Chapter 126:

Trouble Arising

Mad God


When morning came, the sun’s rays barely managed to break through the endless black clouds over the horizon. It slowly rose higher and higher, coming out from behind the darkness, showering the land with its golden light. Below it, the constantly surging stormy clouds were spewing lightning down onto the ocean, producing distant echoes of thunder all day long. Rudrick, with other people from Heaven’s Gate, came for their guests to lead them on a tour and they were split up into two groups. Zelig was to guide the esteemed guests of elders around and he proposed to let the disciples have a relaxing free time, discovering the city by themselves.


Clearly, Rudrick was prepared for their refusal and ready to argue but to his surprise Aerthus readily accepted their idea. It threw Rudrick into silence for a moment. He would’ve suspected they were planning something, if not for Dermitos speaking up, insisting that Frenir, Kitten and Eisen should accompany the disciples. By the time the city itself was bustling with life, everyone was walking around like tourists, checking out the differently designed buildings, people and the exquisite cuisines offered at different stalls all around the streets.


“The air smells funny.” Heldi said, walking in the middle of the group, sniffing in the air.


“It’s the ocean.” Yanda explained, turning towards her. “I somehow really like it, it relaxes my mind.”


“I can guess why.” Lulu said, yawning a little. “The people living here are already used to it. Just like they are used to the smell of fish.” She groaned as they walked into the main market square where dozens of stalls sold different kinds of fishes.


“It’s not that bad!” Frenir laughed, stopping the group and turning towards them. “Okay! Does everyone remember how to get here?”


“Yes!” came the collective answer.


“Okay! For the next two hours everyone can go and explore but be careful.” he warned as he gave out a little, coin sized token to every disciple. “If there is trouble, crush it! Every elder is going to feel it, including me! We will drop anything and come to help! Just for security’s sake, don’t lose it please~”


“Really? We can go… by ourselves?” Toobu asked, clearly more excited by the notion.


“Is… is it a good idea?” Heldi gulped.


“Are you kids or adults? Better yet, are you cultivators or babies that need me to change your diapers?” Frenir asked, putting his hands on his waist. “Go and have some fun! We won’t come back here… for a long time, I think!” He shook his head and soon everyone dispersed. The first to be gone was Toobu, who just grabbed onto Wyland, dragging him away towards a randomly selected street.


“Want to come with me?” Ariana walked up to Heldi.


“Y-yes! That would be great!” She nodded, letting out a relaxed sigh while they turned towards Slyvett and Kirch. “Do you want to come too?”


“I think I’ll head back.” Kirch answered quickly, but Sylvette just grabbed his arm, interlocking it with hers.


“Sure, we are coming too!” She smiled, shutting up her friend. “Let’s check out the stalls, some things look and smell really good!”


“Agreed.” Ariana nodded, licking her lips. “I’ll pay for it! Master gave me some spending-money!” She patted the little bag on her belt as they also headed off.


“Come, I know a place you are going to like a lot!” Lulu grabbed onto Yanda’s hand before he could be gone.


“Are you familiar with the place?” He asked as he followed her along. For once he was not resisting or complaining.


“A little bit. I accompanied my father here twice when I was younger. The streets and buildings, I remember them clearly. But the atmosphere is different.”


“What do you mean?” Yanda asked while he looked around, but he felt nothing out of the ordinary.


“It’s more… oppressed. Probably because of Heaven’s Gate. Back then it was… more colorful? I don’t know how to describe it, but now it’s a bit greyer. Anyway, it’s not our problem! Come!” She said while she dragged him away.


“Aren’t we here to follow them?” Kitten tilted her head, looking up at Frenir as they hid amongst the crowd.


“And if we do, how are we going to let them experience life?” Frenir replied, shaking his head. “Don’t need to worry, the tokens I gave them connected to me. I monitor them closely! I’ll intervene if something really dangerous happens but I don’t think Heaven's Gate wants to escalate things into an open conflict right now. They just want to score some wins over us to promote themselves. Anything more serious would be madness, as Sect Head could go on a rampage. Even if Zelig stops him, the damage would be enormous.”


“I say we should not leave it up to them! What if some group loses? It is going to damage your Sect’s reputation.” Kitten protested, shaking her head.


“We do not care about that.” Frenir smiled, answering her calmly. “How the outside sees us is one thing. Letting our disciples grow into a complete cultivator is more important. How can you be successful if you never fail? Succeeding every time will only make you into an asshole.”


“Let me guess, Boss is the one who said that?” Eisen chuckled, tilting her head to the side.


