Dale walked through the village quickly, moving to the opposite, northern end. Over the past two weeks, Dale had constructed a small wooden hut, with the assistance of Scholar Shen. In accordance with what the man suggested, Dale had also made and wore several sets of clothes similar to what the rest of the villagers wore. Beast skins and animal skins, well wrapped and tied, were the common attire of the village, due to the emphasis placed on hunting. Dale wore his Growth Armor under it, and covered Aarsasho with dirt to make the blade gleam less. Thus, he now looked like he belonged in the village, blending in with the other youth village hunters.
Dale looked around the small hut, examining the insides. It was nowhere near as large or as powerful as the home Scholar Shen had lived at. However, the Scholar had helped Dale construct it, and imbued it with what Dale learned was the Law of the Earth. Because of that, the walls were incomparably durable and sturdy, despite their shoddy appearance.
Rayman Village was currently bustling in the midmorning light as hunters prepared to set out. Most of the village held the hunter, or more esteemed Profound Beast Hunter, profession, and thus were constantly working. The nearby forest and even the nearby floating islands were teeming with beasts, and always provided a ready source of food and hide, the chief things the village traded to traveling merchants and the other villages in.
Over the past two weeks, Dale had also become friends with several of the villagers. Because of his quick uptake in the language, Dale could communicate freely, and had begun to learn a bit more about the local area he was in.
Rayman Village was one of a small number of villages spread out on the Great Lake Island. All of these villages were of similar makeup, though Rayman Village was the smallest, at only a few thousand members. Some of the large villages, like Trout Wing Village, had upwards of twenty thousand members. Many of the villages specialized in a single thing. In the case of Rayman village, this village specialized in hides and animal skins, as well as exotic Profound Beast meat.
In order to support such a large number of people, naturally, all villages employed hunters.
Dale learned that the beasts in this world, especially the Profound Beasts, bred in large numbers, and grew up from childhood at a rapid speed. Thus, despite concentrated hunting, the forests and nearby floating islands that the village hunters hunted at were teeming with wildlife.
“Mister Dale! Mister Dale!” Dale looked up from his scanning of his small home, a small smile appearing on his face. The pattering of small feet rang out as Dale opened the front door of his house, looking out.
“Mister Dale!! Is Mister Cloud home?” A young girl that couldn’t be more than six or seven years old ran up to Dale, small blue eager eyes looking up hopefully. She had long brown hair and wore some type of tiger like beast skin. She had a cute, bubbly look about her. If Dale would have had a sister, he imagined she would look something like this.
“Heyo Lei Fan.” Dale said warmly, smiling. Lei Fan was one of the younger children in the village. Her cultivation level was quite high for her age, with strength equal to many of the adult hunters in the village. She was also a bit of an oddball, more interested in exploring the forest or playing with animals then things a girl her age should normally like.
When Dale had first started talking to the villagers, he had befriended several of the regular hunters. Dale had gone out hunting with them a few times, acquiring the skins of several regular beasts. He also helped several of the hunters hunt regular beasts, asking for nothing in return. Because of that, many of the villagers had a good impression of him, especially considering how young he was. To help himself blend in, Dale told the villagers he was from an island several dozens of miles away, a floating island called Cave Horror Floating Island.
Lei Fan was the niece of Lei Bao, the strongest hunter in the village, and one of only six Profound Beast Hunters in the small population. Larger villagers had more Profound Beast Hunters, but six was more than enough for a village with less than 5000 people.
“Clooooouuuuuuuudddddd!” Lei Fan yelled out, her blue eyes twinkling.
A resounding squawk shook the air as Cloud flew out from Dale’s home, emerging from whatever spot he had been secretly sleeping in earlier. The golden white parrot cawed loudly as it moved, and slammed into Lei Fan’s arms happily. The parrot had taken a liking to Lei Fan, and would play with her for hours.
“Lei Fan,” Dale said gently, looking at the younger child, “Where is your uncle, Lei Bao, right now?”
“Uncle is out hunting. He left early today, saying he found something special yesterday. All the other Profound Hunters went with him.” Lei Fan answer Dale’s question while jumping up and down with the parrot. She began to spar with the parrot, dancing back and forth.
Cloud squawked happily and sparred back, fluttering his feathers in mesmerizing patterns. Lei Fan had yet to successfully capture Cloud when they practiced. Dale found it amusing to watch, smiling. He wondered if he had acted like this when he was six. He then shook his head. He was only thirteen, after all, he wasn’t that old, despite his relative maturity.
“Oh? Something special?” Dale perked up, looking at Lei Fan curiously, perking up.
Lei Fan nodded, dashing back and forth as she played with Cloud.
