Streets wider than two large horse carriages still seemed incapable of keeping the constant flow at an even pace; there were blockades of people left and right, which stirred more than a few arguments, and even a few fights along the way. Grens City was the first city Lino encountered when entering Valley of Sects, and was immediately surprised. The city itself was not only over one hundred squared kilometers, but it also housed fifteen sects all on its own who all fought for top position. The architecture largely comprised of buildings made of limestone of varying colors, with streets being paved in rough, gray stone. The city, due to its size, was separated into territories which were ruled by the respective sects. After a bit of inquiry, Lino realized that only three sects had qualifications to be ranked, and all three were Third-tier Sects: Seven Sins Sect, Ten Wonders Sect and Sacred Sword Sect. They were all respectively led by two Mythic Realm cultivators each, with dozens of Soul Realm cultivators in their ranks. However, Lino was no longer just an ordinary kid who got intimidated by Mythic Realm cultivators, especially the Early ones. He was already Level 82, just 8 Levels shy of reaching the Mythic Realm himself, and was rather confident in fighting anyone up to Level 100. Beyond that, he figured it would be a bit too risky.
Currently, he was sitting by the window on the second floor of a small tea shop, watching the bustling streets with a faint smile on his face. He’d spent three days already in the Grens City during which he’d mostly studied the city’s makeup, the powers and basic things like that. He’d learned that the strongest cultivator in the city didn’t belong to any of the sects, but was actually the city’s major; his name was simply Raven, and though nobody had ever met him, the rumors surrounding the name were numerous. Some said he came from the depths of the Valley where he was an Outer Elder of the First-tier Sect, and was actually a Illumine Realm cultivator, two whole realms above Mythic Realm. Some also said that he was sent here as a punishment for killing over ten thousand disciples because they didn’t listen to him, and some said he was actually a descendant of a powerful, Ancient Beast. Naturally, Lino didn’t really trust these rumors; he very much doubted that he was Illumine Realm - at most, he should be early Purity Realm cultivator, if even that - and he was definitely no descendant of an Ancient Beast.
As for the leaders of Third-tier Sects, as he suspected, they were all around Level 100, which made them just right as Lino’s opponents. Of course, he wasn’t dumb enough to challenge them in the open, as he stood no chance fighting against two of them at the same time. His plan was simply to steal from them, not engage in a fight. But, even that would require extensive planning, as tiered sects are very different from ordinary Clans and sects that could not qualify as tiered. Besides the leader requirements, in order to become a tiered Sect, it not only had to have a large-scaled Defensive Formation, but also a Sect Artifact. Sect Artifact wasn’t a forged item, and it could not be crafted by any person, no matter how strong they were. Rather, it was a natural occurrence when Sect’s unified strength was poured into a single point. It could be anything, from a sword to a flag, and its properties always remained a complete mystery to everyone except Sect Leaders. The reason why they were so feared was not only because they were usually far, far stronger than anything man-crafted, but also because nobody except chosen Sect Leaders could operate them, so they could not be stolen or even destroyed unless the Sect itself was destroyed.
This meant that large-scale wars between the Sects were actually quite rare, as unless one Sect far eclipsed the other in strength, both sides would suffer too much and there wouldn’t be much benefit from it. This kind of dampened Lino’s initial plan, which was to stir the three sides into entering free-for-all where he would be the party to collect the most benefits. After doing a bit more research, he was also fairly certain that the three tiered sects weren’t actually fighting each other outside of putting on a surface show; they most-likely colluded to keep any lower sect from being able to threaten them. He couldn’t help but sigh; the world was never as simple as it seemed on surface. Stealing from outside seemed rather impossible now, which meant he would have to make a name for himself. In the end, though, at least he knew he wouldn’t have to dwell any deeper than Grens City, as he was fairly confident in being able to gather enough resources in the following three months right here. He still had some basic capital inside his void world which would be enough to open up a shop here, and he was more than confident in being able to sell any one of his creations. The problem was his identity.
Lino was, for all intents and purposes, a nobody. He had no background, his cultivation wasn’t that great, and he had no connections worth anything to these people. Before he’d sell anything, there was a greater chance of someone storming in and stealing everything rather than buying it. There were, naturally, a few ways he could circumvent this; one was to take the backing of one of the Third-tier Sects, another was to play a mysterious persona of a Master’s Student, and third was to sell them as though it was a pawn shop, where stats would be locked for a certain period of time after a purchase. However, he didn’t really want to do any of these as they carried either too many cons or too many risks. Glancing sideways, he spotted a central, high tower made of black stone that stood above all other buildings in the city. It was a part of Major’s Manor and rumors said that the Major himself resided in that tower. A peculiar thought emerged in his mind, and he decided to test it.
After paying the bill in the tea shop, he went to the nearby smithy where one could rent a room for a small fee. Though the smithy was of terrible quality, Lino wasn’t intending to craft anything spectacular, but something just intriguing enough that would make him valuable. Paying the fee, he entered and immediately felt his heart darken; half the tools in here were broken, anvil was nowhere to be found, grindstone looked like it was ground itself at one point, and even forge looked like it would collapse at any moment. Seriously?! Can people craft anything other than chicken’s shit in this hellhole?! Sighing, he could only surrender to the circumstances and do the best with what he had. After taking out some basic materials, which altogether didn’t even cost a single gold coin, he began preparing. He wasn’t going to craft a weapon or an armor, but an auxiliary item, something akin to his [Celestial Plate]. Blacksmith’s skills were best showcased with these types of items, as it not only required high-level of still, but also imagination and creativity. He decided to craft a simple mirror.
