Dale felt the air around him tangibly tremble for a brief moment before locking into place. He felt his Soul twist as he rested in this new air, the world around him changed. He blinked several times, trying to understand the difference.
When the man named Doctor Saron had walked in, Dale had instantly gone on alert. This was because of two things. The first, and most obvious, was the way the man dressed. His attire was extremely fine, and looked quite sharp. It was also, however, identical in style and similar to the outfits worn by the three Law Practitioners that had attacked Scholar Shen. The second thing that put him on alert was the look in the man’s eyes. While the man might emanate an air of kindness and smile warmly, Dale felt as if the man’s eyes were boring into him mercilessly.
As soon as the man mentioned Scholar Shen, Dale’s heart skipped a beat. The powerful Law Scholar had told him before he left that people would come investigating eventually, and right now was around the time the Scholar had said they would show up. The Scholar had also said that the investigators sent would probably ignore Dale, or only ask him a few questions. It was obvious he was not a Law Practitioner and therefore not someone they would assume close to the Scholar.
As for who his pursuers were… The Scholar had again alluded to the one of the two mighty Kingdoms on the Continental Island of Lleya, the Kingdom of Charade. He had never actually clarified why and said that he had merely “fallen out of favor” with the current leadership.
“Certainly sir.” Dale replied weakly, straining his neck upward. He immediately fell back down, however, half faking being overwhelmed by pain. Indeed, his nerve endings were still extremely damaged. It was only because he was grasping his Will, and slowly regenerating them, that he was able to move at all.
Against Dale’s expectations, a flash of concern appeared in the man’s eyes. While Dale still felt like he was being examined and dissected in this man’s eyes, he also felt an actual sense of concern.
“Here, before that, young man, let me check your condition.” Doctor Saron stepped forward, setting his black cane to the side. Dale laid down as the doctor placed his hands on Dale’s chest. Dale saw a small spark of light flash and suddenly felt a very odd sensation.
He felt as if a breeze was flowing, goosebumps rising all over his skin as fluttery energy moved over his body. The cold wind moved inside him as well, completely scouring his person.
All of this happened in an extremely brief fraction of a second. In fact, Dale was only aware of it happening at all because of the fact that his Will energy, which was, in effect, the energy of his very Soul, was spread out along his body. While the energy was focused on enhancing his body to regenerate, it was still present and active. Dale would instantly become aware of anything that entered into an area controlled by his Will. Therefore, Dale was instantly aware of the strange, spreading energy.
As Dale detected the energy with his Will, he realized what it was.
It was some type of Light natural energy. His eyes opened wide with horror for a split second before immediately returning back to his placid, calm look. On the inside, however, he was shaking.
The man before him had just scanned him with an entire layer of natural energy.
Natural energy, one has to remember, is energy formed from the very fabric of a world’s existence. It isn’t like regular water or fire. All kinds of natural energies possess incredible destructive power. For a layer of natural energy to have gleamed through his body, Dale could easily have been destroyed. His Will alone could not deflect the deadly power inherent in natural energy, he didn’t have a strong enough understanding and not a strong enough Soul to bear the burden his Will would require to brute force it.
For this man to be able to control natural energy to this degree, Dale assumed he must be a horrifying existence. This level of precision wasn’t something that could be taught, only practiced.
After the light finished sweeping through his body and the cold shiver faded, Dale observed the face of the Doctor, closely watching his expressions.
A look of surprise, disappointment, and interest appeared on the man’s face in a flurry. The piercing look in the man’s eyes disappeared then, though the strange air that made Dale want to speak only the truth remained.
“Not even a trace…” Doctor Saron shook his head. After a moment, he gave Dale a warm smile again. The way he looked at Dale changed again, this time as if at something intriguing.
“Well, young man, your body seems to be quite unique. You appear to have suffered what people in my trade call Total Recall Damage, a universal degradation of the nerves. For some reason, however, your body is actually healing these damaged nerves. Quite incredible resilience. It seems I don’t need to do anything.” The man gave Dale a nod.
“I just have a few short questions for you.” Dale nodded. This entire time, he had been completely unable to speak. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried, he was simply unable to. His mouth or face wasn’t restricted, it was as if his mouth wouldn’t listen to the commands of his mind.
“What was your relation to Scholar Shen Bailong? Who are you?” A soft flame gleamed in the Doctor’s eyes as he spoke.
“I just met him a few weeks ago for the first time. I didn’t even know his last name till you said it, our relationship cannot be described as having been long. My name is Dale, Dale Wensworth.” Dale answered the man’s question honestly. The sense of panic in his heart grew as he realized the potential danger he was in. This man in front of him could annihilate Dale with a second thought. A single misstep could mean death. If he did not answer the man’s questions sufficiently, he would die. A cold feeling settled in the back of his mind as his heart pounded.
