As I speed down the library steps, I really look at the surrounding area.
To my surprise, outside this behemoth of a building is a natural mountain jungle landscape, with smaller buildings positioned tastefully underneath the greenery.
The library's tannish gold and grey exterior contrasts its sharp lines and architecture features, while jungle plants add a touch of wildness to the small hills and cliffs it's built on. Appearing separate, but also connected to the structure itself.
The purpose of this is apparent. To reveal the natural landscape of the mountain that the sect was built upon and how the two can coexist.
That might explain the words of the guard when I first entered the library.
The connection between the mountain and the library, along with the creatures that protect it. And my growing understanding of their dynamics and position ties me closer to it.
It leads one to wonder.
Is this mountain alive?
But since I’m in a hurry to get to the hospital, I don’t mull on things I can’t yet investigate further into.
From the steps, I sprint across a bridge over a slow river and toward a more normal city landscape. With moderately dense landscape and much less flora. Immediately across the bridge is a large important looking building, which I pass quickly to reach one of the main roads within the sect.
Like others I’ve seen along the inner court/city and outer ones, it has a large amount of road space with an equally large amount of foot traffic. If it requires transportation within the sect, it comes along one of these roads. And just like those, there is a fast traffic area, where cultivators speed along, positioned based on their relative speed.
Because of this, what would have taken me a day to reach the hospital, running through urban sprawls, is made much easier by this system.
In only a few hours, I’m able to go off the main road and onto several other smaller ones, to finally reach the hospital.
The building before me, The Fortress of Healing, looks like a relatively normal, large Asian structure, in the style of other in the area. Upturned roofs, delicate and intricate detailing, as well as a sturdiness built out of its size and purpose.
Naturally, one may wonder why it is referred to as a fortress.
That’s because of the mountain base positioned directly in the back of the building.
On the other side of this building is a tunnel entrance that is strangely reminiscent of the Cheyenne Mountain bunker in the US, a nuclear device handling bunker.
But unlike that bunker, this one is meant to be an evacuation zone for the sect. Equipped with everything the sect would need to survive a full-on assault and retreat into the mountain, being the strongest defensible location. Capable of long-term housing, sustenance, and communication with allies.
Of course, this is besides its role as a hospital surplus area, in case of an emergency.
With that said, the main building in front of the tunnel system is what’s used for normal hospital operations. So, I shouldn’t need to worry about the underground areas for the sake of this contract.
But it is already getting late, and the sun is moving behind the mountain structure attached to the building, casting a long shadow over my path.
I don’t have a good feeling about this.
Not like I have a choice, though. There's too much to do, so I need to rush to get this done.
I cautiously step into the shadowed area before me, running through it and closer to the building. To my surprise, the area lights up just below a nighttime brightness.
This sect is all about light-based techniques. I should have known it wouldn’t be dark for long here. Though, it is strange that was dark at all, considering the pride of the sect.
My attention is quickly stolen away from this, though.
There’s a crowd of people entering the building, with others on the approach as well.
What seems absurd is that these people all seem to be quite wealthy. The rich merchants and nobles of the city, to be specific. The group is predominantly composed of elderly members, as well as a variety of other age groups. All of whom seem to have some problem or another.
However, this is strange. Despite this being a hospital, usually there would never be a line or crowd in front of the hospital. Adding to that is that people likely these could easily afford in-house care and experts.
There’s a sneaking suspicion of what’s happening, so I tune in a little closer to their words.
And as I listen in, I realize why they are all here.
“Move out of the way, you old coot! The healer is going to get here at any moment. And there’s no way I’m going to miss this because of you!”
“Hah?! Who are you calling an old coot, you bag? You think you are the only one that paid for those tips? Get back in line, you fool!”
Annnnd now they are fighting. Two old people. Looking to be healed and clearly had advanced notice that a major healer is coming.
I wonder who that healer could be…
Not only that, but the Patriarch seems to have benefited from it. Receiving money for spreading the information to people. That doesn’t include the amount they would need to pay to get healed here. Unless they are a sect member, of course.
Then they wouldn’t need to pay, unless it was a significant enough cost to require it.
But seeing that the information has already spread that I’m coming, I rush to the door to get this done with. As I can already see, some people from my ‘people that can’t be trusted’ list, that are in line.
I won’t be able to avoid healing my potential enemies.
However, as I approach, the group already there turns a scornful eye in my direction. It’s pretty obvious that I’m lower in cultivation than some of them, and I’m not exactly giving off the air of an expert right now.
This also tells me they haven’t received information on who the healer is or my characteristics (including the obvious one).
Something I correct, immediately.
Straightening my back and keeping my head up. Adjusting myself to create thousands of subtle cues, mirroring the demeanor of a higher ranked person.
I can see the instant change causes confusion in those originally looking to scold me, potentially for trying to steal a spot in line.
From my space storage, I pull out something Sister Nuan put in it for me and that my fellow sect members already received on their way into the Halls.
My disciple token.
This seemingly plain wooden slip is actually made of special wood with built-in protection and formations. All these measures are meant to prevent duplication and to identify it as my symbol.
Once I take it out, the look changes for all the people here. Even those with higher statuses have a different level of respect.
I walk up to the doors, and they open a path. Even if some want to say something, they hold back, since the curiosity of the situation is temporarily overriding their pride. And not only that, but there are some just inside the building entryway, that was funneling these groups.
There’s a middle-aged man, in standing the barrier room, which seems to segment the waiting area and the outside. A sort of temporary quarantine for identification.
As the man looks up at me.
“Ah. You must be the healer. Come in.”
He turns to open the door behind him.
Huh, that was easier than I thoug….
“What? There’s no way that kid barely into Qi Condensation is the healer we all came out here for!”
… it couldn’t be that easy, huh?