DAYS BEFORE THE AUCTION
While countless disciples of numerous Sects within the Valley burned midnight oil to get to the Grens City in time for the auction, Lino was currently standing inside the handmade smithy, looking at the table full of exquisite items. [Blood-forged Flower], [Tempered Eternal Stone], [Tears of the Phoenix], [Aeonian Stone]... his brows couldn’t help but twitch.
Though he had requested some resources from Ava, he didn’t think she’d be this generous. All of these were at least Level 100 materials, and even among the rares ones of that level. Furthermore, with Level 85 [Burning Heart Flame], Lino realized he’d have to hold back... horrendously. Otherwise, wouldn’t he be pooping out Legendary items left and right? Wouldn’t that simply lower their value?
However, there are naturally differences between Legendary items; Level 10 and Level 100 Legendary items were like the difference between Heaven and Earth, completely incomparable. Shit, what was that woman thinking?!! I clearly told her just to get me some ordinary materials!! I’m afraid to death to check out the materials she prepared for her staff! I swear, if there’s a Level 200 material, I’ll find her and spank her butt!
Lino couldn’t help but sigh as he withdrew to another table, where a stack of papers, ink and pen were waiting. It was time for him to design what he would be crafting. He figured, in two weeks, he’d be able to craft around twenty items, though of course he’d limit the auction to fifteen at most. Otherwise, wouldn’t that woman exploit him to death?! In three months... he wagered he should even have superfluous materials for the arrays, formations, weapons and such for the upcoming war.
He would be lying if he said he was completely calm; though he was quite stronger than when he departed from the Umbra Kingdom, it wasn’t by a huge amount. That’s why he decided to save a few items that he crafts for himself, especially those that turn out to be superb. After all, he can’t spoil his customers with the best stuff right out of the gate.
Two weeks flashed past in a blink, and the Grens City was currently enjoying population that it simply couldn’t sustain. Instead, outside its gates, countless tents were risen where hundreds of people were living. Only the most famous and imposing figures were allowed to rest in the city itself.
Currently, within the Major’s Manor, at the top of the humongous tower, Ava was staring dazed at the thirteen items on the table in front of her. Her will, one she thought she had trained to the utmost state, was crumbling. Greed and desire akin to something she never felt before in her life surged within her heart, tempting whispers lingering sweetly in her mind... Take us... and fleeeeeee.
That’s right; the mighty Major Ava desired nothing more than to take all these thirteen items, flip a middle finger to the world and leave. Though she was rather expectant of the items that would be put on auction, she didn’t raise her hopes too high. After all, Lino, despite his rather robust body, seemed to be eighteen at most.
Perhaps twenty, if he had one of those child-like faces that drew women mad. But, any hopes she had in her wildest dreams were far surpassed... of thirteen items, eight were of [Rare] make, three were of [Unique] rarity, and two were of [Epic] quality. Such assortment... she hadn’t even seen when she visited her Clan’s Treasure Vault a long time ago.
“Hoy, hoy!” Lino cried out, detesting the act of ignoring he was being subjected to. I know you’re smitten by this master, but at least show some self-restrain woman! You’re salivating all over the necklace I’ve slaved for three days to craft!! Dammit woman!! “Earth to Ava! Hoi!”
“Y-yes?!” startled out of her daze, she barely pulled her eyes away from the items on the table.
“Holy shit, I’ve been standing here for ten minutes! What’s wrong with you?!”
“... uh, I’m, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Eeh?! What’s with that blush?! Aren’t you married?! Don’t you have kids?! For holler’s sake!!
“Ugh, whatever. So, tell me, where will the auction be held? There are like ten billion people out there!”
“Uh, I was planning on holding it here but... there’s not enough room. I didn’t expect so many people to come, to tell you the truth,” No shit. “But, it’s fine. I’ve already obtained the platform, so the auction will be held outside, in the plains. There should be enough room.” Lino rolled his eyes at her but nodded.
