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510 To Swim Against the Curren

    The announcement made its way throughout the sect, catching the interest of virtually every single disciple within the floating archipelago, who collectively headed towards the platform indicated by the elder with enthusiasm. However, this excitement was not shared by everybody, as three disciples in particular, did not appear to be affected by this news. These three disciples were Daniel, the core disciple who had been tasked with keeping an eye on him by the Patriarch, and finally, the young woman whom Daniel had just met.

    During the past weeks, Daniel had maintained a facade that allowed him to explore the sect, and eavesdrop conversations without appearing suspicious.. And that was only possible because he showed no personal interest in anything that was said, or that happened around him. As a drawback, he was forced to follow whatever the masses would do like a curious stray dog, and pretend to lose interest soon after. Once he had experienced the various events that took place in the sect at least once, he would learn how to avoid them the next time.

    Since Daniel had already seen the selection of Competition's champions, he knew that there was no reason for him to go, so without waiting a second longer, he ignored the young woman whom appeared to be having an internal conversation with herself only a few steps away from him, and started to head towards the caves of the outer disciples. However, his motion was halted only moments later by the grip he felt around his wrist.

    "Where are you going? Don't you want to take the test?" She asked while looking at Daniel with an enthusiasm that only a few moments earlier, was completely absent.

    Pressed for time, Daniel began to consider whether to attack this young woman to prevent her from bothering him again, but before he could, a second voice came from the direction of the group of young women whom Daniel had found himself in front of several times in the past. "Don't touch him!" Shouted the undercover core disciple with worry.

    "Why not?" asked the daughter of the sect's elder with an unusually cold tone.

    Slightly surprised by the sudden change of her demeanor, the core disciple let out a polite smile, and responded by saying, "You are very lucky that he doesn't attack people who show no hostility towards him, or someone would be picking your pieces up from the floor by now." As she spoke, her eyes kept trailing between her hand, and her cold and almost hostile eyes.

    "And who are you? His protector?" asked the elder's granddaughter, completely unbothered by the warning of the core disciple. Her narrowed eyes lacked any form of gratitude or wariness, as opposed to the underlying hostility that she felt for her, and that she wasn't bothering to hide.

    "HEY! She was only looking out for you!" said a young woman with freckles and short red hair with irritation, and while marching towards the three of them along with the rest of her group. Next to her was the cold young woman with long black hair, and the fourth member of her group, a girl with dark brown hair tied up into a ponytail.

    The three of them had been surprised by their friend's sudden intervention, as they had gotten used to Daniel, and they knew that even if this young woman grabbed his wrist, he would not attack her unless she would show hostility. However, when the daughter of the elder began to show disregard and a lack of respect, they chose to intervene.

    As all of this happened, Daniel noticed the increasing stream of disciples that walked past them, and towards the platform located at the edge of the archipelago. In his mind was forming a perfectly well hidden irritation, which was caused by the invasive actions of these five young women, who were preventing him from leaving the area before he could be pushed towards the platform by the incoming crowd.

    The elder's granddaughter looked at the four outer disciples with an unprecedented coldness. One that, if paired with enough battle prowess or the presence of a weapon, could have been mistaken for a threat. However, before she could say anything to get rid of these four young women, she felt Daniel's attempt to force his arm out of her grip, to which she reacted by letting go. Instead of leaving, however, she took a step closer to him, and embraced his arm altogether.

    "I am all personality and no strength, while he is the opposite. We are a good match." She said as her cold demeanor softened, and her lips curved into a smile.

    The actions of the young woman left the group of friends dumbfounded, a feeling which Daniel shared wholeheartedly. To them it was already odd that she had never heard of Daniel during the past month or so, but even more strange, was her excessive friendliness towards a person whom she had never met before.

    Fed up with this young woman's behavior, and unable to read into her mind, Daniel prepared himself to scare her away, but then, he stopped. Around him were now thousands of people who had almost clogged the road.. A crowd that the person he was impersonating, would follow mindlessly.

    "Why are you all standing here?!"

    "Move out of the way!"

    The complaints of the hurried disciples reached the six of them one after the other, forcing Daniel to realize that it was already too late.

    "If she wants to risk staying with a time bomb like him, then leave her to it." Said the one with long black hair whom, despite her cold behavior, was the most sensible one within her group of friends.. a quality which had caused her to be extremely wary of Daniel from the very first moment she had seen him.

    "Right.. And even if he attacks her, he probably won't kill her. Let's go, I don't want to lose this test like the last one." Added the brunette with the ponytail in agreement. She then turned towards the platform, and followed the crowd along with her red-headed friend.

