The person left behind to defend the base was Sang Mu. Sang Mu was a socially awkward figure, but in fact he had a quick mind, a typical strategist. He was an excellent fighter, and ruthless enough to be make some of the villagers wary of him. Ye Chong’s instructions to him were to protect the mechs, and retaliate where necessary. If their safety was compromised, they were to escape immediately. To Ye Chong, survival was of the utmost importance.
The rest of them were heading towards the nearest city.
Hai Lian was shocked. He never imagined that this lean young guy would be so strong. When he was carried by Sang Tie, the wind blowing in his face made it hard to breathe. He could barely open his eyes as the man ran like the wind. His mind was in circles, and he could not even form a coherent thought!
The eight people advanced in battle formation, surrounding Ye Chong in the center. Soundfall had considerably weaker gravity than at Archipelago. On the other hand, Sang Tie and others were already quite fast on Archipelago. Hence, they moved so fast it was like they were running on engines.
Ye Chong believed that even a Jie expert specializing in running would not be able to outrun them.
With the exception of Ye Chong and Hai Lian, the rest of them wore enthusiastic expressions. They had never experienced weak gravity like this. Every Sang tribe member yearned for greater power, speed and strength. Their heightened abilities here were unprecedented, so it was only natural that they felt so excited.
Mechs flew past them from above occasionally. There came in all sorts of designs, be it humanoid or animal shaped. Sang Fan and the rest watched with awe, new to the outside world. Even so, they remained in formation and did not slow down.
Their speed was getting a little too conspicuous, as some mechs would hover over them for a while before continuing on their journeys. Soon, Ye Chong realized the issue, and asked for them to slow down. However, even then, they were still running faster than normal.
The city’s silhouette came to view in the distance.
After Hai Lian was put down, he took nearly three minutes to recover himself. He then took a look and found the city in view, and was flabbergasted. He turned back to see the group, and found that they did not look strained or even tired at all. Even Sang Tie, who was carrying him, was breathing quite evenly.
Hai Lian gulped heavily, his fear of the group now refreshed. What astonishing stamina! They had actually arrived here on foot! He could not help but think, also, that if they were to go at "it", they could probably go on for days … He felt a little jealous
No one said anything. The group stayed in battle formation, wearing serious expressions.
However, Hai Lian quickly broke off his lewd thoughts, since he saw Ye Chong looking at him.
Hai Lian quickly spoke up, "That’s the city called Foundation, I’ve been there a few times. The city’s under the power of the Kuri tribe. Please beware, the women of the tribe cannot be touched, or there will be trouble."
"The Kuri tribe?" Sang Fan asked. Of all the younger Sang tribe members, only Sang Pu and Sang Fan could behave naturally in front of Ye Chong. Even Sang Ling would become behave more carefully around Ye Chong in later days.
Hai Lian said, "Yes. The Kuri tribe is more conservative. Aside from weapons like mechs, they’re quite opposed to technology. They worship nature, and pray to a mythical goddess they call the Divine Lady. So, if any Kuri tribe member makes a vow in the name of the Divine Lady, you can rest assured they mean it."
Everyone seemed interested in this.
Hai Lian noticed that he had everyone’s attention, and continued happily, "The Kuri tribe may not be a huge tribe, with primitive technology, but seldom do people meddle with them. They’re weapon enthusiasts, investing much of their efforts in weapons technology, which is above average. Besides, the tribe members are all able and eager to fight, so people usually leave them alone."
These people listening to him were actually his employers, and the ones who will give him his full-skeleton mech, so Hai Lian reminded them, "However, the Kuri tribe is not exactly ruling the place diligently. As long as you leave them alone, they wouldn’t care what you do in Foundation city. As a result, Foundation is actually in quite a social mess. You’ll see fights anywhere, anytime, so please be careful."
As they heard that there would be fights in the city, everyone instantly raised their guard. Hai Lian quickly soothed them. "Relax, everyone. I believe that no one in Foundation would dare to mess with us." The residents of Foundation were all weathered fighters, and would probably recognize that this group was not one to be messed with.
As they approached Foundation, the mechs in the sky grew numerous, and so did the pedestrians. Most of them walked steadily with hardened eyes. Their clothing looked weathered, and their faces even more so. Ye Chong was curious about this. In the Five Galaxies, the people on the streets all walked casually, their faces an unhealthy pallor, more like sick people compared to the people here.
"Who are they?" Ye Chong asked, pointing at them.
Hai Lian took a glance, and replied, "They’re combat experts."
"Combat experts?" Ye Chong was surprised. Combat experts were rare in the Five Galaxies, a forgotten line of work. Most of them only practiced in their own dojos. Here, however, Ye Chong had seen dozens of them walking around. Could combat experts actually be common in this place?
"Yes, they’re combat experts who’ve gone through ascetic training. Most combat experts who reached a certain level of skill would leave their homes for ascetic training to improve their skills and harden their resolve. These people you see are combat experts visiting here to train themselves. A combat expert who had completed his or her ascetic training is well respected here, and is usually very strong," Hai Lian explained. However, he was immediately reminded of how crazily strong these people are. Now that was true strength.
Ye Chong grew curious. "Why are combat experts still popular here? Shouldn’t mech pilots be more mainstream?"
Hai Lian explained evenly, "Mech piloting is indeed the popular choice, but without a strong body, it’s almost impossible to improve your piloting skills beyond an intermediate level. Besides, what’s a better to way to train yourself physically than going into combat training? Also, many mech pilots still die in the hands of combat experts these days!"
