Nameless Immortal chap 39

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by NotNice, Nov 5, 2017.

  1. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Kingdom's fall, Empires rise, the world has been ruthless since the beginning of time. Abandoned by his father and losing his mother, Eznho tried to live a simple life with just his aunt and an adopted big brother. Despite, trying to stay low key and live his life in peace, fate does not want to leave him alone. Encountering a pampered fat boy was only just the beginning of his journey. Watch Eznho as he grows from a timid boy into the most feared man in the world which would lead him to the truth about his purpose in life.

    Meh, sorry such a lame synopsis but please try to read. I'll try to make atleast two chapters per week as I have to work and study thanks.

    You can show support by voicing out your opinions or check out my patreon (search Nameless Immortal). Thanks.
     
  2. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 1 Sunset

    “Oi! Oi!, waiter! Give us two more jugs of alcohol. We brothers are celebrating, nobody is going home tonight!” A muscular man in his gray hunting attire with a short hair and a horizontal scar on his forehead was shouting while chewing roasted meat on his mouth. A meter long and three to four inches thick saber can be seen strapped on his back. It indicates that he must be a hunter or a mercenary.

    “Coming, sir!” A young waiter in his twenties was rushing while holding two jugs of alcohol.

    “Here you go, sir! Enjoy!” he was panting while putting the jugs on the table which consists of four men.

    “Haha! Good lad! Here you go” He tossed a copper coin towards the waiter and continued drinking with his buddies.

    “Thank you, sir!” The waiter caught the coin and bowed.

    ....

    “Come inside and try our delicacy! We have new and fresh ingredients delivered today”

    A young boy across the road was shouting and trying to get some costumer.

    ....

    “Sir, we have jewelries inside that suits young miss. It is made of rare stones”

    An old man was trying to sell his products to a young couple passing by.

    ....

    Every establishment was busy tonight. Lamps were lit making the streets bright, making this busy street more lively. This street was named Session Road, this street is famous within the city and the surrounding places. Many places for entertainment can be found in here, gambling den, brothel, drinking establishments and the like.

    At the end of the street, you can see a three-story building. The roofs are curved with a green paint and the body painted red. Lights of different colors can be found hanging in front of it. You can hear laughter and lewd sounds coming from it. Two guards can be seen standing on both left and right side of the door. The shape of the door was circular, the front side depicts a sculpture of a lady with a loose robe showing her shoulders down to her cleavage. This establishment is called Fragrant Pavilion. It’s the most popular brothel in Sin City. Merchants and other traders with money who pass by the city often go to this place and entertain themselves.

    At the back of the pavilion, you can find an old two-story building. Each floor was divided into eight rooms, this was the place where the workers with no house can stay. Rent was deducted from their salary every month. All the lights are off except for the room on the far left of the second floor. A silhouette can be seen pacing back and forth anxiously outside the door, he was a young man at about twenty years of age. He was a cleaner for the brothel and was called to stay outside unless instructed otherwise.

    “Deep breaths! Deep breaths! You can do it, you are getting there” A voice of a middle aged woman can be heard inside the room.

    “Come on Mirna! Push!”

    “Uggggghhh! Ahhhh!” A young female that looks eighteen years old is struggling to give birth to her child. Her face and lips were pale but you can still see that her face was full of innocence. Her eyes and hair were as black as the night. Her looks were average but you can see gentleness and kindness in her. She was soaked in sweat with her clothes sticking on her skin. An unpleasant smell circulated in the room due to the mixed smell of blood, sweat, and other things. She was already gasping for breath and started to lose her consciousness.

    “Mirna! You have to stay awake or your baby will get stuck and might die! The head is already out, one more big push and the baby will come out. Come on! Deep breath and push!” The middle aged woman was trying her best to assist Mirna in delivering her baby.

    “Hoooohh! Uggggghhh!” Mirna took a deep and gathered all her strength for the final push.

    “It’s out! The baby is out” the middle-aged woman was delighted.

    “It’s a boy! Wait that’s odd, he’s not crying but he seems to be breathing fine” The middle aged woman was confused. Although it was her first time to deliver a baby, what she knows is that babies cry when they were born. They did not have the time to call the local doctor because the water bag suddenly broke and they had to deliver the baby. She stared at the baby which was covered in blood and slimy liquid. His eyes were black just like her mother, he was also looking back at her with no emotions which are kinda creepy.

    “Give him to me please” a weak voice came from Mirna she was exhausted that you can barely hear what she says.

    “Hey, there my boy” there were tears falling from her eyes. She was happy, despite everything that happened to her, the heavens were still good to her and gave her a child. She stroked his cheek. She couldn’t help but smile. He was looking back at her with some confusion but he felt comfortable.

    “Mirna, what are you gonna name him?”

    “Hmmm, would you like to suggest a name, Miss Minchin?” The middle aged woman’s name is Minchin. She also works for the brothel, she was alone and has no family left, her work was to introduce the girls to the costumers.

    “No, you should name him”

    “Alright” Mirna already prepared a name beforehand but after the delivery, she felt that she can’t accompany her baby anymore. She could already feel her life fading, maybe due to blood loss or some other reasons. She was already not feeling good when she was pregnant. She looked at her baby with great sadness and hesitation. Tears started falling again.

    “I'm gonna name him Ezhno, because from now on you’re gonna have to walk on your own, be a good boy okay? Don’t get into trouble. I’m sorry I can’t be with you but I will be watching you from above” she kissed his forehead, all her love was poured on that kiss.

    “Please look after him Miss Minchin” she tried to lift her hands and offer her baby to her.

    “I know, don’t worry I will treat him as my own,” she said with a heavy sigh.

    She knew they cannot do anything now. There was a look of pity in her eyes but she could not do anything. There was only one doctor who could possibly help them inside the city but he was living at the residence of the city lord. Even if by any chance they can raise the money needed, it was not easy to summon the doctor especially for a girl like Mirna.

    Mirna had one last look at her baby and smiled. A lot of things were running through her mind, she imagined how joyful it would be to watch his boy grow up. She could only hope that his boy would live a happy and free life. She sighed and closed her eyes with both her hands on top of her stomach, she felt peaceful knowing her baby has been delivered successfully, then everything became quite for her.

    .....

    Minchin held Eznho in her hands with a white cloth wrapped around him. She looked at him again and tried to smile.

    “Hello there, my name in Minchin but you can call me aunt” Ezhno blinked and just looked back at her then started to yawn.

    “Martin, come and say your goodbyes and start cleaning” She called for the boy outside.

    “Yes, Miss Minchin” he opened the door and walked inside and saw Mirna lying in bed.

    She looked peaceful but he can’t stop his tears from falling. He walked slowly and until he was by the bedside and kissed her on the forehead.

    “Goodbye, Mirna may you find happiness in your next life” he sighed.

    He had a crush on Mirna ever since the day he first saw her. She was kind to him and they got along well, alas, she was already pregnant when they met. Then he looked at the baby who was already sleeping.

    “We should at least bury her in the cemetery, she deserves that much, I will give all my earnings for it” he looked and Minchin with pleading eyes.

    “No need for that, I already plan on doing that and the money is already prepared. Come to my room after cleaning to get the money then go arrange for the plot to bury her in the cemetery.” She walked out the door then went to her room.

    .....

    The cemetery is located outside the western part of the city. The place was not eerie, instead, it was located on top of the hills with green grass all around, dancing with the wind. Flowers can be seen in some parts, tombstones carved from rock can be found sticking on the ground, some gray, others white or black with names engraved on them.