The crafting process itself was simple, but due to outstandingly awful tools, it took him nearly four hours to complete the item. Once again, he was reminded of how unequipped he was with his Tri-Spirit Flame at the moment. Luckily, the Writ informed him he’d offer him another, higher-tiered flame after he’d reached Mythic Realm, which was why Lino focused on cultivation more than usual recently. The mirror itself looked simple; its surface was smooth and clear and didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. The border was made of dark wood, with strange patterns carved in all throughout, winding up to a single point where a small, ruby-colored crystal was embedded. The mirror was oval, and carried a hint of mystery in its make. Looking satisfied, he stored it into the void world before leaving the smithy and swearing to himself he’d never craft anything ever again without proper tools.
His destination was the Major’s Manor; rather than taking his chance with the Sects, he figured it’d be best if he got the backing of the Major himself. Though he perhaps wasn’t as strong as the rumors said, he should still be far stronger than Sect Leaders if he could keep them under tight lock. Lino was rather confident as a blacksmith, far more so than as a fighter and a cultivator. He’d never once stopped studying numerous books that Eggor gave him before they parted ways, and as a seventeen-year-old teenager, he was already a Grandmaster Blacksmith, something most people only ever reached halfway through their lifetimes. In the end, it was because he fought and cultivated since he had to, but crafted because he loved to. Solving mysterious ways of creating greater things from smaller pieces was a heart-burning passion of his, one he was certain he’d never abandon.
The Major’s Manor was guarded heavily; even at the outermost gates, dozens of guards stared at the people like hawks from five meters tall walls. The gates themselves were tightly shut, and people would have to walk through the small doors at the side if they wanted to enter. When the guards saw an unfamiliar, shabby-looking youth approach, they brandished their weapons tightly, ready to pounce at him immediately.
“Turn around and leave. You can’t beg here!” one of the guards who was stationed in front of the gates beckoned Lino.
“Ho ho, I’m not here to beg big bro,” Lino said, putting on an innocent, childish smile. “I’m here to present a gift to the honored Major!”
“A gift? You?” the guard scoffed. “Beat it, kid. What could you possibly have to gift to the Major?”
“Here,” Lino casually took out the mirror and handed it to the guard. “Also mention I’m the one who crafted it when you hand it over.” the guard naturally had no intention to take the mirror, but when he heard the youth crafted it, he became a bit intrigued. Not many people knew it, but the Major was far more impressed by people like blacksmiths, talisman and rune inscribers, formation and array masters etc., than by cultivators. Taking the mirror, he quickly looked at the stats and found himself shellshocked. His eyes darted between the mirror and the youth, seemingly in complete disbelief.
“Old San, what are you standing like a statue? Shoo him away already.” the voice of another guard jolted the man out of his stupor whereupon he swallowed a large gulp of saliva, immediately reevaluating the youth in front of him.
“You sure you crafted this?”
“Aye, with these beautiful hands of mine!” Lino still smiled widely.
“Wait here.” without daring to delay for a second, the guard called San darted through the small doors and headed toward the Manor. Though the other guards were confused, they said nothing and merely waited.
Major’s Manor was massive, far larger than any other compound - even those of three great Sects - and could house hundreds if not thousands of people at the time. Without paying heed to strange gazes headed his way from the city’s officials, he immediately headed toward the tower. The tower was like an oval obelisk, and was nearly a hundred meters tall, guarded day and night by no less than fifty people, all of whom were at least at Soul Realm. He was immediately stopped as he approached, despite his guard insignia.
“You have no clearance to be here. Step back immediately.” a guard that was half a head taller than San stepped out and pointed a massive sword. The latter, however, didn’t even flinch and presented the mirror to the guard.
“A blacksmith has come to present this to the Major,” San said, bowing slightly. “I am certain it would be most welcome.”
“...” the heavily armored guard took the mirror and inspected it only for a moment before his ever-cold eyes shone in strange light. “Wait here. I suspect Major will want to reward you.”
“Yes!” while San waited outside, the heavily armored guard headed inside the tower and climbed to the topmost floor. There, a door to a room awaited him and he respectfully knocked, waiting for nearly a minute before a melodic voice replied.
“Come in.” opening the doors, the guard went inside slowly and immediately knelt; on the other end was a table with a large bookshelf behind it. In-between the two, sitting atop a mildly decorated chair, was a thirty-something woman, her black hair braided beautifully, face decorated with only a small amount of make-up. She had a mix of gentle and fierce features, with small nose and full lips and black eyes that looked like nightly sky. It turned out that the city’s Major was actually a woman.
“Oh? Evan? Has something happened?” the woman asked, seeming surprised over the guard’s visit.
“Please take a look.” the guard called Evan spoke respectfully and handed over the mirror. “A man claiming to be a blacksmith brought this in as a gift.” the woman seemed immediately intrigued and took the mirror, tracing its surface with the finger before inspecting its stats, only to be left shocked, like two guards before her.
“... invite him up. Immediately.” the woman said; the guard seemed to have expected it and left without saying another word, leaving woman who started caressing the mirror. “Interesting... now, I wonder what is it that you want from me?” the woman once again looked at the mirror’s stats and sighed. Though it was crafted from low-level materials, and couldn’t help one’s fighting capabilities that much, the crafter’s talent oozed from every single inch of the mirror.
[Disillusioned Heart - Unique]
Special Effect: Can see through any illusion below the Godmaster Rank
Special Effect: Can become a core of a large-scale Formation, either Illusion or Disillusion one
Note: Crafted from low-level materials, it mainly denotes the Blacksmith’s talent; indispensable auxiliary item.