Chapter 1: Qing-Yun Sect
“Sir… please, I beg of you! Please take me in…
My clan was once extremely prosperous, but — those wretched evil framed and murdered all three hundred members of my clansmen.
My slave and I were the only survivors from the catastrophe. We had nowhere to go, until we heard about [Qing-Yun Sect] and how wonderful it was. We’ve begged and scourged our way to your door steps.
Please show this one mercy. I will prove my worth if you take me in!”
The [Qing-Yun Sect] stood over one of the world’s nine Great Spirit veins in the [Nan-Zhan Province] of the almighty [Chufung Kingdom]. Hundreds and thousands of youths could be seen lined up eagerly waiting to be questioned by a plump Taoist. And in front of the line was a young boy around the age of 10. His face covered in dirt and tears yet his watery eyes shone brightly through his muddy face.
“Do you have any recommendation letter?” Asked the plump Taoist impatiently.
“No…” The boy embarrassedly answered.
“How about any jewels?”
“What about any special innate powers or talents?”
“No letter means you’re insignificant. No jewels means you’re poor. And no talent? Then you’re just worthless.” The questioning ended in just a few seconds before the furious Taoist kicked the boy down the flights of stairs.
The Taoist screamed at him angrily, “What is a loser like you doing here? How dare you even want to learn from the great [Qing-Yun Sect]? This is not a charity! Leave!”
A cacophony of laughter burst from the long line behind the boy. Everyone who laughed thought the same: ‘Penniless but wanting to join the [Qing-Yun Sect]? What a joke!’
After all, the [Qing-Yun Sect] had rich roots dating back to over 3000 years ago and held an irreplaceable position in the [Chufung Kingdom]. Any one of its Inner Sect disciples could easily take down a martial arts master. Take a recent example with a group of bandits living in the Northwest of the [Chufung Kingdom], who were so ruthless and cunning that even the local officials were unable to do anything about them. That was until Xiao Jianmin, a Core Disciple of the [Qing-Yun Sect]’s Inner Sect heard about their evil deeds. By himself, along with his sword, he infiltrated the bandit headquarters and killed nine of all 10 bandits. Only the 10th and the youngest bandit was able to somehow escape. Of course, as this was great news to the villagers and the local officials, Xiao became a celebrity and a hero to the people of [Chufung Kingdom] overnight. Because of events like this, the [Qing-Yun Sect] became a household name within the [Chufung].
Coincidentally, this year held [Qing-Yun Sect]’s Recruiting Ceremony, which occurred once in every ten years. The affluent families did whatever they can to enroll their children into the Sect, whether through bribery or through connections, just so that they would have a chance in learning to master the Qi and spiritual cultivation. And, hopefully, maybe even becoming a hero like that of Xiao one day.
[TL note: Qi: 气, or chi, is the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine.]
Yet this boy, empty handed and dressed in dirty rags, with nothing to offer dares to want the same as these families who have spent a fortune? Such wishful thinking.
After the boy was kicked by the Taoist, he quietly dusted himself off, stood up, and briskly walked back to about 30 yards away.
He screamed at the top of his lungs: “HOW DARE YOU KICK ME! You freakishly fat pig with pus running out of your smelly feet and that haemorrhoid-growing stupid thing of yours you call a head! Oh, and your face is like a cow! How dare you call me worthless! You should be thankful that I’m even considering to join your sect! You will regret this as you’ve failed to recognize someone of such great importance! And when I come back to burn your pitiful monastery down…”
“You son of– How dare you insult me!” Grabbing his long sword without a second thought, the infuriated plump Taoist rushed towards the boy.
But the Taoist couldn’t even touch him as the boy zig-zagged swiftly across those waiting in line. Without much success, the Taoist soon gave up. And after catching his breath, he broke into a series of loud curses. The supposedly solemn and sacred Recruiting Ceremony of the [Qing-Yun Sect] was soon filled with laughter and chatter as the cat-and-mouse chase took place.
“You should be thankful that I want to join your sect, you know! You’d better let me in or when I do join a different sect and master the Qi,” the boy laughed as he yelled at the Taoist, “I’ll beat the hell out of you until you wet your pants and asks for mommy!”
“Someone… If someone…” As the Taoist tried to catch his breath, he thought of a plan, “If someone catches him, they can skip the line! I will register them straight away!!”
Upon hearing the plump Taoist’s plan, the boy started to fret and readied to leave.
Everyone else, however, was thinking the same thing. Skipping the line would literally save hours of waiting, especially when the line on this narrow path was thousands of people long. But some thought even deeper. This was also a hidden opportunity to get on the good side of the plump Taoist, and all one had to do was to take down a small child. If by any chance that they could become a disciple of the [Qing-Yun Sect], having a Shixiong who would be able to look after them would bring a lot of ease in settling in.
