The initial phase of his plans is to gather supplies, and for the funds they decided to empty many of the rings that they have. Either received from the Solitary Blades Clan, or found from the bodies in the black forest. Kairos however, chose to hold back from selling the items within immortal Old Ye’s ring, for it contains no ordinary items that could be found in a mortal realm. It is possible that if any of those objects surfaced on the market, a great strife to acquire them would occur.
They rolled out a map that they purchased, and began planning their route towards the Phrixus palace.
“Look here, they are located quite close isn’t it?”
“The distance is longer than what it feels on the map, it is actually nearly a month away”
“That’s still rather near. I heard it is an old fortress that they have occupied, and there are rumours that it’s meant to serve as a frontier city to fuel their goals of subjugating Saint Empire”
“Wow, they’re rather bold!”
“It’s more like, arrogance. To handle such an opponent, we better make a stop at this place” Kairos pointed at a tiny town, called Vox, a little away from the palace. It is carved straight from the face of a tall mountain range, and is one of the most defensible location in the entire Empire. The detour will roughly add on a week of travel for them at most, perhaps less if the weather holds up.
“Hidden beneath its surface is Vox Shalua, the greatest undercity controlled by Rielon and where their central black market is at. We will exchange away all our excess items over there and head straight to Jones”
They travelled while training, eastward for two weeks until they saw the mountain range looking high into the skies. If they cross the range and continue east, they will return to Saint Empire. Unfortunately, because of the tall mountains and year-round blizzards, it has become a nest for snow demons and an extremely difficult place to pass through. Additionally, there is rumour of a Snow wind dragon residing deep in the mountains.
The rumours were never confirmed, but every year, groups of diehards that enter the mountain range for treasures, disappears. It finally reached a point the two empires at each side of the mountain range, elicited restraining orders to prevent people from trying their luck. Those who still dared to venture into the mountains without permission would lose their citizenship.
“Wyrmy, wait here until we return. Do not try to enter the mountains from underground, Aisa said that there really is a dragonlord guarding here”
The large land wyrm nodded its head obediently then went back underground, staying a distance away from the tall mountains. Whatever is a dragonlord it did not know, but it could sense a great danger in that direction with its keen instincts. No doubt, one of purer dragon descent than itself.
As a seasoned victim, it knows how it is like to live under the terror of a powerful dragon, even if Kairos did not tell it to stay away it would definitely not go near!
The group walked towards a large gate, fixed on the surface of the mountain side, which had a queue of people waiting for their turn to enter. Guards stood by the sides, maintaining the line, and ensuring no illegal individuals could enter.
A large billboard they had erected directly next to the line of people has large face portraits posted all over it, listing those that had been blacklisted or wanted. They joined the queue and waited patiently for their turn to be allowed in.
Time passed quickly as the guards took a leisurely pace at their checks. Dusk is coming, yet the line had hardly moved, and when the sun sets they have to stay in the line overnight. For practitioners, a few additional hours of waiting is not a major issue and they could spend it in cultivation, but Vouno would not have any of that.
He walked forward to a guard and took out a small bag. The reward he received for his quest.
Before he could continue, the guard squinted at his bag and laughed. “Keep it buddy. We cannot accept your bribe”
“The undercity, ran by the most reputed of thieves, do not allow a little bit of corruption?” It is an open secret here that the town on the surface, Vox, is actually the cover for Vox Shalua, and therefore to protect themselves against unwanted attention from the officials, the checkpoint has always been additionally harsh. Their sole mission is to keep what is within a secret, even if the Phrixus family knows of their existence.
“Hahaha, that’s a good way to put it, but believe it or not, it don’t really care. Besides, I’m well-paid enough that that tiny bag is not enough for me to lose my job over”
“Heh, who said this bag is for bribing my way in? Look here, see those young kids behind me? One of them are sick and I want to go in by today if possible. Why don’t we set a bet, if you won you get this bag and the money within? And if you lose, let us in?” Almost immediately, Jim pretended to heave and cough.
“How would you like to bet?” The guard licked his lips. He could never turn down a good gamble, and his job simply makes him crave for some excitement. Vouno’s offer is like water to a parched ground.
