Dale slowed time and shot forward, grabbing the young noble before he could completely fall. However, the moment he reached forth and grabbed Jerah’s shoulders, he heard a loud voice yell out,
“Get your hands off him!” A young girls voice cried out, sounding echoes through the cave. A force of soldiers was rapidly approaching the group of warriors Dale was standing with. There were roughly a hundred soldiers, all dressed in leather armor with the same red sword and shield emblem the warriors Dale was with wore. However, these soldiers all wore a yellow badge, decorated in a golden bear. Leading them was a young girl riding, of all things, a rock covered tiger like creature. She also wore a yellow badge. Dale mentally named it a Cave Tiger, watching her advance on the horse-sized creature. She had blonde hair and bright blue gentle eyes. However, at this moment, her eyes were ablaze as she stared daggers into Dale.
Jerah got back on his feet, a little unsteadily, looking gratefully at Dale. He turned around to face the girl with a long-suffering look on his face.
“Jasmine he was helping me up. In fact, he just saved all of us in battle, helping us rout the lizards.” Jerah gestured behind him, at the vast field of slaughter.
Jasmine stared at Dale suspiciously, before regrouping with the rest of the noble children. She turned away from Dale, sniffing. Jerah turned back to Dale, and continued talking.
“Thanks a lot for your help, Dale! I couldn’t help but overhear you say that you were lost. Why not come back with us to Delica? I’m sure we can help you find your way from there! I insist!” He shot Dale a winning smile.
Dale looked back at the noble girl who had yelled at him. Currently, she was talking to the other children and soldiers, organizing them into a small group. She had a very no nonsense air about her, despite being around Dale's age. Dale turned back to Jerah, stating,
“Sure!” Dale nodded at him. He decided to travel with them rather than alone, figuring he’d figure out what to do when he had a place to rest. He was abysmally tired.
Jerah clapped his hands together and turned around, gathering his soldiers together. Along with Jasmine and the rest of the nobles, they set off back towards the city.
Theldon Continent, The Under Cave, Delica City-State
On the way back to their home, Dale learned a great deal about where he was and whom he was with, thanks to the talkative Jerah.
Dale learned that he was on the continent of Theldon, in the underground world known as the Under Cave. The Under Cave stretched for hundreds of thousands of miles, and was equivalent to the size of a small continent on its own. In fact, it had three times the land of the entire continent of Chel. The Under Cave was split into several different City-States, Delica being the one they were now approaching. Delica was a huge city, dependent on several large ore mines it built close to. With a population nearing 10 million, it was a massive and very powerful city. Delica was ruled by a group of extremely powerful warriors known as the Council of Six. The Council of Six was made up of six legendary warriors, each at the level of a Gem Core Cultivator.
Dale also learned a great deal about Gem Core Cultivators. Gem Core cultivators are beings at the pinnacle of the human world. With powerful techniques and near limitless strength, very few people would stand in their way. However, Gem Core cultivators also have levels within their own realm. A new Gem Core user will have yet to consolidate his energy and is considered an “Initial” user. After he consolidates his energy, he will reach the standard for Gem Core cultivators and become a “Beginner” phase warrior. Advancing passed the Beginner level, however, is extremely difficult. This is because each and every phase in the Gem Core level requires deep and powerful insights into the mysteries of the world. Powerful strength just isn’t enough to force a breakthrough. Many Gem Core cultivators are stuck at the Beginner level their entire lives. After the Beginner level is the “Intermediate”, “Advanced” and “Peak” Gem Core levels.
The Council of Six that reside in Delica are all supposedly “Beginner” level Gem Core warriors.
Dale also learned about the increased longevity powerful cultivators get. Starting at the Black Gold Core level, cultivators gain extremely long life spans. A Black Gold cultivator might live a thousand years till dying, if one cannot advance any farther. Gem Core Cultivators, however, are for the most part immortal. The Council of Six residing in Delica are all at least a thousand years of age or older. Dale was shocked at the huge age, completely taken by surprise. Dale knew that high-level cultivators supposedly lived longer, but he didn’t know it was to this degree. He recalled the very few Black Gold commanders Morn had, and wondered how old they were.