[TL note: Shixiong: 师兄, Senior Martial Brother, Senior Apprentice-Brother.]
For a while, the young boy was able to escape multiple men almost double his age. Until a pale-faced man, whose body was so thin that he almost looked sick, finally caught him. Despite his weak disposition, the pale-faced man was deceptively strong as he firmly grabbed the boy by the collar and coldly asked, “So you know a bit of Kung Fu, huh?”
The boy tried squirming, but was unable to do anything of his situation.
“Thank you, brother! What is your name?” The plump Taoist panted as he ran up to the man.
“Please call me Hou Qing,” the pale-faced man said politely, hoping to please the plump Taoist, “and please don’t mention it. I was just helping Shixiong in catching this little monkey.”
“Of course, yes. As soon as I teach this monkey a lesson, I will take you to registration,” smiled the Taoist, then turning to the boy with a smirk while rubbing his fat knuckles, “I am an Outer Sect disciple of [Qing-Yun Sect]. How dare you curse me? Even if I’m not going to kill you today, you ain’t leaving here without paying something for what you’ve said. As a disciple of a well-known sect, the plump Taoist wouldn’t dare to hurt the life of the boy, even if he’s just a beggar. At most, a few punches and slaps to teach the boy a lesson.
“P… Please don’t hurt my young master….” A little girl, with her small arms spread, suddenly jumped in front of the boy, attempted to protect the boy from the Taoist. The little girl’s thin stature looked especially small standing in front of the fat Taoist. She looked to be around 6 or 7 years old and just as dirty as the boy. However, her dirt-ridden face could not cover her beautiful facial features. In particular, her bright eyes that seem to have a slight tint of emerald. The little girl’s ears were also peculiar as they were slightly pointy, like that of a fox, which made her look like a Mahn.
“What are you doing! Stupid Xiao-Mahn! Didn’t I tell you to stay out of trouble?” The boy scolded.
[TL note: Xiao means small in Chinese, can usually be seen used when nicknaming someone]
“But young master, if… If I don’t come out to stop them, they’ll hit you!” Xiao-Mahn stubbornly said, spreading her frail arms even more widely.
“I, your master, is more powerful than you think! Who do you think you are! Go away now!” The boy threatened the Mahn girl all the while still hanging mid-air, making it look like a rather awkward scenery.
“Say wha-? A beggar like you has a Mahn for a slave?” The plump Taoist interrupted and spoke in a manner as if he had starved for days, voraciously gazing at the little girl in front of him.
Mahn, or Mahn people are simply just half-breeds, born between a human parent and a beast parent. They were regarded as the lowest rungs of this world, as the beast tribes considered Mahn people to be inept, due to them being tainted with weak human blood; while the human tribes feared Mahn people’s beastly features and tendencies. With such prejudice from both sides, Mahns have become domesticated pets, slaves, and even concubines to their human masters. Despite their lowly status, it is only the wealthy or powerful individuals that were able to afford a Mahn. Which, clearly, was not how the young boy looked.
“Shut up, you lowly creature,” Hou Qing gave the girl a kick from the back, sending her flying.
“You bastard! How dare you kick my Xiao-Mahn!” The kick enraged the boy, who started prowling even more fiercely, but to no avail as he could not escape Hou Qing’s clutch, “I’m going to kill you!”
The kick sent the Mahn girl headfirst into a tree a few hundred feet away. Hou Qing, however, didn’t want to kill her with the kick, just knocking out the little Mahn girl unconscious and covered blood was enough for him. No one dared to speak out at this sight, after all, it was just an insignificant Mahn girl. They were nothing more than slaves; even if the man killed her in front of them, no one would have said anything either.
Realising that he had probably gone too far, the pale-faced man smiled shyly and apologised to the Taoist, “Sorry that I’ve probably kicked her too hard… I… I just hate Mahns so much…”
“It’s… It’s okay,” the Taoist stuttered, raising his guard towards Hou Qing. Even the plump Taoist thought that that kick was unnecessarily cruel.
In the meanwhile, the boy had been screaming and kicking all along, but no one paid any more attention to him as they couldn’t take their focus off the unconscious little Mahn girl, “Look at her blood… Isn’t that…”
The dried weeds from the cold winter were reviving at the touch of Xiao Mahn’s blood as it slowly trickled down. The speed of the weeds’ fast growth could be seen by everyone.
“Wood element? This girl has the rare Wood Elemental Bloodline!” someone from the crowd shouted.
As soon as this was announced, all eyes were on Xiao Mahn. Some felt excited, others envious, but many gazed with jealous eyes.
