Two years later
Arid landscape surrounded the desert valleys and lifeless mountains. In the south of these rough lands, a green pagoda stood like a king, surrounded by trees grown by drawing in the underground water. Life may seem impossible in this environment, but hundreds of soldiers marched nonetheless, training themselves as a hundred more stood guard outside the opening of a huge cave present next to the green pagoda.
Inside, four men sat surrounded by women, who were fanning and serving them while they chatted and laughed as they drank wine. Suddenly, two guards rushed forward and knelt before the men.
“What is it?” A man wearing a green robe asked in an irritated voice.
“My lord, we found yet another dead body in today’s inspection.” A guard reported in a respectful voice.
The man’s eyebrows twitched as he rose from his seat and rushed forward while the two guards followed behind. Turning right, they followed a series of corridors until they reached the elevator which brought them to an enormous elevated platform at the depth of five hundred meters below the ground.
On it were dozens of ordinary soldiers and tens of immortal cultivators. Everyone bowed deeply as the man rushed forward to see the rotting corpse. The body was blue and had a terrible odor, yet there wasn’t a single wound on the corpse.
With a ragged voice, he asked, “What the fuck are you guys doing? Hmph! Tell me, just how should I report this to the emperor? This is the tenth death this month, and yet, you aren’t able to determine how those bastards acquired this potent of poison out here?”
A cultivator who wore a jaded red armor answered in a respectful voice, “Sir, it is impossible to explore these cave systems completely. We aren’t even aware how long and deep they are. The emperor doesn’t allow killing inside the Gehenna Prison, yes, but there are many ways to trespass this rule. We can surely take care of any prisoner who breaks this law, but that is possible if he is within our reaches. None can protect those who are deep inside Gehenna, and certainly we can’t either.”
The green robed man cursed out loudly as he turned around and left. He was the one appointed to be in charge of Gehenna, and he would be royally screwed if the emperor found out that his prisoners were dying left and right.
Seconds later the green robed man reached the ground. Turning around to look at the elevator he snorted and thought aloud, “Who the hell cares about a few prisoners? Thousands are thrown into Gehenna every year in this entrance alone, and I don’t want want to imagine the number of inmates who are in it.
The Gehenna has three entrances and three hundred years have passed since the opening of this prison. A dozen wars have been fought in this period, and every war criminal was transported to the Gehenna. Their number should be astronomical by now.
Why does the emperor even care about the lives of these maggots? Hmph! Whatever, I don’t care as long as I can live my life comfortably. Still, I don’t wanna think about just what is inside this hellhole.”
Deep within the Gehenna, outside the reaches of the soldiers and the laws of the empire, three people sat in three different spots, each holding similar staffs in their hands. The staffs all had a single symbol engraved on them, a blood red skull. It was the symbol of Gehenna; more specifically, it was also the symbol of its one and only ruler. The Blood Emperor.
None knew his name nor who he is. He only spoke through his servants and is a person with absolute authority in Gehenna. People had supposedly challenged him several times in the past century only to die miserably. Now he had complete control over any and all matters of Gehenna.
The three entrances on the ground each leads to three different cave systems, however, all three of them lead to a single destination. An underground city in the middle of the Gehenna.
Unlike the other parts of Gehenna, People were bustling as this was the only place where you could find something for sure. The city lacked any private housing, all that was present were some lodges and a large marketplace.
Although many goods were sold every day in these markets, prostitution was still one of the most active businesses around. Women were rare and thus, they were a sound investment who would earn for a long time. Even though it is unethical, in a place where the worst of the society gathered, slavery was one of the most profitable businesses.
At one corner of this market, Rigel stood wearing a black hood which disguised his face. He was keenly observing the various kinds of materials which were displayed in a store. Unlike the common markets, these stores didn’t have some form of stable supply routes, and thus everyone kept whatever they could find on display, and the trade system was mainly barter.