    It was already past noon, a wooden cart with a wooden coffin inside that is being pulled by a brown horse can be seen going up on one of the hills. The cart driver was an old man with messy gray hair with a pipe in his mouth. Smoke was coming out of his nose and mouth.

    “We are nearly there” he pointed with his finger which is directed on top of the hill with a Kayo tree growing on it.

    The trunk was thick, a grown man can hug it and the tip of his fingers can barely touch each other. The leaves were deep green in color and it swayed along with the branches.

    Two of the four people who were walking behind nodded. They were Martin and Miss Minchin, they were the only ones who were close to Mirna. Minchin was cuddling Eznho in her hands, he was awake but was silently looking at his surroundings. The other two were men working for the cart driver.

    They reached the top and the wind blew across their faces. Beside the tree was a rectangular hole, at least two meters deep. Martin and the other three men carried the coffin and gently lay it down inside. Then they started putting back the soil to bury the coffin. A tombstone made of gray rock was erected on top with “Mirna Walker” engraved on it. An incense was burnt, after finishing their job, the three men did not wait and went back inside the city on their own.

    Martin and Minchin were left standing on top of the hill. The wind was gently blowing that leaves the fresh scent of nature. You can see the main road below which leads to the forest of unending trees. Majestic mountains tower over the horizon which makes you wonder what is beyond it.

    “You have chosen a beautiful place Martin” Minchin was smiling looking over the horizon.

    The sun was starting to set, the sky was tinged with yellow and orange. Flocks of birds were flying, maybe they were migrating or hunting. She couldn't help but admire the view.

    “I paid extra but it was worth it, it would also be nice to be buried in a place like this.” Martin smiled. They stayed silent for several minutes and just appreciated the scenery.

    “Mirna, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and free of pain, watch over your” Minchin broke the silence and sighed. Then she looked at Eznho,

    “Say goodbye to your mom now”

    “Uwaaa!” Minchin and Martin were startled by the sudden cry. This was his first cry ever since he was born.

    “I thought you are never gonna cry,” Martin said jokingly.

    “Hush, hush, it’s okay Eznho, your mom is in a better place now” Minchin comforted.

    Eznho whimpered then stopped crying and slowly closed his eyes.

    “Good boy” Minchin exclaimed.

    She looked one more time at the tomb and started walking towards the city.

    “Let’s go”
     
  3. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 2 Cleaning

    Snow melted and spring came, rivers started to flow with schools of fish splashing around. Newly born animals and beasts prancing and dancing around, chicks chirping while trying to get out of theirs shells. Green spots can be seen sprouting on the white snowy hills and mountains around Sin City. People removed and stored their fur coats, while the city guards cleaned up and disposed of the frozen corpses of homeless men and women. Citizens cheered and smiled as they bask in the sunlight of the morning sun.

    It has been seven years since a man, a woman, and a baby watched the sunset as they bid their farewell to a young mother buried on top of the hill. Nothing much has changed inside the city, people entered and exited like they always do. Session road can be found in the southern part of the city. There were only a few people walking around, most of them were either drunk or has a hangover. Quite a few of them could not carry themselves anymore and just lay beside the street.

    All the lights were off including the ones at the Fragrant Pavilion at the end of the street. The guards already left and went home to sleep.

    “Eznho!” a shout could be heard from inside the building.

    An old man with shades of white, gray and black on his hair was shouting from the first floor of the pavilion. His hair was neatly combed towards the back until his nape like it was licked by a cow. He wore a pale green robe, his face was a little wrinkled and had a strong smell of perfume around him. He was the manager of the pavilion, his name was Tang.

    A young boy can be seen running from the back of the building with a broom in his hand, he had an oval face with a straight nose and light red lips. His eyes were pitch black, it was like staring into the abyss. He had a long black hair falling down on his back which was tied by a gray strip of cloth. His build was good enough for his age, he was about one and a half meters tall with a tanned skin. The only thing that was amiss was the apathetic look on his face which does not seem to have any ripple of emotion. He stopped in front of the manager.

    “You should know your responsibilities by now, I don’t have to tell you every morning what to do. Now go start cleaning from the third floor and don’t break anything, Understood?” manager Tang instructed the boy.

    Eznho just nodded without saying anything and started walking up the stairs.

    “That kid really creeps me out, he only talks to either Minchin or Martin. I’ve never seen him talk to anybody else.” The manager shrugged his shoulders and started walking, he didn’t mind it much as long as the boy was doing his assigned tasks.

    Eznho was a strange kid, he rarely cried when he was still a baby that’s why the others didn’t bicker about having a baby inside the compound. His first word was spoken when he was three years old and it was the word “mama”. Miss Minchin was startled by the word and couldn’t help but sigh, a tear uncontrollably fell from her left eye. Most of the time he only speaks to either Minchin or Martin, he rarely interacts with other people. He started going to his mom’s grave alone a year ago when he had free time, he would sit there until the sun sets.

    “Did Ezhno already start ?” just as manager Tang was about to go out, Martin called out to him.

    Martin was already in his late twenties, he has a generic face with stubble growing on his chin and on the space between his lips and nose. He has a brown and short spiky hair, with the same brown eyes but with a deeper shade. He doesn’t stand out much but you can feel a good vibe coming out of his body. He has a positive outlook on life.

    “Hmph, yes he did, both of you should have started earlier, you are not teaching that boy properly Martin. Don’t make me be the one to teach him.” Manager Tang lectured Martin and continued to walk out the door.

    “It won’t happen again manager Tang” Martin grinned naughtily, bowed and started running upstairs.

    “Oi! Ez, did you get lectured again by old Tang?” Martin started to wipe the tables while talking to Eznhno who was also wiping the other tables.

    Eznho just shook his head and forced a smile. He rarely smiles, most of the time this rare smile was directed towards Martin and Minchin.

    “Don’t mind him, he is just not in the mood because costumers are slowly decreasing, it’s not that obvious now but if this goes on, it would be bad for business” Martin sighed and looked at the window.

    “Rumors have started spreading around last month, merchants and travelers are saying that a tension has been built at the border and war might erupt. I heard people are starting to prepare in case of emergency evacuation. Who knows, it's just rumors.” He was looking at the clear blue sky hoping that the peaceful days would just continue.

    He had no great ambition, all he wanted was a simple life, a happy family with enough food to share with everyone. He looked at the boy with and sighed. He could not help but recall the woman he loved, that gentle and kind smile. If only...

    Eznho just continued doing his chores without saying anything. It was as if Martin was not speaking.

    “Don’t worry little Ez, nothing will happen to you as long as I am here, gahaha” Martin proudly declared while going beside Eznho and pat his head.

    The little boy rolled his eyes inwardly but smiled on the outside. He was happy, at least he still got his silly big brother Martin and his aunt Minchin who both looked after him. He was luckier than most of the other children in the city, at least for him, he has his own bed and blanket to warm him at night. He was curious about his mom and even his father but he never asked, he is just waiting for Martin or his aunt to tell him.

    “On a serious note Ez, I have talked with Miss Minchin about it and we both agreed to prepare just in case. We already started to save money in case we need to go further inside the kingdom to be safe from the war if it really happens. Anyways that’s just for safety measure so don’t think too much about it gahaha” Martin just laughed like a silly man and continued patting the little boys head.