Elemental Bloodlines were a rare innate power given to those blessed upon birth. There are five main elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The one that the Mahn girl possessed, as mentioned, was that of wood — a gentle and nurturing power that healed the earth and its floras. Such a rare power were always heavily desired by all the sects.
After the Mahn girl’s bloodline was revealed, the treatment towards the boy and the girl clearly became different.
There were three ways to enter a sect:
One, you were given a recommendation letter; this meant you are well connected.
Two, if you had lots of jewels; this meant that you’re wealthy and came from an affluent family.
The third way was special as if you had innate powers, even if you were penniless or had no connections, the sect would still take you in and nurture you with their best resources. That was how rare innate powers were.
The boy had none of the above, and made himself a public laughing stock. Yet, his slave, Xiao-Mahn, had such rare powers that could immediately qualify her as a disciple of [Qing-Yun Sect].
A news big as this quickly found its way to the ears of someone of importance in the [Qing-Yun Sect]. Within merely an hour, a beautiful crane carrying three ladies, a cold-faced female adorned by two servant girls on her sides, one on each side, flew towards the gates of [Qing-Yun Sect]. All the hopeful youths stood and watched as the crane elegantly flicked her wings a descent, and sending a gust of wind down the narrow pathway.
“Oh! It is my pleasure to be at your service, Shijie Lin-Yun. I am an Outer Sect disciple, Yu Sanliang,” The plump Taoist quickly went down to his knees as he recognized the cold-faced female.
[TL Note: Shijie: 师姐, the female equivalent of Shixiong]
The bystanders, despite not knowing who this female was, followed after the plump Taoist and fell to their knees to greet this senior as ‘Shijie’.
However, all of this was ignored by Lin-Yun, the cold-faced beauty, as her gaze only focused on the unconscious Mahn girl by the tree. She walked towards the Mahn girl and dabbed her fingertip in the little girl’s blood. She held it under her nose and nodded with a rare heartfelt smile.
She, then, picked up the girl in her arms and barked: “Add this girl on the recruitment list!”
“Ye… Yes, of course, Shijie Lin-Yun!” The plump Taoist quivered and hastily started working.
Despite the Mahn girl’s low status, under Shijie Lin-Yun’s order, no one would now doubt her as a disciple of [Qing-Yun Sect]. From the lowest Mahn people to, now, a [Qing-Yun Sect] disciple, the little girl’s life turned completely upside-down in just a matter of minutes. Jealousy and envy was written across the face of almost everyone waiting. Even her young master, Fang-Xing, had his mouth wide open in shock.
Lin-Yun returned to the back of her crane, while holding the Mahn girl, heard a soft whisper, “Pl… please don’t hurt my master, Fang-Xing…”
“Who’s Fang-Xing?” Lin-Yun asked.
“I am! Give me back my slave!” The boy shouted as he realized what was happening.
“Good. From today onwards, she’s no longer your slave,” she looked at him coldly, then threw a small purple jaded vase at his feet.
“P– purple Xiantian pill!” The Taoist widened his eyes as he saw what it was inside.
This beggar boy and his good luck!
Purple Xiantian pills were legendary pills that could manipulate one’s body to better receive Qi. With a large amount of these pills, legend said that it could even bestow immortality to the mortal soul.
Red-eyed and hungry, the crowd looked wildly at the vase. Many started to wonder how they could steal or rob the pills from the boy.
Fang Xing looked at the vase, knowing how precious each pill was, but his consciousness came back as Lin-Yun was just about to leave with Xiao-Mahn in her arms.
“Don’t you dare leave! Did I say that I would trade my slave for a couple of these stupid pills?” He shouted, “Nope, no deal! Take your smelly pill away and I demand that you leave Xiao-Mahn behind now!”
“Oh?” Lin-Yun’s cold murderous gaze stabbed sharply into Fang-Xing’s eyes, sending shivers down his spine.
“I– I mean… I don’t want any pills,” Fang Xing stuttered, but bravely continued, “On– Only if you take me in as a disciple as well.”
“In that case, add him, too.” Lin-Yun, realizing what was going through the boy’s head, understood that he wasn’t an ungrateful wretch. She smiled, again, and continued: “But, his ordinary talent and that wretched temper needs some tuning. Have him work in the herb garden should be adequate.”
“Yes… yes, understood.”
Mahn: Original Chinese script is 蛮人, lit. meaning ‘uncivilized people’. I have kept the pronunciation as it is a name given to these people. I have used a different spelling to the official Pinyin to avoid confusion with the English word ‘man’, as both has the same spelling.
Purple Xiantian Pill: 先天紫气丸, lit. ‘innate purple smoke pill’, I have decided to leave Xiantian as its pinyin form as the usage of the pill has been explained in the text already.