Book 1: Rise of the Cloud
Chapter 1: Bai Yunfei
Year 2008 of the Tianhun Calendar.
There was only one empire to the Tianhun Continent—the Tianhun Empire. In the Azure Cloud Province, dusk was falling upon Talus City.
“Whew! I can finally call it a day! Earned twenty-three copper coins today, that’s enough for one more steamed bun tonight…” Came the fatigued voice of a young man. Supported by the walls of a dark alleyway as he walked through it, this youngster had a hand rubbing at his aching shoulders. Tattered were his clothings and fatigued was his body, but he pressed on as he muttered to himself.
Bai Yunfei, an eighteen year old with a height of 1.75 meters. He had a simple short haircut, a nose bridge that stuck out from his quiet thin face, and eyes that were of a clear look. While not handsome, his face wasn’t exactly disagreeable with either. Thanks to his many years as an unskilled laborer, his back was bent like a bow whenever he walked so that he looked more submissive than he should. His body could actually be considered to be quite buff, but because he hadn’t eaten food for a long time, he looked more malnourished than healthy.
After a long hard day of work, all he wanted to do right now was to buy a few steamed buns so he could eat his fill and return back ‘home’. It was a broken-down hut where he lived by himself, but it was still his place to sleep for nine straight years.
Ever since he became capable of self-thought, Bai Yunfei had never once seen his father before. His mother and grandfather had never once told him anything about him either. At the tender age of five, Bai Yunfei’s mother passed away due to illness, leaving him and his aged grandfather to rely on each other for survival.
But alas! Misfortune did not see fit to leave Bai Yunfei’s family.
When setting up a stall to peddle his straw sandals, Bai Yunfei’s grandfather ended up ‘blocking’ the path of the son to a local noble, resulting in a brutal thrashing by the sons subordinates.
Not too long after that, he too, left Bai Yunfei.
In that year, Bai Yunfei was only nine years old.
Circumstances such as these were by no means a rare sight on the continent. Commoners—most especially those of the same ilk as Bai Yunfei’s family—had no land, no work, and had but only a small house so broken down that it was practically unlivable. In the eyes of the nobles and the rich, the lives of these ‘undesirables’ held no worth at all.
And so Bai Yunfei was left alone at the age of nine. Engraving the love of his mother and the benevolence of his grandfather into his heart, Bai Yunfei chose to grit his teeth and live on.
Begging piteously for two days and two nights, Bai Yunfei managed to secure a job as a porter at a large-scale rice store. But this was not all due to the kindheartedness of the store owner—he had never once given even half a copper more to Bai Yunfei. When he first started out, Bai Yunfei was only capable of earning a scant few copper coins a day.
There came many times where Bai Yunfei felt that he could not take it anymore. Every night, he would huddle in his dilapidated hut and cry to himself while the wind blew through the place. But with each time he cried, he’d fall asleep and dream of his kindly grandfather patting at his head while weaving yet another pair of sandals and teaching him how to read.
His mother would appear in those dreams too. Embracing Bai Yunfei to her chest, she would point up to the clouds for Bai Yunfei to see, “One day, when my little Yunfei grows up, he will be like a white cloud in the sky. Floating freely under the skies without worry….”
The morning after, he would wipe away the tears and grit his teeth to continue moving the extremely heavy sacks of rice.
Nine years went on in this fashion.
In these nine years, Bai Yunfei experienced the entire spectrum of human nature and understood just how bleak the world was. But all he could do each and every day was to work hard and rely on himself to survive, no matter how lowly it was.
There were actually many commoners like him stuck at the bottom rungs to the social ladder. But because of the pressures of life, many of them chose to involve themselves in the shadier side of life. Bai Yunfei had never followed their example however. Each copper he earned. Each grain he ate. Everything was earned from the step by step work he put into his job as a rice porter.
He had once promised his grandfather after all. “Live life with a clear conscience.”
Many people had scoffed at Bai Yunfei’s dedication to his grandfather’s words however. “A clear conscience? Don’t make me laugh. In this cruel world, a clear conscience isn’t even worth a fart!”
And yet, Bai Yunfei had never cared to listen to them. Staunch and resolute in the way he lived these past nine years by himself, Bai Yunfei would live a life with a clear conscience.
No matter how meager his status became. No matter how lowly his job was. And no matter how impoverished he became. He would live as his grandfather told him to.
“Compared to before, my body’s a lot stronger now. If I can just carry a few more sacks of rice every day, I should be able to earn a few more coins and repair mom’s and grandpa’s graves….” Bai Yunfei thought to himself as he walked. Jingling the coins in his robes, Bai Yunfei decided to speed up his walking pace. The sooner he got out of the alleyway, the sooner he could buy some steamed buns. And the sooner he bought some steam buns, the sooner he could go home.
