Theldon Continent – The Under Cave, Delica City-State, Var Main Hall
Dale and Jerah finally reached the Var family home, shaking off Jasmine. Dale still wasn’t sure why she disliked him so much. Of all things, she should have been grateful for him saving Jerah he thought, mentally sighing. He shrugged, putting it out of his mind for now.
Jerah led Dale quickly through the gates, bypassing the guards. He marched right up to the grand entrance hall, barging in a bit rudely. Dale looked around as Jerah dragged him forward, seeing several people waiting in the entrance hall to speak with Jerah’s father. The people waiting gave them odd looks. Jerah tugged at a small pouch he had on his waist as if to confirm it was still there.
Jerah’s father, Kyle Var, was currently speaking to a trade minister from the City-State of Roth. They were organizing a small purchase of gems to be used in strengthening weapons.
Gems mined from a Gem mine are not like regular gems. These gems have a special endurance, and can withstand an enormous amount of force. Thanks to this, gems from these special mines are often used in the creation of weapons for martial cultivators to use. Cultivators can infuse their will and energy into the gems, allowing them to expand their techniques through a safe medium. A Life cultivator could, for instance, store a large amount of purified Life energy in one of these gems. Then, anyone that had it could draw from this Life energy, healing themselves.
The gems have a large variety of uses and are extraordinarily rare. Because of this, having ownership of a Gem mine is extremely profitable, and grants one a huge amount of status.
Jerah ran into the room, disregarding everyone but his father. His father looked up, irritation and surprise coloring his face. Several guards standing around focused on Jerah as well, watching him carefully. While it might seem a bit ridiculous to guard a high level cultivator, they would do their job regardless. The trade minister looked around confusedly.
Before his father could speak, Jerah yelled out. “Father! This is extremely important! Could you clear the room please?” His eyes gave off veritable waves of determination and excitement.
The Lord Heir noticed and hesitated for a moment before gesturing for everyone to leave. He apologized to the trade minister, citing family issues, and turned to look at Jerah. The room quickly cleared.
“Yes, Jerah? What is it?” A noticeable tinge of excitement colored his tone. Jerah’s father always knew that Jerah was special. His birth mother had been a mysterious woman that he had charmed into falling in love with him. The woman who had only stayed with him for a year before leaving, disappearing in the Under Cave’s equivalent of the night. She had been a stunning lady, charming and calm, with a serene air about her. When Jerah had discovered a mine a little while back, proving his extraordinary Earth sensitivity, the Lord Heir had downplayed his achievement to protect him, not wanting others to pursue him while he was young. Therefore, when he came to him excited as he was now, the Lord Heir knew there must be a reason for it.
“Father! I discovered an enormous Onyx Mine several tens of miles west of our Gem mine site!” Jerah withdrew a small black stone from the pouch he had on his waist. When Jerah had been examining the Onyx mine, he had found a few loose stones that lay in the crater. He held the stone out for his father to examine.
The moment the Lord Heir heard the words ‘Onyx Mine’ the look in his eyes changed and he began to tremble. He stood up instantly, a powerful aura flowing out. The Lord moved forward in a blur, stopping next to Jerah and holding up the stone. He held it in his hands and squeezed, trying to crush the stone. If it were truly Onyx, it wouldn’t even be affected. After a moment he stopped, confirming its toughness. He looked up at Jerah, a hungry look in his eyes.
Immediately, he began asking questions.
“Where is the mine located? I need an exact location. How large is it? Does anyone else know of this?” Jerah quickly responded, answering question after question. After about 5 minutes of questioning, the Lord Heir waved him off. He went to the door, calling one of the servants over, and sent for one of the Black Gold commanders.
Mere moments later, a familiar Black Gold commander arrived. Reger ran in, looking towards the Lord Heir. He bowed, saying,
“I am here, Lord. What is so important that you needed me instantly?” Reger had been in the midst of training, cultivating his Core. He looked over at Jerah and Dale in surprise, wondering why they were here as well.
The Lord Heir responded,
“We have located a sizeable Onyx mine west of our Gem mine. I need you to take some of the soldiers and secure it immediately.”
