STIRRING THE VALLEY
Not even two days had passed since Lino and Ava signed a contract before the blazing news spread throughout the Valley of Sects - formerly known as Dreamcast Valley - one which shook its very foundations. The mysterious Major of the Grens Town by the valley’s border had announced the Manor is opening up an exclusive shop, and to celebrate it, an auction would be held in two weeks. However, that news alone wouldn’t have shaken the valley as much as it did: it was the additional news which stated that the auction’s ultimate item would be of [Epic Grade] and no other would be below [Rare Grade]. Ava wasn’t alone in the dismaying thoughts over inadequate items; not only loose cultivators and those of lower-tiered sects, even some Inner Court Elders of First-tier Sects lacked proper weapons and armors that suited their rank and cultivation. To even further drill in the fact that it was an exclusive shop, neither the auction nor the shop itself would take any of the common currency, such as gold and Qi Stones, and would instead trade for uncommon and rare resources, such as ores, metals, herbs etc.
“The Major is really going all out this time around,” some commented. “If all of it is true, the Grens City would soon rise in prominence at least threefold.”
“Indeed. But I don’t think he would lie,” another added. “After all, this news will attract those big shots from the Sects in the valley’s heart. No matter how mysterious or strong the Major is, I don’t think he has enough guts to lie to them.”
Similar discussions spiraled around the entire valley, soon reaching the ears of those living in the valley’s heart - the First-tiered Sects. There were in total four, each controlling a single side of the valley - east, west, north and south. East was controlled by Burning Blade Sect, whose disciples all specialized in Fire Qi and Blade Arts; west was controlled by Children of Heaven, whose main cultivation method was named [Heaven’s Path] and it is said to be almost of Divine Grade, though a few suspected it was merely a lie. The north was controlled by Crimson Devils, who, despite their name, didn’t really cultivate Devil Qi, but much milder version called Half-Demon Qi, which was much weaker than Devil Qi, but wouldn’t bring about the massive side effects, such as going insane. Lastly, south was controlled by what many considered to be the strongest Tier One sect in the valley - Skysword Sect. Like its name suggested, every person there used a sword - regardless of make - and cultivated Sword Arts.
The Skysword Sect occupied a huge mass of land, though its main headquarters were smaller than an ordinary town. It was where the core of the Sect lived and cultivated, and it was also here where two men, one older and one younger, were currently sitting, drinking tea. The younger one appeared to be around twenty years old, with a rather handsome, clean-shaven face, a pair of piercing, blue eyes full of intellect, and sword-like eyebrows. His hair was neatly tied up so it hadn’t fallen over his face, a short sword strapped to his waist. The man opposite of him looked no different than any other old man; he seemed to be in his sixties, with a face full of wrinkles and completely ordinary features, which when coupled with his neat, but gray hair, made him seem all too ordinary. However, a deep sharpness hid inside the old man’s eyes, one which very few would be able to perceive.
“What do you think, Master?” the younger man suddenly asked.
“... hmm, Major Ava is a trustworthy woman,” the older man replied, stroking his beardless chin. “She wouldn’t recklessly squander her reputation. It’s very likely she’s telling the truth.”
“You met her?”
“Indeed I have, once. But, don’t ask too much about her,” the old man shook his head. “Even the Great Patriarchs would think twice before offending her.”
“...” the youth didn’t say anything; he knew very well that some thresholds should never be crossed.
“Either way, it would do you good to travel some. You’ve been coped up in here for too long, and I imagine many youths will flock to the Grens City in the coming two weeks. You ought to experience the world rather than staying here. And, if there happens to be a sword that’s appropriate for you, even better.”
“Many thanks, Master.”
“Hm.” the old man nodded lightly, smiling.
Though he couldn’t see through the Ava’s sudden movements, he was certain it can only benefit the Valley. After all, if she and the power behind her wished to conquer the valley, they could have done so long ago. He knew she was merely there to make sure nothing athwart occurred.
Similar scene transpired in other three Tier One Sects of the Valley, with more than a dozen Disciples from each Sect departing over toward the distant, little known city by the Valley’s border. Aside from attending the auction, it was also a chance to experience how much their peers have progressed when it comes to martial arts and cultivation. In the end, world of cultivators was that of pure, brutal competition; if you were weaker than your peer, you had no leg to stand on and can only ever look up, no matter what you harbored inside your heart.
Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of miles away from the Valley of Sects, situated in a seemingly hand-crafted gorge, a massive city built entirely of chiseled, white stone stood brimming. Through its heart a graceful, transparent river flew candidly, while rows and rows of buildings rose from its sides, occupying even the gorge’s thousand meters tall walls. Inside one of the buildings toward the topmost position, two men were currently sitting and drinking tea, a small parchment of paper lain in front of them on the table.
“What do you think, brother?” one of the men, who seemed to be in his early thirties, with chiseled and straight features and emerald green eyes spoke. His hair fell down gracefully, strangely scarlet in hue, perfectly encapsulating his rather handsome, cleanly-shaven face.
“Hmm, we should listen to Little Sister,” the other man said, stroking his black beard. Unlike the man across from him, he appeared to be slightly older, as few wrinkles had already found their way on top of his forehead. His hair was neatly tied back, as scarlet as the other man’s, and his eyes were similarly red, exuding strange, archaic sense of wonder. “He’s still at best at Hanner’s level. We have no lack of talents, but those who can climb the peak. We should wait by side and observe first.”
“It’s strange that such a talented young man was born in an insignificant corner of the world, though.” the younger man said with a tinge of contempt in his voice.
“Do not underestimate the world, Sven,” the older man reprimanded him gently. “What that corner is to us, we similarly are the same to many others.”
“Humph, it’s only because we are still young. How would our family sit so far below if not because we simply lack enough time to grow?”
“Haii... this is why Father appointed me as the Leader, despite you being far more talented,” the older man said, sighing lightly. “You underestimate the Ancient Empires and Holy Lands too much, little brother. Though only a fool would claim them to be the rulers of the world, at least on surface, they are. And, on surface, they can be. Even your talent stands no chance of contending against some of the monsters born there. You were still a child back then, but you should still remember the story of Qe’ll’s Sword Maiden, no?”
“Humph, just a fabricated tale!” the younger man replied. “Qe’ll Clan simply wanted to ascend to being a Holy Land at the time.”
“... no, it wasn’t a tale,” the older man said, sighing deeply. “I met her once, when our Father took me to her sixteenth birthday celebration. Even though it was from afar, I confirmed it with my very own eyes Sven. Back then, I was six years older than her - twenty-two, and I barely scratched the Numinous Realm. Though I was conceited, there were many youths my age who were the same as me. However, toward her... we couldn’t even feel jealousy, envy or anger. She was simply so far above the rest of us, it was pointless. At sixteen, she had already crossed the Mortal Realm threshold, stepping into Realm of the Exalted, and even its peak, Level 370. By the time she was eighteen, she had already formed Soul of the Acedia, becoming Imperial under the sky, at level 450. At the age of twenty... she was peak Eximious Realm, having formed Heart of the Aeonian... Level 600.”
“...” the other man, however reluctant, couldn’t help but feel a tinge of fear inside his heart. If the whole story really was true, then this simply crossed the idea of talent; it went against Heaven’s Decree, and surpassed everything and everyone who ever cultivated since the dawn of time. One had to know that the woman in question only began cultivating at the age of 10. So, in 10 years, she had gone from a completely ordinary mortal, to the Peak Aeonian, someone strong enough to form a thousand-year-long Dynasty if they wished.
“Naturally, she’s an exception,” the older man laughed candidly as he felt the atmosphere stiffen. “There hasn’t been anyone else to ever come close to her, but, nonetheless, there are many others who are monsters in their own ways. For instance, the current Core Disciple of the Skybearer Sect has comprehended [World Will] at the age of 8. I’m over two thousand years old, and even if you beat me into a paste, I couldn’t even put into words that [World’s Will] is.”
“... don’t worry brother. One day, our family will not fall short of those achievements. Is it true, though? What happened to Qe’ll’s Sword Maiden?” the younger one, called Sven, asked.
“Aii... it was a tragedy that shook not only the Holy Lands, but the entire world,” the older man smiled bitterly. “To think her closest friend and direct disciple caused the Clan to lose six Fiend Gods... haii, luckily, they had deep roots. Something like that would have crippled any Clan or Sect slightly weaker than them.”
“... it was the last time someone had woken a Fiend or a Prime, no?” Sven asked, a rare flash of absolute terror and fear crossing his eyes.
“Hopefully, it will be the last time ever.” the older man said, his entire body shuddering. “Those things... do not belong to this world.”