“Where is he at? I’ll go join him and see if I can give a hand.” Dale went back inside his home and secured the notes Scholar Shen had gave him. He then walked out after locking the place up. He decided he would read through the notes when he got back. Time was the one thing he had plenty of.
Right now, Dale’s mind was jittery and his feet restless. After studying for nearly two weeks straight, with little free time, Dale was desperate for something exciting. Hunting regular beasts was boring. While Dale was mature for his age, he was still, at heart, a child.
Thus, Dale quickly got the location of Lei Fan’s uncle and set off, moving quickly through the village. He figured he could intercept the group before they reached the edge of the island.
Lei Bao and the six other Profound Beast Hunters had spotted some type of extraordinary prey the other day. Apparently, the beast had fled to the southern tip of the island, and then out into the hundreds of other floating islands that were everywhere. Dale felt a tingle of excitement fill him as he considered what he could be facing.
Dale had, after all, only been in this strange new world for less than a month. He had adapted his attacks and techniques, but he hadn’t really experienced the newness yet. The two weeks he spent studying had taken up a good portion of his time.
In the background of Dale’s mind, he held the thought about his lost friends and family, as well as his home world, frozen in time. Dale looked down as he exited the village, tapping on the small red necklace he wore around his neck. It was this mysterious artifact that allowed him to escape when his world tore itself apart, frozen in Time.
The locket itself was a small, red lock and key, snapped tightly together. It was extremely tough, and didn’t give off even the slightest aura. If Dale hadn’t know his world was trapped in Time inside it, he would have thought it was some random piece of jewelry. Besides it’s extreme toughness, there was nothing special about it.
With a thought, Dale sent the necklace into his Soul landscape. This was one of the unique abilities the red locket held. He decided to keep it there, lying in his Soul so he would never lose it.
If he couldn’t get stronger through ordinary means like regular cultivation, Dale swore he would force himself to become stronger through unordinary means. His eyes lit with a steely determination.
First, however, he decided to get used to living in this new world.
With that thought in mind, Dale raced into the forest, and towards the southern edge of the Great Lake Island.
As he ran, Dale drew energy from his Gold Core, feeling it flow inside him. The virile, gold power flowed in his veins, however, something Dale could use to activate his Perfect Balance or strike out with. He also kept his Titanic Sea and Draconic Sea at hand as well.
Over the past two weeks of study, Dale had reformed and expanded his Draconic Sea constantly. As of right now, instead of a measly one meter by one meter orb of power, Dale’s Draconic Sea had grown to an enormous fifteen meters long and wide, with a depth of two or three feet. While the energy Dale could draw from it wasn’t anything comparable to his Titanic Sea, Dale now had enough energy to briefly imitate a Dragon’s Aura, one of the few special properties of forming a Draconic Sea.
After running for several minutes, Dale’s incomparably strong half Titan body pushing him forward at a fast, methodical pace, Dale arrived at the southern tip of the Great Lake Island.
The southern tip of the enormous floating island was several miles west of where Dale had originally appeared in this world. The south tip was a large and wide plain of rocks, filled with a few small grasses and weeds. Large boulders and split earth was a common sight in this area, with great shards of rock jutting up from the insides of the floating island.
Just past the tip of the island lay the rest of the Great Inner Sea.
As far as the eye could see, hundreds of thousands of small floating rocks spread out, creating a virtual level of miniature floating islands. Interspersed through these thousands of small floating boulders were several decently sized islands, ranging from a hundred meters far and wide to a few larger thousand meter wide ones. On the decent sized and larger sized islands, trees and fauna, as well as a river or two, could be seen. In the distance one could see several other floating islands, the larger, thousand meter long islands becoming more common the farther one got from the southern tip of the huge Great Lake Island.
As Dale reached the southern tip, he saw a small group of figures standing on a stone platform, about 30 meters north of where the Great Lake Island ended. Dale bounded over to them, giving a cheerful wave.
The group of figures turned to stare at Dale, alert. Several of the figures raised their weapons, coming on guard. However, after the figures recognized Dale, they relaxed, lowering their weapons.
“Master Dale? Are you wanting to join us?” As soon as Dale finished running up, the largest of the figures spoke out. This man was a bear of a man, with great large muscles swathing him. He wore a patchwork of a bearskin and a Profound Red Tiger skin, a decently strong Profound Beast that was infinitely close to the 1 Star realm. This man had sharp blue eyes and long brown hair that was currently tied up in a bun. He wielded, like the rest of the Profound Beast Hunters, a large battleaxe as a weapon. Two long black ropes were slung around his waist, with an inset spearhead tied to each rope.
