Chapter 122: The World Above
”Above? There is a world above?!” Xu Piao exclaimed with sheer disbelief shining from his eyes, his breathing turned ragged and his entire body stiffened.
On one side, the young man wished for nothing more than a different world, but in spite of that, deep inside himself was a voice of reason which told him that if there truly was a world above then he would have known about it. Everyone would have known about it.
“Above,” Hui Yue stated calmly. “Can you not see the stone ceiling on your caves? Above those ceilings is ground filled with lush grass, tall mountains, vast oceans, and endless skies. That is the world where we came from.”
“How did you get here?” Xu Piao was no longer calm and collected. He was seated at the very edge of his chair, looking at Hui Yue with great excitement in his eyes. Even if it was a lie, he was keen to hear about this world beyond his own. He had always dreamt of moving freely, and felt as though the caves were holding him down, still he had never expected that someone would tell him about a world above his own.
Hui Yue looked at Xu Piao for a short while before he withdrew a memory stone from within his storage stones. This particular memory stone was one he had bought long ago back in Riluo City and it contained a detailed path towards the capital from Riluo City. It was a map. A map which showed the way rather than having it written down on paper.
Accepting the memory stone, Xu Piao was still skeptical. He placed it upon his forehead and quickly a silvery blue light flashed, showing to all that it was showing the recordings to the young man.
The recording contained a detailed description of the road and it went through forests, past mountains and through the land, showing the many different landscapes to the Guild Leader. Only after nearly an hour did Xu Piao finally wrest his eyes from the stone.
His eyes were clouded with mist as he handed back the stone, but Hui Yue shook his head, refusing to take it back. “Keep it as a gift,” He said smilingly.
Xu Piao frowned slightly, but in the end he nodded his head. There was no such thing as a free gift when exchanging information. Gaining such a valuable map as the one Hui Yue had given him was never free of charge. It was obvious that Xu Piao would owe him a great favor in the future, but this map was so alluring that he was willing to become indebted to the younger boy.
“What are your plans within our world?” Xu Piao finally asked, having stored away the stone in his pocket. The ordinary memory stone had turned into a treasure for the young man.
“We are here to train,” Hui Yue said while shrugging his shoulders. “Our teacher told us to enter the Dungeons of the Divine and pass through it.”
Hearing this, Xu Piao stared aghast at the young man as though it was just the simplest thing to travel through their underground world.
“Right, ask your three questions,” He said, finally back to his usual self. Although the information gained was far more valuable than he had expected, Xu Piao was not someone who would want to be too generous.
“Tell us about this world.” Hui Yue’s first question sounded.
“There are four tunnel systems,” Xu Piao started explaining right away, not even questioning how detailed Hui Yue wanted the information to be. “Each tunnel is guarded by an elite group of practitioners. Our tunnel system is guarded by the Dragon Corps. The neighbouring tunnel system is guarded by Wings of the Vermillion Bird, the third tunnel is guarded by the Ferocious Tigers, and the final tunnel is guarded by the Armoured Black Turtles.”
“The names are given to these four tunnel systems according to the four ancestors. It is only possible to enter another tunnel system if you have done some great deed like capturing a feared criminal or paying a very large compensation.”
“In our tunnel system, which is called the Azure Dragon Trail, there are thirty-nine caves. Some are as big as this one, while others as small as Cave’s End. The closer you get to the Cave of the Sacred Families the stronger the average cultivation base will be. The stronger you are, the further you are allowed to go into the caves.”
Having said that, Xu Piao finally got quiet and Hui Yue too stayed quiet for a bit, contemplating the information he had just been given.
Considering this information, these citizens of the underground world were not familiar with the name ‘Dungeons of the Divine,’ nor did they seem to know anything about the outside world making Hui Yue wonder just how long they had been living inside these tunnels and caves.
Another thing which made Hui Yue curious was the Cave of the Sacred Families. It was obviously the middle of the four tunnels, meaning close to the middle castle which Lan Feng had told him about previously.
Could these tunnels perhaps be leading towards an entrance to the bodies of the four divine beasts? Thinking a bit about it, Hui Yue knew that it was impossible for him to know before they actually reached that place and instead he considered his other question.
“Can you tell me about the Dragon Corps?” He asked after some hesitation. Thinking it through, this was an important question. Whether he wanted to or not, he had already started a feud against them, and Hui Yue believed in knowing one’s enemies.
“The Dragon Corps are the ones who oversee and control the Azure Dragon Trail. Everyone who wishes to join them are welcome, however the missions you are given will be befitting of your rank.”
“Every cave within the Azure Dragon Trail has to pay a tax to the Dragon Corps each year to ensure safety and order. In return every cave will be under their protection and they will station guards in all cities. This did not matter for Cave’s End, since they were so far away and no one there understood cultivation. To be honest no one really cares about Cave’s End.”