Reger stood still for a moment before exploding into motion. His eyes started shining, a fierce joy appearing. An Onyx Mine! He thought, considering all the amazing new possibilities for his family. If it were large enough, their influence in the Under Cave would skyrocket!
“Jerah will accompany you immediately as you go to secure it. Tell no one anything about this and guard the site completely. We must fortify our position there before we claim ownership. I will submit this information to our Council Head.” Jerah’s father went on, explaining and outlining his plan. Reger nodded immediately and left, gathering up a small pool of Silver and Gold commanders.
The Var family had, in total, 4 Black Gold Commanders, 3 of them the famous Var Family Generals, the 4th being Jerah’s father, Kyle.
After that, they had 9 Gold Core Commanders, and more than 40 Silver Core Commanders.
By assembling such a large number of the available commanders in the Var family, it was equivalent to investing an entire 3rd of the manpower of the Var family in protecting this mine. This just goes to show how extremely important Onyx is in the underground world they lived in.
As the hardest substance known to man, Onyx was a major ingredient in crafting extremely powerful armor and weapons.
In the Under Cave there was a ranking system set to distinguish between the highest and the lowest quality of weapons.
The most powerful and highest quality weapons were labeled as Rank 1. The weakest and least powerful were unranked, with the first Rank of weapon coming in at Rank 5.
To put this into perspective, the two rapiers Dale had picked out of the Var family armor were both unranked weapons. The most powerful weapon in the entire Var family house was a Rank 2 katana, held by the Council Head of the Var family. No one else in the entire family held a Rank 2 weapon.
Even with the massive wealth and influence that the Var family had, they had yet to splurge and buy an extremely high-ranking weapon. The main reason behind this was the prohibitively expensive pricing for these weapons.
The Var family made roughly 120,000,000 gold annually, through the sales from there Gem mine as well as various services they performed. A normal non-noble family could eat for a month off of 1 gold piece. Lesser noble families usually made between 10,000,000 and 30,000,000 gold annually.
The Rank 2 katana that the Var Council Head owned was worth 560,000,000 gold. This was just its appraised value as well; if it was ever to be sold in auction, one could be sure that the price would surely skyrocket. Ranked weapons were exceedingly difficult to make, and exceedingly rare.
In the entire Under Cave, there are 7 known Rank 1 weapons, and 67 known Rank 2 weapons.
Rank 1 weapons are considered priceless, while Rank 2 weapons sell for anywhere from 400 million to 800 million, and can only be made by someone at the peak grandmaster level of smithing, using the most expensive and rare materials. Rank 1 weapons can also be made, but the method to craft them is currently unknown.
Rank 3 weapons are worth roughly 5 to 25 million gold each, and can be made by extremely talented smiths at the grandmaster level. The materials, while not as rare as those for a Rank 2 weapon, are still prohibitively expensive for normal people.
Rank 4 weapons are worth perhaps 25,000 to 100,000 gold each. Creating a Rank 4 weapon is seen as a proof of passage for a Master Smith.
Rank 5 weapons are worth anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 gold. One can be considered a full fledged and powerful smith when they can create a weapon that is at least Rank 5.
Powerful weapons can help a cultivator unleash the full strength of their attacks. It said that a Silver commander wielding a Rank 1 weapon could deliver blows as powerful as that of a Black Gold commander, albeit much slower.
One of the major and well-known ingredients required for all Rank 3 and above weapons was the extremely rare ore Onyx. Due to the scarcity of this element, the price for Onyx was currently extremely high. The Onyx mine that Jerah and Dale had discovered was worth billions and billions of gold. To the Var family, this had become a matter of extreme importance, easily worth the risk of an entire third of their strength.
Reger came back in, motioning for Jerah to follow him. When Dale stepped forward to join him, however, he was waved back with a stern look. Jerah turned around, looking apologetic.
“I’m pretty sure they just want Var family members going to secure the site. I trust you fully, Dale, but to the rest of my family, you are still a new commander, and therefore not seen as trusted.” Jerah shrugged, looking a bit awkward.