There were hundreds of materials on display, and two guards stood guard before the store, with sharp expressions on their faces to prevent anyone from attempting to steal the store. Both of them had a healthy physique, and Rigel could instantly tell that both of them were immortal cultivators* who were at least in the third level of the Qi condensation stage*. Their presence prevented people from trying to rob the store foolishly.
After a full hour of examination, Rigel slowly pulled out a piece of charred leather from his bag and put it in front of the storekeeper. The merchant knew that the customers who actually wish to buy things would eventually come to him, so he didn’t bother to smooth talk Rigel. Upon seeing the piece of leather which measured only a single foot in length, the storekeeper had a dumbfounded expression.
He slowly raised his head and looked at Rigel whose eyes were filled with pride. The merchant lifted the piece of leather and examined it carefully. True, leather was rare in Gehenna prison, but a foot long piece of leather wasn’t all too rare. He could barter it for some rations, but anything more would be impossible.
The reason why he was still examining it was that he wanted to see if there was any hidden value to it. Rigel, who saw this, narrowed his eyes and coughed to bring the shopkeeper’s attention back to him.
The storekeeper instantly adjusted his attitude and asked in a pleasant voice, “Is there anything that may have captured your interest, Sir?”
Rigel maintained a calm expression as he said, “I want forty Mindus leaves for this piece of leather. You may keep the remaining change.”
The storekeepers expression changed as he heard this. With a weak smile, he said, “You must be joking, Sir. Mindus leaves are very precious and for a piece of leather, I can’t….” He stopped his words mid sentence as he saw Rigel’s astonished face.
Rigel, who heard the storekeeper, put on a surprised face and said, “Wait, you don’t recognize the true value of this piece of leather? It looks like I came to a wrong place. To think that you wouldn’t even recognize the leather, I should have instead gone to a bigger store. Even if they pay less, they would at least know the value of my item.”
The storekeeper’s interest perked as he heard Rigel, but he wasn’t entirely satisfied either so he asked in a respectful voice, “Sir, I am still inexperienced and have much to learn. Can you please enlighten me?”
Rigel paused in his tracks for a minute and stared at the merchant deliberately for one whole minute. Finally, he sat down with a sigh and said, “If you want to stay in this business, you should at least learn enough not to miss a good opportunity. This leather isn’t your simple leather; it was a part of armor which was once worn by an expert who is at least in Spark formation stage.”
The storekeeper had a visible glint of excitement in his eyes as he heard it. However, before he could speak any further, the two bodyguards rushed in from outside and grabbed the leather. To any cultivators, the words, ‘once belonged to a great expert’ were simply too captivating. Rigel knew this, and thus, he deliberately chose those words.
The guards tried to test the leather but found it to be too weak. Their faces instantly turned ugly, but before they could vent their anger, Rigel added in a calm voice, “That leather doesn’t protect you from physical damage, it is a part of a poison negating armor.”
The guards were surprised as they heard Rigel because poison negating armors were rare. Rigel rose from his seat and took out a small bottle filled with a clear liquid. With a small needle, he drew out a single drop of the liquid and dropped it on the wooden table and the wood instantly began to emit fumes as the poison dissolved it! Then, he once again put a drop of the liquid on the leather. A new charred mark formed on the leather but it withstood the poison.
The guards’ eyes glittered with excitement. Though the leather wasn’t long enough to make armor, it was sufficient to make a gauntlet. In the case of a deadly battle against a poison user, this armband would be their lifeline.
The storekeeper was however still doubtful. Rigel, who sat calmly noticed his uncertainty, so he lifted the leather and rubbed his hand on it. With a calm voice, he said, “You are free to test your own poison. I don’t mind it, but if you do the test, you will have to pay me ten extra Mindus leaves for doubting me. How about it?”
