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107 The City Inside the Ring

    During the following years, the Tiyar and Zenna empires would take part in one of the most bloody and senseless wars of the past thousands of years. A war to which dozens of kingdoms, empires, and independent parties would get involved with.

    This was how the world in which Daniel lived, worked. A small scale war would take place for the control of resource, and that war would soon escalate into a much larger conflict.

    After the war would end, the survivors would suffer for their losses, and nurture their hate for the other parties. This hate, would then be passed to their children and to their children afterwards.

    A decision was all it took to start this.. a decision dictated by greed.

    -----

    Weeks of travel had passed before Daniel was finally out of the Tiyar empire's radius of influence. He had traveled along with the people with whom he had escaped from prison.

    They had joined the pursuit of the wood elementals along with Daniel as an independent group, but due to the fact that the spiritual cultivator that had been assigned to them was of a low rank, they had arrived too late to join the battle.

    Along with Daniel, they had left the service of the Tiyar empire right after they retreated back behind empire borders.

    Now that they had all passed the sphere of influence of either the Zenna and Tiyar empire, and it was safe to teleport, it was finally time for Daniel to meet his friends once again.

    Daniel and the group stopped at a large plot of land, then, he removed the block on the portal placed near the castle, place the ring on the ground, and took a few steps back.

    The very next moment, a large group of around thirty people appeared.

    Everyone was dead silent, and yet, big smiles could be seen appearing on their faces.

    Within this group, Daniel could see his friends along with Edmund, Emelnie and their daughter Alesia, which had grown slightly taller, more serious, and visibly prettier.

    Heimart and Alis were next to each other, and in his arms, Heimart was holding what looked like a 1-year-old baby.

    Ligart, on the other hand, was standing next to a girl with bright red hair. From how close they were, one could guess that the two were very close to each other.

    Imblen was standing next to Roley. The two had always had a deep friendship, and yet, Daniel could see the hint of a deeper feeling on Imblen's eyes, as she kept moving them from him to the calm and composed Roley. Between them, were the two kids which Daniel and his group had taken in years ago. They had grown, and Daniel could see that they had also cultivated to an unreasonable level, if considering their age.

    Next to them, was Buriath along with his five 'children'. Each of his children were as powerful and as big as he was when their group had met him, while Buriath had assumed an extremely human-like shape. Naturally, Daniel immediately recognized him, as having a perfect comprehension of earth essence, he would recognized him even if he was in the middle of trillions of earth elementals.

    A few powerful human cultivators were standing near Edmund and Emelnie, and looked at Daniel with curious and dubious eyes. These people, were part of the cultivators that had joined his group after they got separated.

    "So.. How have you all been?"

    -----

    ".. how the hell did you find us?" Asked Ligart to Daniel with a shocked tone.

    Daniel smiled at him and said "It's a secret."

    Daniel and the rest had all gone back inside the spatial ring, and were now talking within the mess hall of the castle.

    The moment Daniel had entered the pocket dimension, he couldn't help but drop his jaw in shock. He was more than aware that his group had grown, but what he did not expect, was that the inside of the pocket dimension would turn from a castle, to a city.

    Around the castle there were hundreds of houses, restaurants, and even a few shops.

    The number reported by Daniel's system had led him to believe that the highest amount of people within the pocket dimension, before the battle with the Tiyar empire, would be of two thousand people. But when he entered, he realized that he was far from knowing the truth.

    Two thousand was only the amount of people that had decided to join Heimart under the job of protecting this small world, and to do good in the outside world. Plus, they had to recognize Daniel as owner of the space in order to receive the effects of the group system.

    This matter had been one of the biggest questions within this newly formed city.

    Some people obtained a significant increase in power and progression speed, while some others, would remain as they were no matter what.

    To most, it had to do with something within the castle that granted people some sort of blessing, but in truth, only those who accepted to follow Heimart's group, and consider Daniel their leader, would be able to enjoy those effects.

    Along with those two thousand cultivators, tens of thousands of unranked humans and members of other races had joined.

    So many in fact, that two more portals had to be created in order to allow people to leave altogether in case something happened.

    Of course, before leaving, the inhabitants required to submit a request so that they would not appear out of the blue next to the person in charge of carrying the ring..

    Inside the city, a few larger buildings were also present. These buildings were owned by entire families of cultivators that had joined Edmund and Heimart during one of their travels.

    Currently, seven families occupied seven different mansions, and their leaders were powerful cultivators at the eighth, or ninth rank. Unfortunately, only three of their leaders, including Edmund, were part of Daniel's group.

    The mess hall was currently occupied by hundreds of people, but the only that spoke were Daniel's friends.

    No matter how long they observed, the hundreds of cultivators couldn't help but see Daniel as a normal eighteen years old martial cultivator.

    "Oh come on.. At least tell us how you've escape the imperial family of the Krehan empire. And how long have you been looking for us?" Asked Ligart with a pleading tone. He really wanted to know what had happened to Daniel.

    "I have evaded from their prison.."

