Before Dawn could even feel surprised by Daniel's sudden appearance, she looked down at the hand with which she was holding his odd rock a few seconds ago, and noticed that now, she was his wrist instead. ".. Sorry.." She muttered apologetically before letting go.
"Don't worry about it." said Daniel with indifference before casually floating in front of the four young women. He then added with newfound interest, "So that is the inter-dimensional portal."
Rose and the others looked at Daniel with the umpteenth confused expression, until finally, the former managed to regain her wits, and ask him, "What do you mean? Isn't that the portal you've used to enter this universe? And how did we.. How did YOU get here so fast?!" In her tone, Daniel could sense a hint of exasperation, a feeling that her three companions were visibly sharing.
To their surprise, instead of answering these questions, Daniel began to giggle.. An action which they had believed to have been caused by their helplessness and desperation for answers, but that in reality, had nothing to do with them. In fact, If they could have seen what Daniel was seeing in his mind, while they wouldn't have joined him, they would have at least understood why he was laughing.
Meanwhile, In a sector of space tens of millions of light years away, three blood cultivators were floating in a still circle. Two of them were observing the third with faces filled with high expectations, while the third, was standing still with his large back pointed in the direction of his companions.
"WHAT IS THIS?!?" Bellowed the larger cultivator with sheer rage.
The other two cultivators approached their now shaking companion, and the shorter of the two placed his hand onto the latter's shoulder before asking, "Did you kill him by accident?" To this question, the large cultivator chose to answer by simply turning around.
However, when the large blood cultivator looked at them, the two noticed that instead of holding Daniel, or at the very least his dead body, the large cultivator was holding a well defined hand-shaped rock with four out of five fingers closed into a fist, and the fifth one straightened into a vulgar gesture.
"I had him.. I swear I had him.." Said the large blood cultivators as his blood emerged from his skin, and engulfed the rock, consuming it completely.
After spending a few moments enjoying the pictures that appeared in his mind, Daniel felt more at ease. His separation from his family had caused him to allow the worst possible scenarios to take a prevalent spot in his mind, forcing him to feel nervous. Playing around with blood cultivators had been the first time since he had come to this universe in which he had been able to enjoy himself.
Now more relaxed and confident, he turned to look at Rose and the others, and said, "To answer your questions without explaining to you the full extent of my capabilities would be useless, and since I do not intend to, save yourself some time, and avoid asking how I do things in the future."
Daniel's response left the four young women at a loss for words. Throughout their entire lives, their questions were always met with a satisfactory answer, and that was because their families would spare no effort in teaching them anything they knew. As blank slates, they would be filled with notions and methods regarding essences and martial arts, so that once they would finish increasing their power, they could start learning how to use it efficiently.
That had not changed when the four of them had entered the Half Moon sect, a place where no knowledge was secret. Each student was allowed to learn whatever piece of knowledge the sect possessed, and their standing would change based on the result they would show.
While being curious would have aided these four young women in their path of cultivation, that was only provided that they would remain in Competition's territory, a place where greed was not a passive state of mind that birthed scheming and hatred, but a reason for challenging and stealing from one's peers.
Unfortunately, in the vaster world of cultivation, this mentality was extremely flawed. In other domains, martial arts and the concept of mana were personal experiences.. And as such, one would not share them with the first person that would ask for them. Daniel had discovered this flawed mentality in the society of Competition's domain not because he had observed it during his stay in this universe, but due to the time he had spent with these four young women. No cultivators of his universe would have dared to ask for another cultivator's secret, and that was a crucial and unspoken rule throughout most of the multiverse.
Thankfully, while 'keeping one's cards close to one's chest' was a philosophy that wasn't used in this universe, that did not mean that it was unknown. This was shown by Rose's reaction, who instead of showing annoyance caused by Daniel's lack of willingness to share his knowledge, showed a realization that, maybe, what she had asked might have not been appropriate.
"Very well." She said before turning towards the planet, which could be barely seen through the fleet of ships and artifacts used by those who wished to use the inter-dimensional portal, and added, "What do we do now?"
"I heard that these portals are guarded by a fourth-ranked group that belongs to the independent faction" Said Cassie, aware that that would be a piece of information that Daniel would need.
Sure enough, at the mention of a seemingly special group, Daniel raised his brows with interest, and asked, "The independent faction.. What is that?" At the same time, he took a miniature ship from within his spatial ring, placed it in the space in front of him, and let it float on its own.
Instead of answering the question, Cassie turned to look at Lilith, whom she knew as the most knowledgeable in the political sphere of Competition's domain.
Lilith did not appear willing to share what she knew with Daniel, but after she noticed the expecting looks on Dawn's and Cassie's faces, she let out a helpless sigh, and began to explain. "The independent faction is the only faction that does not compete for universes.. But despite their passive attitude, they boast the strongest entities in our domain. Their job is to policy the other factions, and make sure that the status quo amongst differently ranked groups is maintained."
