won’t be leaving Patriarch’s side for as long as he remained here. No matter what he did, they will never trust him.

“Aah, what a pain in the ass…” Lino mumbled, looking at the ceiling.

He didn’t have an idea on how long would he be staying here, but he had a feeling it won’t be too long. He intended to use the Peak Lord merely as a shield, but it looks like he stirred hornet’s nest more than he wanted. It wasn’t as though he was completely out of options; he could simply stay here and spy and inform that bald guy of the Endo Clan’s movements and the fact that they’ll also be leaving this Kingdom. However, that was his last resort. He never enjoyed leaving his fate in someone else’s hands; fifteen years in the orphanage had taught him the hard truth – there are no good people in the world, just those who can afford to be good for a period of time.

He himself wasn’t any different; self-interest peaked when it came to the worldly attachments, and everything else came afterwards. One can’t hope to meet people like Eggor and Ella, who stand out amongst the crowd and are willing to offer a helping hand without gaining anything back. That old guy didn’t let him go because he was a good person and Lino was a young kid. He let him go because the plan already fell apart, and he decided to at least wait and see whether Lino could salvage it. If he could, then it was a worthy investment; if not, he’d just proceed with the same route he’d take if he killed Lino in the first place. Leading members of the Endo Clan weren’t any different; they didn’t attack Lino not because he saved Vyeala, but because they are uncertain – Lino provided them with just enough truth to scare them, but gave a vague enough answer that they won’t be able to form a full picture. Just like he was spying on them, they were spying on him, waiting for him to make a move.

Lino spotted at least seven people watching his small house; every breath he took, every fart of his would be spotted and reported. He had a suspicion that the moment he activated any of the communication talismans, he’d be besieged from every corner and killed on the spot. Being watched so closely was uncomfortable, but it’s not as though he could ask them politely to leave.

“Tche,” he clicked his tongue, rolling on the bed. “This really is a pain in the ass… eh, I guess I’ll wait for the night.”

He entered shallow sleep while maintaining a small ounce of awareness on his surroundings. Regardless, even if he was going to do something, he needed to be properly rested for it. Hours quickly passed, and night arrived. When he woke up and looked outside the window, he noticed that the full moon was already midway through the sky. He also realized that there were additional three people spying on him, totaling in ten. He smiled bitterly and shook his head; there was no way he could sneak out without being spotted. The entire perimeter surrounding his house was locked; even a fly wouldn’t be able to move unspotted.

He sighed and got off the bed, walking over and leaving the house through the front doors. He didn’t even take two steps forward before a shadow emerged from the darkness and formed a familiar youth who stared at him with a faint trace of malice.

“Where are you going?” the youth asked.

“A stroll.” Lino replied simply.

“It’s best if you stay inside for the rest of the night.” the youth said in a somewhat threatening tone.

“…” Lino lazily glanced at him. “There are two ways this can end,” Lino said calmly. “Either you’ll let me go, or I’ll kill all ten of you and then go. It’s your choice.”

“… do you really think this is your backyard?” the youth asked, his expression darkening. “So you can move as you wish?” before the youth even had a chance to finish his sentence, he felt cold blade pressing against the side of his neck; his dark expression disappeared, replaced by one of shock and fear. He glanced sideways and saw Lino holding a stretched out sword, pressed against youth’s neck. He then lifted his eyes and looked at Lino’s eyes; they were cold, indifferent, terribly dark to the point he felt as though world suddenly froze.

“I do.” Lino said. “So be smart.” Lino already felt all nine other people surrounding him, ready to leap at him at a moment’s notice. While one of his arms held a sword, the other clutched the [Celestial Rod]; there are always different ways to deal with the situation, but he had already predetermined the way he would be dealing with Endo Clan. If he suddenly listened to the words of this youth, then his performance against Elders would be questioned. There’s no doubt that every one of his decisions was being monitored, which is why he had to act all the way through. “Can I go?”

“… y-yes…” the youth said as he gulped.