    “Let’s finish this before lunch so we will have spare time later on before start our afternoon job, faster now Ez, let’s have a bet. Whoever cleans slower will have to give half of his meat to the faster one gahahaha”

    Martin continued talking while Eznho just listened patiently while cleaning. Just like that, they continued cleaning starting from the third floor to the first.
     
  4. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 3 Market

    “Gahaha you lost little Ez, your meat is mine gahaha” Martin proudly and shamelessly announced his victory. Eznho couldn’t be bothered by it and started to pack up their cleaning materials.

    “Look at you, you are such a mood killer, hmph. Sometimes I wonder if you are mute, you should start talking with other people or children your age”

    “Okay” Eznho answered blandly.

    “Whatever, one of these days, I wonder what would you do if you are forced to talk your way out of something” Martin teased.

    “Then I’ll talk or just stare at them” Eznho replied.

    “Haha, that’s more I like it, you should continue talking like that from now on.

    It’s already nearing lunch, bring the cleaning materials at the back and I’ll go cook lunch for the three of us. Wake Miss Minchin up after half an hour and meet with me in the kitchen.”

    “Okay,” Eznho replied.

    The two of them finished their cleaning job before lunch as planned. They packed their cleaning materials, Martin went to the kitchen while Eznho did as he was instructed.

    Half an hour later Miss Minchin and Eznho entered the kitchen. Minchin already started to grow gray hair, she was already over forty years old. She had an elongated face, sharp blue eyes with curved eyebrows, a straight nose, and thin pink lips. She was wearing a pair of pale blue upper garment and a skirt. There was an air of discipline she carried around her.

    “What’s for lunch Martin?” Minchin asked.

    “Good afternoon, Miss Minchin. Our lunch for today is my special stirred vegetables with pork meat.” Martin greeted while walking towards the table to put the food.

    Eznho went to one of the cabinets and brought out plates for them to use. The three of them sat at the table and started eating.

    “Oi, little Ez, aren’t you forgetting something?” Martin looked at Eznho and smiled bashfully.

    Ezhno rolled his eyes and started to pick a slice of meat and put it in Martin’s plate.

    “What are you doing?” Minchin curiously asked.

    “Well you know Miss Minchin, he lost the bet so a man has to honor his words and never go back on it, right little Ez?” Martin said shamelessly.

    Minchin squinted her eyes and looked at Martin.

    “Ahaha, just kidding, just kidding, look at you little Ez you are so thin. Tsk, people might think we are not feeding you” Martin picked two pieces of meat with his chopsticks and put it on Eznho’s plate.

    “That’s more I like it. Ahaha let’s eat, let’s eat. It’s more delicious if the food is eaten hot” Martin started munching his food. The three of them sat there eating their lunch like a family.

    Most of their days were spent like this, Miss Minchin works at night until morning along with the other staff of the establishment. Eznho is still young so he works only during the day, he started this job when he was five. Minchin and Martin did not entirely approve it but the owner of the establishment insisted. He didn’t want someone to stay on his property for free. Besides, he didn’t have any playmates so Martin taught him about cleaning, he was also a cleaner and at the same time an errand runner.

    .....

    Sin city is located in the eastern part of the Carson Kingdom. It was only fifty kilometers away from the border with the neighboring Kalbo Kingdom. The area of the city spans at about forty kilometers, it was divided into four sections. North was where the city lord, the city guard captain and the other people with influence were staying. South was the entertainment district, while the east and west were a combination of trading area and residential area. The population was over a hundred thousand. The whole city is enclosed by a wall of gray rock with a height of about twenty to twenty-five meters, there were exactly ten towers built and spread around on top of the wall. City guards can be seen patrolling above the walls with their full set of armor, a saber on their waist and a three-meter long spear pointing to the sky tightly gripped by their right hand.

    “Let’s go little Ez, we have to go early to the market so that we can get the fresh supplies to restock the kitchen.” Martin was calling for Eznho while putting the empty baskets inside the cart to be used later on.

    “Coming” Eznho replied blandly, he was wearing a simple black trouser, a wooden sandal and a dark gray sleeveless upper garment.

    He still had sleepy eyes, it was still an hour before the sunrise but he had to wake up to help Martin buy supplies.

    He helped himself and sat beside where the cart driver sits.

    “Okay, everything is good. The early bird catches the worm, gahahaha. Hiyah!”

    Neigh! The horse started to trot going in the direction towards the market.

    .....

    “Fresh cow meat! Just butchered a while ago! Come my dear costumers!” a chubby woman in her thirties was shouting, trying to sell her goods.

    .....

    “My veggies here have just been harvested a while ago, look you can still see the dew on its leaf.” A farmer was advertising his products.

    .....

    “Look here the fishes are still jumping, how fresh can they be?” a burly fisherman was displaying his plentiful catch.

    Shouts and indiscernible noises can be heard from every direction. This was the city market, almost every kind of ingredients for cooking can be found here. This time was the busiest because farmers, fishermen, butchers and the like come at this hour to sell their fresh goods.

    .....

    “Ten coppers!” Martin was haggling with a lady.

    “No! The last price is twelve coppers, no more no less. If you don’t want it then stop pestering me, there are others who are willing to pay, shoooo!” the woman was insistent and stood her ground.

    “Tsk! Fine, you win this time, but you should add one piece of that fish.” Martin wasn’t willing to back down and pointed one of the displayed fishes to be added as a bonus to cow meat that he bought.

    “You!” The woman was taken aback by this man’s thick face.

    She didn’t want to bicker anymore and just picked the smallest fish and added it to the meat. She handed the goods with a sly smile.

    Martin just widened his eyes with shock but didn’t say anything. He went back to the horse cart where Eznho was waiting while guarding their goods. He took out the fish and tossed it along the other fishes on one of the baskets.

    “See, little Ez, that’s what you get for being a good talker. You can get a lot of profit if you can talk your way out of things, gahahaha!” Martin laughed proudly while looking at the basket full of fish with varying sizes. These fishes were “bonuses” he got from haggling.

    Eznho just rolled his eyes, he was used to this scenario every time they come to the market.

    “Hmmm, we saved two silvers during this trip” Martin was snickering while counting the coin purse.

    “Here you go little Ez, that’s your bonus gahaha.” Martin couldn’t help but laugh while tossing a silver coin to Eznho.

    “Thanks!” Eznho couldn’t help but smile while watching his lively big brother.

    “Alright, that’s about everything. Let’s go back, argh! We still have to clean the pavilion later on. Hiyah!” Martin grumbled while sitting and commanding the horse.

    The horse neighed and started walking towards the south, the distance was a few kilometers.
     
  5. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 4 Different Starting Points

    Klop klop klop

    A gray horse with some black spots around its body pulling a cart full of different kinds of ingredients can be seen on the main street going to the southern part of the city. The cart driver was a man in his late twenties with a short brown hair wearing the clothes of an ordinary man. Beside him was a boy at about seven or eight years old with a jet black hair tied on his back sitting silently with a poker face.

    The street was at least ten meters wide carpeted with bricks. Carriages and carts made with different designs are being pulled by horses were passing by each other while all kinds of people were crossing the street. Stalls were also erected on the side of the street with different functions but most of them were made for trading purposes. Alleys of varying width can be spotted in between the houses which led to other parts of the city.

    “Stop following me! I want to explore the city.” A young thin girl stuck out her tongue towards the one chasing her while running on one of the alleys towards the main road.

    “Stop! I can’t run anymore.” A chubby boy is chasing after her, sweat running down his face and is running out of breath.

