85 Off To The Core Nexus
On the date of the trip to the Core Nexus, Xie Ming and Xie Xinyi along with Jam's group met up outside of the Junkie Village's walls. Everyone — except for Xie Ming and his Dao Companion — had some very new and shiny pieces of gear that gave out crisp glowing under the morning sun's light.
They all had some short words exchanged for the ordinary greetings, but the awkward atmosphere around Rina whenever she talked to Jam was impossible to conceal. By now, even Cynthia had forgotten the embarrassing things she had done to Jam and was behaving like normal.
Everyone, followed behind Xie Ming's lead, and they teleported across almost a hundred million kilometers, crossing through various odd environments and even a couple odd passageways, before coming to a stop before a giant machine-like gate.
Several impossibilities were present upon first glancing at this area. First, before coming across this titanic eyeball-like piece of machinery, Xie Ming had lead the group through a path underground; deep inside a swamp. However, even though they were underground, after coming out of a tunnel-like crawlspace, there was another set of skies in this underground world — the one which housed the machine.
Not only was there another sky, even extra sets of cosmic bodies like the sun and moon, the constellations,and so on, appeared littered across this "extra sky." There was a living world at the other side of the tunnel, filled with enough spiritual energy and fertility to spawn even Tier 10 heavenly treasures, but none could be seen, nor was there even a sign of demonic beasts.
The area seemed like a sacred sanctuary for the Core Nexus, prohibiting anything or anyone from entering.
Xie Ming had the group stay in the tunnel as they got accustomed to this odd new world, and explained "So guys, here we are. That machine over there is the Core Nexus. Last time, it took 9 factions working together to make it past the Nexus' primary defense; its sacred domain." He traced his fingers just over the edge of the tunnel's exits, just barely entering the foreign world, before the Nexus' domain rejected him and pushed his finger out with brutal force.
"See, that was the domain in action. The Sacred Domain's strength increases as you approach the Core Nexus. At just the edge it's that strong, so you can image how powerful it would be after travelling a couple kilometers in? I wasn't here during the first entry, but after talking to the chieftain, I learned a bit more about the Nexus.
The distance from here to the machine is 1,000 kilometers. Every ten kilometers the pressure doubles, so you can just about make it over there if you have a Greater Sage's full strength. After that, the pressure stops and you'll be allowed into the Nexus. There are many dangers inside, challenges too, treasures of even Immortals and Gods, but after passing the 10% mark, it just becomes impossible..."
Xie Ming had to stop speaking as Jam had shoved his hand outside the tunnel and into the foreign world with no rejection. He floated across the boundary separating the two worlds from each other and seemed to not feel even the slightest bit of pressure.
Everyone started probing the sacred domain that had rejected Xie Ming, and had similar forces push on them with absolute rejection. Only Jam was excluded, flying around with no problems. "Mhmm… This is a good thing right? Now all you guys have to do is hang around in my Storage Dimension while I cross over to the Nexus." He didn't know why the domain didn't reject him, but maybe exploring it would yield some results.
Xie Ming stood there shocked, much more than Jam's friends. He was the last person to enter Jam's Storage Dimension, as everyone had gotten over the pleasant surprise.
Jam flew to the Core Nexus 1,000 kilometers away, not daring to teleport as he didn't know if the pressure would suddenly return. He saw many wild beasts running around the utopian world of the Nexus; yet not an iota of cultivation was present in any one of them. All this spiritual energy in the air and not a single demonic beast present among the regular wild animals? It was probably a rule of this world that cultivation was prohibited, yet Jam was still there slowly flying around as a Rebirth Stage Cultivator.
After a couple minutes of "slow" flying, Jam touched down on the metallic floor around the giant eyeball. He didn't even do anything and several gates made way for him to pass and enter the Nexus. It was all too easy… Jam was lost in his thoughts when a shadow flashed behind him and took him down to the floor.
A fragrant familiar scent hit Jam, as two supple masses pressed against his back. A joyous voice hit Jam and confirmed his thoughts "Jam~" it was his Dao Companion, and the last person he expected to meet in this extreme environment.
"Evangeline? How did you..." It was starting to become common for Jam to get cut off, so he didn't even get mad this time, when Evangeline started complaining while on his back, saying " Jam! Finally one of you guys got here! I was starting to get worried; thinking I might be stuck here forever!"