“What’s your name?” Lino asked as he withdrew the sword and placed it back into the necklace.

“… G-Garel…” the youth said.

“Garel, huh?” Lino said, looking at youth deeply. “That’s the second time you pissed me off.” he added coldly as he took a step forward; as he passed by the youth, he whispered coldly into his ear. “There won’t be a third.”

Casually passing by, he headed straight toward the city; his ‘watchers’ followed after him immediately, but he paid them no heed. Although it was already late night, the city was still rather alive; several taverns and pubs were still working full-force, and music echoed from several places. He headed over to one of the pubs and entered; he was welcomed by a loud bustle and a nearly packed two-story tall building. Wiggling his way through the crowd, he found an empty seat in one of the corners and sat down. Most of the people in the pub were ordinary mortals that didn’t cultivate, which didn’t surprise him; even if it was a clan of cultivators, it would be impossible for everyone to be a cultivator. Rather, majority of population were ordinary mortals. Shortly after, a simply-dressed girl that appeared even younger than him approached.

“Hello,” she said, forcing a smile on her face. “What would you like to drink?”

“… mead.” Lino replied simply.

“A bottle or a cup?” the girl asked.

“A bottle.”

“Just a moment.”

Lino took out a few silvers and placed them on the table as he waited for the girl to come back. Meanwhile, he calmly observed the people around; there was a small, raised platform at the other side of the pub where a scantily dressed woman was singing a bard song. Majority of the audience were drunkards who were mostly trying to figure out angles to see whether they could spot the forbidden places on her body. Yet, as though by masterful design, no matter how much they tried, the places were hidden.

~~Ale, ale, the drunken tale

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the hidden vale

Find at any cost

Ale, ale, the Judgment Day

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the shipwrecked sail

Find the treasure lost

 

Bring out kegs of wine and ale

I'm the one who drinks

I will drink it 'till I'm full

'Till my mouth begins to stink

Someplace across the seas

Rests a kingly bed

Where the sailors Maidens tease

Find the treasure said

 

Ale, ale, the drunken tale

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the hidden vale

Find at any cost

Ale, ale, the Judgment Day

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the shipwrecked sail

Find the treasure lost

 

Heed, heed the treasured seed

Sail toward the north

For once you've done this deed

None shall more tread forth

Don the blessed crown

Be the King of Men

Let them kneel and bow

Again, again and again

 

Ale, ale, the drunken tale

of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the hidden vale

Find at any cost

Ale, ale, the Judgment Day

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the shipwrecked sail

Find the treasure lost

 

On the land without maidenhead

Rests the kingly tomb

Find the rivers of finest ale

Drink them 'till you're full

Once your belly's grown in size

From the finest ale

Journey forth toward the cries

Fulfill the olden tale

 

Ale, ale, the drunken tale

of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the hidden vale

Find at any cost

Ale, ale, the Judgment Day

Of the man who's lost

Ale, ale, the shipwrecked sail

Find the treasure lost~~

 

 

On the other hand, most of those who were sitting on chairs were solitary figures like Lino. They all drank slowly, occasionally laughing at something. Lino didn’t have to wait long for his drink to arrive; the girl placed a bottle of mead and a wooden cup before taking silver, bowing lightly and disappearing back whence she came from. Lino slowly uncapped the bottle and smelled the contents; he furrowed his brows slightly; the smell was rather sweet, intoxicatingly so. It wasn’t his first time drinking mead, but the one Eggor bought was much tamer in comparison. Regardless, he poured half a cup and drank a gulp; much like its smell, it was rather sweet and condensed. The reason he ordered an entire bottle was because he planned on staying in the pub the entire night, and he simply needed a reason.

Even if cultivators of the Clan would keep their mouths shut in front of him, the same can’t be said for the mortals. Regardless of how prosperous a Kingdom was, there would always be poor ones – the same went with Clans. And, usually, the poorest would gather at places like this where they could vent some steam before having to go back to mundane tasks. He merely needed to wait for someone either drunk or desperate enough to approach him. However little Endo Clan knew about him, he knew even less about them. He didn’t know the structure, the rules, the history, or even where everyone was stationed and what were the living conditions. These kinds of things may not seem to be completely necessary are essential if he was to even have a whiff of a chance of completing his task.