    “Hahaha, you will never catch me. See yah!”

    The girl laughed and tilted her head towards her back while waving her hand towards the boy. She was just a couple of meters before reaching the main road.

    “Wait! Watch out!” the chubby boy shouted.

    Just as the girl was about to reach the road, she tilted her head back to the front and saw the head of a horse emerging from the blind side of the road and could not help but panic.

    Oh crap!

    She tried her best to stop herself from bumping into the horse but it was too late, there was not enough space between them.

    Bump!

    .....

    Martin was leisurely driving the cart while looking around the street, he was in a good mood because of his “bonuses”.

    “What a great way to start the day.” He could not help but exclaim.

    Enzho was just sitting beside him silently.

    They were about to pass by an alley when he suddenly noticed from the corner of his eye that a girl came out of the alley and was trying to stop herself from bumping into the horse.

    Shit!

    He subconsciously pulled the reigns but it was too late to avoid the collision.

    Bump!

    The girl bumped her head into on of the front legs of the horse and fell back on her butt.

    “Ouch!” The girl could not help but cry out in pain. She touched her forehead where red mark appeared that resulted from the bump.

    Eznho was a bit startled by the event, he looked down at the girl. She wore a sky-blue dress with a ribbon in front. Her shoes were also patterned with blue flowers. A blue hairpin was clipped on the left side of her head holding her shoulder-length blue hair which was paired with sky blue eyes, the same as her dress. Her skin was white and obviously smooth which was not normally seen around the area. She was not from around here.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if her name was blue. He could not help but think inwardly after looking at the girl.

    Martin immediately jumped out.

    “Are you alright little girl?” He asked in a panic.

    While Martin was asking the girl, a chubby boy showed up panting. He was soaked in sweat, he wore a yellow robe with a bulging stomach. There were freckles on his fat cheeks coupled with his chinky brown eyes. His nose was a bit flat and two of his upper front teeth is exposed like a rabbit.

    “Blue! Are you alright? Pant pant.” The chubby boy called out and can’t help but put his hand on his knees and bend forward. He was really tired. They have been running for fifteen minutes.

    Enzho could not help but open his mouth in response to what the chubby boy said.

    Really? Blue?

    Martin had the same reaction. Then approached to help up the little girl.

    “Don’t touch her! Pant pant” The chubby boy shouted after seeing what Martin was trying to do.

    Martin was startled and stopped.

    “You peasant dare to touch her with your filthy hands!” The chubby boy composed himself and pointed his finger to Martin.

    “Shut up fatty!” Blue retorted the chubby boy and helped herself up while patting her butt to remove the dirt.

    “Guards!” The chubby boy ignored the girl and shouted.

    Rapid footsteps can be heard from inside the alley, four tall and muscular armored guards were rushing towards them. They were twice as fast than the average guy. A second later they stood imposingly behind the chubby boy. They brought with themselves an invisible pressure that can make a regular guy tremble in fear.

    Martin was shocked after witnessing the scene, he subconsciously stepped backward. Enzho felt the same shock.

    “Seize them!” The chubby ordered while still pointing his hands toward Martin.

    “Stop!” Blue lifted her hand and contradicted the chubby boy's order.

    “What are you trying to do fatty? Huh? Do you want to bully again using your guards? Hmph!” Blue scoffed.

    “I just wanted to reprimand the people who hurt you Blue, it is my duty as a gentleman.” the chubby boy proudly replied.

    “Hmph! If I know, all you can do is order your guards. You can’t even do anything by yourself. Leave them alone, it was my fault anyway. If you try to do anything against them I will not speak to you ever again.” Blue snorted and glared at the chubby boy.

    “But...” The chubby boy was unwilling.

    “No buts! I am warning you.”

    One of the guards suddenly bent down and whispered something to the chubby boy. There was an obvious delight in his face after hearing what the guard said.

    “Since Blue is willing to let this matter go, I will not pursue it but there won’t be a next time. Count yourselves lucky.” The chubby boy declared.

    Martin was silent the whole time due to his fear. He did not think much of himself but he was afraid something might happen to Enzho, he was willing to sacrifice and plead for his little brother. He took a deep breath and gathered his courage and was about to speak when Blue interrupted him.

    “I’m sorry mister, it was my fault due to my carelessness. Forgive me if I caused any inconvenience.” Blue bowed towards Martin while apologizing.

    “No, no, it is alright, I should be the one apologizing especially that you were hurt.” Martin nervously replied.

    “It doesn’t hurt mister don’t worry.Again, I am sorry, have a good day.” Blue smiled and started jogging to the direction where Martin and Eznho came from when she suddenly noticed the little boy with Martin.

    “Huh?” She stopped and looked at Enzho who was looking back at her with a blank expression.

    Has this boy been here all the time? She inwardly asked herself.

    They locked their eyes with each other for a second which left a weird feeling inside her that made her blush. She looked away in embarrassment and continued to jog. The chubby boy noticed this which left a frown on his face.

    “Let’s go, I don’t wanna stay any longer in this place full of trash” The chubby boy ordered and followed the girl.

    When he was passing by Eznhon, he glared at him then showed an obvious sneer.

    “Peh!” He spat on the street and continued on his way.

    Eznho just looked at him with apathy but deep within his eyes was a spark of anger.

    Martin watched the whole thing happened then frowned. After a while, he sighed and climbed back up to where Eznho was. He then noticed that the street crowd was watching, they showed different reactions. Some of them felt pity while others felt joy in their misfortune. He ignored the crowd and urged the horse to start walking.

    .....

    “Who were they?” Eznho couldn’t help but ask after awhile.

    The look on the chubby’s face was bugging him, he usually doesn't interact with others. This was his first time experiencing an incident like that because most of his time was spent just around the pavilion’s premises.

    “Oh? Them?”

    Martin had a rare serious look on his face. He knew they were in trouble, maybe not now but judging from the actions of the chubby boy, he will not let this matter go. He knows how most of the rich people’s children act, they would make trouble for poor people for petty reasons.

    “If I am not mistaken, the girl is the city guard captain’s youngest and only daughter while the chubby boy is the city lord’s only son. I think his name is Taba.”

    Ezhno nodded in reply.

    “Ughh, what bad luck we have today after such a good start. Hey, I think my personal luck has run out, why don’t you lend me some of yours little Ez, you are not using it anyway gahaha.” Martin ignored his thoughts and came back to his former self.

    “Don’t think too much about it little Ez, such is life. You can’t do anything about it. Some are born rich while others poor, we may be running the same race but we have different starting points. Some of us may have a head start and have things easy, while there are those who are at the back crawling and struggling. There are even people who already stopped and just gave up on themselves.”

    Martin looked up and sighed. There was a trace of helplessness but at the same time unwillingness in his eyes. He then turned his gaze on Eznho.

    “But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a chance, our starting points may be different but the victor is yet to be decided. There are many ways to change your life, one of them is pursuing the martial path.” An excitement was evident in his eyes.

    “You are still young little Ez, you have a chance. Who knows you might get a lucky break and soar through the heavens, gahaha.” Martin laughed rubbing Eznho’s head with his hand.

    He knows his chance has been long gone, he is already old for such things. He never even had a chance, with his background, a miracle was needed for that kind of chance.

    But Eznho was different, he is still young. Although a chance would be close to impossible, there was still hope. He deeply wished for the boy to have a better life, he would give anything for that, even his life.
     