    The only reason why the core disciple had chosen to intervene despite the two had never met, was out of respect for her grandfather. What she never expected, was for her warning to be welcomed with such hostility. One which was very unlike how the rumors she had heard of her, described her, and that she would have welcomed with a matched hostility if not for her identity.

    Luckily, Daniel joining in the journey would make it easier for her to keep an eye on him, as she wished to participate like everybody else, and was on the verge of making up an excuse for why she wouldn't join her friends this time and remain in the sect in case he did. While annoying, the actions of the elder's granddaughter had played in her favor.

    Left with no other choice, Daniel could only follow the young woman who seemed to have taken an interest in him, while at the same time, adding her to his list of people he would be better off avoiding in the future.

    After a few moments of walking, Daniel and the five female cultivators successfully merged into the massive crowd, and marched towards the platform indicated by the elder.

    While this platform was clearly not big enough to welcome all of the disciples who were walking towards it, to Daniel's surprise, the platform began to react to the increasing number of people by expanding in size the more of them would step onto it. A feature which Daniel found as much interesting as it was unexplainable, since there was no trace of essences being used in the process, nor was there a formation carved into it.

    The moment the most tardy of these students reached the platform, the figure of the old man accompanied by his two personal disciples suddenly walked past the gate, and towards the middle of the platform, which, almost as if aware of his arrival, split the crowd into two, creating a path for him to walk into.

    Once this old man reached the middle of the platform, the archipelago disappeared like a mirage, leaving thousands of unbothered disciples surrounded by an endless peaceful sky.

    This sight reminded Daniel of when he was still a mortal, just a few years ago. When the sky marked the limits of his senses the same way the sea level did, protecting the weak existence of humans from the monstrous dangers that lay beyond them. A memory of humanity that the leader of the half moon sect had chosen to safekeep the same way Daniel had when his group lived in his pocket dimension.

    Despite the confusion and danger he was facing, seeing a sky that he couldn't breach, put Daniel's mind at ease.. A feeling that, unfortunately, was broken the moment the space around the platform was grabbed by an invisible power, and pulled and twisted into an immense spatial whirlpool right in front of his eyes.

    This sudden event was able to catch the attention of the few disciples who had not yet gotten used to it, while the rest, aware that the journey would take a few hours, began to interact with one another.

    Between the lowest ranking core disciples being surrounded by the members of the inner circle, who praised their talent and expressed their desire to join their ranks, and many of the inner disciples who experienced the same treatment from the outer disciples, Daniel saw familiar social interactions, as well as some odd events like the separation between circles, or the attempts of a core disciple to approach the young woman who had been tasked with keeping an eye on Daniel, but that had given up after noticing her angered expression.

    The most odd event, however, was when the elder himself walked past the disciples, and towards the figure of Daniel and the young woman who was standing next to him.

    "Greetings Elder." Said the young woman the moment he came to a few feet of distance from them.

    "You know that you don't need to call me Elder, child. Just call me uncle, like you used to when I taught you how to write." Said the old man with a genuine and warm smile. It was clear to Daniel that the two knew each other, and that their relationship put this touchy young woman above anybody who stood on this platform. A relationship that was likely to exist due to this old man' relationship with her grandfather, with whom he shared the same position in the sect.

    The smile of the elder only lasted until the young woman smiled back at him. An action which Daniel found manipulative, as despite her looking as happy to see the old man as he was to see her, her spirit did not fluctuate, showing that she had no emotions towards him whatsoever.

    Happy to see her safe and sound, the old man turned to look at the person who was accompanying her.. An action that caused his previous smile to disappear the moment his eyes landed on Daniel, whom he was not expecting to see there. This well hidden surprise turned into disappointment the moment he turned to look at the group of four female cultivators, or more specifically, the one who was tasked with making sure that he would stay within the sect's territory at all times.

    "Why are you with him, little Shah?" He asked the young woman who was standing closer to Daniel than anybody else.

    "It looked like he had nowhere else to be, so I have brought him along." she said while showing an innocent smile. She then turned serious, and asked, "Uncle, have you found anything about my friends?"

    The old man seemed to forget about Daniel's presence, and instead, she looked back at Shah, and said with an apologetic tone, "I am afraid not child. We have explored every path, but there was no trace of your friends.. Nor of those who attacked you. At this point, I would not hold high expectations about their return."

    "I understand." Said Shah, showing a saddened expression that, once again, did not match with her indifferent spirit.

    "Alright then. Don't overdo it during the next test." Said the old man, once again showing his affection for his friend's granddaughter with a warm smile. He then turned to look back at the center of the platform, "Keep an eye on him." He said to Daniel's guardian before walking off.
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