Thus, he sat silently in the corner, occasionally taking a sip of mead and observing. After a woman’s performance, some bald, bearded guy climbed up the platform and started performing with pan pipes; it was a rather quick-paced song, causing many to start dancing wildly. Meanwhile, as the song reached its peak, Lino spotted the woman who just performed approaching his table; she appeared to be in late thirties, with rather developed body. Her simple robe could barely contain her breasts, and it’s not as though she bothered to hide the ravine between them. Her black hair was tied up in a bun and her long legs were all but cleanly exposed. She eyed him and smiled before approaching and sitting down across from him, leaning on her hands as she stared intently into his eyes.

“You new?” she asked after a short while. Hmm, she can’t be bought… it’s probably best if I don’t waste any time. Lino concluded immediately.

“Not interested.” Lino said. “You can leave.”

“Oh? That’s rather cold of you.” the woman smiled as her eyes radiated strangely. “Maybe you just haven’t seen enough?” she added as she slipped her robe sideways, revealing one of her breasts entirely. Aii, what are you doing?! I’m here to gather information, not be dazzled!

“Khm, you sure you haven’t vitality of fifty women to get them to be that big?” Lino asked casually as he took a sip of mead, not daring to look directly at the exposed part.

“Ha ha,” the woman laughed seductively before pulling the robe back over her breasts. “Who knows? Even if I did, it’s not as though it wasn’t worth it, right?”

“… aii aunty, don’t play with me,” Lino said, smiling lightly. “I’m saving myself for the marriage days. I need to be pure for the love of my life.”

“…”

“…”

“I can help you.” the woman said, smiling sweetly.

“I very much doubt that.” Lino replied.

“You want information,” the woman said, flinging her hair backwards as she took the bottle of mead and took a few gulps straight out. “And I want out.”

“…” Lino furrowed his brows as he glared at the woman for a moment.

“Aii, don’t give me that look. I know every single face in this god forsaken place, but yours I don’t recognize. It can only mean you’re new; I don’t care why you’re here or what you’re planning on doing. I just want to make a simple deal.”

“…” Lino remained silent, but encouraged the woman with his eyes.

“I know practically everything that’s going on in this place,” the woman said, playing with the bottle. “Whether it has to do with these pigs behind me, or those pigs above me who claim themselves gods. I can tell you all you need to know and, in exchange, I want you to help me escape this place.”

“… why do you think I have a way to leave this place?” Lino asked casually, taking a sip of mead.

“You just look the part.”

“That’s awfully little to be betting on.”

“My intuition never failed me. Why do you think I managed to survive in this place so far with the body like mine?”

“You’re really not the humble type, are you?” Lino said, smiling lightly.

“I have it, I flaunt it. Is there something wrong with that?” the woman asked.

“Certainly not.” Lino replied. “Why do you trust me, though?”

“I don’t.”

“Ouch.”

“No hard feelings,” the woman said, smiling. “I can sense that you’re a cultivator, but you’re not from this place. Now, you can either be a saint or a devil, I don’t really care as long as you get me out of here.”

“Why do you want to leave in the first place?” Lino asked casually. “From what I’ve seen, the place doesn’t seem bad.”

“You haven’t seen enough, then.” the woman said, her expression suddenly darkening. “If you had asked me a few years back, then sure, there would be no way in hell for me to leave this place.”

“What changed?”

“… do we have a deal?” woman asked instead, smiling.

“I don’t trust you.” Lino said simply.

“You don’t have to. Only idiots trust others when they’re making deals.”

“I’m being shadowed by ten people,” Lino said. “If you have a way to leave them behind, we have a deal.” the woman smiled sweetly for a moment before replying.

“So you do have a way to leave this place.” she said.