  6. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 5 Scroll

    Seasons came and went, snow is starting to fall over Sin city. The city is buzzing with activity, people are starting to flock inside the city. It was the opposite of what happened a couple of years ago where people were wary because of rumors going on about a war. The change started half a year ago when an open recruitment was started for miners and mercenaries.

    The rumors about a war were related to a gold mine. The gold mine was discovered three years ago at the base of the Nara mountain range, approximately nine kilometers away from the border. The same thing has been discovered on the side of Kalbo kingdom. The tension started between the two kingdoms because it was estimated that a large gold deposit was located right below the border of the two kingdoms.

    .....

    “My chance has come to finally change my destiny and rise from poverty”

    A bearded burly middle-aged man with messy hair exclaimed while caressing his pickaxe. He spent half of his fortune to buy this pickaxe.

    .....

    “I heard that the pay is good for the miners, especially if you discovered gold deposits.”

    “Yeah, but I heard your life will be at risk. Several miners have already died because the cave they were digging collapsed.”

    “Well, it’s better to risk everything and win big rather than staying poor for the rest of our lives.”

    “You’ve got a point though.”

    Two young men in their twenties were discussing with each other.

    “Bunch of pitiful poor people.” Somebody commented.

    “What did you say?” One of the young men was angry and looked for the guy who spoke.

    “Isn’t it true?” A person answered back.

    The young man was about to retort but stopped himself. He could do nothing but shut up and endure because the one who answered him was a mercenary. The mercenary was a thin man in his late twenties wearing a clothing made of beast fur. A meter-long sword was hanging on his waist. More than a dozen of people were standing behind him, which seemed to be his subordinates.

    After looking at the mercenary, he felt fearful and dejected then walked away along with his companion.

    “Tsk, what a coward, let’s go. We have to sign in our group and start our journey towards the mine before the road is covered in snow.” The mercenary ordered his men and started walking towards the center of the city.

    The crowd inside the city was divided in two, one was the miners. They were mostly composed of poor people looking to hit the jackpot inside the mine. The other group was composed of mercenaries, they were being hired by the city lord to stand guard in the mines. Their job is to make sure that no one sneaks out gold and guard the mine from unexpected attacks. The city lord had to do this because the soldiers were stationed along the borders to confront the opposing kingdom.

    .....

    It has been three years since the incident with the Blue and the chubby boy. Eznho was now ten years old, his face now looked more mature and more mysterious. He still has that emotionless face, he became taller and his hair was still long, flowing on his back. Other than that, nothing much has changed. His life was a boring routine, most of his time was still spent around the pavilion. With occasional visits at the market with Martin. He would still go visit his mother’s grave when he had free time. He felt peaceful there, he felt satisfied just sitting there alone with no one to disturb him.

    .....

    Inside the pavilion, it was early in the morning...

    “Alright ladies and gentlemen, the owner asked me to conduct a meeting with you. I know you are tired from tonight’s job but so am I, so just listen. Boss wants us to put on our best effort, he made a deal with me. If we manage to increase our profits, he is willing to raise our pay. As you can see people are flocking inside the city, people are making money from the mines. It is our job is to squeeze that money out from them and into our boss’ pocket. You understand?”

    Manager Tang conducted a meeting with sleepy eyes, it has been an exhausting night due to increase in costumers.

    “Yes, manager Tang.” The audience replied with excitement at the same time.

    The audience was composed of the people working in the pavilion. All of them came from a poor background that is why they were happy when an increase in pay was mentioned. Almost all of the employees were women due to the nature of the establishment. The number of the men were less than twenty, they were either working in the kitchen, assigned as a cleaner, an errand runner or acting as a bouncer.

    “Alright, good you understand, dismissed.” Manager Tang waved his hand and dismissed the crowd.

    “Martin and Eznho, start cleaning now.” He instructed before going out the door.

    “Will do,” Martin replied enthusiastically while dragging Eznho up the stairs.

    .....

    Manager Tang just walked out the door when he heard horses galloping towards his direction. He squinted his eyes to get a clear view, there were four horses in total with city guards riding on them. He frowned while waiting for them to arrive.

    “To what pleasure do I owe the city guards for them to make a visit to this place?”

    Manager Tang forced a smile when the guards arrived.

    “Does a man named Martin and a boy named Eznho work here?” One of the guards asked directly.

    “Why is city guard asking?” manager Tang inquired.

    “Just answer the damn question old man!” The guard shouted without respect.

    “Don’t think you can just come in here and make trouble on a whim.” Manager Tang was furious, he was not afraid talking back because he knows the boss has influence around the city.

    “Tsk! A barking old dog who thinks he can bite a tiger. Open your dog eyes and look at this.” The guard said with disdain and took out a scroll and throw it to the manager.

    Manager Tang caught it and carefully looked at the stamp. An insignia with a sword pointing up can be seen, below the hilt of the sword were two large feathers. The feathers were spread on each side pointing up and formed the shape of a laurel crown. After a couple of seconds, he formed an ugly look on his face.

    “Tsk!” He exclaimed and took a deep breath he knew this was trouble. He then looked up on the third floor and shouted.

    “Martin! Get your ass down here with Eznho!”

    .....

    Martin and Eznho were starting to clean the third floor. Eznho was silently cleaning the tables. Martin was in a good mood because of the possible raise in his pay. He was grinning the whole and whistling while cleaning. They both heard the arrival of horses but they didn’t care.

    “Martin! Get your ass down here with Eznho!” a shout was suddenly heard from manager Tang which made them stop their movements. Martin rushed to the window and looked down.

    “Oh crap! I knew it!” He jumped back, frightened.

    When he saw the familiar city guards waiting down with the manager he knew trouble has come. He never thought after all these years the chubby boy did not forget the incident. His face was full of terror and he became more fearful when he saw Eznho curiously looking at him.

    “Ai, what a bad omen, let’s go down and hope for the best.” Martin sighed and pulled Eznho by his hand.

    .....

    Manager Tang was silently waiting when the door opened, Martin and Eznho came out of the door.

    “What’s the matter?” Martin inquired innocently.

    “What’s the matter you say? Hahaha!” One of the guards answered while the other guards laughed with him.

    “Congratulations you are both lucky to have been chosen by the city lord.” The guard mockingly declared.

    He was the one who whispered something to Taba a few years back. He has been working as the personal guard for the young master since he was born, he is shrewd and devious, he liked to scheme against other people. He was a tall and muscular guy, he wore a full metal armor with a helmet covering his head except for his face. There was an insignia in front of his armor, a curved rectangular shield with a sword in front of it facing down. This was the most commonly used insignia for the city guards around the Carson kingdom, with the exception of the capital city.

    “Go on old man, open the scroll and read the content.”

    The manager opened the scroll, the further he read the contents the more his face became uglier and dejected. He closed his eyes tightly for a long time before giving out a long sigh, his sigh was full of frustration and helplessness.

    “What does it say?” Martin nervously asked after seeing the old man’s reaction.

    The old man did not answer him immediately. After a long pause, he answered.

    “The city lord orders Eznho to go to the mines and work there for at least two years. He can come back for a one week break after a year.” The manager said bitterly.

    “What!?” Martin was shocked.

    Eznho also had a slight expression on his face but it was not that obvious.

    “You can’t do that! He is still young, and besides, working in the mines should be voluntary not ordered because it is dangerous.” Martin protested back.

    “Manager you can’t let them do that.” Martin pleaded.

    “I am sorry, but it is an order from the city lord, not even the owner can help him out.” The managed answered with a look of helplessness.

