After a few days, Dale fully recovered from the injuries he had taken. His Titanic Sea also restored itself a great deal, the energy appearing in it naturally. After a full three days of rest, it had filled up to around two thirds of its normal size. Dale was amazed at how much energy Laozi’s Gaze took when he mustered the technique. It was truly a monstrous power, but one that was a double edged sword.
While he rested, Lei Fan visited him often, playing with Cloud and asking him questions. Lei Fan had never left the village besides going to the immediate forest around them to play, and was curious about the outside world. Dale, also having never really left this island, instead told her stories about his past in his previous world. He told her about the famed team battle he had fought in and nearly won, about his adventures in the dark underground world of the Under Cave, his time at the esteemed Taron Academy. He shared his stories and memories with all of his best friends, his eyes tearing him.
His friends were gone now. Split to the ends of which only the Gods know where. Sora. Feng. Myra. These three names burned themselves into Dale’s Soul. His drive to find his best friends and save them had slowly become a part of Dale’s identity.
Thus, once he finished recovering, Dale immediately went and found Doctor Saron, asking him for more information about the Grand Merchant Fair.
The Grand Merchant Fair, Dale learned, was an enormous gathering of all the great powers in the Great Inner Sea.
The Great Inner Sea was the inner section of floating islands that separated the three Continental Islands. The Sea itself was larger than the Continental Islands in total size, stretching roughly 100,000 miles wide and long. This was a huge distance, and not something any cultivator could cover in a day. It would take at least a week or two for even the strongest cultivator to fly across it alone, unless some sort of treasure or special technique was used.
The Island Dale was on, the Great Lake Island, was on the western side of the Great Inner Sea, above the Continental Island of Jex.
Spread throughout the Great Inner Sea were tens of hundreds of thousands of islands. While the small floating islands, like 100 meter or 1000 meter large ones might not necessarily be inhabited, all of the Major Islands were.
The Great Lake City was an example of a Major Island.
In the Great Inner Sea, there were only two categories of floating islands. Major Islands and Minor Islands.
There were countless numbers of Minor Islands in the Great Inner Sea. Any floating island ranging from 1000 meters to the small, 10 meter large boulders, to even the insubstantial half a meter long fragments, all of these were counted as Minor Islands.
Major Islands, on the other hand, were relatively smaller in number, though still numerous, and were much larger. Even the smallest Major Island was several miles wide and thousands of meters long. These islands were covered in dense foliage or plains, made up of mountains and rivers. Some were shaped like deserts. A plethora of natural habitats existed on different Major Islands, spread throughout the Great Inner Sea.
It wasn’t to say that the Minor Islands were useless, however. Many Minor Islands contained or were made up of rare ore deposits and natural resources. Powerful Profound Beasts often rested on nondescript Minor Islands. Dale recalled the Profound Beast he had found on one of the Minor Islands when searching for the Golden Bamboo Cattle, the Rayleigh Bear. While this specific Profound Beast had only been a 1 Star Profound Beast, it was still an uncommon one. Rare ores, resources, and beasts could be found hidden away on small islands.
Major Islands, however, contained much greater resources. Some of the larger Major Islands were hundreds of miles in length and width, massive and huge. Extensive mines, farms, and plains were common on Major Islands. The Great Lake Island that Dale was currently on, for example, had a large Mithril mine just outside of the Great Lake City, which was controlled by the Emblazoned Wing Sect.
Sects, like the Emblazoned Wing Sect, were what controlled the various islands in the Great Inner Sea. A Sect was a mix between a school and a martial training organization, as well as a large family. Sects were extremely powerful martial forces, and held the most power in the Great Inner Sea.
The Emblazoned Wing Sect that controlled the Great Lake Island, Dale had learned from the Scholar, controlled nine other islands as well. These Islands owed allegiance to the Emblazoned Wing Sect, and in return for the safety provided by the Sect, sent the Sect tribute.
The Great Inner Sea wasn’t a lawless land, not like the Great Outer Sea, the endless Sea of islands that was outside of the range of the three Continental Islands and the Great Inner Sea. The Donden Merchant Company’s Colonial Army did a fantastic job at keeping the Sea relatively peaceful.
However, the Colonial Army was built to keep bandits from successfully inhibiting trade and to maintain a force comparable to the other Seven Great Powers. The Colonial Army would not participate in battles between Sects, except to prevent any battles from being too major. If two Sects went head to head full on at war, the Colonial Army might intercede, but for the most part, they would stay separate.
And Sects were constantly at war in the Great Inner Sea. There were hundreds of Sects in the vast Inner Sea, so many so that even the Scholar did not know all of their names. All of these Sects competed for control of Major Islands, and the enormous natural resources that came with each one. For, no matter how small a Major Island was, there would always be a large amount of resources present.
This was one of the great Mysteries of the Floating Island Universe, Dale learned.
Normally, if one mined out all the resources from a place, that place would remain empty and dead, the resources drained.
The Major and Minor Islands, as well as the Continental Islands, however, seemed to refuse this logic.
When one mined the resources of a Major Island, including the very valuable Ores used for weapons and armor, as well as the rare herbs and plants used for powerful medicine and poison, these resources would become depleted.