When a Gem Core forms, Dale learned, the body is completely reformed. This reformation is based in the soul, and advances ones soul to enormous levels, powerful enough that, if a Gem Core cultivator’s body is destroyed, he can survive by forming a “Soul Body.” While this Soul Body won’t be as powerful as ones original body, it will still be able to cultivate and reach powerful levels. An advantage to Soul Body’s was that one became immune to many physical ailing’s, and could regenerate wounds at an extremely fast rate. A disadvantage would be ones weakened strength, and increased susceptibility to soul attacks.
Dale learned that soul attacks were also a thing. Using the base energy of ones soul, one could launch non-material attacks that could damage or even destroy an opponent’s soul, allowing you to bypass physical defenses. However, one had to be at the Black Gold Core level before they could even consider using soul attacks.
Powerful souls could allow one to bend the fabric of the world, creating impossible attacks or bringing forth miracles. However, it was extremely difficult to train ones soul to this level. The only known ways to train ones soul are either through intense meditation and study, slowly increasing ones wisdom and soul or to go through intense trials and tribulations, conquering despair and hardship, and growing exponentially.
Jerah Var was a young scion of the Houce of Var, one of the 6 great families in Delica. Each family had one member of the Council of Six as their family grandhead. Jerah was the 5th son of the current heir to the Var family house. The current head was Jerah’s grandfather. The House of Var was considered one of the stronger among the powerful 6 families. They owned one of the only two gem mines in the City-State of Delica, and held a great deal of influence and power.
The City-State of Delica was located on the northern section of the Under Cave. Directly to the west of Delica was a huge monster infested area known as the Infested Lands. The Infested Lands covered roughly a third of the land area of The Under Cave, and was filled with powerful monsters and attribute beasts, as well as several monster tribes and warlords.
Dale had emerged from a massive cave wall that was known as the Northern End. It was the upper limit of the Under Cave, and was filled with mysterious passageways that were told to lead nowhere. So convoluted was this cave system in the north, that it was considered an impassable maze, with several entrances and exits throughout the Northern End and the Infested Lands.
Jerah had been going on a standard inspection to one of the Var family mines to the north when he ran into the attacking tribe of lizards. The group of nobles had split up, Jasmine with her guards leaving to return to the city and bring aid, while Jerah and his warriors, along with the other noble children, retreated to the north, drawing the Lizardmen’s attention.
Thanks to Dale's quick thinking and aid, they had successfully routed the Lizardmen before Jasmine returned, and prevented many casualties. Jerah considered it good fortune for them to have met, and insisted on rewarding him. Jasmine, on the other hand, had an immediate bad impression of Dale, and decided to ignore him from this point onward.
The large party made their way back to Delica, and arrived at the city gates after a half hour of running. Dale was physically and mentally exhausted. Though his body’s endurance had risen to extreme amounts and he was able to work without sleep for about a week, it didn’t mean he didn’t experience fatigue. He felt an aching in his bones, as if he had gone by with minimal rest for weeks and weeks.
Delica City Gates
Dale got his first shock when he finally rested his weary eyes upon the underground city of Delica. Dale had been expecting a grubby or desolate city, covered in dirt or rocks. Before Dale, however, was a city of majesty.
Delica, known in the Under Cave for it’s huge mines and resources, was built in to the side of a huge stalagmite. The stalagmite was extremely wide, looking more like a massive hill then a cave rock formation. Successive manors and palaces rose up to the peak of the stalagmite, ending in the Councilroom at the very top. Noble houses and manors decorated the sides of the stalagmite, descending at a very slight slope. The higher up a house was on the stalagmite, the more wealthy or influential its owners could be considered.
The rest of the city covered the cave ground, expanding outward at an explosive rate. Hundreds of thousands of shops, stores, and homes littered the base level, covering the earth. Residents could be seen everywhere, traveling to and fro, shopping and working. To the north, workers could be seen leaving the city gates, setting out for the many mines the City-State owned. Young warriors could be seen practicing in the large coliseum built into the side of the stalagmite, testing their strength and valor. Attribute Beast pets and traveling companions were sold in exotic shops, powerful Monster Cores and Core Weapons were sold in great auctions, wealth swapping hands at ridiculous rates.