“Are you his disciple?” The man asked, his voice cold. The concern he had shown for Dale’s body earlier was long gone.
“No.” Dale answered promptly. As he replied, Dale began gathering his Will up. He temporarily stopped healing his damaged nerves, feeling the pain once again reappear. As long as he didn’t move, however, he was fine.
“He has never taught you anything about the power of Laws? Not even indirectly?” Doctor Saron’s voice sounded surprised.
“No…Mmm well, he did tell me the people chasing him practiced using the power of Laws, and told me what a Law was.” Dale’s mouth moved of its own will, telling the Doctor what Scholar Shen had told Dale. Indeed, the Scholar had given Dale a brief description of what Laws were, after he fought against the attacking Law Practitioners. The Scholar had also given Dale his personal notes of his early practice in Law energy. However, Dale had yet to read them, and therefore hadn’t technically been taught anything yet.
“But you were not his disciple or student?”
“No.” Dale found he could shape his answers to be succinct if he focused his Will, demanding his body answer in as few words as possible. He wasn’t, however, able to completely resist the force pressing down on him. The pressure the energy in the room gave off was quite fearsome, the light energy that had screened through his body present everywhere in the air.
“Ah, very good!” The air around Dale relaxed, the intense pressure dissipating. Dale no longer felt as if he had to speak the truth and nothing but. The odd light energy in the air seemed to erode away, returning to normal.
“Sorry about that,” The Doctor said, smiling at Dale warmly. The look of interest in his eyes had returned, an odd fascination. Dale’s heart relaxed slightly as he felt his sense of danger greatly lesson. He seemed to have passed whatever tests this strange doctor had.
“I had to be absolutely certain. After all, while you might not know it, you were extremely lucky,” The Doctor continued, nodding at Dale, “The man you know simply as Scholar Shen is known by a decidedly different name in the Kingdom of Charade.”
“He is known as the Blood Rending Demon King. He caused the death of hundreds of cultivators, injured the Third Prince of Charade, and ransacked the Royal Vault. He is a heavily wanted man that our Kingdom will do anything to hunt down. He is a vile creature, I warn you.” The Doctor looked at Dale sternly, a small gleam of the dangerous light energy reappearing.
“If there is anything you can tell us to help find him, please let me know. I know it may come as a shock to you, but trust me, that man is extremely ruthless, and will not hesitate to throw you away. You may think you know him, but you most certainly do not.”
Dale stared at the Doctor in shock and then disbelief before instantly covering his face with a placid expression. Scholar Shen had been someone Dale spent several weeks with. The Scholar had shown a great deal of interest in Dale’s situation and gone as far as teaching him the very language of this world. He had only ever been kind, and showed genuine concern when Dale was in danger. He was not someone Dale could equate to this man’s words, no matter how convincing.
However. That aside, Dale nodded his head and voiced agreement. The situation he was in right now was perilous. He mustn’t do anything that could cause himself any unnecessary danger. He had one goal, and one goal only. To grow stronger. As long as this situation could be resolved, he would be satisfied. He didn’t actually know where the Scholar fled to, so it wouldn’t be a problem.
“Now then.” The Doctor resumed talking, smiling at Dale happily. The man smoothed over his professional looking black suit and nodded briskly.
“While I am working to assist the Kingdom of Charade, I am not actually a member of that kingdom. I am, among many other things, a member of the Donden Merchant Company, and an Admiral of the Colonial Army.”
Dale nodded. Scholar Shen had given Dale a brief overview of the Seven Great Powers in the Floating Island Universe. The Donden Merchant Company was one of them, the Power that held sway over much of the Great Inner Sea. This island, in fact, was probably under the sway of the Donden Merchant Company, now that Dale considered the thought.
“I will be frank with you, Dale.” Doctor Saron said, nodding at him,
“I have never seen someone with a body quite yours. There is not a trace of impurity in your bones or veins, your muscle density is extremely high, you have just suffered from some type of extraordinarily attack, one strong enough to destroy the majority of your nerve endings, yet you remain alive. Your body is such that it can even regenerate these mostly destroyed nerves, something that even I, a Grand Scholar of Light, would have a great deal of difficulty performing.” The Doctor ticked things off his hands as he spoke, the warm smile remaining on his face. Dale stared at the man, astonished. In just a short period of time, the Doctor had already discovered a great deal about him.
“I think you have potential. I can sense that your cultivation level is only at a low level. For you to be out here, and this badly injured, you are obviously not a part of any Major Sect or Kingdom. The Donden Merchant Company holds sway over all the Sects in the Great Inner Sea as well, so no local Sects here can lay claim to you either.” The Doctor held up his hand abruptly as Dale was about to break in,
“I don’t need to know about your past. Everyone has skeletons they want to hide. All that matters to me is the present.”