    “Then I will volunteer, I will replace him and I can even work for five years, no ten years! Just let him go, please.” Martin begged. Tears were starting to fall, he was really afraid he did not want Eznho to go because his chance of survival was slim. He was still young.

    Eznho who was behind him was touched, tears were also trying to form. He is trying to hold it back, his emotions were stirred due to Martin’s action. He did not want to see him like this, a man full of vigor and life was pleading for him. He was not even related to him, all he knows is that Martin only knew his mother for over a year. He was about to stop him when...

    “Hahaha”

    The guards burst out laughing, they were amused like watching a clown performing on his show.

    “You can’t Martin I’m sorry” the manager answered.

    “What!? Why not?” Martin panicked and shook the manager’s shoulder.

    He felt that the world was starting to crumble. He did not even care about the guards, he was trembling all over and could not control his self and tightened his grip on the manager’s shoulder. The manager grimaced but did not say anything, he understood Martin, he understood his pain but was helpless against those with power. He understood because he also experienced it, the feeling of just watching while people you love are taken away in front of you.

    “You can’t because you have also been assigned to do another task.” The manager answered with a tinge of pain.

    “Sorry,” Martin looked at his hands and loosened it. He had a hope with the manager’s answer, if he will also be sent to the mines, he can look out after Eznho. He looked at the manager with a hopeful face.

    But alas, the universe does not care for anyone. The manager shook his head gently, Martin slowly bent his knees until he was kneeling down, he felt defeated.

    “Martin, you are ordered by the city lord to go to the border and help repel the enemies for two years. You can also have a one week break after a year. You will become an official member of the army once you register and get your equipments from the military branch office. Failure or refusal to accept this assignment will lead to immediate execution.”

    The manager gave another deep sigh after reading the contents and pitifully looked at Martin.

    Boom! Martin was in a trance, he felt numb all over. All his senses were shut down, he did not even react when the guards left while laughing.

    Eznho on the other side was grinding his teeth, he was clenching his hands tightly until his palms were white. He has never been this angry before in his life, he was looking at the guards who were leaving with a murderous look. His eyes were like the abyss that was hiding a monster inside, ready to pounce anytime.

    One day...
     
  7. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 6 The Girl In The Rain

    The world became silent, a gloomy and chilly atmosphere can be felt. Three people can be seen outside the pavilion. Manager Tang was standing there with a look of pity on his face, his head was lowered while looking at the man kneeling in front of him.

    Martin was still in a daze, he felt numb. He was wishing that this was just a nightmare and was waiting to wake up from it. The scenes from earlier kept playing over and over inside his head. He felt that he was becoming crazy.

    Eznho still maintained his silence while trying to control his emotions. He thought he is gonna spend the rest of his life just doing a daily routine. He never had any dream for himself, he always felt like he was just a leaf drifting on the ocean. But events took a turn and a twist has been made, and for the first time in his life, he had a goal.

    There was no point in just standing there, what happened has happened and they can’t do anything about it for now. After he took a silent deep breath, he loosened his grip and retracted his murderous gaze. But he promised to himself that he will make the city lord, his son, and the four city guards pay back for what they did. He will not do it for himself but for his big brother Martin who knelt down for him.

    After another breath, he started walking towards Martin and tapped on his shoulders.

    Boom! Martin’s mind was suddenly pulled back into reality.

    “Haaaaa” he sucked in a lot of air like he was running out of it. He was pale and was feeling cold all over like waking up from a nightmare.

    “Stand up big brother,” Eznho said softly from behind.

    Martin regained his clarity and slowly stood up, he understood there was no point in continuing his actions.

    “Thanks, little Ez, I’m alright now.” Martin forced a smile back to Eznho.

    “Ai, tell me, Martin, how did this happen? Why would the city lord bother himself to make a decree against the both of you?” the manager inquired with curiosity.

    Sigh, all of this happened because of an incident about three years ago,” Martin answered.

    “That long?” the manager asked.

    “Yes, I thought that the matter has been forgotten because nothing has happened since then. As it turns out, it was never forgotten, it was just delayed. It was as if it has been planned since the beginning.” Then he suddenly thought about the guard who whispered something to the chubby boy.

    It has been planned all along. He thought to himself.

    “Anyways, this is what happened...”

    Then Martin told the manager what happened three years ago on the main street while they were heading back from the market.

    “Ai, so that’s what happened, what a terrible encounter. I always knew that the rich were petty people but I never thought that there are those who stoop down to such a level. Tsk tsk.” The manager said while shaking his head.

    “I’m sorry for the both of you, I really am, but feeling sorry will not change anything. Even if I plead the boss for the two of you, his influence cannot change anything. Especially that it was a decree from the city lord himself. The only one who can oppose him is the city guard captain but we don’t have any connection with him. Even if we did have a connection, I bet he is not willing to go against the city lord for your sake. I may sound harsh but we have to accept reality.”

    “The only thing we can do now is to accept the order and hope that both of you will survive this predicament. At least there is still hope of survival, it’s better than a direct execution. Where there is life there is hope.”

    The manager sympathized with the two, he tried his best to console them give them hope to cling on to.

    “You better go inside and continue cleaning first, it can help you relax your mind. Don’t be depressed because of it, instead treat as sort of a challenge. After that, make your preparations. I’ll try to gather information for you to have an idea of what’s going on over there. You will depart from the city a week from now along with other people.”

    He instructed the two and started walking away while massaging his forehead. He is starting to have a headache which resulted from this incident.

    “Thank you, manager.” Martin sincerely bowed towards the manager. He may be strict on their job but he knew that the manager’s heart was with his employees.

    He composed himself and looked at Eznho and forced a grin.

    “Let’s go.” He walked towards him, rustled his hair and walked inside.

    Eznho nodded and followed, he stopped and took another deep look towards the north then proceeded inside. No one knew what he was thinking.

    .....

    After cleaning, Martin went to cook for lunch as usual while Eznho went to wake Miss Minchin up. She noticed that Martin was silent which was out of his character.

    “Martin, is something wrong?” Minchin inquired.

    Sigh, I’ll tell you all about it after eating,” Martin answered with a helpless look on his face.

    He had no choice anyway, he has to tell her everything. It’s better to inform her earlier for her to have time to ingest what he was about to tell her.

    Miss Minchin prepared tea for the three of them after their meal. They sat in front of a round table in three different directions.

    “Now, tell me everything and don’t even think about lying.” Miss Minchin seriously warned Martin.

    She can feel that what he was about to tell her was far from good and even had a premonition that little Ez was involved. She then looked at the boy with doting eyes. She truly cared for him, she treated him as his own son.

    “Miss Minchin, before I tell you everything, I want to tell you first that none of us wanted any of this. I don’t even know what to think why this is happening, Ai.” Martin sighed.

    “Just tell me already!” Minchin was starting run out of patience.

    “Okay okay, relax, this incident started three years ago...” Martin started to narrate everything.

    He started from when they were heading home back from the market and a girl running from the alley bumped into the front leg of the horse. He tried to tell every detail he could remember including the look on the chubby boy’s face when he was leaving.

    “Days and months have passed without any incident so I thought they have forgotten about it. But this morning, the four city guards paid us a visit then...”

    He started to tell everything that happened outside the pavilion previously.

    “That’s about it.” Martin bowed his head after narrating everything. He was afraid to look at Miss Minchin.

    She listened without producing any sound but with a careful look, her body was trembling. She was furious, not because of Martin or about the event but due to the differences in status and the pettiness of the people with power.