“No.” Frenir grinned. “It was Master.”


“Huh!” Eisen and Kitten both looked at each other at the same time. “By the way!” Kitten shook her, “Can I also go and play?”


“Sure, feel free to do so.” Frenir nodded.


“Great! I am starving!” She clapped her hands before leaving but Eisen caught up to her in a second.


“I’m coming with ya~ It’s better to drink with company!”


“You are just keeping your eye on me, I may act carefree or stupid but I am not~” Kiten giggled Kitten, making Eisen also grin.


“I know, but it is still true what I said!”


“Okay, okay! Do as you wish~” She shook her head not bothering with Eisen at all.


After everyone left, Frenir just walked up to a stall, bought a grilled fish on a stick, munching on it, and walked around relaxedly.


“Let’s see which group is going to be the first to ask for help.” He murmured to himself but soon he was already distracted by another stall, selling sweets and other snacks.


….

…..


“A-a-aren’t w-w-we l-l-lost?” Wyland sighed, following Toobu as they somehow ended up near the harbor, where dozens of big and small ships were anchored down. Hundreds of people were moving goods up and down from them, shouting loudly at each other.


“Why would we? We are at the harbor! If we know where we are, we are not lost.” Toobu answered calmly, watching the working people and soon realizing, more than half of them wore slave collars.


“I-i-i d-d-don’t k-k-know…” Wyland murmured, looking around again and again. The warehouses were made out of red bricks, depressingly filthy, just as the cobbled roads they were walking on. The ships lined up at the shore were all made out of metal, rusted and grimy, their paintjobs long gone from spending decades out on the sea. Their sides were littered with barnacles, looking sick, just like many slave workers around them. Clearly those who worked and lived around here were placed on the lowest level of the social ladder, forced to endure the salty water, constantly splashing against the shores, washing the streets even, when some of the bigger storms came. The air was foul smelling, cold, humid yet a lot of people only wore rags as clothes.


“T-t-this p-p-place st-stinks…”


“It is wild, yes.” Toobu nodded. “But it’s not like we can change things. Come, we should find a bar or something.”


“W-w-why?” He moaned, clearly getting into a worse mood by the minute.


“Because places like these have cheap booze, cheap women and loose lips.”


“...” Wyland tried to say something but quickly realized the last option could be good, because if they want to know how people thought about the city and their new ‘management’, they could get a more honest take on it here than anywhere else.


After a few turns Toobu finally found a pub… or something resembling one at least. Going by the sign, hanging off of the post next to the old, wooden door, it was called Barbed Throat. Pushing its doors inside, a cloud of gray smoke washed over them as everyone there had a cigarette, pipe or at least something that burned between their fingers or lips. All their heads were turning to the two weird looking kids, looking in like some kind of newborn calves.


“Shut the door kid, you are letting in the cold!” The bartender shouted. He was a burly, giant, bald man with a short, black beard and a rough, dark skin.


Everyone else also grumbled at the two newcomers, who were sticking out like a sore thumb in here, with their proper clothing and well kept appearances. Wyland already wanted to leave but Toobu just grabbed onto his collar, pulling him back, walking towards the counter.


“Sorry, We are just looking around.” He sat down with a smile.


“Well, you saw everything! Now, do you also order something or just here to share your life story that we are not interested in?” The bartender asked as he leaned forward, already flexing his muscles on his giant hands.


“Ahaha, sure, give us two… whatever you think that we can’t handle!” Toobu slapped onto the table with a provoking grin.


“Hah! You got guts, kid!” He laughed as they immediately became the focus of everyone’s eyes.


“T-t-toobu…” Wyland tried to speak but he clearly ignored his pleas to leave.


“What are you afraid of?” The guy laughed next to them, hearing Wyland’s stuttering. “Or were you hit on the head?” He teased, clearly, already under the influence, making the others also laugh out loudly. Wyland just looked at him a little, before nodding.


“R-r-repeatedly…”


“Huh, fuck me!” The drunk man looked at him. “Then what? Did you eat them too?” He poked fun at his size next, while the bartender just put down two, wooden mugs before Toobu and Wyland. It was filled with something strong smelling, dangerously black liquid.


“Stop it Maurino!” The bartender scolded him. “You are already drunk but it’s only past 9! Get the fuck home if you can’t control yourself!”


“What, are you taking the side of these foreigners? Look at them and their clothing! They are clearly bathing in money!” He snorted loudly, spitting everywhere as he spoke.