“Well, anyway, here’s the list of the resources I want in exchange,” Lino handed her a thick stack of papers that listed nearly two hundred items in total. “Have your auctioneer remember them all, as well as how many points they’re worth. Item will go to the person with the highest amount of points. Got it?”
“... yeah.” still in daze, she faintly nodded.
Lino shook his head and left; though he very much liked when his ego was stroked, he also knew that this was far too important for him. He’s far too weak now, and the least he can do is provide the materials for those who were much stronger than him. Despite his outward bravado, he was very much aware of his strength; while he could holler a round or two with a Mythic Realm Cultivator, he would definitely be unable to defeat them without using any of his special items. And, even with those, Peak Mythic Realm was his utmost limit, and even that with steadfast heart to sacrifice numerous items, and receive wounds that would leave him bedridden for months.
“You’re desperate for strength,” a robotic voice echoed his thoughts into words as Lino strolled down the streets, aimlessly. “I didn’t expect that from you.”
“It’s your friend’s fault,” Lino sighed. “Why did he have to interject in these matters?! Should Devil Father or whatever be occupied with more pressing issues?!” Lino was truly at the verge of tears because of that old man. Why couldn’t he have just left him alone?!
“... if he hadn’t, you’d have been dead by now. Every time you fought, you released pure, Chaotic Qi into the world. The only reason you were never spotted was because of the sheer amount of Devil Qi present in the world currently, making it obscure in the sea.”
“... when Eshen was fighting, there weren’t any demonic invasions.” Lino complained. “What about that?! Huh?!”
“... the difference is that I’m not holding anything back with you,” the robotic voice replied. “I’m giving you my utmost support, which makes it so that I can’t help you mask the Chaotic Qi. If I did, you wouldn’t even reach Mid Core Realm by now, even if you struggled three times as much.”
“Haii...” Lino sighed, shaking his head. “I don’t know if I should be grateful to you two, or smack you dead.”
“If you want to get stronger,” the robotic voice said. “Cultivate seriously. There are no shortcuts to the Path of Truth; in the end, the only true way to strengthen yourself is to cultivate. Even if I can provide you with knowledge of countless things, I can never provide you with understandings of them. You have to contemplate the Truth on your own.”
“What’s that about?” Lino asked, slightly shocked.
“For instance, the <Peerless Empyrean Spear Scripture> that you’ve obtained. How many times have you truly trained it without holding anything back? Not even once. Even if you know how to utilize the spear, you don’t understand it. No amount of Qi, or any other supplementary material will ever make up the difference of knowledge and understanding.”
“... I only have one Martial Art that I can use for attacking! What the hell can I even contemplate?!”
“Who says that?” the voice rebuked. “Martial Art is a simple convergence of knowledge. They aren’t be-all-do-all guides on how to utilize something. The Spear Scripture didn’t exist when I first began teaching humans. Rather, thorough the eons of time, it was cultivated by every new generation of Empyreans, until it attained its perfect form. You’re a possessor of the Chaotic Qi, its purest form; you can manipulate it to your will. The only thing holding you back is your fear.”
“Haii, old man, you trust me way too much,” Lino chuckled bitterly. “How can I cultivate my own Martial Art? Haven’t you forgotten who I am? At best, I can think of shooting a beam of light at someone.”
“It’s a beginning, and it’s difficult, as any other. Do you think I came to be alongside nearly fifteen thousand functions? No. I sought them out myself, studied them, implemented them, perfected them. Always brave onwards, no matter the walls you have to leap over. It’s the heart of the Empyrean; the Soul that’s the ultimate fuel.”
“You’re rather chatty today,” Lino squinted his eyes, stroking his chin. “I’ll wager a guess as to why. You have absolutely zero faith of us defeating that demonic army, which is why you’re telling me to urgently power-up. How close am I?”
“...” the silence was the perfect answer; Lino sighed yet again. It seems that I have to brave the burden all by my lonesome. Haii, how difficult it is to be a hero? To be the guiding light to those lost, poor souls? Haii, forget it, forget it. I shall shoulder it all! Tsk, tsk, I’m a really good person. I wonder if there’s anyone better out there in the world. Heh, probably not.