I wake up…

Everything hurts!

At least I don think anythings broken? it doesn hurt too much at least.

I try to stand up, but Im tied to something.

Someone also put some glasses on me, but they don seem to have any crystals, how weird.

I look around me, and Im in some sort of dark alleyway…

How the hell did I get here?

Last thing I remember is that I jumped from the top of the clan building…

Well, at least Im not dead, AND Im outside the clan, so honestly this situation is pretty good overall.

Someone enters the alleyway.

Its a tall red-haired man, he has very disheveled hair and an ungroomed beard, the lower part of his jaw seems to be literally made out of bronze, its a very well made prosthetic, his skin seems somewhat tan, though its hard to tell with all these shadows, his posture is horrible too, he has a very hunched back.

Hes wearing a dirty patchwork coat, but I can distinguish the rest of his clothes.

e finally awake little guy. You
e very lucky to have had your fall stopped by the trees, but you ended up meeting me, so who knows how lucky you actually are. ” He shrugs.

Heh, just as planned.

Lets test the waters, ”Who are you? And what are you planning to do? ”

The man scoffs, ”Ill be the one who asks questions here, but you can call me… Bartholomew, and what am I going to do with you? Well, that depends on who you are, doesn it? So spit that out or Ill beat you until you piss blood. ”

What a brute…

I like his attitude!

”Im a simple journeyman blacksmith. ” I lie as naturally as I breathe.

Well, its not 100% a lie, I am a blacksmith, I spent a good chunk of my life forging artifacts after all, Im just not a journeyman, those ranks are more of a disciple thing.

Though I may be one in the literal sense, Im a man and Im on a journey…

e a terrible liar. ” Bartholomew cracks his knuckles. ”Try that one more time and see what happens. ”

Geh, how rude.

Am I really a terrible liar?

Oh god, how embarrassing…

I guess Ill have to follow the path of an honest man from now on!

Speaking of that.

”My name is Octavius Paprika, Im the young master of the Paprika clan. ”

Bartholomew raises one eyebrow. ”The young master? thatd be hard to believe if you weren such a terrible liar. So tell me little guy, what drove someone of your status to jump off a building? The girl you liked went with a bigger guy? ”

”Yes, but thats not the reason. ” I shake my head, ”I almost died yesterday, and I realized my life has been pretty much nothing until now, cultivation is mind-numbing, just meditating in a room with flowers all day, and while I do enjoy forging, its not something I want to dedicate my whole life to, so I simply decided to take matters into my own hands… one thing led to another and I jumped off the building. ”

Bartholomew has a smirk on his face. ”You said your name was Octavius right? Little buddy, you
e not only an idiot, but you
e legitimately the dumbest person I know, holy hell. ” He takes a hat out of his coat and puts it on, he has the energy of a small child after seeing something interesting. ”But Im 100% on board with this type of dumbassery. ”

”Oh? So are you going to untie me? ” What a nice turn of events

”Hell no, I have no interest in babysitting an idiot, if you can even get yourself free out of some common rope you have 0 hope in anything in life, and Ill simply leave you there. ” Bartholomew sits on a nearby crate and crosses his arms. ”Im supposed to be waiting for someone too, so I don have all day, hurry up and get yourself free before I get bored or something. ”


I know , so it should be a simple matter.

First I take a deep breath and burn some elemental energy…

Now that I have the mana, I connect it to a node, and I also connect my fire elemental energy to a node, then I set my hand as the channel, and lead the two energies to it, then combine them as they leave my body!

This creates a flame, the ropes trapping my hands burn, and I free myself from the rest of the ropes and stand up.

Bartholomew also stands up and stretches, ”*Yawn* about time little buddy, in a real encounter with anyone else you can take a hundred lifetimes to cast such a simple spell, if you
e going to train in anything, train your casting speed, trust me on that. ”

Geh… I want to retort, but I can …

I simply nod, and I start to remove the glasses.

”Wait! Don take them off just yet, they
e cloaking you, if you take them off your clan will find you this quickly. ” He snaps his fingers. ”Actually… Do you have any money? Give it to me or return the glasses. ”

This guy.