“… eeh, I suppose you could call it ‘leaving’.” Lino said, smiling. “The question is… how far do you want to be escorted?”

“… I’ll let you know.” the woman said as she got up. “Follow me.”

“Lead the way.”

The two scurried through the thick crowds to the backside of the pub before they ended up in a small, storage room full of barrels of wine. Ignoring them, the woman proceeded toward the isolated corner before crouching down and pulling the rug away, revealing floor-door beneath. Taking a key from her cleavage, to which Lino did his best to pretend he didn’t see, she unlocked it and opened it slowly, causing faint creaking sound to emit outward. There was a ladder leading downwards atop which she quickly landed. Lino followed shortly after and, after about a minute of downward ‘climbing’, the two landed into a rather narrow hallway faintly lit up with blue-flickering gemstones.

“My name’s Aeala, by the way,” the woman said as the two moved forward through the hallway. “Yours?”

“Lino.”

“Lino, eh? Do you know you’re the first outsider to come here in the past twenty years?” the woman asked.

“It must have been tough on you.” Lino said, smiling.

“Ha ha, eh, a girl’s gotta live,” the woman said, shrugging her shoulders. The two reached a crossroad before Aeala took left. “What about you? How’d you end up here?”

“I saved Vyeala’s life.” Lino said.

“Eh? That little Demon?” the woman exclaimed softly as she glanced backward.

“Eh?” Lino exclaimed right back, somewhat surprised.

“Ha ha, don’t look so surprised,” Aeala said, finding his reaction rather cute. “I know a lot more things than you imagine. Eh… so you saved her life. I didn’t even know she left the Clan.”

“If you know she’s a Demon, why don’t you tell others?” Lino asked.

“Who would believe me?” Aeala scoffed. “Since the day she was born, Patriarch and others propped her up as the ‘blessed child’. She’s practically worshiped by anyone who’s worth anything in the Clan.”

“… is that so…”

“Why did you save her if you know she’s a demon?” Aeala asked.

“Learned that after the fact.”

“Unfortunate.”

“Why do you think I’m here?” Lino said, smiling widely.

“Eh?! No, no! At least get me out of here first!” Aeala said, somewhat panicked. “Even if you somehow manage to kill her, there’s no way they’ll let you go!”

“… aii, do you think I came here to trade my life for hers?” Lino said, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, even if I did nothing, the Clan would leave this place soon anyway.”

“Eh? What do you mean?” Aeala asked as they finally reached the end of the tunnel; she opened the simple, wooden doors and landed inside a small, makeshift room. She went toward the corner and lit up a few candles before sitting down and taking out two gourds of wine, handing Lino one. “Sit first. We can talk here in peace for a little while. So, what do you mean?”

“… eh, let’s just say that the fact Vyeala is a Demon is no longer a secret.” Lino said, smiling faintly.

“… what is your plan?” Aeala asked.

“No, no, information first.” Lino said. “Seeing those gigantic tits of yours, it would be no wonder if they sent you to pry my di-I mean lips open.”

“… ha ha ha,” Aeala burst out into laughter which lasted for a long while before she forcibly calmed herself down. “Alright… alright, fair enough. So, what do you want to know?”

“… everything.” Lino said, taking a sip of wine.

“… well, if you’re planning on assassinating them one by one, I can tell you where they reside. However, all their abodes are protected by high-level formations, and even I’ve never been inside.” Aeala said.

“No, that would take too long.” Lino shook his head. “Also, I’m not that confident in being unnoticed.”

“… alright. Do you plan on fighting them out in the open, then?” Aeala asked.

“… aah, looks like I really have to be one asking the questions,” Lino said, smiling. “Is there any good smithy here that isn’t inspected daily?”

“Smithy? Hmm…” Aeala thought for a moment. “There’s Old Shack’s. He died a few years ago, but no one inherited his shop, so it’s closed right now. I’m assuming it’s the same with the smithy.”

“Hmm… alright. Are you confident in grabbing some simple ingredients?” Lino asked.

