We enter the tavern, theres quite a few people here, but I wouldn call it crowded.

How neat.

Bartholomew goes to a nearby table

He snaps his fingers, and the barmaid who was busy with another client comes over to us.

”Yes? What can I help you with? ” Shes an older lady, her voice is quite raspy and Id say that she looks over 40, her hair is tied in a bun and covered with some sort of handkerchief, shes kinda chubby and short, her breasts are quite large and shes showing a generous amount of cleavage, I think shes a pretty nice sight.

She kinda looks like one of the maids in the clan, but in the wild.

Bartholomew doesn look at her. ”I heard this place has some good chicken sandwiches, so Ill take one of those, and also some wine if you have that, if not, whatever drink you have is fine as long as its good. ”

”Ill take the same as him. ”

I wonder how commoner food tastes like.

Im looking forward to it.

”Huhuhu, Ill bring you boys your meal. ” She leaves for the kitchen.

He starts casually carving something on the middle of the table with his fingernails. ”Hey, just so you know, don do what I did like its nothing, its actually very rude. ”

”Really? ” She didn seem bothered at all though.

Lots of people in the clan call servants like that, Ive even done it a few times.

Its basically a family tradition.

”Yeah, I used a little trick so that she wouldn be bothered by it, Im just letting you know, so you don try something like that once I leave you on your own. ” He seems more focused on finishing the drawing than actually talking to me.

I nod, I don want to look like some sort of bastard.

His drawing seems like some sort of magic circle.

I have no idea what effects it may have though.

”A little trick? ” Thats also weird, it sounds like something much more major than that!

He rolls his eyes at the question. ”Yeah, you don even need to get that far into cultivation for common people to become like putty in every sense of the word… Actually, you want some useful advice out of me? Invest into your mental defenses just as much, if not more, than your physical ones, enemies that can attack your mind are very rare, but the moment you meet the guy who can make you hallucinate your worst fears or change your perception of up and down in the middle of a battle, is the moment you
e going to die if you
e unprepared, little buddy. ”

How scary!

Ill certainly make it a priority to look for some defenses.

”So whats that? ” I point at the magic circle, I don think he would just vandalize a random table for no reason.

Or maybe he would?

Bartholomew pops a cocky grin. ”A magic circle, people outside our little dome can hear whatever we say, for example, HEY YOU FAT PIG BITCH, I HOPE YOU DIE! ”

The barmaid didn seem to notice.

He seems satisfied with himself. ”See? Its a lovely spell, I wouldn tell you to go out of your way to search for something like this, but if you happen to find something like it I suggest you try to get it, its pretty convenient. ”

I nod.

The barmaid comes with 1 plate with the sandwiches in it and 2 glasses with wine.

Bartholomew grabs his sandwich. ”Well, thats enough of that, I didn bring you here to talk about tricks, tell me little buddy, do you have any actual plans on what you
e going to do? ” He then takes a bite out of the sandwich.

”Not really, I was just planning on making stuff up as I needed, though the one goal I have is to have as much sex as possible. ” I grab my sandwich and take a bite out of it, its pretty dry but I like the taste.

Bartholomew chokes on his food. ”You really just went and said that, huh? Now Im really glad to have drawn that thing. ” He drinks from his glass. ”Never seen the appeal of it myself, it seems pretty trite, but on a more important note, you surely don think you can stay here for long? Your clan is going to find you eventually even with those glasses. ”

I take a sip out of the wine, I think I can hold my alcohol well enough, better than Novena and Septimus at least.

I like it, but its definitely lower quality than the one Ive drunk in the clan.

Then take another bite out of the sandwich…


Its not that dry now, I think I get how to eat this now.

I shrug. ”I just planned to walk in a random direction until something interesting happened. ”

I take another bite out of the sandwich, this thing is big!

”Thats… not the worst idea actually, but I don think it would work out well for you. ” He takes a bite from his sandwich.