Dale waved him off and motioned for him to leave, not offended in the least. Dale understood how important it was for this Noble family to secure the mine. He also was tired, and looked forward to lying down in his bed and napping. He recalled the Monster Cores he had hidden in his room, and mentally outlined a plan to begin absorbing their strength.
A few of the family’s guards escorted him to his room, basically placing him under house arrest. Dale didn’t mind, however, and eagerly walked in, practically diving in to bed. He laid down and fell asleep, relaxing at last after such a busy and exciting day, his dreams twisting and turning nightmares of a past that wasn’t his own.
The Next Day
Dale yawned, stretching his muscles as he came awake. He felt well rested, though his memory seemed a bit distorted when it came to his dreams. He felt like he was forgetting something. He mentally shrugged, standing up to use the chamber pot in the corner.
After freshening up, Dale went over to the dresser near his bed. He hopped on top of it and grabbed a small bag of Monster Cores he had secreted in the ceiling of the room. He jumped back down, opening it up. Inside, there were several different types of Cores, ranging from Copper to Steel. Dale grabbed two of the Copper ones, setting the rest on his dresser as he hopped down. He smiled eagerly, excited to finally absorb a Monster Core.
Dale knew from his former teachings that he could absorb the energy from a Monster Core directly into his own Core, helping him grow his cultivation faster than he normally would be able to.
He flashed back to what Instructor Lem had taught,
“Alright Dale, today we’re going to cover how to absorb energy from Monster Cores. The two primary reasons Monster Cores have value is their use as ingredients in crafting weapons and armor, and their use in helping Cultivators speed up their cultivation. One can absorb energy from a Core, turning it into energy for one's own use.” Instructor Lem had gestured at him then, pretending he was holding a Monster Core.”
“To absorb the energy, all you have to do is hold the core and focus your own energy into the Core. When you do, you will feel the energy of the Core swirl before you. It will be up to you, then, to withdraw your energy and as much of the Monster Core’s energy as you can. All the energy you withdraw will naturally return to your own Core, and you can refine the Monster Core’s energy from there.” Instructor Lem had smiled than, showing Dale a model he had drawn.
Dale snapped back to the present, holding one of the Copper Cores in his hand. It was a simple concept, he thought. Dale focused his mind and entered his Perfect Balance mode. Immediately, he could sense everything near him. Dale keenly felt the presence of the two guards outside his doorway, keeping watch. He felt the force of gravity act against him, keeping him pressed firmly into the bed he was sitting on. He felt the force of the Copper Monster Core in his hand, sensing the small pool of energy before him. Dale infused the Core with some of his own energy, feeling it begin to coalesce. Suddenly, he could feel the Monster Core’s energy as if it was next to his own, swirling around.
The energy inside the Core felt strangely savage and inhuman, representative of the fact that it had belonged to a monster. Dale circled the small pool of energy with power from his own Core, and began to absorb it.
Thanks to his Perfect Balance, Dale was able to perfectly sense and encircle the energy inside this Monster Core, completely covering it. He slowly began absorbing it into his own Core, feeling his base energy level rise a minute amount.
About three hours later he finished, falling backwards on the bed exhausted. It was a very long process for him to absorb the energy, slowly enhancing it into his own Core. However, in that three hours Dale’s cultivation had increased in what he could normally do in one hour. He looked down at the empty Core, disappointed. Dale felt that he could absorb the energy much faster if he concentrated, but he was annoyed that the results would be so low.
At that moment, Dale recalled a fact his teacher had told him months ago. Instructor Lem’s voice flashed in his mind,
“Yes, and don’t forget, Dale, that Monster Core absorption rates vary depending on one's Cultivation. Cores can help you cultivate your energy extremely quickly, but only if the Core you absorb is equal to or greater than your current cultivation level. A Gold Cultivator would gain very little from absorbing a Silver Monster Core.”
Dale immediately placed the other Copper Core he held aside, grabbing the Steel Monster Core from his bag, looking at it with an eager gleam in his eyes.
“If I absorb this, my cultivation should greatly increase!” he said, talking to himself. Quickly, he closed his eyes and began to focus, sensing the energy inherent in the Steel Monster Core…