Monday morning, Lex arrived at Marlo's apartment bright and early. He lived in a penthouse in downtown Manhattan, so it was easy to find. They were all supposed to gather here and then travel together to the location for their next training session. It had to do with surviving in the wild, or something of vaguely that nature as Marlo had not been specific with the details. Lex, however, arrived an hour earlier than the designated time, as he wanted to talk with Marlo alone before the other arrived.
Lex was let in by someone he could only assume to be a butler, and escorted to where Marlo was resting. He found Marlo sitting comfortably in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, with his eyes closed, his feet in a bucket of what Lex could only assume was some kind of elixir and having his temples rubbed by a rather beautiful woman. She was an older lady, clearly, but her flawless skin and indifferent temperament made it difficult for Lex to guess her age. Could this be Marlo's wife?
"You're early. I'm assuming that's on purpose?" Marlo asked, though he still kept his eyes closed. His tone and voice were rather normal, which was something Lex was completely not used to, but he did not let this fool him into thinking the giant would not switch to his excitable personality at a moment's notice. He still had to be careful about what he said.
"Yes, there were a couple of things I needed to talk to you about." He glanced at the lady massaging him, wondering if it was okay to talk in front of a stranger, but she did not seem like she was going anywhere.
"Don't be shy," Marlo said when he noticed Lex pausing. "This is my foster mother, she's treating an old wound of mine. You can say what you want in front of her, trust me, she doesn't care."
The woman continued with her massage, completely indifferent to being talked about, as if to prove Marlo's point. Lex was shocked. Marlo was already in his 60s, something Lex knew from when Marlo introduced himself, yet his mother didn't look old at all. In fact, Marlo, despite looking very fit and energetic, looked like the older one of the two.
Lex suppressed his surprise and focused back on the matter at hand. "I need some kind of a weapon, something I can use in case I encounter some trouble, and I need it today."
"Oh?" Marlo exclaimed in an amused tone. "Expecting some kind of trouble, are we? That was quicker than I expected, if I'm being honest. When I saw how committed you were to taking a beating in our first class, I had a feeling you'd be interesting. It's rare to see someone so committed without adequate motivation spurring them."
Marlo paused for a moment, as if in thought, but then continued, "Getting a weapon shouldn't be a problem, it all depends on your budget. That's the great thing about America, eh? It's as if people will almost be offended if you don't buy a weapon every now and then. What are you thinking? A gun? A dagger? A rocket launcher?" Marlo's casualness while discussing such matters brought a new kind of pressure on Lex. This guy was way too cool, right? Selling a rocket launcher as soon as someone asked for a weapon?
"A blade, or something quiet, and that won't attract too much attention. While you're at it, some discrete body armor would also be nice if it's available."
"Anything else? Tactical equipment of some kind? Night Vision goggles?"
"No, no, that's enough. Furthermore, I might not be able to make it to the next class. Although it's unlikely, I thought I should give you a heads up anyway, in case I'm not able to make it back in time."
Marlo chuckled, as if Lex had told him a great joke.
"I'll keep that in mind. I'll be looking forward to your return. It's always disappointing when a student disappears, especially an entertaining one."
Lex could almost hear the excitement in Marlo's voice being suppressed. It was clear the giant wanted to burst into his trademark laughter but was keeping himself from doing so. It seemed no matter the age, everyone had to behave in front of their mothers.
Tuesday, Lex found himself resting in a lawn chair at the Inn with Velma, serving him breakfast early in the morning. The food at the Inn really was better than getting home delivery, Lex had discovered, and he enjoyed it every opportunity he got. Occasionally he would still crave the junk food from Earth, and though that could also be made by Velma, there was just something special about home delivery.
That was not the focus, though, for now. Right now, Lex was waiting for the System's notification that he could reuse the Golden Ticket. He was dressed in a tracksuit with a synthetic spirit armor under his shirt, and next to him was his backpack. Strapped to his left leg was a military knife with a spirit formation engraved into it that would allow it to heat up when used, making it easier for it to pierce and slice through things.
The knife cost him a heavy $30,000, but that was nothing compared to the $400,000 that the armor cost. The armor could block basic attacks from an early Qi training cultivator, and was great at blocking sharp attacks below that level. He also kept enough rations to survive for a week. Just to be safe, he also bought himself two bottles of Botlam Dew, in case he got injured. Those he left in the System inventory, as they could be stored there. He had already put on the Bathroom Slippers, the item that would protect him from environmental damage when traveling to a new planet in case he forgot to equip it when he left. His Fancy Monocle had its database further updated using the Bluebird Portal, and he had already equipped that as well. This would be the first time he would be traveling to another world, he would take all the precautions necessary.
Finally, after a few hours, he received a System Notification:
Host can now use the Golden Ticket!
Instantly, a Golden Ticket appeared in his hand and, after appreciating its beauty for a moment, he tore it. Similar to the last time, the pieces started to shine and disappear, but different from last time a panel appeared in front of him with two names on it.
Planet: Vagus Minima
Planet Rating: 1 Star
Planet Distance: 3 Sectors
Planet Environment: Similar to Earth
Planet Rating: 3 Stars
Planet Distance: 2 Sectors
Planet Environment: Extremely hot!
Planet Rating: 0.8 Stars
Planet Distance: 0 Sectors
Planet Environment: Being from Earth, if you still need to read this, then you should give up the System and eat tofu at home
Lex's lips twitched. The System could never let a serious matter stay serious. But he ignored the comment and asked Mary, "What is this star rating?"
"The star rating is the cultivation environment on the planet. Earth's environment has been damaged greatly for some reason and now can only allow cultivators up to a certain level to grow. A 1 star rating is the average star rating for a planet, while a 3 star rating means that the planet accommodates certain biomes that contain extremely precious materials that can be considered rare treasures. It also has a higher average spirit level and can allow cultivators to grow to a higher level. For reference, the star level of the Inn is at 1 star currently."
Lex nodded. Currently he could not sense spirit energy so he could not compare, but he did always feel the environment at the Inn was better than on Earth. He returned his attention to the list and looked at his options. The decision seemed pretty easy for now. Choosing Helios seemed dangerous, not only because of the environment but also because he was more likely to encounter higher leveled cultivators ergo he would encounter more danger.
Without any further hesitation, he put on his backpack and decisively selected Vagus Minima. He was enveloped in a bright, warm light and then disappeared. When he reappeared, he found himself on a small hill with dark clouds covering the sky, so he couldn't really see much. The weather, although a little windy, seemed normal, and the air was fresh. It seemed he wouldn't need the Bathroom Slippers.
While he was looking at his environment and taking everything, his Fancy Monocle instantly flashed "Warning!" in big bright letters.
"Threat identified! Exact species: Unknown! Closest identifiable match: Zombies!"
"WHAT?!" blurted Lex, but before he had time to process what the Fancy Monocle told him, a swarm of zombies appeared before him! They were heading straight for him, and their numbers were not low!