Chapter 270 The Esoteric Duels
Four days later.
After passing by seven public cities, the flying ship finally landed in Guardia Port, located in the Wendu area.
Any further west and they would have been crossing through the unpopulated primal forest. The small flying ship they were on couldn't possibly be up to such a difficult task. If they wanted to successfully reach the Silver Union territories, they would have to transit to another, more resilient, transport. An aerial fortress– the floating battleships.
When Greem, Alice, and Snorlax finally descended from the flying ship, they were immediately greeted by the sight of a terrifyingly massive ship. All of them were shocked.
This was a gigantic ship, completely black on the outside. Its size was at least ten times that of a normal flying ship. Three towering masts were situated on the front, middle, and back of the ship. A massive sail, much like the ones used on ordinary ships, had been placed on the top of the masts. However, Greem sensed that these masts weren't driven by wind.
Greem's vision was extremely sharp. Even with a quarter of a kilometer distance between himself and the ship, he could still see the strange runes and magical lines drawn on the surface of the masts. The masts reflected a cold metallic gleam under the bright sun. Just a single look was enough to tell of its resilience and toughness.
There were countless portholes on the body of the ship. However they had all been covered with thick metal boards, blocking everything within from sight. Even so, Greem, with his experience from the previous world, knew very well that battleships couldn't be divorced from cannons. These portholes were most likely where the cannons fired out of.
The only thing Greem wasn’t sure of was the type of magic weapon hidden within the ship.
There was also a two-level forecastle on the ship. However, it didn't seem to have been constructed for shelter. It appeared to be a platform for adepts to cast their spells from.
The pitch-black floating battleship was parked on the hill, standing silently against the backdrop of the sky. From a distance it looked just like a scary steel monster. It radiated a cold and powerful aura.
This was likely the floating battleship that the Silver Union had specifically created to pass through the dangerous aerial corridor!
When Greem finally shifted his gaze away from the battleship, he realized they hadn't landed in a city. Instead, they had landed on an airport used specifically for transporting cargo and transferring passengers.
Rows of large and sturdy wooden buildings could be seen by the edge of the forest. Countless humans and servants of other races and odd appearances were walking in and out of those buildings. It was clear that those were the warehouses of the airport. On the other side, far away from the forest, rows of stone buildings towered. Numerous people dressed like adepts stood before the empty space in front of the stone houses. They pointed and gestured towards the port. It appeared as if they were discussing something.
A tall and slim tower stood at the middle of the airport. Mysterious runes glowed on the surface of its walls. Faint detection waves scanned across the air. Their range extended to the forest over several kilometers away.
These towers didn't have much space inside. It was not possible to station too many adepts within them, nor was it possible to outfit them with large and powerful war machines. The towers were mainly constructed to watch for possible threats.
A vast and mountainous stretch of black trees extended behind Greem.
This was the outer rim of the human settlements within the central area. There were no longer any signs of human population in the forest surrounding this place. Naturally, there were no large-sized settlements in sight either. However, occasionally, there were still hunting parties and adventure parties that were active along the edge of the forest. Some adepts searching for materials would also make their way into the forest.
A low and hoarse voice rang out beside him as he surveyed this airport.
"Welcome, Sir Greem!"
Greem turned and immediately found Adept Angus' wrinkled old visage staring him in the face.
"I'm glad to see you again." Greem nodded in acknowledgement.
"You have just arrived, haven't you? You should find a place to rest first! The tickets to the Castle in the Sky have already been arranged. We will set out in three days time." Adept Angus was clearly much more polite compared to before.
"Isn't there a floating battleship right over there? Why the long wait?" Greem asked curiously.
"The floating battleship is ready, but we don't have enough adepts!" Angus gave a simple explanation, "Even though we have been developing this aerial path for over a thousand years, and already have a basic understanding of the magical creatures spread along the corridor, the route is still an extremely dangerous one. To ensure everyone's safety, the floating battleship always stays in the airport for a couple of days. It will only take off once a sufficient number of adepts have gathered for the trip."
"Sufficient number of adepts?" This was the first time Greem had heard of this, "Approximately how many adepts do we need?"
"Usually, sixty adepts should be enough. The number of required adepts can even be reduced if a couple of high-grade adepts show up."
Greem couldn't help but be stunned by this number.
Even the Sarubo Clan wouldn't be able to gather adepts in such numbers or scale. Yet a single trip to the Castle in the Sky required so many adepts. According to his understanding, these floating battleships would take off every fifteen days.
Based on this, it was easy to calculate the number of adepts travelling to and from the territories. This was an unimaginable number!