"Calm down," Jam got her off his back and asked her to explain how she made it here. Against all odds, it turns out she had been sent right here, after entering the portal from Afrov; she had been here for over 5 weeks…
Upon crossing through the portal and entering the Titanic Beast Mountain Range, Evangeline found herself here at the core of the entire pocket dimension. Seeing the enormous mechanized eye upon arriving alone in this world, she decided to first explore it before anything else.
The "gates" of the eye didn't open for her, but she did manage to find a way inside the Core Nexus. It was the same path the nine factions of the past went through, the same path that held countless trials and tribulations, as well as Immortal and Divine treasures laying around. Evangeline passed through a couple areas before deciding it was too dangerous continuing forwards. At that point, she decided to head back out and see what else there was for her in this world.
When she left the eye's immediate territory, she didn't feel the same pressure that Xie Ming and the others felt; the pressure from the sacred domain. Evangeline was free to roam around the paradise around her, hopeful and with thoughts of finding very rare spiritual treasures. Alas, there were none for her to harvest, so she turned to the tunnel-like exit Jam and the gang had come from.
It was then that the sacred domain started affecting her. Unlike a pressure of rejection, which could be fought, Evangeline faced a wall of unbreakable energy. No matter what she tried she couldn't leave, so after attempting every trick she possessed, she went back to the challenge area and did the only thing she could; train and get stronger.
She hoped that by making breakthroughs, she would get the strength to leave this place, but no matter how much she improved, all was for naught. She became a Saint Grandmaster comparable to a true Sage; even a bit stronger than Jam, in raw strength. But, the Sacred Domain kept her trapped as if she was nothing but a mortal.
A week prior, she was starting to get worried. Thinking that she would be stuck here forever, as none of her improvements showed results, and their group was scheduled to leave only two months after embarking on the pocket dimension. But even when faced with these dreary reality, she didn't give up. Instead she strived to become stronger faster…
Evangeline behaved nothing like she had in the past. She had abandoned all traces of laziness and arrogance from her achievements and took on what Jam would consider a regular training session. She wasted absolutely no time, either spending her time in the challenge areas of the Core Nexus, risking her life in epic battles with demonic beasts and constructs at the Sage Realm, or, she would be outside of the challenge zone, either meditating, recovering, or practicing spiritual cooking and artifact refining.
She had earned several dozen jade slips within the Core Nexus, and had legacies for pretty much all the secondary occupations. Evangeline trained in only spiritual cooking and refining so as to not waste too much time. Refining for the obvious benefits to her equipment; better equipment, meant a better chance to come out alive. As for Spiritual Cooking… she only chose it as opposed to alchemy so as to be more fit for the "wife material" classification. She was having these absurd thoughts while not at all sure if she would even leave this place in the first place; truly fitting for someone ridiculous enough to take Jam as a Dao Companion…
Spiritual Cooking was often looked down as being less noble a profession than Alchemy and Inscribing Talismans, but in reality all three were about equal. Where pills gained their advantage in cultivation, Inscriptions gained theirs in boosting attributes of combat. Finally, Spiritual Cooking was unparalleled in terms of healing. It could also accomplish the cultivation improving effects of pills, and the boosts of the talismans, but healing and restoration were its main strengths.
This was a discovery Evangeline made after reading up on the Dao of a famous Immortal Cook. Apart from making her a better "wife?" what she prioritized most of all was health and safety; both for herself and for Jam. It had already saved her from some nasty situations in the Core Nexus…
Now, before Jam, she was a fully fledged Tier 5 Refiner and Spiritual Cook. With her cultivation, she could sustain herself while creating Tier 6 artifacts and spiritual meals, but with the short time she had to practice, she couldn't leap to the heavens in a single step; it was already comparable to Jam for her to train two secondary occupations up to the fifth tier, any higher and even Jam might have to call bullshit on her!
Jam told her about his journey and even let everyone out of his Storage Dimension, like he originally intended to. Evangeline was surprised to see that everyone was back together, but she remained mostly quiet, so as to not insult and demean her "friends." She still hadn't changed that much with how she treated the other core disciples.
When everyone was caught up and ready to proceed, they looked to Xie Ming to make the call: would they go through the gates that Jam had magically unlocked, or would they pass through the challenging area first?