520 How Tables Have Turned

    Daniel and the others spent the following few hours waiting in line for their turn, after which, thanks to Cassie's help, they were able to obtain a traveling permit from the Blackrose faction.

    This permit was required by the Independent faction to justify their use of the inter-dimensional portal, and to obtain one was not difficult, as neither the faction of belonging, nor the independent faction itself had any rights in probing into a group's internal dealings. As long as the journey was roughly justifiable, one would generally be issued without a problem.

    Unfortunately, obtaining the permit from one's faction was not the most time consuming part.

    As the guardians of the only inter-dimensional portal in the universe, the independent faction was forced to handle the constant influx and outflow of cultivators, whose sheer number was the cause for this slow process. This problem was not exclusive to Competition's domain, but present in every domain in which the inhabiting cultivators would try to regulate the use of the portal, instead of leaving it free for anyone to use.

    As a result, many attempts had been made to ease the strain caused to those who tried to regulate the portal, including the sorting of incoming cultivators that would be teleported into remote branches at the moment of their arrival, or various other methods that would make their number more manageable.. But, alas, none of those attempts had ever worked, and that was because of how oddly stable the space that surrounded the inter-dimensional portal was.

    Covering an area that included the small planet, the area that surrounded the inter-dimensional portal was extremely stable, to a point where any attempt at creating portals, or even opening a rift in space to teleport away, had ended up in disaster.

    Once created, these portals would instantly try to repair, and if used, they would be capable of allowing a person through, but not stable enough to take them to their destination.. Or at the very least, not in one piece. The same was for incoming cultivators, who had proven that teleportation into this stable area would not work by making their appearance near the inter-dimensional portal as an anonymous mist of blood. That was the reason why people traveled with the use of ships, instead of bending space and time.

    Antecedent to any form of civilization, these portals had become a subject of many studies, especially for their odd ability to forcibly stabilize space.. Something that, if able to be replicated, would be employed by any group, regardless of the rank, as a protective measure for their territory.

    Daniel had noticed this peculiarity way before his group had reached the portal.

    As a cultivator who had comprehended the essence of spacetime, Daniel was able to feel the large area affected by the portal's power as a separate section of indestructible space, as well as the fact that it had been as such for countless years. If he would have been asked to describe it to a person that had never seen it, he would describe it as the complete opposite of a shattered universe, or an intangible solidified space.

    Through thousands of years of perfecting, the various domains had created the methods used in the present.. And that was to take turns. A method that had reminded Daniel of when, back on his own planet, he would see hundreds of merchants in line to enter the city in a similar way.. Something that he was used to seeing thanks to his job as a pickpocket and fake guide.

    Surprised by how simplistic this domain's bureaucracy was, Daniel decided to find a tavern where he and the others could spend the estimated ten or so hours that it would take for their turn to come. He then led his group to the least populated restaurant he could find, and ordered a table for six.

    "Welcome, kind clients. This is the list of our wines and teas. Feel free to call me whenever you have made your choice." Said a thin-looking man with a well kept beard, and a waiter attire before leaving a single one-inch thick menu right in the middle of Daniel's table. He then bowed politely, and tried to leave.

    Before he could leave, however, Daniel stopped him by asking, "Do you have any food?"

    "Food?" asked the waiter while raising one brow in confusion.

    "Yes. Food. You cook it, put it in your mouth, and then start chewing.. Want me to go on?"

    Slightly embarrassed, the waiter walked back to the table, and while bowing apologetically, he said, "Yes, of course. My apologies, we do not get as many requests for food here. This is our menu." He then took an old-looking sheet of paper on which were listed around twelve dishes before leaving.

    Daniel went through the dishes listed on the menu, and after seeing that none of them was appetizing, he turned to look at his extremely confused companions, and asked, "Is this what you traditionally eat in this universe?"

    Even more confused by this question, Rose looked at her similarly baffled companions, hoping that they would be more ready for this question, but when she saw that they were even more confused than she was, she turned to look at Daniel, and said, "There is nothing we.. eat in the domain of Lord Competition."

    "Oh, yes. Because after your families defrost you, you spend the following years cultivating." Said Daniel in realization. He then put the menu down, and asked, "When was the last time you've eaten something?"

    "I.. My teachers told me that it took me two months to ascend the first time.. So when I was a little older than five." Responded Rose without bothering to hide a hint of pride.

    By looking at the faces of the other three young women, Daniel realized that they had lived through a similar experience. "That sucks." he muttered before putting the menu aside, and casually waving his hand on the table, above which various home-made dishes appeared immediately after. He then went through them, and as his eyes landed on a simple toast with a fried egg on top, he picked it, and began to eat.

    The four young women looked in silence as Daniel enjoyed his meal. They knew that eating had no purpose for cultivators, and that their essence was powerful enough to sustain their bodies, but unfortunately, just like their eyesight and hearing, their cultivation enhanced ther sense of smell as well, causing them to be constantly distracted by the dishes that were covering the table.

    The first one to crack was Dawn, who moved her ponytail behind her back, and after creating a sort of wooden spike with her poor knowledge of wood essence, she pierced a slice of meat roulade, and brought it to her mouth. As her mouth bit into it, and she began to chew, a smile appeared on her usually serious expression.