However, after some period of time, differing for different places and resources, these deposits and growths would reform. Ore deposits would spawn back after being mined, rare herbs and plants would appear from the dirt. Trees would regrow from the earth, rivers would reform from the air, the ground itself would naturally heal.
Dozens of learned scholars had researched these phenomena endlessly, Dale was told, and had yet to find any logical reason for the reformation.
Yet, it happened anyway, and the mysterious renewal of resources was accepted as fact. No one knew why it happened, but it was an iron clad law that it happened.
Because of this, cultivators and Profound Beasts alike could thrive. Resources never ran dry, and people could constantly increase their strength. This had allowed the Floating Cloud Universe to exist for millions of years, giving some Kingdoms and Sects quite an incredible history.
While resources may never run dry on Major Islands, that didn’t mean everyone had access to these resources. The Major Islands in the Great Inner Sea often shifted control between different Sects as one Sect was beaten back and overpowered and another one came in. The more resources a Sect had, the quicker they could advance and gain strength. They also became a bigger target, however, and an endless cycle was born.
As such, the Emblazoned Wing Sect currently controlled the Major Island Dale was on. The Great Lake City paid tribute to the Sect, just like Raymen Village paid tribute to Great Lake City.
The Merchant Fair worked into the situation by offering an official way to switch control of different Major Islands to different Sects.
All Sects that controlled a Major Island in the Great Inner Sea paid some amount of tribute to the Donden Merchant Company. The Donden Merchant Company was a supremely powerful force. They weren’t, however, an omnipresent one, and the Colonial Army was only so big. Thus, the various Sects in the Great Inner Sea were allowed a great amount of freedom.
The Grand Merchant Fair was a place where the Donden Merchant Company showed their power.
The Grand Merchant Fair was a place where multiple things occurred at once, across five plazas. There was an enormous Trade Plaza erected, stretching dozens of miles long and wide. This odd grey Plaza was erected floating in the sky, above the darkness of the endless Void. To reach it, one was required to either have control of natural energy or pass through the land connected bridges. One could find virtually any resource, any material, and type of weapon here, as well as rare treasures and powerful Arts or cultivation techniques. Profound Cores, rare herbs, godly Ore, all of it could be found here.
Besides the trade plaza, there was a second plaza, the Colonial Army Recruitment Plaza. This Plaza was much smaller than the Trade Plaza, only stretching a couple miles. It was here Dale could redeem the token of admission he had been given by Doctor Saron, and try out to join the Colonial Army. While this Plaza may not be large, it was always filled as people tried out. The riches and fame the Colonial Army held, as well as the secret techniques open to anyone that joined, were quite enticing.
The third plaza, called the Leaders Plaza, was a place where only the leader and controller of a Major Island could sit at. It was the smallest of the five plazas, only half a mile wide and long.
The fourth plaza was one that interested Dale a great deal. The Trials Plaza.
It was here that the various Sects sent representatives to compete for the various Major Islands.
There were many rules for competing at the Trials Plaza, including things like only being able to challenge Sects that had a neighboring Major Island, a limited number of challenges per day, and a time limit for each battle. Killing your opponent, however, was completely allowed. This Plaza was a life or death zone that every Sect was required to send representatives to. Those that refused were promptly destroyed by the Colonial Army. There was no room for argument, and this was something every Sect in control of a Major Island participated in.
Dale’s eyes shined when he heard about this.
Doctor Saraon was quite specific on the rules. To enter and compete in the Trials Plaza, one had to hold control of a Major Island. If one defeated the enemy cultivator they challenged, they would then gain complete control over the Major Island that the enemy cultivator was representing. For a year and a day after their victory, the winner would have control over that Major Island, and no other Sects would be allowed to attack them. The Colonial Army mandated this clause as a necessary addition to ensure the transition of ownership remained clear. Breaking the clause meant complete annihilation of the offending Sect. Draws resulted in no change of position. A lost challenge meant the physical loss of the Major Island that the failed challenger represented.
While no other Sects would be allowed to attack the newly gained Major Island, their original Major Island was still up to the winner to defend. The Trials Plaza only took care of the official transition of Major Islands, and if Sects wished to physically take the Major Island of another Sect, they were welcome to, as long as the battles did not cause too big a commotion or wipe out too many regular civilians. The Colonial Army was very strict on Sects that needlessly slaughtered.
What if I controlled an entire Major Island? Dale thought as he heard the Doctor explain more. The resources there, they would certainly speed up his training a tremendous amount even if it was the smallest Major Island in existence. Dale made a mental note to look into it, deciding that if the opportunity arose, he would take control of a Major Island.
After talking to Doctor Saron about the Grand Merchant Fair, Dale agreed with the Doctor and told him he would journey to the Fair in four months time, promising to try out for the Colonial Army. The Doctor seemed quite interested in Dale, and agreed quite warmly with all of Dale’s requests for information when he asked questions. Because of this, Dale’s opinion of the Doctor rose, though he was still unsure on how he felt about Scholar Shen and the situation around him. Dale decided to put those thoughts in the back of his mind, dealing with them when relevant.
After the Doctor got Dale’s agreement, the man left, citing his job investigating.
In the blink of an eye, two weeks passed.