Back in Cyrus, the celebration went on for two more days and after it was finished, Shui said his goodbyes and left. He then went to check on Cin, but he was absent when he went to his cave so he just left a message. There were a few more people he thought about saying goodbye to, but he didn't want to keep the red spirit waiting any longer so he set off.
It took him over a month to cross the western border of the five cities' region. The location that the red spirit gave him was between this region and the next, but since neither of them knew what was the situation there, he stopped at a few cities along the way to collect information from the locals and the underground guild. Based on what he learnt, no one had discovered the elemental crystal deposit but there were a lot of dangerous evolved beasts in its vicinity. Well, though they were called dangerous, Shui didn't deem them to be a problem. Once he was satisfied with the information they had, he rushed towards the location.
Though his original motive for going was to pay the red spirit back, he also looked forward to what he could gain from this trip. Shui was at the very peak of the Soul Realm and had already found the path to Soul Perfection so all he needed was a core material for his phantom palace. This core material could be improved later on, but it was important that it matched his abilities. Usually it would be enough to find a good material with his best elemental affinity, but Shui had a rainbow affinity so the choice was harder for him. He knew of many neutral materials that could work with him, but he didn't have the tiniest hint of how to find the least valuable of them. However, one of the materials that he wanted was known for appearing among elemental crystals, so he hoped to get lucky.
Less than a month after leaving the five cities' region and nearly two months after leaving Cyrus, Shui stopped at the closest town to the elemental crystal deposit.
As we walked down the street, he didn't notice anything special about this town, until he heard someone singing. The singing wasn't particularly good, but something about it drew him in. Within less than a minute, he spotted a small crowd that had formed around a young lady. That description didn't insinuate the best of circumstances, but thankfully this was a stranger case.
The young lady that caught their attention was in a colourful outfit that was revealing and yet had an innocent appeal to it. In such an outfit, the young lady, who would rank at around a 7/10 on the beauty scale, sang and danced with a bright smile on her face. When he saw her, Shui was reminded of a special type of minstrel he read about, called idols. Idols were minstrels who sang and danced, but relied mainly on their personalities to attract fame.
No one knew who first used the word or what its origin was, but along with their sudden emergence several decades ago, the term came into use. At first they were looked down on and called inferior to minstrels, but with the rise of the famous Trinity Girls, idols were able to gain recognition in the Alterna Kingdom. Even so, it was a cutthroat society where only few could have their names known across the land.
Idols weren't very popular, but they weren't too rare in this town either. However, as someone who came from a backwater village, this was Shui's first time seeing one so he couldn't help but be intrigued. And not just in her performance, but also in the off-stage assistance she was getting.
Shui didn't know if the audience was aware, but he could detect spells that helped spread her audio, as well as ones that gave her subtly better lighting. All of these spells were hidden, but as he thought about the amount of control she would need to use them he was sure that she had to be a talented cultivator, therefore, he wondered why she took on the role of an amateur in the idol world.
"Thank you, everyone! I'll be here tomorrow at the same time as usual. I'll look forward to seeing my tigers again, rawr!"
Once her performance was done, some of the spectators offered tips while the rest cheered or simply left. While holding back his confusion at her closing statement, Shui took a step towards her before his sight was suddenly blocked by a extremely petite figure dressed in red.
The red spirit warned, "Hold it right there playboy!"
"Huh? What is it, Miss Spirit?"
"Don't 'what is it' me! We still have a crystal deposit to get to, this isn't the time for you to get a girl in your bed."
In utter disbelief, Shui asked, "What kind of guy do you take me for? I just wanted to talk to her."
"Sure, sure, 'talk'. You can talk after we come back."
"Ugh, aren't you interested in hearing about idols? They're the next generation of minstrels."
"Hmph, boy, do you know how many divine voices I've heard in my lifetime. A little girl singing and dancing is just a joke in my eyes."
Seeing that he couldn't persuade her, Shui slumped his shoulders and left. He headed towards the underground guild in this town for some information. He had to make it past some shady areas to reach it, but with the power of his soul common thugs couldn't even see him. Inside the tavern with the symbol of the underground guild, he found a rare sight. There was a woman working behind the counter and her face and figure weren't bad either. However, Shui wasn't stupid enough to believe that anyone could take advantage of her. If she could become the manager of a branch then she definitely had the skill to back it up, maybe even more so than others.
Although there was a chance that he would be recognised as the 'masked devil', Shui still wore his mask and approached the counter.
"I need information on this town and its vicinity. Just enough to give me a general overview of all the recent events."
At the same time as he spoke, Shui handed her the grey card that served as his ID.
Title: Thousand Face
Success Rate: 100% (14)]
The woman took the card without a word and ran it through an artifact, but before she gave it back, she looked at him with a polite smile. Shui immediately raised his guard as he listened to her.
"You have reached the requirements for the rank-up exam. Would you like to take it?"
Although initial ranking was done based on strength, increasing one's rank in the underground guild was based on the difficulty of the missions taken and the success rate. Therefore, it was no surprise that Shui would meet the rank-up requirements since he had been carrying out missions along the way. Shui planned on increasing his rank so he had no intentions of declining, but he had some questions.
"What benefits can I expect if I pass the exam and attain rank B?"
"Have you heard about the organization behind the underground guild?"
It was well known that there was a force behind the underground guild and that they would recruit members of the guild that caught their eyes. Honestly, if he looked into the Primordial Library storage, he would likely be able to figure out a lot about this organization since it had a long history, but he didn't want to make it a priority yet. Nonetheless, he had a good idea about the identity of the organization.
"I'm not allowed to say their name, but once you reach rank B you'll be considered a low-rank member of the force and gain access to several privileges including the right to purchase various spells, artifacts and cultivation methods offered by the organization."
Shui almost clicked his tongue at the fact that he would still have to pay for the resources they were offering, but it still wasn't a bad deal.
"Hmm, I'm interested but I have business to attend to at the moment."
Once I gave her my answer, she handed me back my card, removed her polite smile and said, "Very well. You can come back tonight for the information."