”What do you mean? ”

”Do you have any experience fighting? ”

I shake my head

”I thought as much. Now, going into a random direction is simply good practice when dudes like us don have an immediate goal in mind, it builds character, every moment is a fight for survival, and given enough time theres actually a good enough chance of finding something interesting, hell, its how I got here in the first place, however, you do need some skills first, or else its just suicide, you know?. ”

”I see. ” Thats pretty boring, but reasonable enough. ”Do you have any recommendations? ”

He drinks again and nods. ”Try caravanning for a while, that should help you build some skills without killing yourself, the monsters on the main roads aren too bad. ”

”Ill look into it. ” I finish my sandwich.

”You also want to look into leaving Epice entirely, this place is not very good for beginner cultivators, its even harsh to me, cultivation resources are rare, and most of them have already been claimed by the stronger clans around here, those flowers you were talking about? They were probably an extremely valuable treasure. ” He takes another sip from his wine. ”The monsters around these parts are also crazy strong for some reason, Ive even had to run away from what I think was a rank 4 monster, it should be fine if you stay in the more well traveled roads and stay out of the wilderness, but thats no fun. ”

”I see. ” Leaving Epice… Im already leaving Paprika, but that feels so much more final, this country is my homeland after all…

I can wait!

”Theres the Walkman expanse thats slowly dying, they
e not letting any trade between this place and Marginot or Croix, so a lot of the artifacts here are lackluster, however, theres some interesting opportunities there. ”

”Really? ” I know they
e a bunch of barbarians, but not much else.

Bartholomew nods. ”Well, that country is dying, yes? Theres lots of chaos, and a lot of the institutions that aren a first priority for the government are just ripe for the taking, theres people around our power level forming groups to raid these smaller organizations, then divide the loot between them, its mostly things like slaves and artifacts, but spells and other rare treasures are not uncommon, its extremely profitable, for example, ” He points at my face in an extremely casual way. ”Those glasses? I got them from a raid I was part of. ”

I see, that probably is as much as you can get from the people there.

Ill give it a try when I have the chance.

”Of course its not without risks, and youll only get as much loot as you contribute to the raid, but Ill leave it at that, you can do your own research if you care about it. ” Bartholomew stretches. ”*Yawn*… Man these sandwiches are good, well, and beyond the Walkman expanse, theres the kingdoms of Marginot and Croix, Ill tell you right now to avoid Croix, security is super tight there and they
e actively hostile to cultivators who aren part of the clergy. ”

Croix, Epice and Marginot… Weve all declared independence from the Walkman expanse.

Ive heard decent things about them, but if what Bartholomew says is true, then I should avoid Croix for now.

”Marginot on the other hand has some potential, a lot of unexplored territory, and the laws are very lax, so authorities won look your way unless you
e actively bothering them, ah, and if you
e ever around there look for a group called the Sycamore gang, and tell them you
e a friend of lockjaw, they can hook you up with some good shit. ” Bartholomew looks pensive for a second, ” But look for one of the elite 4, random grunts are unreliable anywhere you go. ”

I nod, the disciples in the clan can barely hold a hammer.

”Marginot is also connected with Micaea, it seems that place is getting its act together, and its quickly becoming the center of the world, interesting stuff is guaranteed to be happening in a place like that, but I haven been there, so who knows? ”

Micaea… I know the country is about as old as the walkman expanse, and just like the expanse, its territory is massive, so much so that its been really hard for its government to actually control most of it.

I wonder how they figured it out, it has to be some dark secret, or a big conspiracy!

Or maybe a true master rose from all the chaff and conquered all he could?

Ill take them all on!

Bartholomew scratches the border between his left cheek and bronze jaw. ”Very well little buddy, Ill take my leave here, Ive spent way more time talking to you than I should have, if I meet you again and you don have at least a pattern of change Ill beat you until you piss blood. ” After saying that, he drinks all of the wine in one go and leaves with the sandwich on hand.

Pattern of change… Thats the next one I can get.

Very well then, I welcome the challenge.

The barmaid comes over, ”The other boy already left? How rude. ” She sighs and shakes her head. ”Well, heres the tab. ”

”Yes… ”

That bastard.

Next time I see him, Ill be the one to beat him until he pisses blood!

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