    “So that’s what happened, if the boss can’t do anything what more of us.” She said dejectedly while controlling her emotions.

    She did not blame Martin, it was nobody’s fault. She did not comment any longer and continued sipping her tea. Time passed without nobody speaking, after everybody finished their tea.

    “Little Ez, come to my room later this evening, I have something to talk with you about.”

    She then stood up and started walking back to her room.

    “Hey, little Ez, I’ll go later at the city center and try to gather information. If you have nothing to do, you can with me if you want.” Martin said in an invite.

    “Sorry, I’ll go to the cemetery,” Eznho answered, rejecting Martin’s invite.

    “Okay, no need to apologize. Take care then, don’t stay out too late. There have been rumors of ghosts walking around the cemetery, gahaha.” Martin laughed trying to alleviate the mood.

    Eznho smiled while shaking his head and let out a soft chuckle. His mood started to turn for the better.

    “That’s more I like it. Okay, see you around little Ez.”

    .....

    Later that evening,

    Knock knock

    Eznho knocked the door on Minchin’s room, she had her own separate place to live in. They were practically neighbors but Minchin has her own little house.

    “Come in,” Minchin answered from the inside.

    Eznho opened the door, this was not his first time entering. The inside of the house was simple, not a lot of decorations. The house has its own bathroom, bed room, lounge area and a kitchen. A couple of paintings can be seen hanging on the walls, most of them were flower paintings.

    “Take a seat there and wait for me.” She instructed him while preparing tea.

    Eznho walked towards the living room where Minchin receives her guests. He sat down on the couch covered in leather stuffed with bird feathers. A wooden square table covered with red cloth was in front of him, a vase was on top of it holding a single stalk of a yellow tulip flower.

    Minchin walked towards him with a tray holding two tea cups and a tea kettle made of porcelain painted with blue flowers. She put the tray down on the table and poured tea into both cups then offered a cup to Eznho.

    “Thanks,” Eznho said politely.

    He was comfortable having a conversation with her aunt, he even treated her as his own mom. She was beside him since he was born, they may not often have long conversations with each other but he respects her from the bottom of his heart.

    Minchin also sat down and sipped her tea and looked at Enzho solemnly.

    “What happened to you and Martin was a tragedy, but despite all that I hope you will both survive this predicament. Since we can’t do anything about that, I don’t want to linger any longer on that topic.”

    “What I want to talk with you about is your mother, and how I am related to her.” Minchin paused with a reminiscing look.

    “I will just tell you the summary and skip the unnecessary details, I might bore you to death.” Minchin smiled and knew Eznho was not the kind to hold long conversations.

    “Okay, I was a servant of your mother’s family, your grandfather’s name was John Walker and your grandmother was Beth. They were farmers from the western part of the city about twenty kilometers from here. Your grandparent’s family came from a family of farmers. Despite that, they both worked hard and managed to save and buy a farm of their own.”

    “They had two children, your mother Mirna and his older brother Mario. My family was lucky enough to work with them and had our own place to stay. We helped them look out for the farmland, but I was not satisfied with that kind of life. I stubbornly argued with my parents and left when I was twenty years old. I came to the city and worked from one place to another until I found this place and worked here since then. Don’t ask me why I did not get married.” Minchin said jokingly.

    “Kidding aside, I visited them from time to time. I also watched your mother grow in some way, they also visited me when they came and sell their products inside the city.” Minchin paused and took a deep breath.

    “While I was working one rainy night, one of the bouncers approached me and told me that someone was urgently looking for me and her name was Mirna. Luckily they did not just kick her away. I was surprised by the sudden visit so I immediately followed him to see your mother. To my horror, I saw your mother soaked in the rain with tattered clothes and she was crying endlessly. Her feet were bare with blood flowing from her sole, she also had scratches and bruises all over her body. She ran and hugged me while she continued to cry. I was just standing there in a daze, then I suddenly felt that her stomach was big. She was pregnant, it was a miracle that she managed to come all the way from the farm. I then helped her and told her to calm down first. I brought her here and washed her first then tended to her wounds. Luckily, the wounds were light. I asked for one of the local doctors to check the condition of the baby and she said everything was okay. There was one thing that puzzled her, your mother’s condition was not good. She could not find out the reason but your mother’s health deteriorating. The doctor believed she would be in grave danger and could possibly die during child birth. The only one who could possibly help was the city doctor, but it was impossible to call for him especially for people like us. Your mother was not sad, instead, she was happy as long she would give birth to you successfully.” Minchin sighed while recalling the past.

    Eznho just listened while occasionally sipping tea. He could only imagine what happened all those years ago and could not help but become emotional while listening.

    “After taking care all of her wounds, I asked her what happened. She told me that bandits attacked the farm and killed everyone then burned the house along with everyone inside. She said she was the only one who escaped, she was even confused how she has done it. I could not think of any reason why the bandits would attack, especially for a small farm like that. She had a hard time recalling certain events, maybe because of the trauma, I suppose. Then she told me about how she became pregnant. She said that your father came knocking to their door wounded and bleeding. They suspected he was a hunter hunting from the nearby forest and had an accident. They treated him and he stayed for a few days, he got closer to your mother. She said she had a certain connection with him like she felt safe and comfortable around him. Her parents also had a good impression of him. He continued to stay with them after a couple of months. Then he got your mother pregnant, and for some reason, her parents were okay with it even if they were not married. They were open minded than most I guess.”

    “Your father went out to hunt in the forest when the attack happened. She wanted to go back in case he was there waiting for her but she could not due to her condition. I went back a week after the attack with Martin but there was no sign of him, all that was left was a burnt down house and dying crops. In case you are wondering, the city guard or the military would not bother to investigate incidents like this.”

    “She tried so hard to remember everything about your father but she could not, not even his face. She was mostly lying in bed, two months later she gave birth to you.”

    She started to sob uncontrollably after telling this sad event. It was also a form of relief for her. She had been trying to keep it a secret until Eznho was old enough, but the circumstances have changed.
     
  8. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 7 Memento

    Eznho just sat there while tears also started to form from his eyes. He always wanted to know about his origins but he knew that his aunt was just trying to find an appropriate time. He once tried to ask but both his aunt Minchin and his big brother Martin dodged the question.

    After wiping her tears, Minchin calmed herself down.

    “Wait here,” she told Eznho and stood up.

    She went inside her bedroom and when she walked out, she was holding a small wooden jewelry box. The box was plain with no design but it was polished, it was well maintained.

    She sat back on her chair and put the box on the table. She opened it and took out a necklace. A small crude jade rock with rough edges the size of a thumbnail was being held by a thick thread. The thread was knotted to function as a net to hold the jade inside and a long part of it was left to be hung on the neck.

    “This necklace was your mother’s, she said she found it on a riverbank. It may not be worth that much but she treasured it greatly so she made it as a necklace. She told me to give you this at the right time for you to remember her by. I guess this would be the right time, may it serve as your lucky charm and help you through tough times. Your mother was a gentle soul, she would have been a good mother to you.” She took Eznho’s hand and put the necklace on his palm.

    “Mother...” Eznho said while overwhelmed with sadness.

    How nice it would be to have an actual mother taking care of you, he thought. Then he held the necklace tightly, afraid that the necklace might disappear.

    “There’s another one,” Minchin interrupted.

    She then took out a dark golden ring, it was a lady’s ring. Just a few centimeters thick and would fit into a lady’s ring finger. If you observe closely on the inside, indiscernible letters were engraved, they looked like runes of some kind.