Wyland didn’t want to start any trouble, so he just took the mug, gulping down from it, feeling something burning down his throat as it was traveling right into his stomach. But at least it wasn’t the rage or dark thoughts he was usually suppressing.


“Damn, this is some strong stuff!” Toobu laughed, finishing the whole drink at once. “Hey, how much for the mug?”


“Huh?” The bartender blinked his eyes, not really understanding why he asked something like that. “If you want it, 5 copper coins.”


“Sure!” Toobu stood up and placed a silver coin on the counter, before swinging his arm and smashing the mug into the head of the man, named Maurino.


It came out of nowhere, surprising the drunk man and if not for Toobu holding back, his head would have been blown to pieces. Instead, only the mug’s fragments flew everywhere, leaving only the handle in Toobu’s hand. Maurino just slumped down from his chair, lying on the ground, knocked out cold.


“Fuck you!” Toobu grunted as he spat on him, before sitting back down, patting Wyland’s back. “You need to up your trash talking skills, brother!” He shook his head while numerous people stood up, ready for a brawl.


“I-i-i’m… u-used t-t-to i-it…” Wyland gulped, looking around.


“Don’t be, let it out, give it to them raw! Anyway, nobody can fuck with my brother, got it?” He turned around leaning against the counter. “If you have a problem, you can tell me, face to face!”


“Okay, enough! You lot, sit back down, he would’ve been thrown out anyway!” The bartender waved his hands. “And you! Stop antagonizing my patrons or I’ll throw you out too!” He scolded him, while picking up the unconscious Maurino and tossing him out the back, not really bothering with it.


“Sure. By the way, my name is Toobu, he is Wyland.” He introduced himself and his disciple brother.


“Bardabas.” The bartender nodded. “Are you cultivators?”


“Y-y-yes.”


“Thought so.” He shook his head while some men behind them shook as in here, nobody was above the 2nd stage of the body refinement realm. “Your clothes look like those something-something gate people but yet different. So you must be from that other thing that they are now wanting to overtake or one up or something.” Bardabas snorted.


“In a nutshell.” Toobu chuckled. “You are pretty informed.”


“I am a bartender in the shittiest part of town, of course I am! Not because I care, but because nobody can hold their drunkard tongue in their mouth around here. I hear a ton of things and half of them are bullshit. But it seems your story was not. But I had my doubts until those white haired fucks came here.”


“Yeah, before they arrived…” grumbled a lot of different men behind them “We were being fucked. Don’t get us wrong... But since they came… it feels like a gangbang.”


“I-i-is i-i-it t-t-that b-bad?” Wyland asked, turning around, surprised at their words.


“Yeah, it is.” Bardabas nodded. “Before this, the city was one of the main ports of our Enjin Kingdom. It wasn’t a good place to be but there was a gang here that kept everyone in line. The City Lord governed the wealthier families, the gang governed the rats, living in the streets. It was a great balance and it profited everyone.”


“But then something happened.” Sat down another man, right next to them. He was clearly in the twilight of his years, with a long, gray and yellowish beard and with a lot of missing teeth. His long, messy hair was sticking together, into unkempt strands. “The name is Zog. I lived here for 70 years, kids.”


“Here we go again…” Bardabas sighed. “Skip the intro old man, they are not here to hear your sob stories. They are changing by the day anyway.”


“Because I have a lot of stories!” Zog snorted, placing a copper coin on the counter. “Give me something!”


“Give him something good.” Toobu chuckled, upping the copper coins with five of his own


“Good lad!” Zog laughed. “See? Some still have some humanity in them!” he turned towards the rest who just waved at him to shut up.


“What happened?” Toobu asked again.


“Yeah, yeah, the gang started acting weird. There were rumors on the streets that their relationship with the Kings of Kings soured.”


“W-w-who i-is t-t-that?”


“Naulins.” Bardabas added, placing a mug, filled with ale before Zog.


“Yeah, those.” The old man nodded, taking a big gulp immediately. “I think they knew what was coming! Or had a hunch at least! Anyway, when those fucks finally came and announced they are revi… revite… reviteliz…”


“Revitalizing.” Bardabas corrected him, clearly hearing this story a dozen times from him already.


“Yes, yes, that! So they took over and after one night, the gang’s hideout was burned to the ground.”


“What is the problem here?” Toobu asked, raising his eyebrows. “It seems normal to me. It was weird in the first place to let a gang govern a part of the city.”


“This is why you are a foreigner!” Zog slapped the back of his head. “But I can’t fault you for your ignorance, you didn’t live 90 years in these streets!”