“Oh? You’re a blacksmith?”

“Yup.”

“How simple?” Aeala asked.

“… hmm, as long as it’s any ore above Level 20, and any herbs above Level 15 it should be fine. It wouldn’t hurt if you could get a hold of some sturdy metal either.” Lino said.

“Ore and metal shouldn’t really be a problem,” Aeala said slowly. “But herbs… especially above Level 10… at most, I can get you 4-5, and even that’s if I take a risk.”

“No need for a risk. Just grab 2-3 if you can.”

“I can do that.”

“Hmm… good. Is there any grand formation guarding the place?” Lino asked.

“There should be,” Aeala said. “However, as you can see, I’m just an ordinary Mortal, so even if there is, that’s not something I’m privy to knowing.”

“Why aren’t you cultivating, by the way?” Lino asked. “Lack of talent?”

“Hah, I wouldn’t know.”

“Hm?”

“It’s not as though everyone in the Clan is given a chance at cultivating,” Aeala replied bitterly. “I’m a daughter of ordinary farmers. Even though I was born here, nobody paid any attention to one of the hundreds of babies that were born from ordinary, Mortal families. Those bastards safeguard their cultivation methods to the point of paranoia. That’s why it’s beyond difficult to even leave Clan’s grounds even if you’re a cultivator. They’re afraid someone will spread them out in the open.”

“… eh, if you’re still willing, I may have a way.” Lino said, smiling mysteriously.

“I’m almost forty.” Aeala said. “It’s far, far too late for me.”

“Ha ha, you never know,” Lino added. “Well, it’s high time I went back.”

“Eh? Didn’t you want to leave your bodyguards behind?” Aeala asked.

“Change of plans,” Lino said. “I’ve already found my information broker. Besides, it should be a few days before they show any movements. In the meantime, you do your best to gather the ingredients. I’ll come back tomorrow, same time. We can disappear on the pretense of having fun.”

“You know, it doesn’t have to be pretense.” Aeala said, biting her lower lip seductively.

“… damn, that was hot.” Lino said, sighing. “I’ll think about it. As long as you don’t charge me, though. After all, I’m a piss poor, farmer boy.”

“Don’t worry,” Aeala said. “As long as it’s you, it’s free.”

“…” The woman’s a devil! Ah, I really wanna bury my head there… “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hm. It’s a date.” Aeala said, still smiling.

Lino quickly escaped back through the way he came, afraid he’ll give in. The gears of his mind immediately began spinning as he adjusted his plan. The reason he came out tonight was to gather information, and even though it seemed as though he didn’t learn much, he actually learned quite a lot. Six plans he was concocting beforehand were thrown out the window, while new ones were forming. In the end, even this was form of tempering; he had too little experience with the world. Even now, he didn’t trust Aeala, which is why he didn’t tell her his plan and even left a few hints here and there to lead her astray. This was his first exposure to the world of cultivation, and he didn’t know what rules and laws and ideals they lived under. Even if everything falls apart, he was still confident in saving his life; not only was he much faster and had more endurance than the rest, he still had the [Celestial Rod] and the necklace crafted by Eggor – [Jade Necklace], which allowed him to negate three attacks from under Level 100 hostiles.

He casually walked back to his temporary abode while his guard dogs followed him in the shadows. Just as he entered and sat on the bed, his body suddenly shook as he realized something: he reached Level 30. Although he was slightly surprised, it wasn’t to the point he didn’t know why. <Empyrean Writ> always operated, even when he was sleeping or walking, constantly drawing in Qi and refining it, meaning that he was technically leveling all the time. The surprise came after. He suddenly felt a familiar sense of loss as he plummeted back onto the bed, and as his consciousness was drawn to both a familiar and unfamiliar world. Unlike before, there were no longer four worlds intersecting with him at the center. There was only one: World of Blood.

Advertisement

Support "Legend of the Empyrean Blacksmith"

About the author

beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

Achievements
Comments(7)
Log in to comment
Log In