But just at the moment when he bowed his head to walk forward, a fissure in the skies above suddenly opened up above him! Several wisps of black mist came pouring out from the fissure, and just seemingly, there looked like there was a small book bundled in the mist...
Whether it was by accident or by design, the balls of black mist came down towards Bai Yunfei. And in no time at all, it had merged with his body.
Bai Yunfei’s mind went blank. Shortly afterwards, he lost consciousness and tumbled to the ground.
When his body fell to the ground, a transparent ball of air came flying out from the not-yet closed rift towards Bai Yunfei as well. But instead of entering his body like the black mist did, it covered his entire body instead.
Every plane of existence had their own laws on existence. Whenever one plane attempted to invade another plane of existence, the laws to that plane would reject it and try to destroy it.
If it were able to break into the world, then the laws of the world would assimilate it into itself!
These soul fragments and book that already entered Bai Yunfei’s body. They were already starting to fuse together with him. After the pursuing laws to this plane of existence surrounded Bai Yunfei’s body, it managed to destroy whatever fragments that did not yet fuse with Bai Yunfei before disappearing into the world as if it never existed to begin with.
On the ground, Bai Yunfei would look as if nothing was happening and that he was only just sleeping.
Roughly ten minutes passed by before Bai Yunfei’s body started to move. Sitting upright, Bai Yunfei looked confused, and his eyes were still unfocused. Clearly, he hadn’t yet completely regained his wits.
Dazed for a little longer, Bai Yunfei managed to prop himself up with the wall with one hand while using the other hand to gently slap at his head. He was muttering to himself, but it seemed as if he was talking to someone else.
“I’m Tang Long….No, I’m Bai Yunfei….”
“I came from Earth….no….I’m from the Tianhun Continent….”
“I’m a dimension traveler….I’m a commoner of Talus City…”
“Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen….”
“Have to save money to repair mom and grandpa’s graves….”
These soul fragments had no consciousness, but they were still formed of the broken fragments that were memories. After they fused with Bai Yunfei, his own memory was sent into a flux for the time being.
Staggering onto the main streets with a teetering body, Bai Yunfei was actually moving based on autonomous action only. His consciousness was a complete blur right now, and he couldn’t even tell just what he was doing at all….
Some time before, the streets were crawling with activity as the common people went to and from on it. But now, everyone was stepping to the side almost religiously as a group of men came walking from the direction of the eastern gates of the city.
Leading this group at the very front was an elegant-looking young man draped in excellent clothing. His eyebrows were sharp like a sword and his eyes were bright like if they were stars. His hair was tied nicely behind his back, and the fan in his hands waved a refreshingly nice breeze at his face as he pointed at the shops on the side of the streets to the person next to him. Occasionally, his lips would curl into a smile, and it seemed as if he was introducing something to his companion in a lax but frivolous manner.
The person by his side was a long-haired young woman dressed in a light-blue robe made of expensive material. She had a slim physique and a fair-white complexion, red lips and a jade-white nose. Her eyes—wide-eyed in interest—followed the young man’s finger around the streets.
From behind these two, there was a more burly-looking middle-aged man with his hands clasped behind his back. Walking slow enough to be behind the two youths, a hint of a smile could be seen on his face as he looked at the two.
Two men dressed up as bodyguards hung by his side with a sword fitted at their waists. Their walking patterns were random, but every so often, their eyes would sweep across the crowd. Anyone that met their gaze would immediately turn their heads with a mixture of fear and respect.
After them came a group of men dressed up as servants. Each one of them carried a large box of seemingly hefty weight. But despite the weight, the servants walked with an easy step, meaning that they were considerably strong as well.
They were the most influential family of Talus City, the house of Zhang. Not only did they control more than half of the businesses in Talus City, they were also a family of soul cultivators. In the greater picture that was the Tianhun Continent, the Zhang weren’t of any importance. But in the local area of Talus City, even the lord mayor would have to show some consideration for them.
When the lord and heir apparent to the house of Zhang walked down the road, no commoner would dare stand in their way.
“Little sister Meng’er, how unexpected it was for me to see you show up in Talus City with my father. You should’ve sent some news ahead of time so I could arrange for some more interesting things to be shown to your heart's content….” The young man smiled gently at the young woman. This man was the heir apparent to the house of Zhang, Zhang Yang.
The young woman known as Meng’er showed no outerly expression at Zhang Yang’s flattery however. Reciprocating in conversation with a simple phrase, she spoke, “I just so happened to come across uncle Zhang when I was sightseeing Cathaya City. Since it was convenient, I came with him to meet aunty, there’s no need to prepare anything. I’ll be leaving in a few days, so there’s no need to do anything special.” The young woman’s eyebrows knitted together at her last words as if remembering something, “Also. Don’t call me Meng’er. I’m not your sister either. Call me by my actual name, Liu Meng.”