Adept Angus gave an understanding smile when he saw Greem's expression of shock.
"No need to be surprised. There's much more to be surprised at once you arrive at the Castle in the Sky. The number of adepts there will blow your mind. Let's go. I have already arranged a place for you to rest. Just wait here patiently for three days. Another flying ship will arrive here in three days' time. We will have the required sixty adepts then!"
So that's how it was!
Greem was finally able to put his questions to rest. He brought along Alice and Snorlax and followed Angus to the row of stone houses.
The rooms here was also extremely crude and simple. Only a table and chair was placed in the room, apart from the wooden bed. Not a single unnecessary piece of furniture had been put in the room. Of course, if the adepts didn't like the facilities here, they only needed to travel ten kilometers to the east. A small human city had been founded there. There was plenty of entertainment to be found there.
However, Greem had no intention of seeking entertainment. He quickly settled in his room before dragging Adept Angus to a hidden room for a discussion.
After all, he still knew nothing about the specifics of this trip. Greem had no idea of what to do or how to do it after he arrived at the Castle in the Sky. This was far too passive for Greem. He preferred to always have an action plan in his back pocket!
If the request was only to win a small contest for the Byron Clan, he wouldn't be worried. However, now that he wanted to leave Snorlax on in the Castle in the Sky, he would have to plan ahead. The more he understood about the situation, the better his chances.
As Angus started to give an in-depth description of the whole thing, Greem finally started to understand the basic governing structure and rules of the Castle in the Sky, as well as an initial idea of this so-called tournament he had to participate in.
According to Angus, the Castle in the Sky was not just a simple adepts' city. The entire city was split into three circles. The inner circle, the central circle, and the outer circle.
Only high-level members of the Silver Union were allowed into the inner circle. The main control core of the Castle in the Sky was located there. Moreover, the famous Diviner's Tower, the Vortex Tower, the Obelisk, and the legendary Storm Fortress were all located within the inner circle.
The only way inside was to join the Silver Union and rise to become one of the parliamentary members. Otherwise one would never be able to take a single step into the place for as long as they lived!
The central circle was the main area of activity for the normal members of the Silver Union and the esoteric adepts. Only adepts that had been recognized by the Silver Union were allowed to stay and study in the place.
Most trading activities was concentrated around the outer circle of the Castle in the Sky. Non-Union members were also allowed to set up shops there. However, the right to own a store in the outer circle was decided by a test every ten years. This test came in the form of a fair and just Esoteric Duel.
The Esoteric Duels came in many forms. There were the duels between potions masters, the duels between alchemists, and the duels between golem masters… all arts that were categorized as those of esoteric adepts were included as possible forms of duel.
Apart from the shops managed by the Castle in the Sky, the shops available to outsiders was limited. As is the case in an economy, high demand begets high prices and intense competition! Any adept clan or organization that wished to possess a shop on the Castle in the Sky had to find a way to win the Esoteric Duels in order to win the right to stay in the city.
Every existing shop would have to accept challenges by outsiders during the years of the duels. Both sides would invite esoteric adepts to fight for them in a fair and just duel. The winner would stay, and the loser would have to leave the Castle in the Sky!
The Byron Clan's shop had a long history of over seventy years. This was also the main way their clan obtained high-grade resources. They couldn't afford to lose this shop.
This year, their shop had received a difficult challenge from the Gerto Clan. As the challenged, the Byron Clan had the right to choose the topic of the Esoteric Duel. Naturally, they chose the Golem Masters' Duel.
In truth, this was also one of the rules that the Silver Union had intentionally created to elevate the status of the esoteric adepts across the continent!
By facilitating these duels, all adept clans and organizations that wanted a spot on the Castle in the Sky had to try their best to cultivate a capable esoteric adept. If they couldn't cultivate one themselves, they would have to hire an esoteric adept from the Castle in the Sky.
The status of the esoteric adepts rose in this manner, swiftly and quickly rising to become irreplaceable parts of the clans and organizations. Some talented but poor esoteric adepts would be able to take advantage of this opportunity to gain enough resources to further their research.
However, this spelled trouble for adept clans who didn't have enough resources to train an esoteric adept themselves.
After all, the cost of doing so was not something that a small-sized clan could ever hope to shoulder. A proper esoteric adept, be it an alchemist that could craft magical items, or potions masters and golem masters, required a massive investment of resources to become qualified in their fields.
Most esoteric adepts came to be after hundreds and thousands of failures in their research and cultivation. The amount of resources lost in the process was an astounding number that could throw anyone into shock.