Chapter 1: Servant Boy
The gentle sound of singing birds could be heard through the rough, broken door as the first rays of sunshine shone through the cracks, waking up both brother and sister.
Although Xu Min ate the Thousand Jade Flower the night before, it was not enough to fully heal the serious wound on his side, and the bruise left behind by the wound was even more colourful this morning than it had been the night before.
Not only was there a bruise on his side, one had spread across his face as well, and one of his eyes was completely closed due to the swelling around it.
Although the bruises looked terrible, Xu Min did not feel a lot of pain, and the majority of his body was in a better condition than it had been in a long time. Seeing the degree to which the herb had helped him, Xu Min finally understood just how the Zhong family managed to maintain their position as the richest family in the city.
Spending no more time thinking about it, Xu Min went on with his daily chores. He went out to pick up some branches which he could use the following evening to keep the fire alive. After finishing the task, he went to the nearby stream where he washed himself. Upon grazing the bruises, Xu Min would grimace from the sharp pain.
Seeing that her brother was doing much better, Xu Wu smiled before she changed her clothes and rushed towards the main house. Unlike her brother, the majority of her work was to deal with the laundry and changing of the beddings at the main house every day. All her work had to be done during the morning and the early noon.
As he saw his sister head off, Xu Min felt immense gratitude towards her. She had raised him from infancy and even now, she treated him as though he was her own child rather than her brother. She was now a beautiful young woman whom many of the male servants were courting, yet Xu Wu showed no interest in anything besides looking after her baby brother.
This in turn, had caused many servants to either try to befriend the young man for the sake of winning Xu Wu’s heart, or to threaten him to become more independent so that they had a chance. Seeing that all these servants approached him with ulterior motives, Xu Min had a very hard time trusting anyone, because he never knew the reason behind why they kept approaching him.
This had, in turn, caused Xu Min to become a loner. During the earlier days when most of the servant boys who trained to become Warriors would play along with each other, Xu Min would rather be on his own and spend his time on cultivating more Qi – cultivating to become a Warrior.
After he finished his bath, Xu Min quickly dried himself and found his clothes before he sat down on the riverside, crossing his legs and placing his hands on his lap, before he slowly closed his eyes and started breathing steadily. At first, nothing seemed to be amiss. However, small ripples of energy started to emerge from the body of the young boy followed by a suction force dragging in what seemed to be air from the surroundings.
With each intake of breath, the ordinary air seemed to enter Xu Min’s body, and upon exiting, small specs of golden energy could be seen.
The boy seemed very relaxed as the minutes turned into hours, and it wasn’t until the sun stood high in the sky before he finally opened his eyes, with golden specks of energy visible in his black eyes. He exhaled deeply before slowly making his way to where his sister had gone hours before.
But unlike Xu Wu, Xu Min went towards the training grounds where all young men of the family, servants and nobility alike, were taught how to cultivate.
The training ground was a large area that was placed behind the Zhong family residence. The Zhong family residence was located at the outskirts of their small town, as it needed quite a lot of space for its many herb fields. In one of these fields, no herbs were planted; instead, it was used by men as a place to train.
“Oh little Min, it looks like the young master got the better of you last night,” The voice came from behind him, and as Xu Min turned around, he came face to face with a large and burly man whose face was scarred by fire, making him seem mean and unapproachable.
However, as soon as Xu Min saw the man, a large smile appeared on his face and the young boy jumped into the embrace of the burly looking man, hugging him affectionately as though he was a small child who had just seen his parent after a long time.
“Overseer Tian!” Xu Min said with excited voice as the man returned the hug. However, a worried expression could be seen on the older man’s face when he saw the swollen eye and discolored skin.
Releasing a humming sound, the elder managed to release himself from the hug before he gently patted the head of the young boy, sighing once again as he saw the dark bruises that were littered all about the young boy’s body.
Following side by side, the grown man and the small boy made their way towards the training grounds where a sea of young children was standing in small groups, chatting and playing while waiting for Overseer Tian to appear.
“Line up!” The Overseer’s voice boomed out and all the children immediately took off their shirts before they lined up in front of him. “Today, we will be practising the Shattering Palm technique. First, you need to place your right foot in front of the other, like this,” The voice roared out as Overseer Tian started to describe and act out the stance that the children were to learn.
