Chapter 5: The World on the Other Side
One month passed after another as he made his way through the forest. Seasons came and seasons went and a year passed in the blink of an eye.
Xu Min spent his time practicing his cultivation according to the instructions he had been given by Overseer Tian and his body quickly regained the healthy state it had been in before.
The long time spent atop the tree waiting for mercenaries and guards to give up hunting him caused Xu Min to lose a lot of weight and his cultivation base dropped below the Student Warrior rank once more. Xu Min showed no signs of regret or despair though. Instead, he now had an iron will and determination that shone from his charcoal-black eyes as he viewed his current state as a new beginning.
Xu Min was all alone. His parents sold him at a young age and his sister was murdered right in front of his eyes. Although he had an amazing talent for cultivation, this young boy had not been capable of saving his only family. Thus, guilt and hate were the two emotions that now drove Xu Min.
The only thing within his mind, that was only suppressed by a small voice of reason that kept telling him to wait and endure, was revenge.
After having trained in the forest for three months, Xu Min had regained his Student Warrior rank and with that, the ability to kill young master Zhong. However, killing young master Zhong was not enough for the young boy. He clenched his teeth as he kept training harder and harder. His goal was to defeat Family Leader Zhong, a full-fledged Warrior.
In this world, strength was what mattered. Everyone was divided into ranks by how strong they were.
The lowest tier were those who did not possess any Qi. They did not even deserve a proper rank and were just commoners. As soon as a person had gathered enough essence from the heavens and the earth, he or she could start refining Qi. Those who reached the point of being able to refine Qi were called Student Warriors. Above that, one would become a proper Warrior, a master of the martial arts.
The Warrior rank was split into stars. Warriors of the first, second and third star were considered early stage Warriors. Warriors of the fourth, fifth and sixth star were considered mid stage warriors, and late stage Warriors were the Warriors of the seventh, eighth and ninth star. Family Leader Zhong was a late stage Warrior and his strength was many thousand times stronger than that of a Student Warrior. This fact caused Xu Min to clench his fists and work even harder to be able to defeat the Zhong Family Leader someday. Even if he had to wait for years, this was an enmity that would never be resolved until one of them was dead.
The step between a Student Warrior and a real Warrior was as great as the difference between the heavens and the earth. A difference that could only be covered after many years of hard work and cultivation. Hard work did not scare the young boy; instead, he welcomed it. He welcomed anything which would keep his mind busy; if not, he feared that he would go insane.
As Xu Min made his way through the forest, he trained three things. The first was his breathing exercises, that allowed him to absorb the essence of the heavens and the earth, which he then refined into Qi.
The second thing he improved was his physical strength. Every day he would train his body with various physical exercises that Overseer Tian had taught him. As the old man had said, “The body is a tool that we rely on to use our inner energy. The stronger the energy, the stronger the tool must be. If you release too much energy, your body cannot withstand it and you will end up breaking yourself.”
Although Xu Min still felt a tinge of pain in his heart every time he thought about Overseer Tian, he was perfectly well aware of how much information he was given. He had all the tools necessary for him to become a great cultivator, thanks to the amount of time that Overseer Tian had spent on teaching him.
The final thing which Xu Min trained within the forest was the Shattering Palm Stance. The Shattering Palm was a martial art skill, one of the few which Xu Min had ever seen. Its strength was limitless. It completely depended on how proficient the cultivator was.
The Shattering Palm Stance was a technique that created a massive palm-shaped Qi strike, but since the students who had been taught the stance were not Student Warriors, much less real Warriors, none of them were capable of creating this palm strike from their inner energy. Instead, they were taught the stance itself, along with an explanation of the meridians and points in the body that the Qi needed to travel through to activate.
Having trained the stance for more than a year now, Xu Min finally managed to create a transparent palm the size of his head. Although this seemed like a relatively small palm, it felt like a great success for the young boy.
Approximately two years had gone by when Xu Min finally saw a clearing ahead of him. Great shock filled his face as he saw that the landscape no longer had trees as far as his eyes could see.
Instead, right in front of him was a large field of grass stretching as far as his eyes could see. By now, Xu Min was a Student Warrior with good strength and his body was filled with lean muscles. His shattering palm strike was now strong enough to be a threat to any Student Warrior.
Seeing the open plains in front of him, Xu Min’s eyes widened. Although he had gone through a lot and he had matured immensely, he was, after all, only a ten year old boy and seeing the plains in front of him was something he could have never imagined.
