Kori Federation. Thirteen Sword Mountain Range. Dalgeom Sect.
The tragedy of the Land of Dreams had many repercussions in the modern world. First of all, thousands of innocent lives had been utterly cleaned out from the face of the earth, and no one questioned that the prime victims of the Black Masks were men, women and children of the Main Hub. However, if there ever was a claim on the number two victim, the Dalgeom Sect had pretty good odds.
Not only did they lose one of their most pivotal Spirit Emperors, but they had also allowed the Black Masks to march over a hundred thousand Spirit Beasts into their lands, through the route that they had initially been developed to connect the ocean to the Federation. Seething with rage, the entirety of the Dalgeom Sect immediately denounced all deeds of the Black Masks and swore vengeance on anything that was even remotely related to the criminal syndicate.
Being the first voice to demand an international summit so that all three superpowers could set aside their differences to deal with the Black Masks, the Dalgeom Sect was in the commanding seat of the negotiations. One might think that the other Master Sects would protest the Dalgeom Sect for having such a pivotal role, but that wasn’t entirely the case. Other than a few dissenting voices, the vast majority of the Kori Federation kept silent as they allowed the Dalgeom Sect to move the Federation’s armies into the Land of Dreams, and the prime reason why was the extensive history that the sword clan had.
Just as the Lantis Republic that had a hierarchy describing the overall strength and influence of each clan, the Kori Federation had a pecking order as well. For a Core State to promote itself into a Master Sect, it must have at least a hundred years of experience governing their land, and it must also produce at least one Spirit Venerate. Furthermore, unlike the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic, a Master Sect actually had a chance of losing their position if there was a better Core State out there. With competition so harsh, the internal politics of the Federation was on a whole other level compared to the Himmel Empire or the Lantis Republic.
Nonetheless, there had only been five Master Sects that had managed to retain their position since the founding of the Kori Federation. Dragon Tiger’s Gate, the Shaolin Sect, the Emei Church, the Khan Tribe, and the Dalgeom Sect. Collectively, all of these Master Sects were called the original five. All five of these Master Sects had one thing in common, they didn’t rely on bloodlines to rule over the masses and instead, passed down generations of martial arts and cultivation techniques to the most talented.
It didn’t matter if you were born in the Master Sect or not. Anyone who had a decent amount of talent would be recruited into these five Master Sects, regardless of they were an aristocrat or a pauper. A layman that had no prior experience or background could theoretically work his way up the ladder to eventually become the leader of the Sect.
Of course, each one of the Original Five had their own strict requirements. The Dragon Tiger’s Gate focused on cultivators with high elemental affinities that fit their cultivation techniques. With very particular martial arts that had been passed down and perfected since the ancient age, Dragon Tiger’s Gate had almost always produced Spirit Users that could evenly fight with cultivators that were a realm higher.
The Shaolin Sect, on the other hand, focused on gathering cultivators with the right mindset that could cultivate their arts. The history of the Shaolin Sect could be traced back to the time before the first Spirit Immortal ascended, making it the oldest organisation living today. With such an extensive history, naturally, many salient icons had come out from the sect, and the most prominent one was the Spirit Immortal Buddha. Focusing on finding peace and harmony in the world, the Shaolin Sect would often scout for cultivators that could handle the abnormal cultivation creed that they followed.
Third on the list of the Original Five, the Emei Church was an oddity among the Master Sects. Only recruiting women into their ranks, the Emei Church believed in equipping young girls and adult women to be strong enough to face the world by themselves. Back in the days where girls were treated as second-class citizens in the world, the founder of the Emei Church had been tormented by all of the men around her. Swearing to herself to never remain that powerless, the founder had worked her way up to the Spirit Saint realm and created a sanctuary where all females could reside safely in.
Inventing an array of cultivation techniques that could only be used by women, the founder of the Emei Church left the world with an oath to never allow another girl to experience what she had gone through, which her followers had abided to a fanatical degree. Now, the Emei Church had over twenty million followers, with many reaching the Spirit Emperor or Venerate realm.
The next on the list was the Khan Tribe. From an outsider’s point of view, the Khan Tribe did have aspects of a family tribe, where their power was handed down to those with the superior bloodlines. However, that couldn’t be farther away from the truth. Vicious and cold-blooded killers, the Khan Tribe only listened to strength alone. If you had superior cultivation to any of the men or women who were part of the original bloodline, the Khan Tribe wanted you to be in charge of their entire sect.
Just like the Shaolin Sect, the Khan Tribe recruited cultivators based on their mindsets. However, instead of focusing on those who promoted peace and harmony, the Khan Tribe only let in Spirit Users who were barbaric and power-hungry in nature.
Finally, there was the Dalgeom Sect. The only organisation in the Kori Federation that passed down sword legacies, the Dalgeom Sect had extremely stringent standards, when it came to recruitment. Since the Sect focused on teaching from their thirteen main branches of sword legacies, they had to find cultivators which fit each legacy’s requirements. Of course, they had the standardised sword faction, where any Spirit User who had a decent amount of talent with the sword could join.
Wangu was one good example. However, the main power of the Dalgeom Sect wasn’t the number of sword cultivators that they had, but the devastating sword legacies that focused around their Mythic-grade Spirit Swords. For instance, the Pixie of the Sect, Yeunghi could only use Durandal because of her ice-elemental sword spirit, which was a real shame since the ice-element was a rare variant of the water-element. If the talent pool for the Ice Fairy Sword Dance weren’t so small, perhaps it would have become one of the dominant mountains in the Thirteen Sword Mountain Range.