“Master Lei Bao.” Dale gave a respectful nod to the man. Ever since the man’s niece had befriended Dale, the large hunter had acted quite kindly to him. The man treated Dale as if he was a lost cousin of some sort, going out of his way to make sure Dale was safe and sound. Dale attributed this to the fact that he had no family here with him, and had a very good impression of the chief village Profound Hunter because of that. The wife of Lei Bao, a woman named Lei Shela, was also very kind.
“Yes sir!” Dale said, tapping on the giant claymore on his back. “I hear from Lei Fan that you and the other Profound Beast hunters were hunting down something interesting, and I figured I’d give a hand.”
Warm smiles broke out as Dale talked, all the other Profound Beast hunters chiming in and welcoming Dale. After all, while Dale might not consider his cultivation much, the only one in the village that had a level on equal terms with Dale was Lei Bao, the strongest villager. Dale joining them would greatly raise the success rate of whatever they were hunting.
“Glad to have you join us then, lad.” Lei Bao said, giving Dale a smile. Strength was what earned respect in this world, and Dale’s cultivation level was equivalent to a decent amount of strength in Lei Bao’s eyes.
“Well, let us recap what we’re hunting then, to bring everyone up to speed.” Lei Bao began to explain the situation.
“Yesterday, one of our Profound Beast hunters, Loi Rhan over there,” Lei Bao nodded at one of the scrawnier of the Profound Beast Hunters, a man that wore a red fox skin, “Loi Rhan found the trail of a small pack of Golden Bamboo Cattle.”
Murmurs from the other Profound Beast Hunters arose at the mention of the name of the Profound Beast. Dale looked at them in confusion, lost.
Upon seeing the look on Dale’s face, Lei Bao quickly explained.
“Golden Bamboo Cattle are a type of extraordinarily rare Profound Beast. They are famed for the bamboo like horns they grow. These horns can be used to form extremely powerful medicinal pills, the legendary Golden Bamboo Pill. A single one of these pills is said to be able to completely regenerate a lost arm or leg, and heal nearly any injury instantly, no matter how gruesome. In terms of price… A single Golden Bamboo is worth more then a hundred or a thousand or even ten thousand 1 Star Profound Beast Cores! ”
Dale’s eyes lit up when he heard about it. While he might be able to heal himself easily with his powerful Divine Ability, a pill like this sounded extremely useful. His Divine Ability took both time and energy to heal him, and something like this Golden Bamboo Pill would take effect instantly. One could see the huge value in something like this, especially to people without a regenerative ability like Dale’s.
“The tracks of four separate cattle were found. In terms of strength, Golden Bamboo Cattle can barely be considered 1 Star Profound Beasts.” Lei Bao continued, gesturing around them.
“Thus, with the strength of all of us present, Dale and I being at the 1 Star Profound level, and the five of you being barely below 1 Star, we should be able to take down at least one of these cattle if we work together. What’s more, these cattle are only at the 1 Star Profound level because of their powerful defenses. The Golden Bamboo Cattle have some of the weakest attack strength of all Profound Beasts that are Starred. There is no real danger in this hunt. With Dale joining us, our chances of at least a single cattle falling into our hands has risen dramatically.” Lei Bao’s eyes lit up as he spoke, the excitement tangible in his voice.
“How will we split the rewards?” One of the other Profound Beast Hunters, a man with a long red scar splitting across his face spoke up. This man wore a wolfhide skin mixed with a bearskin, similar to the one Lei Bao wore. He also had a black rope with a spear head set in it.
Lai Bao blinked for a moment before answering, turning to face the hunter,
“If we can take down a single Golden Bamboo Cattle, regardless of who participates, everyone will get an equal share. The same if we take down more then one. I think this should be fair. Do you agree, Lin Rakesh?” Lei Bao’s voice held a slight edge as he looked at the other hunter.
Dale watched, slightly amused. In the village, Lai Bao’s strength was the undisputed number one. Lei Bao’s younger sister, Lei Minno, was also an undisputed number one. This time, however, instead of in strength, Lei Minno was number one in terms of beauty.
Because Lei Minno was unmarried and only 17 years old, many of the young men as well as older men in the village were eager to chase after her. Lin Rakesh, one of the few Profound Beast Hunters in the village, was one of her suitors. Lei Bao, as her older brother, was naturally protective and rather disliked anyone chasing after his sister.
Lin Rakesh nodded, waving his hands in the air. After a moment, Lei Bao nodded and turned around facing the outside edge of the tip. Dale watched intensely then, watching as cultivation energy formed around Lei Bao’s wrists.
“Alright then! The trails of all four Golden Bamboo Cattle end here at the southern tip. However, Golden Bamboo Cattle aren’t slow, but they do get tired easily! The defensive wool that covers these cattle weighs them down. Therefore, all of the cattle should be in the nearby area.”