Ye Chong nodded in agreement. For someone as skilled in mech piloting as him, he knew that advanced piloting skills would require more stringent demands on the mech pilot’s physical condition. Even a single change in direction, when done in half the time, would increase the demand on the pilot’s physical abilities by more than half. Ye Chong had killed more than a few mech pilots outside his mech, thus he understood that mech pilots outside their mechs were usually weak and vulnerable.
"Here, everyone learns to fight from their childhood. Since children’s bodies haven’t fully matured, mech pilot training is not suitable for them. Besides, learning to fight not only helps to strengthen them physically, but it can also toughen their minds. Their instructors are combat experts. Many mech pilots would eventually head outside to train themselves as well." Hai Lian added, "Mental strength is more important than skills."
"That makes sense," Ye Chong agreed. This mindset seemed to be better than the popular mindset in the Five Galaxies. Hence, the mech pilots here must be stronger than those from the Five Galaxies.
The city was surrounded by all sorts of fauna. The wide stretch of blooming flowers was an eye-opener. One could even see some beautiful ladies among the flowers, tending to them.
Hai Lian whispered, "These woman are from the Kuri tribe. They like to take care of the plants. Please don’t damage any of the plants, or we’ll be in deep trouble. The Kuri tribe women can be very troublesome."
Ye Chong nodded in understanding. The view was beautiful, with all kinds of flowering plants and trees neatly arranged in a refreshing manner. Outside the foliage areas were many parking spaces. The mechs in the air would land here, and the mech pilot would hop out of the pilot cabin, withdraw their mechs, and walk into the city.
Ye Chong found that most of the mech pilots here did not use rope ladders, but made their way down to the ground by themselves. As expected, the mech pilots here were mostly combat trained. They all looked like tough characters, completely unlike the superficial mech pilots in the Five Galaxies.
Sang Fan and the rest were tense. They had never seen so many strangers before. The way they held themselves got the attention of the people around them. Hai Lian groaned inside and asked them to relax themselves, to no avail.
Ye Chong said nothing. He understood that their habits could not be overcome so soon. He handled himself worse in the past. However, he also knew that they were standing out too much, which made it easier to get them into trouble. Fortunately, they were all strictly disciplined, and would not attack first without his order.
When a standard combat squad in battle formation entered the scene, its members all looking serious and deadly, it was hard to blend in the background. No one dared to stay within 20 meters of them. Even the Kuri tribe women tending to the plants stood up, and gave them odd looks.
In fact, just as Hai Lian predicted, their group stood out too much. Hai Lian saw a few mech pilot squads directing meaningful looks at them. However, with the deadly aura coming from them, no one dared to come and greet the newcomers.
The deadly aura coming from their group was too strong. Hai Lian did not know that the Sang family villagers had just fought a war, and were still fresh from that experience.
The people around them gossiped in low whispers.
"Let’s go." Ye Chong did not want to be stared at like some creature. Besides, their wary glances made him uncomfortable.
Inside the city, Ye Chong felt like he had returned to civilization. This was not a wasteland like the Archipelago. He could see traces of technology everywhere. The wide street was filled with pedestrians bustling about, unlike in the cities where Ye Chong had visited before. In any city in the Five Galaxies, pedestrians were usually rarely seen on the road. The sky was the main road of transport. Conventional transportation was replaced with mechs. Here in the city, however, there were no mechs flying above them.
The street was lined with shops, and the holographic advertisements on display threw Ye Chong into a daze. He was reminded of Mu and Shang, and then Bai Linan, and the days gone past. Now, however, he did not know where Mu and Shang were, or how Bai Linan was doing. Truly, life unfolds in unexpected ways.
However, Ye Chong quickly focused and mocked himself, "Since when am I so sentimental?"
Sang Fan and the group had never seen these high tech holographic advertisements before, and they all gaped at them.
"Bumpkins," someone laughed at them. The people around them were all looking at them condescendingly.
Hai Lian stopped in his tracks. These onlookers must have a death wish, to mess with the group he was with. And now … He felt deeply troubled.
However, after a long moment, Ye Chong and the others did not respond at all.
Hai Lian did not know that Sang Fan and the others did not even know what a bumpkin was. As for Ye Chong, he was well aware of the insult, but equally uninterested in such meaningless fights. Thus, he ignored the comment.
As Hai Lian had informed him, most of the stores here sell mechs, weaponry and such. The next most popular goods were mech parts and the like. Ye Chong even found a few stores specialized in less conventional or traditional weapons. This intrigued him a lot. In the Five Galaxies, stores like these were almost unheard of. Traditional weapons were more like artworks there. However, since there were many combat experts in the city, Ye Chong realized that it was only reasonable to see those stores here. As a combat expert himself, he knew that there were combat experts who specialized in these unconventional weapons.
Ye Chong asked Hai Lian abruptly, "Where can I buy dimension keystones?" He now needed a large amount of dimension keystones. Without them, Sang Fan and the rest would not be able to take Collision with them. If they found themselves in trouble, they would be more at risk without their mechs.
Hai Lian quickly answered, "All the stores selling mech parts will have them, but …" He seemed unable to continue further.
"But what?" Ye Chong looked strangely at Hai Lian.
"Dimension keystones are not cheap, do you have enough money?" Hai Lian looked carefully at Ye Chong.
Ye Chong realized his predicament then.