“Junior sister… May I come in?” Jimga knocked on the stone door of Yeunghi’s cultivation chamber with dozens of men and women from the Ice Fairy Sword Dance faction nervously looking over.
Hearing the woman’s monotone reply, everyone outside breathed a massive sigh of relief. Yeunghi had been unresponsive for a significant period of time, and it had begun to worry those from the faction. Based on what they had heard, it was Yeunghi’s incompetence that had led to the incident in Mort Bay, and some feared that she might have taken her own life in guilt. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
With Yeunghi’s confirmation, Jimga showed himself into the chambers, only to be blasted by a massive surge of frosty mana. Seated in a lotus position, Yeunghi had Durandal gently placed on both her hands as she chanted out with great fervour. After a few moments, the great mana died down and eventually, the Pixie of the Dalgeom Sect finally opened her eyes.
“Senior brother Jimga… What are you doing here?”
“Your faction was worried that something may have happened to you, so they called me over. However, from the looks of it…” Jimga turned his head to look around the cultivation chamber. Thick, dense layers of ice had covered the entire room while deep sword scars with terrifying sword intent that could easily paralyse anyone below the Spirit Spectre realm were criss crossed all over the place. Was this really the actions of someone who was about to take their own life out of guilt? Jimga highly doubted.
“You don’t seem to be depressed. You even advanced one cultivation rank!”
“How could I be depressed?” Yeunghi kept Durandal in her scabbard and slowly walked towards Jimga.
“What would that accomplish? Senior brother Wangu had died for our sakes, even though he clearly didn’t have to. If I allowed myself to wallow in grief, how could I ever face him!” Yeunghi clenched her fists as she declared. “To let him rest in peace, I must eradicate the World Serpent and the organisation that it calls home!”
Seeing his junior disciple so full of life, Jimga smiled and gave a firm nod. There wasn’t time to despair. What they had to do now was to beat the Allfather and the Black Masks down to the ground, and make them wish that they had never declared war on the Dalgeom Sect in the first place.
“It’s good that you feel that way!” Now that Jimga had confirmed Yeunghi’s safety, he moved on to his next business. “The Elders of the Clan had decided that we should participate in the upcoming Summit. After all, we are among the only ones that actually met the World Serpent and fought with the Black Masks. However, if you’re in the middle of an intense cultivation session, I can persuade them otherwise.”
“Are you kidding?!” Yeunghi wiped off the sweat on her forehead with a nearby towel and retorted her senior brother’s claim. “I want to be there to tell the heroic deeds of senior brother Wangu to the world! Also, if anyone thinks that the Black Masks shouldn’t be fought, I’ll be the one to personally knock them out!”
“Haha, just pretend that I didn’t say that then! So do you have any recommendations on who from your faction should attend?”
“I don’t care about the others, but Haeun must be there!” Yeunghi made a firm declaration.
“Haeun? Isn’t she just twenty-years-old? I’m sure she hasn’t reached the Spirit Adept realm yet too?” Jimga dug into his memory until a curly-layered haired girl came to mind. Although she was talented, it wasn’t to the point where Jimga could recall her in an instant. “Isn’t there the twenty-four-year-old wonder boy Manyoung or the prodigious twenty-five-year-old Spirit Spectre Youngsoon? Aren’t they more suited to represent the Ice Fairy Sword Dance?”
Jimga was confused. The Kori Federation had limited the number of members each Master Sect could send out to prevent congesting the Summit. Even though the Dalgeom Sect was playing the central role in the discussions, and they could bring a little more than the designated number, it wasn’t by much. Hence, there was a serious discussion on which genius they could pick to represent them on the international stage. While the other factions were choosing juniors that had already reached the Spirit Spectre realm, Yeunghi had placed her bets on a relatively unknown figure who wasn’t even in the Spirit Adept realm yet.
“As wielders of sword legacies, you do know that cultivation isn’t everything right?”
“You can’t mean…”
“That’s right! Of the twenty-five major moves of the Ice Fairy Sword Dance, Haeun has mastered thirteen. At her age, I was only able to execute eight of them to perfection.” Yeunghi puffed out her chest as if she were a proud mother talking about the accomplishments of her offspring. “If all goes well, she would be the successor of Durandal! Furthermore, she’s already at Rank 29. If I’m not wrong, she’s nearing the peak as well. Perhaps through that meeting, she would be able to gain inspiration and finally break through into Rank 30!”
“If you’re that adamant, then I won’t try to persuade you otherwise…” Jimga left the cultivation chambers and gave the nervous onlookers a thumbs up. They had been worrying for their legacy holder for days now and seeing the triumphant face of Jimga’s had taken a weight off their heavy hearts.
‘The gears have already begun to spin. The world is now unified to take on the menace that is the Black Masks.’ Lighting up a cigarette, Jimga found himself unconsciously walking towards Wangu’s grave.
Just a few days prior, the Dalgeom Sect had performed the Spirit Emperor’s burial rites, something that had never been done over the past hundreds of years. Almost every single soul in the Thirteen Sword Mountain Range came to pay their respects. Even those outside of the Dalgeom Sect had found time to attend, showing how important that unsuspecting Spirit Emperor was. Yet, such an influential figure had been wiped clean off the face of the earth, just like that…
“Senior brother Wangu… Rest assured, I will make sure that the Black Masks pay for what they did to you…”