    Cassie and Lilith followed suit right after, respectively picking the dish they personally found most appetizing, which happened to be a slice of strawberry cake, and a chocolate pudding.. Two desserts which Daniel thought matched their preferences in behavior and clothing.

    The only one who was still not eating was Rose, who had chosen to observe as her friends stuffed piece after piece of food in their mouths while trying to maintain their composure. Once she was done with that, before picking a dish of her own, she looked at Daniel's toast, and asked, "You've picked that because it's the best one?"

    "No." Responded Daniel as his moving lips curved into a smile. "This is definitely the worst one.. But I would never be stupid enough to say that to the person who made it." he then added before resuming eating. In his mind flashed the memories of when he would wake up in the morning to find that his sister had already gone to school. Before leaving, however, she would always leave a toast with an egg on top on the table for him.

    "You didn't make these?" asked Rose.

    "Aside from what I am eating, my wife made everything else." Responded Daniel, causing the others to stop eating, and turn to look at him in surprise.

    "Wait.. you are married!?" asked Dawn while letting go of the control she had over the constructed wooden spike, and causing the piece of meat she was eating to fall on her legs.

    Daniel responded by nodding casually in between bites.

    "But, if you are married, why aren't you with her?" Asked Cassie who, contrary to the others, seemed to be genuinely curious. However, as she finished speaking, she noticed that her companions were already looking at her in disapproval, almost as if she had asked something obvious.

    Seeing that Daniel had no intention of answering either, Rose picked a dish of her own while Cassie and Lilith resumed eating. Dawn, on the other hand, decided to ask, "What is the plan after we leave this universe?"

    Daniel put his half-eaten toast down, then turned to look back at Dawn, and said, "Coming to this universe was a complete waste of time.. Once I leave, the blood cultivators should follow me to the next universe.. It should be safe for you to return, at that point. Just give them a few weeks. Visit Cassie's family, do whatever you want, I don't care."

    As Daniel finished speaking, Rose and the others continued with their meal in silence for several minutes. The only one who had stopped eating was Dawn, who was looking at Daniel as if on the verge of asking something.

    "Speak, unless you prefer to drill a hole in my skull with your staring." Said Daniel with eyes closed in irritation.

    "Did you come to this universe to start a war between our domain, and the blood faction?" Asked Dawn with an extremely serious tone.

    Her question caused Rose and the others to open their eyes in realization. Until now, they had not thought about the reason why Daniel had come to this universe.. But after learning that the blood cultivators would have found him no matter which universe or domain he would try to hide in, Dawn, the most rational of the group, had finally put the piece together.

    "IS THAT TRUE?!" Shouted Lilith after springing up on her feet, attracting the attention of the dozens of cultivators who were occupying the other tables.

    "Lower your voice." said Daniel with a threatening tone after noticing other people stare in their direction.

    "OR WHAT?! You will instigate someone into dealing with me?!" Added the now furious Lilith.

    The ruckus caught the attention of the waiter, who walked in their direction, and asked with a polite tone, "Is everything alright, miss?"

    "Everything is fine.. Leave us, we were having an important conversation." Said Daniel.

    The waiter did not follow Daniel's instructions. Instead, he turned to look at Lilith who was still standing and glaring at Daniel with furious eyes. It was only after she noticed him, that she folded her arms in an attempt to bottle her anger, and sat back down.

    As soon as the waiter left, Lilith turned to look at Daniel, with none of the previous anger absent, and said, "Give me a reason not to leave this tavern, and denounce you to the independent faction right now."

    Once again, Daniel looked around, and noticed that few people were still looking. Even if he wanted to do anything to Lilith, he would not be able to as long as they were on this planet, and especially, not while he was surrounded by cultivators more powerful than he was. His only choice was to talk this out.

    Lilith crossed her legs and pushed her back against the backrest of the chair.. Clearly aware of what Daniel was thinking about. She then said while smiling maliciously, "What's the problem? you can't run away with one of your little rifts here?"

    Anywhere else, Daniel could have erased Lilith from existence and from the memories of others, but right now, he was at his most vulnerable. Not only was he surrounded by powerful cultivators, but he needed the four of them to collaborate with him. Without their help, he would not be able to walk through the portal, and if any of them reported him, he would have much more than a few blood cultivators hunting him, to worry about.

    "What do you want..?" Said Daniel begrudgingly.

    Initially Rose and Cassie would have not approved of her occasional acting out in public, like she would do every now and then. However, after learning of Daniel's original plan, that changed. When Lilith turned to look at them in search of their approval, she saw nothing but that.

    Before she could respond, however, Dawn said, "We get you out of this universe.. And in exchange, we keep your ship."

    At first Dawn wanted to demand that Daniel helped them with their studies of mana, as he had shown to have mastered multiple forms of it, but now that Lilith had antagonized him, and there was no guarantee that he would not kill them once on the other side of the portal, she moved on to the second most valuable thing Daniel had in their eyes.

    "Fine.." Said Daniel before signaling for the waiter to approach the table. When he did, he said, "Get me a bottle of your strongest wine.."
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