Dale was silent a moment before responding cautiously,
“Well, sir Doctor, you seem to know more about me then I do about myself. What exactly are you stating?” While this man and Scholar Shen were obviously at odds, Dale knew what this man represented.
The Donden Merchant Company was one of the Seven Great Powers. It held an enormous amount of sway, and the resources they had were equally enormous. They were, after all, originally a Merchant Company that grew massively powerful. After spreading their business far and wide, growing powerful cultivators and allying with ones they couldn’t buy, the company had grown into a powerful monolith. They were famed for the Auction Houses they controlled, the great wealth they owned, and the powerful Colonial Army that patrolled the Great Inner Sea, keeping it relatively safe.
Dale required Profound Cores in order to grow stronger, growing his Seas and hopefully, eventually, increasing his cultivation. If he could use the supplies of the Donden Merchant Company to grow, his strength would increase at a rapid rate.
His number one goal was to become as strong as he possibly could as fast as he could. Nothing was allowed to get in the way of this. Friends, enemies, nothing.
Doctor Saron replied,
“Nothing too stringent!” The man pulled a small wooden token out of his pocket, holding it in the air.
“This is a token of admission to the Grand Merchant Fair that is happening in four months! At the Grand Merchant Fair, the Colonial Army has a recruitment plaza for everyone with a token of admission. Once there, you will go through a couple tests and, if passed, join the Colonial Army.” Doctor Saron stroked his tie as he spoke, his actions precise.
“At your current level of strength… From your body alone, I would say you would qualify as an early to mid 2 Star expert.” The Doctor’s astute eye and earlier scanning let him know Dale’s exact body strength.
“However, with your powerful regeneration at work, I dare say you could put on a decent fight for any 3 Star experts. Especially considering your young age.” The Doctor smiled warmly once again.
“The weakest soldier in the Colonial Army is a 3 Star expert. However, with your unique body and young age, I have no doubt that you will be accepted. I will give you this token, and leave the choice to up whether or not you will go to the Merchant Fair.”
With that, the Doctor adjusted his tie one last time and left, making small talk for a few minutes before exiting. Dale shook his head as the man left, focusing his Will fully back on healing his nerves.
The Colonial Army. This was the strongest force in the entire Great Inner Sea, a name that supposedly drove fear into the heart of bandits and enemy cultivators alike. Dale didn’t know much about the leadership of the Colonial Army, the information he gained from Scholar Shen focused more on things he might run into. He knew that all the soldiers were extremely strong, with powerful techniques and skills.
By joining the Colonial Army, Dale would both gain a powerful backer on his journey of gaining strength, as well as a steady source of resources. It was a known fact, he understood, that the soldiers of the Colonial Army were paid in Profound Cores, and supplied a large amount monthly to increase their strength. This, among other reasons, was why the Colonial Army alone was a force comparable to any of the other Seven Great Powers. Huge amounts of wealth was poured into shaping this army and giving it strength.
It wasn’t easy to get into the Colonial Army, however. There were only around 10,000 members. All of them either had connections or overwhelming strength, the only two ways to get accepted.
Dale looked down at the wooden token of admission he had received, looking it over. He rolled his fingers across the carved named “Saron” that was initialed into it. After running his fingers over it for a minute, he pocketed the token and laid back down to rest, putting his entire attention on healing. He would make a decision eventually. He decided he would talk to the Doctor again and learn more about the Merchant Fair before he slipped into the realm of unconsciousness, his body healing as his mind raced away.
Outside Dale’s home, the sharply dressed Doctor Sharon walked out. A soft gleam of light flashed around him as he raised his hand up, waving it back and forth three times in a clear signal.
Immediately, several figures silently touched down on the ground near him. All eight of these figures were dressed in dark green armor made from some type of strange metal. A soft, deadly aura emanated from each figure, very powerful but very controlled. Each of these eight figures carried a long spear on their back.
One of the eight armored figures, a man who also had an additional red streak across his chestplate as well as the regular green armor, stepped forward and spoke.
“Admiral, what are your commands?”
Immediately, the other seven warriors came to attention, slamming their right arms into their chest in a sharp motion. They stood straight up as they waited for Doctor Saraon to speak.
“Don’t harm anyone here. The boy is unrelated to the Scholar. Retreat back to Great Lake City and await further orders. I will remain here for a few days.”
The eight warriors all bowed and jumped backwards, fleeing out of sight. The deadly aura that surrounded them vanished as well as they swiftly moved away from the village, towards the Great Lake City to the north. These powerful soldiers kicked off the air as they moved, clearly manipulating small amounts of natural energy to further their speed.
Doctor Saron turned away from the retreating soldiers and walked back into town. He then began to treat any of the injured villagers, using his powers to heal the sick and weak, while at the same time slowly investigating the whereabouts and actions of Scholar Shen.