“The Dragon Corps has common soldier ranks for all cultivators below Master rank and for those who never manage to pass the Master rank at a decent age. Grandmasters usually get promoted to captains and get control over a ten-man team which they will do certain missions with. Above the Grandmaster is the Duke ranked senior captains who also control ten-man teams but sometimes do higher ranked missions.”
“Apart from the ten-man teams are five man teams. Some of these teams are five Grandmaster ranked experts together, while others contain King ranked experts. These teams are the special task forces and they usually only get used for really important missions.”
Having heard the information about the Dragon Corps, Hui Yue nodded his head once more as he leaned back in his chair, his brows furrowed as he was in deep thought. Xu Piao was completely quiet, allowing for the guest to think as much as he needed to.
“For my last answer I would like information about life within these caves. Information about people’s lifestyles, lines of work, and the economy would be great.”
Xu Piao nodded his head before he once more started explaining the world he was currently living within.
“Living within these caves has been my entire life so far, I have dreamt of another world, but I always knew it was just a dream. Most people live their entire life within the cave in which they were born. There are all sorts of jobs available, however most young men will spend a part of their life working as a mercenary to try and earn some quick cash. Those who don’t make it will then become farmers, carpenters, merchants. Anything really.”
“The currency within these tunnels is called demon coins and they are created from magical beast cores. At a one core to one coin ratio. Some cultivators with the affinity of Metal are capable of producing two coins from one core, however they are very sought after and as such incredibly rare. Usually they end up within the capital working for the many banks.”
“The tunnels are often a place where mercenaries will enter in groups as they harvest medicinal herbs or hunt down demonic beasts. Demonic beasts sell for a noticeable amount of money, even while dead and their cores are always worth at least one demon coin each.”
“Living within these caves is quite easy. The city does not have many rowdy crowds because the Dragon Corps deals with them. The only bad thing is that it is not that easy to be granted access to the next cave as they are very hard to enter. The price gets more and more extravagant, not to mention the cultivation levels needed to get safely through the tunnels linking the caves together.”
Having heard what Xu Piao said, Hui Yue nodded his head. It seemed as though life underground was exactly the same as it was above ground and for some reason, that caused relief to flood over Hui Yue. As to how they would enter the next cave, Hui Yue was not too worried about that just yet.
“As you might have guessed, it would be best not to tell anyone that we came from above,” Hui Yue said with a sheepish smile on his face causing Xu Piao to snort.
Although the young man seemed naïve and innocent it was obvious that he was planning something, and even Xu Piao knew that he would benefit the most from staying on the good side of these who had appeared out of nowhere.
“Well I would suggest that we sign the four of you up to become part of the Mercenary Guild,” Xu Piao said with a big smile, as he pressed a memory stone and within moments the heavywood door opened and the woman from before arrived.
“Xie Lan, go fetch me four golden mercenary badges,” As soon as the woman had opened the door, the order was given and she bowed slightly before she left once more, closing the door behind her.
“These badges will give you discounts everywhere within the city,” Xu Piao said proudly. Hui Yue was not dumb and he knew that they were given quite some face for instantly receiving the golden badges, yet he said nothing about it, just nodded his head.
Being a member of the Mercenary Guild comes with multiple benefits,” The young man continued, “Firstly, you will not have to pay for a hotel room, but you will get your own courtyard within our area to stay at.”
“Secondly you will have access to the blackboard where citizens and the Dragon Corps put up requests for items or smaller missions they are looking for someone to undertake. Usually this is where most of the mercenaries find jobs.”
Hui Yue rose an eyebrow at that information and made a mental note to visit the blackboard later. Right now they seriously needed money and it was obvious that the easiest way to get it was by being employed somehow.
It was still possible for him to sell some of the many items he had gotten from all the magic beasts they had killed on their trip, however this thought alone made Hui Yue sad and when he heard about an alternative, hope filled his eyes.
Looking at the young boy in front of him, Xu Piao felt grief as he thought that the reason Hui Yue looked so hopeful was because he truly was poor and the older man decided to help them financially at the start. The memory stone he had been given was a priceless object within the underground world along with the information of the world outside.
The wooden door opened once again and Xie Lan stepped inside, within her hands were four golden emblems, each one of them containing a mark at the top carved out saying ‘Golden Mercenary Guild Member’.
“Don’t be shy!” Xu Piao said with a happy voice, as he stood up from his chair and opened his arms wide, the smile on his face filled with excitement. “Come now, take an emblem each and make sure to bind it to you with your Qi and then I will make sure to show you around the Mercenaries Guild. Oh yeah, you might want to wear those black cloaks again.”