    Ligart smiled after hearing Daniel's words, he then said "Of course you did.. Wh-"

    He was then interrupted by Daniel which continued by saying "A bit longer than two months ago."

    The group suddenly quietened.

    "Then.. You've been in prison for.." muttered Alis to herself while counting the time backwards.

    Daniel looked at her and said plainly "Two years, and seven months."

    Suddenly, a martial cultivator in martial attire entered the mess hall, and said while looking at Edmund "Sir, the leaders of the forest factions are here. They would like to meet.." His eyes then moved on Daniel.

    Daniel kept quiet and watched the scene unfold.

    Edmund, instead of agreeing to let the three leaders in, looked at Daniel and said "Do you want to see them?"

    "Sure." Responded Daniel casually.

    "Invite them in." Ordered Edmund after turning to look at the martial cultivators.

    This action was a simple one, but it was of great importance for the entire group of cultivators present. It was the confirmation that Daniel was, in fact, the de facto leader of the group they had joined.

    The reason why Edmund did this, was because he had long since developed a great respect for Daniel. He was cunning, talented, and held secrets that would make the world tremble in fear if known.

    Leffe, leader of the green-skinned human-like wood elementals, Nieba, leader of the forest's dwelling beasts and of the Silver-Grey Cuons, and Prea, the leader of the Golden Ants and of the Insecta, entered the hall altogether.

    Ligart, Alis, and Imblen, which were sitting immediately next to Daniel, immediately stood up and freed the chairs for the three leaders to sit.

    "You must be the young man they call Daniel.." Said Leffe, the leader of the wood elementals.

    Daniel got up on his feet, looked at leffe straight in the eyes, and responded. "I am. And you must be Leffe, the evil leader of the forest alliance I've so much heard about while getting here."

    "Hehe.. I am a leader of sorts, but not so much evil, I'm afraid. It would have solved things much more easily if I had been.." Responded Leffe while sitting on the chair next to Daniel.

    A smile appeared on Daniel face. He was impressed by the humility Leffe had shown, and his reaction to being called an 'Evil Leader'. Of course, that was only a test.

    After making himself comfortable, Leffe continued by saying "We apologize for interrupting your reunion, but we wanted to thank you for saving us.. And to ask for a favor."

    "By all means, decide with which you prefer to go first." Responded Daniel with his usual smile.

    "The favor then. We have made the acquaintance of Buriath, the leader of the earth elementals who joined you in your travels." Said Leffe before pausing and looking at Daniel's reaction to his words. After noticing that his words had caused no reaction whatsoever, he continued "He recounted to us the story of how you were able to comprehend earth essence in a few days.. And were able to produce a perfect sphere.. We would like to ask you the same favor."

    The faces of everybody present who knew Daniel suddenly stifled, as if they had something to say. Within their minds they were angry at the fact that Leffe had decided to ask for a favor, before even thanking him for saving their lives.

    The two leaders that came along with Leffe, after noticing the irritated expressions of the most influential people within the room, felt slightly embarrassed due to what they considered to be 'a poor choice' from their leader.

    The faces on the people who did not know Daniel, were filled with curiosity. They wanted to know what was so special about him, and how he would handle this situation.

    "I am afraid that won't be possible.. Comprehending an entire essence perfectly in a few days takes a toll on my body that is hard for me to explain.." Responded Daniel with an apologetic tone.

    Buriath opened his eyes in surprise. He knew that Daniel was lying, but he did not know why.

    The rest of the cultivators expected such a response, as they doubted that Daniel had really done something like that once in the first place. On the other side, the leaders of the Golden Ants and Silver-Grey Cuons showed equally disappointed expressions.

    The reason why the two of them were disappointed, was because their lives were intrinsically bound to that of the wood elementals. Their two spaces were born and evolved in that forest, which the wood elementals had protected not only for their own convenience, but also to allow the evolution of other species.

    After Daniel's refusal, Leffe got up from his chair. Without the slightest hint of displeasure or anger, he pressed his hand in the point where a human's heart was supposed to be, and bowed deeply while saying "The three races of Garden of Past Times extend their most sincere gratitude for your brave actions."

    "There is no need to go that far.. He wasn't saving us, he was saving his allies." Said Nieba, the large and muscular bare-chested man covered in silver hair.

    Prea, the woman with golden skin and large lucid eyes, said from beside Leffe "Please, reconsider our request.. I am sure that we would be able to pay you back your for help."

    Now irritated, Nieba barked out loud "Keep your dignity Prea!"

    Daniel, which was observing the current events unfold, suddenly stood up from his chair, helped Leffe to straighten his back, and said "Leader of the three races of Garden of Past Times, would you mind to explain to your companions why you've decided to ask for a favor before thanking me?"

    Leffe looked at Nieba and Prea, and said "Because I didn't want our thanks to sound insincere."

    Ashamed by their own behaviour, the two straightened their bodies, and bowed in thanks to Daniel.

    As they were about to leave the room, they heard Daniel's voice from behind say "I'll wait for the first demonstration in the training ground.. Don't forget to bring the treasure. But.. let's do it tomorrow.. Tonight I would like to celebrate the reunion with my friends."
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