Dry, dusted streets beckoned hundreds of souls despite the arid heat burning away at one’s spirit. Women wore little and men even less, everyone desperately trying to get their business done early on in the morning before it truly becomes hot. Among the hurried souls were Lino, Ryt and Ion -- not necessarily because of the heat, as the former could simply ignore it, while the latter two would never admit to being hot from fearing of coming off as weak in front of Lino, but because they had a lot to do and Lino feared taking his time as Hannah was waiting for him so they can leave.

With Vyena’s help, Lino had almost completely transformed; his black hair was now starkly blond, seemingly bleached by the sun. His beard was shaven cleanly, his tattered clothes replaced with rather lavish-looking eastern robes under which he appeared rather lean and slender instead of muscular. Save for the pair of eyes which remained the same, the rest of him was an entirely different person.

First order of business was for him to check the local markets; though Hannah knew the general state of things, it was always better to have first-hand experience. However, after nearly an hour of walking in-between the sandstone buildings and dried, dusty paths, Lino was met mostly with disappointment -- a vast majority of the items on display were simple duds, worthless junk painted in gold in order to try and trick the newcomers into buying them.

This included weird amulets with ‘supernatural powers’, supposed ‘legendary talismans’, ‘divine weapons and armors’ and even the ‘legendary divine beast eggs’. He didn’t even have to carefully scrutinize it to realize it was all fake, which made him wonder whether anyone even bought them; yet, within the said hour, he’d seen at least twenty people buy one.

“... there is nothing here, Lord Empyrean,” Ion commented as they left another market street, ending up near the edge of the island, overlooking the vast Shimmering Sea toward the west. “I can’t believe so many people are getting swindled.”

“This is just an entry point,” Lino shrugged. “We can’t base our expectations on what we see here. However, there’s one useful thing I’ve noticed.”

“What?” Ion questioned with curious gaze.

“There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing lurking about,” Lino commented as the trio sat down, with the former taking out three gourds of cold ale and handing them over to the two who took them rapidly. “My guess is that they’re on the lookout for the rich and dumb, follow them to the mainland, and my guess is rob them and kill them.”

“A lot of them are women hiding among the prostitutes,” Ryt commented. “Clever.”

“What are you doing, looking at prostitutes?” Lino teased with a grin. “Do you want me to buy you one?”

“N-no, of course not.” Ryt quickly replied, stuttering slightly, his dark tan hiding his blush. “I just happened to notice them, that’s all.”

“Ah, at the very least I’ve mostly caught up on the general landscape of the mainland,” Lino said, taking a sip of ale. “Save for the Arid Expanse, most other things are as I read about them.”

“What’s different about the Arid Expanse?” Ion asked.

“In the books I read, it was called Penultimate Tombstone. Apparently, it’s by far the hottest region in the world, spanning hundreds of miles. All one can see above and beyond are sandy dunes. I’m kind of curious about that place.”

“Are we going to visit it?” Ryt asked with faint excitement.

“... you want to visit it? Look at you. You can barely stand this heat. Now imagine it’s about a hundred time worse. You’d be melting like a candle.”

“... ugh. I-I’ll get stronger!”

“Yeah, yeah, good for you,” Lino shrugged, glancing backwards. “In the meantime, go fetch that kid that’s been spying on us. Her eyes are weird.”

“Yes, Master!” Ryt nodded, his expression turning serious as Ion and him vanished from Lino’s sides at the same time.

The two appeared roughly fifty meters away, behind an abandoned, windowless building where a shadow stood perching behind the corner. A startled cry was stifled quickly as Ion placed his hand over the young girl’s mouth with Ryt pulling an ordinary-looking sword from his void treasure, gently pressing it against the girl’s back until she calmed down.

Upon closer inspection, both Ryt and Ion flushed in embarrassment as the girl they went all-out against seemed no older than fifteen; she appeared underfed, with her ribs sticking out underneath loose robes that hardly fit her skeletal body. She had shaved head and a pair of truly curious eyes -- hexagon-shaped irises surrounded with ever-revolving set of dots, perpetually changing colors between green, blue and yellow.

Ryt flipped the girl over his shoulder and carried her over to Lino, sitting her down in front of him. The girl squirmed nervously, glancing around until she eventually met Lino’s eyes; at the same time, she suddenly felt terror akin to nothing she ever felt before... yet also peace and joy she never experienced in her life. The mixture of emotions left her confused as she blankly stared into Lino’s eyes.