“I-i-i t-t-thought i-it w-w-was 70.” Wyland retorted quickly.


“Doesn’t matter!” Zog grumbled while the bartender just laughed. “They say the gang is still here, in the shadows! They are working together with the royalty and planning something big, against those purple eyed demons!”


“He is a senile old drunkard! Don’t give too much weight to his words.” Bardabas waved at him to shut up. “The only thing he is correct about is that the gang probably stepped on their toes and were the official ‘reason’ that they could move in. They used it to justify everything. By their words, they arrived to help out the Enjin’s royal family to clean up their city. Saw the ton of slaves at the docks? They are the most fucked! Poor bastards! Instead of being sold, maybe to somebody who even takes care of them, now they are worked to death as they are the ‘state property’ of the Naulins.”


“You mean, those slaves were the gang’s?” Toobu asked with disgust laced all over his words.


“Yeah.” Bardabas nodded. “They were a slave trading group. Looking at your face kid, it is clear you are from the Empire huh? Here it is normal. Rank up enough debt, commit crimes or just have the kind of parents who sell you off when being born so they could eat. It is easy to wake up with a new necklace around here.” He chuckled sarcastically.


“You know why I am right?” Zog cut in again after finishing his drink. Right before Wyland or Toobu could voice their thoughts. “Because there were no bodies! The gang was already gone when they burnt their headquarters!”


“Yes, and you were there, counting the nonexistent bodies. Shut up and just drink, idiot!” Bardabas snapped at him.


“I was not there but I am sure… They already left before the Kings of Kings arrived…” Zog mumbled, while Toobu just looked at him from the corner of his eyes, falling back to thinking over what they just heard.


While they were meeting new people, Yanda and Lulu’s pair just came out from a pastry shop and were walking down a narrow, twisting street.


“That was… really good.” Yanda sighed with satisfaction.


“I told you.” Lulu chuckled. “Oh… what is this?” She stopped as before them, the street was blocked by planks, old, burnt furniture and junk. Tons of junk. They were towering over them like mountains, with a wooden plaque placed on them at the bottom, with the simple words “keep out” painted onto it.


“A dead-end it seems. Let’s go back, this road is blocked.” Yanda shrugged.


“Hah, but I remember it was this way.” Lulu grumbled.


“What?” He turned towards her as Lulu was trying to climb onto the trash pile.


“The best bar in town! I wanted to invite you to drink something nice!” She replied, arriving at the top.


“We just need to go around!” Yanda rolled his eyes but was still going after her, catching up quickly.


“Or not.” Lulu shook her head as what they saw from there was multiple, burnt down buildings, left there to rot. “It was here, but it seems it went up in smoke!”


“Probably a lightning strike from a storm.” Yanda guessed.


“Then there was a lightning storm that was stronger than multiple Harmony experts... Ah, so it was Master, who did it! Now I get it!”


“Idiot…” He rolled his eyes with a smile. “Why would Master do it?”


“Because it was gang operated. The ones who established it were the Ironclaw gang.” Lulu explained.


“Are you serious?” Yanda asked, with a darkened expression. “You wanted to take me to them?”


“What?” She put her hands on her waist. “It’s not like I wanted to brand you, idiot! I wanted to invite you for a drink, nothing more!”


“Yeah, to the gang who enslaved me! Sold me to you! The gang that Master and the other Elders killed members of! Fucking genius!” He shouted at her.


“So what?! The best bar in the city was under their rule! It’s not like we are here to bust a gang that who knows how deeply integrated with a ruling family! I just wanted to have a good time with you!”


“In a gang hideout that… argh! Fuck you Lulu, honestly, just fuck you!” Yanda groaned, throwing up his hands, ready to climb down.


“Look… Yanda!” She spoke up but in the end it was a sharp shout. As Yanda was too riled up to even think about it, he thought it was just Lulu trying to get his attention.


What came next happened way too quickly as a shadowy strike headed towards Yanda’s back from the trash pile itself. Neither Lulu nor Yanda could discern the figure, only the coldly shining blade of the polearm, aiming at Yanda’s back. Lulu, utilizing her full strength for a brief moment, reached even faster speed than her Master, pushing Yanda out of the way while the halberd went through her back, sticking out from the other end, splashing blood everywhere. The owner of the weapon was clearly someone in the Harmony realm. Just by judging his speed as after the weapon went through her, he pulled it back with haste, disappearing. Yanda caught the bleeding girl in his arms, completely stunned at what happened in less than a second before his eyes, only now managing to start thinking again.