“We’ll split into pairs!” Lei Bao quickly divided up the Profound Beast Hunters. Dale found himself alone, partnered up with no one. Lei Bao motioned for Dale to come over.
“Because this is Dale’s first time hunting with us, he’ll join me and Lin Rakesh. Everyone, keep on your toes. These Golden Bamboo Cattle are wiley. If you spot one, immediately call it out so we can converge on it. The defensive powers in their wool will be too much for any pair alone, and they are fast enough that they can outpace us if given enough time to escape.”
All the Profound Beast Hunters nodded and separated, moving as one. Dale followed behind Lei Bao, noting the unison and cohesion the group had. The Profound Beast Hunters from Rayman village might not be very strong, but they at least were quite skilled at teamwork.
The two other pairs in the group split off to the south east and to the south west. Dale and his group moved directly south. Dale felt a sheen of nervousness cover him as they neared the southern tip.
Dale had never actually left the Great Lake Island.
The Great Lake Island floated above what Dale now knew was an endless void. If one fell into this void, one was destined to die a pitiful death, alone and miserable. The risk of falling had kept Dale well away from the edges of the island.
The Profound Beast Hunters Dale was with, however, acted as if jumping out over the void was nothing. With a mighty leap, both Lei Bao and Lin Rakesh rushed forward and jumped. Dale stayed behind a moment, intensely watching how they moved.
As soon as the Profound Beast Hunters leapt into the air of the void, they unwound the ropes that covered their waists. Dale watched in astonishment as one of the two long black ropes that Lei Bao wore twisted off of his waist and moved as if it was alive. As he looked closely, Dale faintly saw traces of cultivation energy surrounding the long rope. Lin Rakesh’s rope also moved as if alive, unwrapping around his waist.
Lei Bao slammed through the air and landed on a five meter large floating boulder quite far from the southern tip, the giant rock slowly floating in a nondescript pattern. The boulder shifted only slightly from the weight of Lei Bao landing on it. The rope he wore around his waist slammed down into the giant boulder as he settled, the spear inset sinking into the rock and securing him. As he landed, he spoke aloud, his voice jovial
“Hoho, looks like I leapt a new record today, Lin Rakesh. 85 meters in a single jump, this is definitely my farthest.”
Lin Rakesh landed on a smaller, three meter wide floating boulder about twenty meters to the north of Lei Bao, almost a quarter less in distance from the Great Lake Island. A rope hovered in the air around Lin Rakesh as well, though he didn’t sink it into the rock.
“Haha, not bad Lei Bao. I, Lin Rakesh, don’t dare compete with you in strength. In fact, I wager not a soul in Rayman village can defeat you in terms of leg strength, or my name isn’t Lin Rakesh!” Lin Rakesh adopted a slightly fawning air, a look that was at odds with his physical appearance. Lei Bao seemed to swell a little, apparently enjoying the praise.
“So that’s how it is…” Dale thought, staring at the floating ropes oddly. He never even thought about using his cultivation energy that way. He knew it was possible to move and imbue things with cultivation energy, but to use his energy to form a living rope to help himself traverse the sea of islands that floated above the void… It was truly a unique idea.
As he looked outward at the Profound Hunters that had turned and were staring at him expectantly, inspiration lit up Dale’s mind.
Dale’s Shatter Steps technique was a movement art that relied upon him smashing against the underlying forces of the world, the energy that held things together rebounding him backwards. Dale moved quickly using the backlash of this energy.
Technically, Dale knew it should be possible to activate his Shatter Steps technique in the air. After all, did not the air have energy in it as well? The air itself held many underlying forces, gravity chief among them.
However, Dale had only ever managed to activate his Shatter Steps technique on a solid surface. He had never tried activating it anywhere else, the thought of attempting that simply never occurred to him.
Now that he was faced with the unorthodox necessity of traveling through the use of floating boulders across an endless void, Dale’s mind expanded with new ideas.
Instead of trying to force his Shatter Steps technique to work in the air, Dale thought of something else.
The secret power his master taught him, that of using his Will, was something that allowed him to affect change in the world around him. While Dale knew he couldn’t affect too large a change due to the extremely rigid laws that governed this world, making the air beneath his feet solid for a brief moment, Dale felt like something that small was definitely in his power. In fact, in his previous world, Dale had used his Will to do exactly that. He hadn’t, however, tried to combine that with his Shatter Steps technique at the same time, in this world or his original.
Dale gave a mental shrug and, with a deep breath, ran forward towards the edge. His matchlessly powerful muscles pushed him forward at an extremely fast pace and, a half second later, Dale threw himself over the edge, flinging through the air over a sea of floating boulders and an endless void.