Noticing the confidence in Rigel’s eyes, the storekeeper mind was thrown into chaos. He knew that the poison Rigel used was definitely top notch, and he didn’t have anything surpassing that. Testing the leather in this situation would be a gamble where he may very possibly lose ten more leaves for nothing. Logic battled in his mind until he finally decided to go along with his gut.
With a smiling face, he said, “No need, Sir. How can I still doubt you after you demonstrated its authenticity in front of me.”
The storekeeper still wasn’t too keen to give Rigel forty Mindus leaves for a piece of leather, yet seeing the eyes of his guards he silently took out the leaves and gave them to Rigel with a smiling face
Rigel, in turn, thanked the storekeeper and left the store after a minute of chatting. The second he turned around the corner, a cold glint appeared in his eyes. Without turning his head, he silently tread along various paths until he appeared before another store.
He took one more leather patch similar to the one he had just sold and rubbed it with an anti-venom. Then, he entered the store and repeated the same thing over again. The day passed, and Rigel sold the leather to three different stores. In total, he collected a hundred and twenty Mindus leaves.
The next day, just as the storekeepers woke up to see the damaged leather which had now shrunk due to the effects of the antivenom wearing off, Rigel had long since changed from his old black robe to a new green robe and was walking out of the Gehenna city.
Rigel, who was keeping his breath short, and his attention rapt finally eased a sigh of relief as he exited the underground city limits. His face was calm, but inside he smiled as he ascertained his profits.
“You made quite a profit boy. You do remember our deal, don’t you?” A man appeared beside Rigel as soon as they were out of the sight of the guards and asked in a light tone as he put his arm on Rigel’s shoulder.
Rigel sighed inside as he gazed at the big bulky warrior. He was someone who he made a contract with, the business transaction, this time, was dangerous and as a cultivator in the fourth level of Qi Condensation stage, this man was his way out in case he messed up. With a cold voice, Rigel said, “I do. Here, this is your share.”
Rigel wound up sixty Mindus leaves into a bundle and gave them to the bulky man. The man licked his lips and then a cruel glint appeared in his eyes. With a cold voice, he said, “Now, partner. I am a kind person, so I will keep my mouth shut about your cunning schemes, but you have to give me the remaining leaves. Someone as intelligent as you should know what happens when you, a non-cultivator, dares to anger me.”
Rigel’s eyes were still calm as he stepped aside and said in a loud voice, “I honored my side of our agreement, so please honor yours, and let me go.”
The man revealed an evil expression as he approached Rigel in a second and grabbed him before he could reach his bag. With a twisted smile, he said, “Don’t you dare use those fucking poisons on me, kid. Unless God personally intervenes, you will never escape from this daddy.”
Rigel’s face revealed his horror but inside he sneered at the man’s words. Rigel wasn’t someone who would break his promise, but if someone did break theirs, he wasn’t someone who would show mercy either. True, he was incapable of cultivating, but that didn’t mean, he was completely vulnerable either. A lion had its own way of living like a king, but even a weak snake can kill that lion when he catches him off guard.
Rigel opened his mouth as naturally as he could and crushed the two small containers behind his upper incisors, one was filled with poison while the other with a poison repellent. Without wasting a single second, he spit that on the man’s face. The man lost his calm as Rigel spit on his face, he roared loudly in anger but stopped in his tracks as he saw a never before seen killing intent emanating from Rigel’s eyes.
That second of hesitancy was all Rigel needed. He backed away and ducked behind the man. With a single swift movement, he opened his backpack and withdrew a short knife.
The man began to scream in a loud voice as the poison began to eat away his flesh, but his scream was stopped midway as a Rigel thrust his knife accurately on his vocal cords cutting off his windpipe.
The burly warrior groaned in sheer pain and said in an almost faint whisper, “I….will….kill…..you….bastard.”
Rigel twisted the knife in his hand and kneeled down to whisper in the man’s ear, “You are the hundredth person to die in my hands in the past two years. I am usually very subservient, but you should never mess with me. If you do, you die, and the same goes for everyone else.”