This should be a tier 2 artifact, so its market value should be around 30 salvatores at most…

I only have 17 salvatores… And 1 godfrey is worth 100 salvatores, and I have 5 of those…

Ill give him 1 godfrey, that should satisfy his greed.

I toss the golden coin at him, and he catches it without much difficulty.

”Now this is a good profit, but little buddy, let me tell you, as someone with a pattern of the apprentice, my word is worth a lot to me, and I said all of your money, so fork it over or you will have to return those glasses. ” This guy has a disgusting smile on his face.

This guy!

Whatever, Ill simply make some money later if I need some, Im a good blacksmith, as long as I find materials and a place to forge money shouldn be an issue for me.

I take the rest of my money and give it to him.

”Very well little buddy! you can keep the salvatores, just to show my good faith here. ” He gives me back the silver coins.


”Well, follow me little buddy, Ill talk you through the ropes of how this works. ” He leaves the alleyway.

* * *

We are walking through the streets of Paprika, the clan and the city have the same name, theres lots of people on the street going about their day.

The roads are tiled with cobblestone, and all of the houses are quite pragmatic, theres very few decorations in general, the most common color seems to be a pale orange, most roof tiles here are that color.

Bartholomews steps are very long and cover a lot of ground, so hes walking really fast even if it looks like hes on a casual walk, I have to jog a little to keep up with him. ”Now little buddy, listen to my first grain of wisdom, you
e being limited by your lack of imagination, when you said that cultivation was boring, you want to know how I felt? I felt like I was listening to a guy whos never even seen a monster talking about how he killed a behemoth, you know? ”

”I don , what do you mean? ” Is this guy seriously going to tell me that sitting in a room full of flowers is interesting in any way?

Because if he is Ill just ditch him right here.

I think he was expecting that answer, because a smirk forms on his face ”Now, the way you described cultivation is completely boring, Id also try to kill myself if I had to do that for years on end, but its also wrong. ”

”Wrong!? ” Hoh? Surely he isn implying what I think he is…

He nods ”You see, even if it may be more efficient or whatever, if its not your path, you WILL hit a roadblock eventually, it doesn matter how talented you are or even if you
e a genius between geniuses. ”

I nod…

I don really understand what hes talking about, but I like the sound of it.

”Theres no such thing as the ”correct ” cultivation method, tell me little buddy, what is the most basic of the basics of cultivation? ” Bartholomew makes a sudden right turn into a narrow street.

I hurry and follow him. ”You generate ether by burning mana with a Krichevskoy method, and you generate mana by burning elemental energy with a Vyers method. ”

”Thats not quite the answer I was looking for, but tell me little buddy, what part of what you said implies that you have to sit in a room full of flowers all day? ”

”Well, its the only krichevskoy method I know. ” The room of flowers is important because the flowers constantly release elemental energy, then combined with the elemental energy my own body produces, I can barely burn it into enough mana for a constant, but slow, stream of ether.

”Exactly, that you know of! Little buddy, we live in a beautiful world, one where our imagination and cleverness are our only limits! ” Bartholomew points at me, ”Do you think I managed to get all the way to a pattern of the apprentice by meditating in a room full of flowers? I did not, I followed my own path! ” A fanatical glint appears on his eyes, ”That, little buddy, is the true essence of cultivation, to find our own paths, and follow them until our bones are broken, all of our blood has been spilled, and all of our flesh has been consumed! And then, to go beyond that! ”

Such passion!

As long as I obtain ether in some way, my cultivation is still advancing, I just simply have to find a way to do so…And then keep pushing the limits of such a method…

It sounds so obvious, but I don think I wouldve thought of that on my own.

Of course, its much easier just saying that than doing it, but I don think its impossible.

I don know the schematics of the Krichevskoy method Ive been using, the , but maybe I could try reverse engineering it..

Bartholomew scratches the back of his head, ”I should have enough time to talk with you a bit more, but lets grab a bite first. ” After saying that, he enters the building in front of us, it seems to be some sort of pub?

Very well, Im feeling quite hungry too.

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