It was a bustling city full of activity and growth, and could easily rival the capital of any great empire.
Dale took this all in with wide eyes, staring about like a child his age should. He excitedly bombarded Jerah with questions, asking about everything he saw as they passed through the city gates, moving passed large groups of miners. Jerah, happy to have finally found a soul that would listen to him talk for ages, answered all of Dale's questions and more, filling his head with newfound knowledge.
Dale learned of the great Cities War that was currently going on between the multiple City-States in the Under Cave. Several City-States had declared war on each other, and a massive dash for resources and battle was currently undergoing. The Infested Lands had become more active as well, several monsters and monster tribes having ventured into the human area of the Under Cave. Dale learned about the organization known as Numbers that had been assassinating leaders of several City-States, which had greatly contributed to the huge war that was happening. 3 different City-States had already fallen, conquered by their neighbors. Among the powerful City-States near Delica, the only ones that could be considered a threat were the City-States of Roth, famous for their Berserk Unit, and the City-State of Hedschel, ruled by a powerful Emperor. Of the two, Delica had a good relationship with Hedschel, and a neutral relationship with Roth.
Thanks to Delica’s mostly neutral ties in the ongoing war, as well as their remote location, Delica had profited enormously from the huge war by mass producing powerful weapons from the massive mines they controlled and selling them to all of the various City-States for a profit.
As Dale took this all in, they approached a small intersection in the street they were walking down. Currently, Dale and Jerah stood surrounded by Jerah's guards, eagerly discussing various things. Jasmine and several of the nobles that had accompanied them had already departed, splitting off towards their own residencies. The noble children had been assigned to travel with Jerah in order to gain their own experience in inspecting the workers in the various mines. Jerah had gone on several inspection missions before, working hard to help his family, despite his young age. Dale and Jerah made their way down the intersection, quickly traveling up the large stalagmite towards Jerah's home.
Jerah’s family hall was located towards the peak of the great stalagmite, the Var Family land. The estate was massive, containing a huge manor and several tens of smaller town homes. It was enclosed by a large metal fence, blocking in the land. Dale and Jerah quickly approached from the front, headed towards a small metal gate surrounded by guards.
The guards on watch at the front gate quickly came to alert, spying the approaching party. When they saw Jerah leading it, however, they quickly relaxed, smiles appearing. Jerah was well known around the Var family home, a serious and talkative child who treated everyone equally, whether they were servant or noble.
“Welcome back young master!” The guards quickly bowed, welcoming Jerah home. They noted Dale, giving him a nod. However, as the guards got a closer look at the warrior guards escorting Jerah, they noted the bloody wounds and blood soaked garments. Paling, they inquired about what had happened,
“Young master, are you alright? Were you attacked? Was it the Claire family?!” Several of the guards eyes tightened, preparing to defend Jerah as if assassins were on the brink of attacking.
The Claire family could be considered the Var family’s chief rival in the City-State of Delica. The Claire family controlled the only Gem mine apart from the one the Var family controlled, and had made no secret of their wish for control of both. It wouldn’t be considered unduly unusual for an attack to occur. The state of war within the Under Cave gave ample opportunity to blame other Cities for an attempt.
The Steel commanding captain quickly walked over and explained the situation to the guards in detail, sending off a runner to the manor hall. Jerah and Dale walked passed them, moving on to the main ground. Dale tripped, nearly falling over in his exhaustion. He felt as if weeks of tiredness were crashing onto him, overwhelming him.
Jerah noticed and quickly had a room arranged for Dale, waving off his thanks. Dale agreed to meet with him tomorrow, and figure out what his plans would be, now that he was trapped in a strange new world.
Dale followed a servant leading him to a quiet guest room, set in the side of the great manor. It was a small room, containing only a bed, a desk, and a few chairs. Dale gratefully threw himself into the bed, falling asleep before he even settled in, his dreams filled with chaos and flame, as memories not his own began filling his mind…