The Overseer’s eyes swept across the group of children, hesitating slightly on Xu Min as he saw the bruise on his chest. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to move on to alternately observe every child on the field.
After showing the proper stance, Overseer Tian started walking around, constantly correcting one student after another. His eyes were firm and filled with tenderness while dealing with some kids, but scornful when dealing with others.
Looking around, the eyes of Overseer Tian turned kind as soon as they landed on Xu Min. Although the boy’s body was filled with bruises, he worked harder than anyone. Sweat was gushing down his body because he was holding the exact pose that Overseer Tian had taught them earlier.
All the children were working hard, but many of them were on the verge of collapsing; their faces were twisted in pain from enduring in the same position for a long period of time and sweat trickled down in streams from their bodies.
Seeing this, Overseer Tian suddenly stopped and shouted loudly. His voice rang through the fields as every child listening to his voice was filled with amazement, completely forgetting the pain they were in from holding the position.
“Listen you youngsters! You are not just training to become guards, you are training to become Warriors! You are training to become cultivators! Look at the young master and Xu Min – both are already Student Warriors! They are soon going to step into the world of cultivators! They are both going to become real Warriors!”
A smile adorned Overseer Tian’s face as he saw how everyone around him focused on himself and the two youngsters. The many black eyes were filled with astonishment as they looked from the young master to Xu Min and from Xu Min back onto Overseer Tian. Smiling like this, the overseer continued with his speech.
“To become a Student Warrior is the first true step to become a real cultivator! After the Student Warriors are the real Warriors! To become a real Warrior, you need to work hard!”
“The Warriors are divided into nine stars: the first three stars are for the early stage warriors, then we have the next three stars for the middle stage warriors and finally, when you all manage to get through these stars, you will finally be capable of becoming an advanced stage warrior much like the Zhong family leader!”
“Train hard and become Student Warriors! When you are a Student Warrior, you need to train more to become a real Warrior, and as a real Warrior, you will bring fame and wealth to your families!”
After hearing these motivating words, every boy in the field was filled with veneration. The two young boys were both eight years old, both of them were only children, but at the same time, both of them were working hard to become Warriors even though neither of them was close to that goal.
Seeing the two young boys work hard, looks of determination filled the eyes of all other children and they gritted their teeth as they attempted to persevere, an act that caused Overseer Tian to smile with satisfaction.
While the young master was taken in by being in the spotlight in front of all his peers, Xu Min paid no attention to anything that was being said, focusing solely on training instead. Overseer Tian was astonished when he looked at the Xu Min’s impassiveness and concentration.
The entire air around the boy was filled with golden specks and his entire focus was given to training – nothing else seemed to matter to the young boy. This was what true talent and hard work looked like.
Watching this young boy for some time, Overseer Tian hoped that the young boy would be capable of reaching the rank of a one star Warrior by the time he was twenty years old. Although twelve years seemed to be quite a long time, it was not that long for cultivators.
A Student Warrior was one who had managed to successfully refine the essence of the heavens and the earth, however it was not enough to truly be a warrior. To be a warrior of the first star, one needed to refine a decent amount of Qi, which was why it usually took about twenty years of training to reach the the rank of a first star Warrior.
Because the path to becoming a warrior was quite difficult and strenuous, Warriors were venerated throughout the land. Even one star Warriors were far above the commoners who did not cultivate. The moment one reached the first star Warrior rank, one would have an average lifespan of three hundred years, and as one reached the second star, another hundred years were added and so on. This would continue in a pattern of adding a hundred years of longevity until the ninth star Warrior. Upon reaching that rank, one became unable to die from old age and they were often referred to as immortals.
Sighing, Overseer Tian stopped thinking about when Xu Min would reach the Warrior rank, and looked at the many children who were currently training instead. Although his speech had made them more motivated and determined, many of the students were unable to keep maintaining their stances and gave up one after another. In contrast, Xu Min continued training the exact pose with his eyes full of determination. Only after most of the children gave up did Xu Min finally give in too and allowed his tired body to collapse on the ground.
Looking around, only a few boys who were around three to four years older than him were still standing strong, their teeth gritted with determination since they were dead set on being the last man standing.
Glancing behind him, Xu Min saw how the young master and his friends were looking at him with eyes filled with hate and anger. The young master swept his hand in a cutting-like fashion across his throat as his eyes locked on to Xu Min, telling him that the young boy was in for a world of pain afterwards.