He came from a small valley that was hidden between large forests and tall mountains; every bit of soil was used for agriculture, which was a huge difference from what he now saw in front of him. It was a wilderness, but another kind of wilderness than the one he had been in so far.
Although Xu Min was deeply shocked, he only needed to take a deep breath once or twice before he started walking towards the plains, leaving the safety of the forest behind.
Xu Min brought nothing with him when he escaped from the Zhong family residence. Throughout the years, he had managed to hunt down several animals, especially because his skill using the Shattering Palm improved, and he had used their hides to create a small bag to fill with berries, dried meat and other necessities.
Some of the hides were tanned and made into leather and fur clothes for the young boy. The young boy’s time in the forest had taught him how to be self-sufficient.
Xu Min was now fully able to live on his own without having to rely on other people. There was one more item in his backpack aside from berries and other food. It was a smaller bag which was filled with all the medicinal herbs that Xu Min had found while traveling in the forest.
Some of the herbs he found were used to increase his cultivation rate, but most of them were packed away because Xu Min knew that he needed money. The easiest way to earn money would be to sell valuables, but the small boy had none of those. This was why he fought off the temptation to use all the healing flowers with beneficial effects on himself.
With determined steps, Xu Min set off towards the horizon, and it did not take long before he saw some large city walls in the distance. The walls alone were so tall that they hid everything behind them perfectly. Smaller villages were spread out near the wall itself. Agriculture appeared once more, causing Xu Min to feel slightly at home.
Xu Min’s plan was to enter a city and somehow find a place where he could train himself faster than he had done so far. He had learned to persist, as he knew that he was still far too weak. Because of this, he endured the hate that never fully let go of his heart. As he stared at the massive city many times bigger than Xu Min’s hometown, he assumed that there would be teachers of the same or better quality as Overseer Tian.
As he slowly inched closer and closer to the city, Xu Min quickly found that although the city was visible on the horizon, the trip to get there was many times longer than what he expected. The night quickly descended upon him, forcing him to set up camp. He would rather camp outside than go to an inn.
Although he had no money, he was certain that some innkeeper would trade a warm bed and a bowl of stew for one of his medicinal herbs; however, the stew and the bed were something which Xu Min could only dream about as he picked up some dried meat from his bag and started chewing upon it as he looked all around him with alert eyes.
The last two years, Xu Min had done everything he could to avoid humans. During this time, he had not spoken even once, out of fear of attracting someone to his location. His avoidance grew so severe that he even refused to follow animal trails, forcing himself to make his own path through the thickest parts of the forest by relying on his Shattering Palm.
It was fortunate that the forest was a rather safe area and not one of those forests that were overrun with demon beasts, but even so, Xu Min would rather run into a demon beast than a human; he feared that all humans within the forest were there for the sake of killing him.
A slight fear crept into his heart when he thought about entering the city. However, with a determined shake of his head, Xu Min ordered himself to get some rest as he would continue onward the following day. Even if the city was daunting and slightly scary, it was a necessary step towards defeating the Zhong Family Leader.
As he slept, the young boy once more relived the nightmare which happened years before where his sister died in his arms.
As the moon descended and the first rays of sunshine started to shine upon the grassy plains, Xu Min woke up. His cheeks were tear-stained and his heart was beating erratically. Dark eyebags were visible on his face and his fists were clenched so hard that blood was dripping from his palms.
Xu Min sat up, sighing deeply. Although he wished to reach the city early, he did not rush; instead, he entered meditation. As soon as his eyes closed, he descended into a trance-like state and small specks of golden light started surrounding him. Some of these specks were inhaled while others were exhaled.
Seated still in this position in the middle of the plains, Xu Min spent a couple of hours completely in a trance as he absorbed the essence of the heavens and the earth and refined it into Qi in his dantian.
After a couple of hours, Xu Min finally opened his eyes and the golden specks in the air slowly disintegrated, vanishing into nothingness as a satisfied smile appeared on Xu Min’s face.
Standing up, Xu Min started to train his body, going through the various muscle training exercises that Overseer Tian had taught him once again. After training his physique for a couple of hours, he finally took a specific stance, closed his eyes, and released the Qi from his dantian throughout his body and allowed it to rush through his meridians. A white colored palm appeared in front of him. With a satisfied smile, Xu Min dismissed the hand before he raised his head, looking at the city in front of him, and slowly started making his way towards the city in the distance.