Sage wasn't here because the selection of goods in Holy Flame City was poor. On the contrary it was probably one of the best supplied cities within quite a huge area. Due to the fame of the Sect for its professions, the merchants constantly supplied it with many unusual and strange materials. Not only that, the majority of most magical items, pills, magic clothing, weapons and other special cultivator equipment that people used came from the Holy Flame Sect. It wasn’t that other Sects had none of their own Smiths, Alchemists or other Professions, but the majority of things that they produced would be barely enough for their own Sects to use. Additionally, a Sect that was wholly devoted to the sword, for example, might have some excellent Blacksmiths to maintain and create their weapons. They might also have Alchemists to create pills to enhance their training. How about Formation Masters? Tailor and Weavers? Chefs? Miners? Appraisers?
There was just far too many professions for a Sect to spend time and energy on, they would usually focus their resources on only a few areas. A genius or two might arise, but with time their teachings and inheritance would fade and without support a Sect would eventually just give up on the Profession and merely hire outside help when they needed it. Why devote hundreds of disciples and millions of spirit stones to train and raise Formation Masters if you only needed to put down a new Formation once every few years to guard a newly acquired mine? Even back in the 10,000 Wave Province, which was nearly 50,000 miles away from the Holy Flame Province, a high percentage of the weapons and equipment that even the Lang Clan used had the brand of the Holy Flame Sect on them. The tiny flame with a symbol in the center was well known far and wide. Each smith left their own symbol in the center, but the larger outline flame was the distinctive mark of a member of the Holy Flame Sect.
Sage wasn’t shopping because there was something he wanted that he couldn’t get in Holy Flame City, he was actually here to try his luck. Just like at that antique shop in the Servant District where he found that egg he still had in his ring. He was hoping to run into something unusual. Everything that was a known rarity could be found in Holy Flame City and the price was no mystery to the experts there. Sage actually hoped to find something rare because this was one of only six cities that could trade with Green Plateau Province. He was sure there might be at least a few things that were unique to the Green Plateau and with luck he might find a material or item that hadn’t yet been used to its greatest potential.
As Sage moved from curio shop to curio shop it reminded him of the Golden Egg. It had been sitting in his ring for quite some time and he was cautious to put it to use. Just like the previous owners he determined it was dormant, but unlike them he had a way to take advantage of it. Using the Insect Immortal Index’s technique ‘Mutate’, he could draw out the essence from a Bug and infuse it into an egg to breed across species lines. He could even influence the breeding to cause mutations. The thing that was stopping him was that he didn’t know what was in the egg and he only had the one chance. Sage was holding onto the egg until he figured out a way to use the ‘Merge’ technique flawlessly with other creatures. That time with the Twin Ringed Soul Serpent had been an extreme case and he wasn’t even completely sure how he had succeeded.
In fact, once he got back to the Sect and built the devices that Wan Ling needed to continue their business expansion, his plan was to go into seclusion and start training again. Last time he had merely scratched the surface of the new Wood Natured techniques, he still had dozens of ideas for his Insects to explore as well as furthering his understanding of the Timeless Eyes and the Wood techniques. That didn’t even include all the research he planned to do on the materials from the Hidden Domain, the Dawn Pillar, and at least a dozen other things.
For now though, he returned to the present. Currently, he was in a sort of treasure gambling shop. He’d heard of these sorts of places before, but he thought it was kind of silly. Basically, someone had found an ancient inheritance or treasure site, but only after something had ended up destroying it. The ruins were dug up and sorted through. The problem was that the manner in which the site was destroyed buried everything valuable along with everything else in a thick layer of stone, dirt, and other gunk. The process of breaking the stone and cleaning each piece was time consuming which made the total cost to sort through everything to be prohibitive. There was no telling that they’d even find enough valuable items to recoup the cost of sorting through it all.
This sort of situation wasn’t a first and there were other similar circumstances. These Treasure Gambling halls existed to handle it. Each week a couple dozen of the unidentified rocks would be put up for a silent auction. Each auction would have a few pieces that they guessed were more valuable, to attract buyers, and the rest of unknown composition. Once a piece was purchased then the customer could pay the Gambling House to clean and process the item and see whether they got anything good. In this manner, people would hope to get something good while the Gambling House would make money off all the dud items that were sold off. From the buyer perspective it was a game to test their luck or perception powers. Everyone thought they were going to be the one that could find the true gems in the mud.
Sage was only here to take a peek. He didn’t think himself any better than others, but he just wanted an excuse to test his Timeless Eyes. So far he had only trained the first level, Hindsight. Using the left eye to look into the past, but it was quite limited in scope. He didn’t expect to see much, but everyone in the display area of the Gambling House were using techniques to try and discover treasures. Sage was just happy to be at ease enough to join in the frivolous activity and closed his eyes before slowly opening the left one. When his eye opened it was like his pupil had deepened. Instead of a black dot it became like a hole to the depths of space, looking into that pupil made one feel like they were on a spacecraft and they were looking into a small hole that had just been poked to the outside.
Sage felt like he had just picked up a remote control for the universe and hit ‘rewind’. Since he was only rank 3, it could only move at three times the normal speed in reverse. Sage watched a few hours pass by, seeing many different people examining and handling the rocky mass in front of him. The auction had just started today, so Sage was just curious to take a peak. He followed the perspective of the rocky mass and soon came to the morning before the auction started. He saw the mass brought back out of the auction and then to a storehouse where it was one of many kept in storage chests.
Sage closed his eye, ending the technique, then opened both eyes back up. He’d been standing there studying this one rock for nearly an hour and a half so he felt a bit self conscious. The others around the area had ignored him, but he felt rude. Even if he was told there was at least three people who had been meditating in study for the whole day before he even arrived, he still felt silly. Sage had just been curious to see if the whole thing was rigged, but since the rock came from a chest then it was probably legitimate to the story. There had been more than one case of a Gambling House padding out their goods or fabricating a new ruins by just taking a few treasures and mixing in truckloads of junk. Then they’d cover them all up with a special rocky mess and start their auctions, knowing only the set number of items were worth anything and even adding shills to bid up the prices of those valuable ones or even purchase them back on purpose.
Knowing he had no chance and already being short on funds, Sage left the Gambling House and was about to give up on his, so far fruitless, shopping trip. At that moment a business caught his eye, ‘Strange Creatures’. Smiling at the find, Sage rushed over. He pushed the door open and took a look around, chuckling to himself as it looked exactly like the sort of place a mogwai might be found hiding. The room was lit by tall multi-tiered candelabra, standing from the floor to near chest height and covered with half-melted candles of various colors and emitting unusual scents. Looks like they’re controlling many of the beasts with the candles.
Wicker or reed baskets covered in array symbols hung at various heights from the ceiling, each filled with one strange, but small creature or another. On the ground large cages sat on differently sized pedestals and contained the slightly large cat and dog sizes creatures. At the other side of the room, Sage could see a door opening to a large courtyard that was lined with cages and stalls for the larger beasts of burden, mounts, or war beasts. Now this, is my kind of place.
Sage walked up to the counter and smiled, “Show me your best Insects, Lizards, Snakes, Spiders, Frogs, and Worms.”