TDL BK I, CH 19: Grand Opening

Chapter Nineteen: Grand Opening

[The fame of your dungeon grows! +1 AP]

[Milestone reached!] 

[Achievement unlocked: The first 5000!]

Dunstan gave the notification a side glance, his heart skipping a beat. Spending all his points on the dungeon had been the right choice. 5000 AP in a matter of hours. That was the loot pool satisfied and then some. He had to assume that most of this AP came from his sect’s three thousand, two hundred and fifty-seven members. Even so, that was an extra two thousand coming in from strangers and allies and the notifications were still rolling in. He took a small breath to steady himself. He was speaking before a crowd of 4000 people at the moment. He best not get distracted.

He raised a hand, calling for an end to the murmuring and discussions. 

“You can doubt me if you want!” he said referencing his earlier statement. “It matters not. The provenance of the key isn’t the reason we are here today but the mystic realm it leads to.”

With a discreet gesture, Dunstan floated down to the ominous portal in the centre of the arena. “Once, in an ancient mortal kingdom stood a mausoleum, a monument to one of the kingdom’s heroes. Many rumours abounded of the treasures held within, however, most who entered never returned and those who did escape told wild tales of the ghosts and restless dead that roamed within. Eventually, a passing elder of our ancestral sect happened to pass by the kingdom, intrigued by the mausoleum he brought it home to the sect and had it made into a training ground for the sect’s disciples.” 

“This portal leads to that training ground”. he announced loudly. “The haunted Mirthtree Mausoleum. Today, our Vast Heaven Palace offers the opportunity to enter this ancient mystic realm to all comers. There are some stipulations of course but anything you find within, you are free to keep or even sell back to us.” 

“The rules are simple. Only ten people may enter the mystic realm at a time. These ten must all be first-tier cultivators or lower and none are allowed to carry second-tier armaments into the realm. Any who wish to enter will first have to register at the pavilion to my left where they will have to pay a small fee and sign forms indemnifying the Vast Heaven Palace from any losses sustained within the mystic realm. Please consider carefully before signing up. The mystic realm is incredibly dangerous for the inexperienced and the unprepared.”

“Who wishes to go first?”

Someone from the crowd yelled. The voice carried throughout the arena using raw volume to replicate what Dunstan managed with magic. “DO YOU REALLY EXPECT US TO BELIEVE THAT TRIPE?”

Dunstan shot the offender a piercing glare that the stooge wilting in his seat. “Again. The provenance of the mystic realm is not up for debate and it has little to do with the events of the day”, he repeated. “That said if you have questions that are pertinent to the realm itself and the ongoing event feel free to ask them at the registration pavilion on my left.”

With a small stamp of his cloud-treading boots, Dunstan flew back to the VIP Box, leaving his murmuring audience behind. 

“I hope you don’t think you can brush us off like you did the chaff in the stands?” came the snooty voice of the True Fire Sect’s Master.

Dunstan forced a smile onto his face, reminding himself that although they were snakes and wolves, they were also some of the most influential people in the region. “The thought never even crossed my mind.”

The man scoffed. “See that it doesn’t, boy!”

Dunstan let the smile drop. “I’m sorry”, he said, his voice going cold. “Could you repeat that? I might be mistaken but I thought I heard a threat.”

The man snarled at his tone only to quickly quiet down as several aurous tier auras made themselves known. 

Dunstan continued speaking as if oblivious to what was happening. “No guest would be so foolish as to threaten a sect master in the seat of his power, right?”

The man kept silent as he comprehended the mistake he had made. Unfortunately for him, Dunstan was not prepared to take silence as an answer. He advanced on the man’s seat, his own aura growing.

“I said, no guest would be so foolish as to threaten a sect master in the seat of his power, right?”

The man nodded. It wasn’t enough. Dunstan understood he had to play nice with these wolves given the straits the sect was in but the Vast heaven Sect hadn’t yet sunk so low that the master of a mere second-rank sect could threaten its lord and go scot-free, much less a former vassal that turned coats and sold themselves to the enemy.

“Speak up!” he told the man. “You had no problem yapping loudly earlier so why not let everyone hear you now?”

“I—!” the man spluttered, pride warring with his instincts of self-preservation.

“Erhem!” coughed an old, hoarse voice. “Sect Master Kaguri, I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time.”

Dunstan’s mounting pressure cut out after one last glare at the so-called True Fire Lord. Slapping on an affable expression, he turned to face the representative of the Myriad Treasures Pavilion. Unlike the idiot he was just bullying, this was a man he could ill afford to offend.

Despite being little more than the leader of a merchant guild, Representative Ranulyn cut an incredibly imposing figure. Standing tall and straight-backed despite the years that had taken their toll on his body, he had a commanding presence that did not lose out to any of the sect leaders and elders present, exuding an air of authority that made those around him sit up a little straighter and pay attention.

His face was weathered and lined, and his skin was rough and leathery, but his piercing blue eyes shone with a keen intelligence that belied his age. His silver hair was still thick and full, combed back in a neat and tidy style. Dressed in simple yet elegant clothing, he appeared to favour dark robes that hid the padding of his under armour and any accessories he wore were understated yet expensive, a sign of his wealth and influence within his organisation. 

You wouldn’t know it looking at him but Representative Ranulyn was one of the hidden hegemons of the province. There were very few indeed who would gainsay him especially given that his Myriad Treasures Pavilion was but a single branch of a much larger fifth-rank organisation whose scope extended far beyond their province. 

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