“... do you know who she is?” Lino suddenly asked Ryt and Ion who carefully inspected the girl once more, going through their memories to try and pry the answer out, yet to no avail. “I’m not surprised,” Lino smiled lightly as he suddenly took out a gourd of water and placed it in front of the girl. “Even I only learned about her Clan recently. However, as far as I’m aware, they live near the Great Divide. The Great Seers... with innate Eye Bloodline,” Lino continued, smiling lightly at the girl who was devouring the gourd of water. “Gaze of the Thousand Eyes. You’re long way from home, aren’t you?”

“... humph, I ran away.” the girl wiped her mouth and answered Lino rather abrasively. “What’s it to you?”

“Nothing,” Lino shrugged, still smiling. “But, while you perhaps don’t realize it, being watched by your kin is rather uncomfortable.”

“Psh, as if,” the girl scoffed. “I couldn’t see anything. What are you old man? ‘Cause you sure as hell aren’t like those naive idiots out there.”

“... she’s got quite a tongue on her,” Ryt’s voice chilled as he took out a small, shimmering dagger. “Should I cut it off, Master?”

“Cut what off? Cut off your dick, you bastard! Humph, if I wasn’t focused on this old man, do you really think you two kids could have snuck up on me?” while Ryt’s and Ion’s expressions hardened, Lino observed the whole thing with faint amusement, suddenly withdrawing himself to the side.

“You can’t touch her,” Lino said. “But, you can say anything to her. Anything you want. Let me give you some hints -- she’s still a virgin, she pissed herself recently, she hadn’t taken a shit in a week, and she’s terrified that her pubes are yet to start growing. Fire away.”

“........” Ryt and Ion glanced at Lino with dubious gazes as the girl suddenly fell to the floor, having passed out. “M-master... s-she’s... she’s just a kid...” Ryt commented awkwardly, poking the girl gently just to ensure she wa still alive.

“Y-yeah... we, uh, we were just messing with her...” Ion added.

“... wait, am I the bad guy mere?” Lino mumbled lowly, stroking his chin. “No, it’s the young that are at fault!”

“... y-yes... it’s our fault, Master...” Ion and Ryt mumbled, hiding their gazes.

“Let’s bring her back,” Lino said suddenly. “Hannah can use the fact that I scarred the girl for all eternity to sweet-talk her into helping us.”

“... h-how can she help us?” Ion asked, deciding not to probe the methods Lino and Hannah used to rope people in.

“She ran shit out of luck by deciding to Mark me,” Lino said, putting the girl into the Dimensional Pocket. “Otherwise, if she were given enough time, she could have made it big here.”

“...” noticing Ion’s and Ryt’s confused gazes, Lino sighed and continued as the trio began retracing their steps back to the inn.

“The Gaze of the Thousand Eyes Bloodline is rather unique, even on the Holy Continent; it’s very, very rare, and only ever shows up in the Clans of the Great Divide. At most three-four per generation. Anyway, those who have it have the ability to put a Mark on someone -- anyone, really -- beast or a man. The Mark festers, granting more and more over time; at first it merely allows them to track the Marked, anywhere and anytime. Then, over the passage of time, it allows them to read the Marked’s Basic Stats, then Martial Arts, what’s in their void treasures, eventually their emotions, then they are able to read their dreams and even injected themselves into the dreams as the means of manipulation... given enough time, they can even read Marked’s mind... every thought, every action, every desire.”

“Wow!!” Ryt and Ion exclaimed in shock.

“The penultimate power of the Bloodline, however, manifests only when it’s completed,” Lino smiled cheekily. “It allows them to take over the Marked’s body... permanently. The drawback is that one bearer of the Bloodline can only ever evolve the Mark to the penultimate level once, and they can never mark another person again. This is why most Seers don’t ever take it that far. They’re a curious and a terrifying existence. One of the reasons why they live inside the Great Divide is because they’re hunted by practically everyone, largely due to fear. Their Bloodline was not given to them by Gaia, nor is it the result of Qi Mutation; rather, nobody quite knows where it comes from. She’s still young,” Lino suddenly smiled evilly, causing Ryt and Ion to shudder. “If we play our cards right... he he he... oh boy, I can’t believe I’ve come across the best treasure here on my second day... ha ha ha, mu ha ha ha ha, khm... so, yeah. You two, stop looking so terrified. You’ll make me think I’m evil or something.” But you kind of are, Master!!


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About the author


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

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