I’m rich! Maybe. I’m not sure how much money I’d need to qualify as rich in this world. But I have about sixty interspacial rings worth of items. Sixty? Where did I get fifty others? There were only a dozen or so so-called saint-realm experts. Hmm. Well, I’m not one to question good fortune! Durandal or Puppers probably picked them up somewhere and stuck them in my ring. I also have these fancy sets of clothing that I’m not quite sure how to put on. Oh wells. Ilya’s dad will buy them. He buys everything.
Now that I’ve stripped and silenced these people, what do I do? “Hey. Mr. Shoe, how do I go home?”
“I already asked him that, Lucia,” Ilya said. She did? When? “You have to become a sky-realm expert before you can open the path home.”
Uh…. “Is there an easier way?”
“Um, Madam Squirrel,” Mr. Shoe said. “May I have my clothes back?”
Hmm. This person stood up in my defense when that crazy phoenix lady wanted to kill me, right? Fine. I can return his clothes. But just his clothes; I’m keeping everything else. I’m a poor defenseless squirrelkin in a foreign world that hates squirrelkin; I need all the resources I can to survive! Mm, from now on, I’m going to call myself a foxkin. I don’t think they’re hated here and I was already mistaken for one once.
“What are you plans, Madam Squirrel?” Mr. Shoe asked as he put on his clothes. Of course I watched. How else am I supposed to learn how to dress myself like the natives? As long as there are no weird customs where women and men wear their clothes differently, I’ll be fine. “The Immortal Continent is not very forgiving towards rogue cultivators. How about you join my Shadow Devil Sect? With your strength, it’s possible for you to become an elder. Not to mention the fact that no other sect can help you cultivate the heart devil qi within your body.”
“Heart devil qi!? No wonder why I feel so uneasy!” one of the people I stripped shouted. Wasn’t he afraid of Durandal cutting his head off? I would be.
Mm, now that Mr. Shoe mentions it, I did feel some weird sort of connection to the people I robbed. I thought it was guilt, but it turned out to be the planting of heart devils. Phew, I thought I almost became a softie. A girl has to be cold and tough to survive in a world as harsh as this! At least, that’s the impression I’m getting. Though, these people are a bit honorable. How can they ignore the temptation and only receive a tribute when they can clearly take the rest? It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe that’s why it’s called the saint realm. They’re saints.
“About joining the Shadow Devil Sect….”
Do I want to do that? I heard from somewhere that rogue cultivators wouldn’t have an easy time on the Immortal Continent. But I remember the sects from the human capital back home. They were just preachers and con artists and, truthfully, pretty weak. Then again, now that I think about it, everyone back home is pretty weak. But joining a sect…, isn’t associating with other people just asking to be betrayed? Ground squirrels are supposed to be social animals, but … I’ve almost always lived alone. If I interact with a group of people and they treat me like family, then I might become non-selfish and grow as a person! I can’t have that happen. I like my current life very much. The current life before I was transported into this world, I mean.
“She gets like that sometimes,” Ilya said.
Who gets like what?
“Try asking her again.”
Ask me what? Oh! Joining the sect. Hmm. “Durandal, what do you think?”
Durandal crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Mr. Shoe. “What does your sect have to offer, and what do you expect in return?”
“…Are there no sects in the pocket realm?”
Ilya nodded. “There are, but they’re not important. If anything, we have an extremely bad impression of sects back home.”
Mr. Shoe’s expression relaxed. “I see. Well, first and foremost, the biggest benefit of joining a sect is its backing. If you get in trouble, you can count on your sect members to help you out. If someone causes you to feel aggrieved, your sect brothers and sisters will help you get revenge. Of course, you’re expected to help any sect members in return. This deterrent will aid you in traveling the Immortal Continent, well, Kong County at least.”
“So it’s like a gang.” Right? I’m pretty sure that’s how the Flopsy Gang operated before they were all hunted down. Hmm. Maybe sects are more like a country? But I wouldn’t help a fellow countryman if he was robbed by a different countryman. Maybe it’s not like a country. I guess it’s like the relationship between Durandal and me. …Would Durandal help me if I were being bullied? He better.
“Err, maybe in the sense of camaraderie, but other than that, sects also have other benefits that joining a gang won’t give you,” Mr. Shoe said. “For example, exclusive cultivation techniques that can’t be spread to outsiders. I’m not sure why my disciple helped you gain heart devil qi, but just by that fact alone, you should join the Shadow Devil Sect. If someone from my sect were to find out that you were using our exclusive cultivation technique, they’d hunt you down—especially since the Heart Devil Cultivation Technique is only given to the core disciples of the sect. Other than that, resources such as medicinal pills, beast blood, engraved bones, defensive talismans, and spirit stones can be exchanged for. But most importantly, you’ll receive guidance and knowledge on how to break through to the higher realms.”
…There’s too many words. My head’s starting to hurt.
“You’ve only been listing the benefits,” Ilya said. “What’s the catch?”
“There isn’t really a catch,” Mr. Shoe said. “You’ll be expected to help out when the sect needs help. You have to accomplish tasks for the sect to continue receiving resources. An example of a task would be like what I’m currently doing, escorting my juniors to a pocket realm. Speaking of which, do you know what happened to my disciple?”
His disciple’s the person who drank my poisoned cup of hot chocolate, right? “Uh, yeah. He died.”
“Mhm. I was having a friendly conversation with him, but then those people”—I gestured towards the scapegoats—“attacked us and he succumbed to his injuries, but not before passing on the Heart Devil Cultivation Technique to me.”
“That’s not true, Senior!” one of the scapegoats shouted. “It’s true that I attacked him, but it definitely wasn’t enough to kill him!”
Hey, don’t try to shift the blame onto me! It was clearly his own fault for dying, but I can’t blame a dead person, can I now? Peacefully take the fall! “They said something about ridding themselves of a heart devil by killing, uh….”
“Sly Devil Chu.”
Thanks, Ilya. “Sly Devil Chu. That’s right. They declared their intent to murder him.”
“I, I did declare that, but I only hit him with two talismans!”
“You only attacked my disciple with the intent to kill,” Mr. Shoe said. “I understand. If it weren’t for the fact that Madam Squirrel is using you to grow heart devils, I would kill you. I won’t even injure you. Continue to grow strong for Madam Squirrel’s sake, knowing you will always be beneath her.” Mr. Shoe nudged me. “You should strip them of their underwear too. It’ll nourish their heart devils.”
“Eh? I’m not a pervert!” Really, I’m not! “Besides, look at how small they are! They could cover everything with a blade of grass.”
Mr. Shoe’s eyes widened as the scapegoats coughed out mouthfuls of blood. “Amazing! With this ability to plant heart devils in people, there’s no doubt you’ll be a chosen of the sect! Please, join the Shadow Devil Sect!”
Mm. Chosen of a sect. I like the sound of that; it sounds special.