“How about a competition of Ki. You use your inner energy to strike me, while I’ll only defend. No matter how many and whatever kind of attacks you launch at me, I will defend it all. And if I am injured, it’s my loss. What do you say?”
“Sounds like a game. Let’s see what you’re made of to brag like this” The guard nodded and stood back, even though no matter the results of the bet, he could not let them in at least he could play with Vouno like a trainer with his monkey.
For a start, he threw a punch out, and sent a Ki strike flying towards Vouno. However, the attack immediately disappeared upon touching him, like dismissed by a powerful barrier.
“Hooo, you’ve got a talisman to help you eh? Let’s see how you do with this”
He formed a seal symbol with his hand, invoking the great strength of a raging flame, and then he threw it out towards Vouno. A seal symbol made of pure Ki appeared on thin air before them and it unleashed the primal strength of fire in the air, speeding towards Vouno at a blinding speed.
It struck him in a great cloud of golden orange fire, and shielded him from sight, but the flames that raged even into the skies disappeared just as quickly. He stood there as if nothing happened, and simply smiled at the guard’s attempt.
“What’s this? The guard is all talk. Is he a charlatan or something? All that light-show and no heat?”
“I think that man who approached the guard is the odd one. Can’t you see how confident he is?”
The guard stared at the one before him in frustration. He had used the most violent martial arts he knew, yet the result is a disappointment. However, a grin soon overtook his face and he prepared another strike.
Because Vouno had not mention anything about using artefacts or talismans to enforce his Ki, then he couldn’t be blamed of cheating if he does so.
The guard immediately took out a treasured bracelet, an heirloom handed down in his family, and then chanted a short incantation. The other guards watched from afar in surprise, for that is the artefact that gave him the fame to join their strength. They could see how much trouble he is having against this stranger.
The stone bracelet quickly grew bigger and started spinning in the air. The heavenly energy around the area immediately concentrated into the bracelet, and then through it, flowed into him supplementing his D rank ability.
His power spiked to Entry C rank, and then he shouted loudly, “Cast thine hammer upon my enemies, Thor’s bash”
Safely out of earshot, Jim whispered softly, “That’s a lame secret art incantation”, earning the laughter of the other team members.
A powerful ball of Ki with sparks of lighting and fire flew at Vouno looking much like a giant’s knuckle. The strike was not at a speed undodgeable, but its force made the others apprehensive. The fire and lightning powerfully blasted into Vouno’s open arms, pushing him backwards and violently sliding him across. He was pushed back half the length of the long queue, then when he finally skidded to a stop, the elements wrapped around him and completely covered his body with bright orange flames and blue electric snakes.
“Oh, man, this is a yummy skill” he whispered without anyone actually hearing.
The brightness of the energies slowly faded away. To the others, it looked no different from how Ki dissipates after use, but in fact most of the energy were actually absorbed by Vouno.
Right now, taking in C ranked techniques is at the limit of his abilities. In fact, he had chosen this guard because he is only a D ranker, but unexpectedly the guard could strike him with this amount of power.
“Looks like the guards of this undercity could not be underestimated”
Many of the others watching the gamble (battle), also thought this in their hearts secretly.
All of the guards, including the one who is in the bet himself, watched with disbelief as Vouno smiled, completely unaffected by his secret art.
“Again!” He shouted, sending another Thor’s hammer towards Vouno. This time, he had strained his bracelet and himself to the maximum and the power behind his technique has greatly increased to Mid C rank.
“Whoa, this is even yummier!”
Because of its power, even the ground which Vouno stood on became glazed by the heat, and those that are watching had to step further away.
After a short moment, the bright shine disappeared once again, and just as before Vouno reappeared unharmed. By now, the guard is already panting and swearing between his breaths. This person before him seemed to be emitting a low amount of presence, making him believe that Vouno is only an E ranker’s, so this doesn’t make sense no matter how he think about it.
Unfortunately, explainable or not, the guard knew that he has already lost and he threw up his arms in defeat.
Vouno smiling at the obvious turn out of events walked towards the guard and spoke politely, “So, may we go through the checkpoint now?”
“Man… after all your hard work, I really, truly, sympathise with you. But unfortunately, the answer is no. Can’t just let you jump the queue, can I?”