Despite the cold indifference in Liu Meng’s voice, Zhang Ye wasn’t discouraged. “Haha, little sister Meng’er, what are you saying? You of all people should know what the elders of our families are planning on, we’re goi—”
“I don’t want to even think about anything else right now. The only reason why I’m even sightseeing right now is because I can’t make the breakthrough to become a middle-stage Soul Warrior. I just wanted to clear my head for a while before I go back and focus again on my training without interference.” Liu Meng interrupted him.
“Wha—you’ve already reached the middle-stage Soul Warrior?! I remember when we once broke through to the Soul Personage stage at the same time! It was only a year ago. I’m a middle-stage Soul Personage now, but you’ve already improved that much!” This time, Zhang Yang didn’t bother to continue to fawn over Liu Meng so shamelessly as he was before. Instead, he could really only let out a gasp in shock.
A look of scorn for Zhang Yang flashed across her eyes at that. Looking away to glance at the side of the street, she opened her mouth to speak, “I’m not like some people who just idle about everyday.”
“Errr…..” Zhang Yang felt rather embarrassed by her words. Abandoning this line of conversation, Zhang Yang then looked up with a smile and pointed to a nearby street stall, “Little sist—ah—I mean, Liu Meng. There’s a stall selling some tanghulu over there, plenty of girls love to eat this! Since you’ve been focusing on your training, I’m sure you don’t get to eat this a lot, do you? Let me get you a skewer!”
Striding straight on over after speaking, Zhang Yang took a skewer of tanghulu before walking back to Liu Meng’s side. Despite the theft, the vendor was unwilling to look discontent; instead, the vendor managed to force out an ingratiating smile onto his aged face….
Curiously, Liu Meng took what was offered to her and gave it a look over. A pink tongue extended forth from her lips to lick at the frosting over it, eliciting a smile to appear on her lips. Her smile was so rare to Zhang Yang—like a plum blossom in the winter—he couldn’t help but stare at her a little more from the side.
And so the group continued to travel through the city’s center with Zhang Yang continuing to buy several knickknacks and playthings from here and there for Liu Meng’s pleasure. All of it was done in hope of winning yet another beautiful smile from her.
They had only just passed by one of the more shadier alleyways when a rather absent-minded but shabbily-clothed young man came stumbling out of it. Muttering incoherently to himself in a nonstop fashion, the youth seemed as if he hadn’t even noticed the group of people on the streets. In this manner, he continued to stumble forwards, when all of a sudden, he slammed straight into Liu Meng!
The appearance of this youth was very sudden, and Liu Meng had been at that time preoccupied with Zhang Yang’s introducing her to a satin store nearby. She hadn’t expected to have someone come crashing into her, and due to Bai Yunfei’s state of confusion, there was no ‘intent’ to collide with her. Because of that lack of intent, she was unable to sense it as a soul cultivator, thus resulting in the two of them falling to the ground.
All Bai Yunfei could feel at that one moment was a huge headache. All sorts of information was flowing through his head nonstop, and even now, he wasn’t even sure where he was.
Suddenly, Bai Yunfei felt his body collide into something before the sensation of falling down came rushing up to him. After that, he could feel himself falling onto something soft and a delicate fragrance trickling into his nose….
It wasn’t sure whether it was the collision, the fall, the landing, or the fragrance that snapped Bai Yunfei back to awareness, but whatever it was, it allowed him to regain control of his body.
Although he wasn’t quite back to full awareness just yet.
Shaking his head, Bai Yunfei stood back up to his feet before finally being aware of the situation—
—A blue-robed young woman sat in front of him on the ground. Stupefied, her delicate face was tilted upwards towards him, but not a single word came out from her mouth.
“Er….miss, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to run into you, are you alright?” Connecting the dots, Bai Yunfei realized that he had to have run into her and scrambled to apologize.
Stooping his back to reach out and pull at her pale-white wrist, Bai Yunfei helped her to her feet with a very natural sequence of motion.
It was then that Bai Yunfei noticed the tanghulu discarded to the ground. Embarrassed, Bai Yunfei scratched his head sheepishly and looked left and right—only to catch sight of the tanghulu vendor to the side.
For the sake of pleasing Liu Meng, Zhang Yang had ordered the vendor to accompany them.
Running on over, Bai Yunfei fished out a single copper coin and handed to the vendor before coming back with a tanghulu.
“Miss, here’s a tanghulu as compensation. I hope that you’ll forgive me, I really didn—”
“Bang!” Before Bai Yunfei could even finish speaking, something powerful struck at his left waist. There was a flash of pain, and then Bai Yunfei was flung away to the side of the street!
The right leg of Zhang Yang slowly fell back to stand down on the ground. His entire body was shaking with indignation, and his face was malevolent in expression, marking a stark contrast with the easygoing young nobleman he was before.
Glaring at Bai Yunfei, Zhang Yang’s eyes had a very distinct aura of killing intent to them.
“You lowly plebeian! How dare you mistreat my Meng’er! I’ll...I’ll have you put to death!”