"Isn't a lack of competitiveness considered cowardly behavior, in this universe?"
"It is.. But the reason why they can afford to do that, is that no other faction can compete with them. When a first ranked group grows more powerful than any other, they challenge the previous independent group, and if they win, they become the new independent faction. They then lose any claim on the universes they possessed, and take the task of guards for every single one of them." Responded Lilith with a matter-of-fact tone.
"Interesting.." Said Daniel before seemingly losing interest in the subject, and once again turning towards the small ship. He then emitted a faint string of his essence and guided it into the ship, which immediately started to grow in size as a result.
As the ship kept growing, Rose and the others noticed how peculiar it looked. With its metallic surface covered in white paint, its lack of masts, veils, or even cannons mounted at its sides. What it had, were smooth curves, blackened windows mounted in stories, and a shape that resembled that of an arrow head.
"What a beautiful ship." said Dawn while following Daniel onto the deck. Then, once her feet landed on its smooth wooden surface, she asked, "What do we need a ship for? We are already here."
Once again Daniel ignored Dawn's question, and instead, he emitted another wisp of essence which entered into the wooden deck, and only moments later, emerged in the shape of a formation that contained the power of the essence of spacetime.
It became clear to both Dawn and her companions that Daniel had decided to use the ship in order to not only blend with the other ships, but also to hide his abilities. After all, when compared to the more realistic possibility that an old and powerful cultivator had created that spacetime formation.. The idea that Daniel had personally curved the space to allow his group to reach their destination in record time, was much more difficult to believe. In fact, even Rose and the others, who had just seen it with their own eyes, were struggling to believe that Daniel had obtained a level of comprehension of the essence of spacetime at that age.
Once done, Daniel turned to look at the four young women, and said, "Go below deck, pick a room, and change out of the sect's attires. The showier the clothes, the better."
Aware of why Daniel had made this request, the four young women walked below deck, and suddenly found themselves in what appeared like an immense valley covered in bright green grass, and bordered by a clear lake, a thick forest, and tall snowy mountains. Built on this valley were several villas, each with an architectural style that belonged to one of the civilizations that Daniel had visited in his travels, each more luxurious than the other.
"This place feels.. It's too perfect. Are those flawless mana orbs?!" Asked Cassie the moment she felt the presence of what, in Daniel's universe, was known as perfect essence spheres. These perfect spheres were hidden in the elements that they represented, which had been programmed to replicate from within invisible formations.
"Stop dawdling!" Said a disembodied voice that resembled Daniel's, and that resounded throughout the whole valley.
While universes were left for lower ranked groups to manage, that was not the same for resources such as essence treasures. Once found, these treasures would be immediately given to the higher ranking members of a faction, so that they could be refined into essence spheres, and given to the young cultivators whom, after successfully finishing to consume their essence cores, would be able to focus solely on studying the concepts these spheres contained.
This had left lower groups like the Half Moon sect with nothing but mid, or low level treasures, which would then be used to teach specific concepts to the group's younger cultivators.
What Daniel had casually left in his ship, were the resources that only a first or second ranked family would possess. There was no need to mention how much these four young women would benefit from these treasures, if only they were allowed to spend time in Daniel's ship. But, alas, time was scarce, so they could only put on their most disappointed expressions, and head towards the closest villa, inside which they changed into their most expensive looking clothes.
A few minutes later, the four young women emerged from below deck with gaudy clothes, which Daniel had asked them to wear so that they could appear like a group of dignitaries sent on a diplomatic mission-The likes that was currently flooding the small planet that floated in the space right in front of the inter-dimensional portal.
"Good enough." muttered Daniel before once again taking over the controls of the ship. He then commanded it to advance at max speed, which it maintained until, a few moments later, the ship joined the rest of the fleet around the planet.
As Daniel's ship merged with the others, he noticed that thousands of eyes moved in his direction. Mostly focused on the odd shape of the vessel he was traveling in, or the four young women that were in his company.
"I don't like it here.. So many shameless people staring." said Cassie, who had put more effort in her attire and make up than any other of her companions.
Daniel ignored her complaints, and instead turned to look at the immense portal, in which exactly five hundreds ships were allowed to use at one time, and after a ten minutes delay. Once he made sure that there was no control done inside the ship, and that he would only need to present a permission, Daniel locked the ship in place. "Let's go. Present yourselves with your own names, and if anyone asks, I am just your bodyguard." He said while unconsciously using a term for the word bodyguard that, in the language of the universe he was in, was extremely similar to the word for 'lover'.
With flushed expressions, Rose and the other nodded in agreement while trying to appear unaffected by Daniel's odd instructions. Then, as he joined millions of others in their descent onto the planet's atmosphere, they followed quietly.