    “According to your mother, this was a gift from your father. I don’t know anything about him so don’t ask me.” Minchin said with a stern voice.

    She did not have a good impression on Eznho’s father because she felt that he abandoned his family.

    “Take it, it belongs to you now. If you wanna wear it, I suggest you wear it as a necklace alongside with your mother’s. It’s easier to hide it that way, people might get greedy when they see it.” She warned Eznho.

    She personally did not want to give the ring as it might invite trouble but Eznho was now the owner of it. He will be the one who will decide what to do with it.

    “I’ll take it, thank you aunt Minchin,” Eznho said gratefully while taking the ring.

    He had mixed feelings towards his father. He had no information regarding him, the only thing connecting him with his father was this ring so he wanted to keep it. He wanted to ask where was he during the attack and why did he not try to find him after all these years.

    After a bit of thinking, he tossed all these questions at the back of his mind. He would think about it when the time comes. His focus now should be the problem at hand.

    “I know you have a lot of questions right now, but I advise you to worry about it later on. The important thing for you to do right now is to survive this predicament.” Minchin reminded him.

    “Little Ez, listen to me, there are many things that could happen in a man’s life that could change his destiny. There are evil lurking in every corner of this world. I don’t ask you to become a malevolent saint, what I want is that if you can do good deeds, then do it. It doesn’t hurt to help others when you can. I know that fate has not been good to you, but there is still goodness in this world. Once you get out of this walls and start your journey you will experience many things. I don’t know what those experiences would be but I hope whatever decisions you make, think carefully and consider the consequences.” Minchin advised.

    “Well, my mouth is starting to get dry from all this talking. You are not a baby anymore so you can make decisions on your own.” Minchin said jokingly and stood up then went in front of Eznho.

    “I have held you long enough, let’s call it a night shall we?” then she bent down and kissed his forehead.

    “Good night my dear little Ez, close the door when you go out,” Minchin instructed and started to walk towards her bedroom.

    “Oww, and one more thing little Ez, try to talk to other people and improve your communication skills. Knowing and befriending other people might prove useful to you.” Minchin added and continued on her way to her bedroom.

    “Okay, I’ll try,” Eznho responded.

    He continued looking at both the necklace and the golden ring while trying to digest all the information he just received. After a while, he calmed down, organized his thoughts and started to formulate his own plans.

    He did what Minchin suggested and made the ring become a part of the jade necklace. He hung the necklace on his neck and covered it with his shirt. The necklace felt cold but at the same time, it gave him warmth, the warmth of having his parents by his side.

    He stood up then bowed respectfully towards Minchin’s bedroom and walked out the door going back to his own room.

    .....

    Six days has already passed since the decree was issued. It was already past noon, four people were inside the pavilion discussing something. They were Eznho, Minchin, Martin and manager Tang.

    “I have tried my best to gather information as best as I could regarding the mines and the border.” Manager Tang said as an introduction.

    “The gold mine is being supervised by the vice captain of the city guard, Randolph. He is a sworn brother of the city guard captain so the city lord cannot directly interfere regarding the mines, but he has still influence he can use to find trouble for you Eznho if he wants to. Be careful out there, there are two main reasons why people die inside the mines. The first one is being buried alive due to the collapse of the cave mines. The second one is having bad luck and accidentally digging nests of wild beasts such as snakes, centipedes, spiders and the like. That is why mercenaries are being hired to kill those beasts and they also hunt down miners who try to escape or steal gold.” Manager Tang spoke solemnly as he looked at Eznho.

    “Regarding you Martin, did you already register your name at the military branch office?” manager Tang asked Martin.

    “Yes manager, I already did,” Martin replied.

    “That’s good, I believe you were already briefed. Your equipment will be provided by the military. So far, no deaths have been reported from the border. Both parties are just watching over each other but who knows if this will continue especially if the gold inside the mine will be more valuable than expected. The city guard captain is also there along with other city guards and military soldiers. As you know the kingdom does not care much about the city and the gold mine, it does not warrant their attention so the army will not be deployed. In short, we are on our own.”

    “A large scale war is unlikely to happen but our city might get dragged into the chaos because we are near the border. As long as the enemy does not go beyond our city, the military will only send a small number of troops.”

    Cities are valued according to their size and location, the nearer it is to the royal capital the more valuable it is. The kingdom has many cities, so a small backwater city does not catch their attention. Sin city is small and located near the border so it does not hold much value, but for the citizens of the city, the allure of the gold mine drives them crazy. They are in the same situation with the opposing for the Black Stone city.

    “Minchin and I already bought the necessary tools for you to use Eznho.”

    Manager Tang pointed to one of the tables, a small and a big pick axe were on top of it. The larger one was a meter and a half long, while the smaller one is just a foot long. They had the same design, just different sizes. The handle was made of wood while the head was made of metal, one side of the head was flat while the other was pointed.

    “We also bought you a coat and a hat made of rabbit fur and a pair of leather boots and gloves. You can get it from Minchin later on.”

    “Thank you,” Eznho bowed politely.

    Manager Tang nodded in response.

    “Hey manager Tang, ahem ahem, what about me?” Martin asked shamelessly.

    Manager Tang was taken aback, this guy truly has a thick face.

    “Hmph! Do I look like your piggy bank that holds your money, huh?” the manager glared at Martin.

    “Just kidding, just kidding no need to be mad.” Martin chuckled while holding his palms outward in front of his chest.

    “Hmph! Let’s see if your shamelessness doesn’t get you in trouble.” The manager harrumphed.

    “One last thing Martin, if you are lucky enough you can become a five man commander in the army. That is the highest position you can achieve as a citizen that does not practice any martial arts. I hope you can achieve that and elevate your status a little.” The manager hoped that Martin would somehow get lucky and become one.

    “Both of you will depart at sunrise, the gathering point will be at the eastern gate. I will not be there to see you off, good luck. May the heavens watch over you during this troubled times. Ai, I have to find new replacements.” Manager Tang sighed and started to walk outside. Nobody knows what he was thinking.

    “Thank you,” both Eznho and Martin said at the same time.

    They were both thankful, they were touched by the actions of their manager.

    “Both of you, make your final preparations,” Minchin spoke after just standing there the whole time.

    “I’ll go buy some other miscellaneous things, what about you little Ez?” Martin inquired.

    “I’ll go the cemetery and say my goodbye,” Eznho answered.

    “That’s good too. I’ll also go there later, maybe I’ll catch up with you there. See yah!” Martin said in return and started to head outside.

    .....

    The cemetery was covered in white, snow was falling while occasional howl of winds could be heard. Winter has already set sail, footprints could be seen heading up on top of the hill. The Kayo tree lost all its leaves and snow has settled on its branches. Eznho was standing in front of the grave.

    “Mother, I will not be able to visit you for a long time but I promise you I will be back. For the first time in my life, I have set a goal to achieve and one of them is to look for father and ask him where was he when you needed him.” Eznho swore while clenching his fist.

    He did not have a good impression of his father. Aside from his revenge against the people who wronged them, he also wanted to find him and ask him face to face why he abandoned them.

    The sun has started to set, it was darker than usual. The color was a combination of red, orange and yellow which was being reflected by the snow covered hills. It was a magnificent sight, but despite the beauty, a hint of sadness can be felt.

    After a while, it started to get dark. Eznho kneeled on both knees and kowtowed three times.

    “I have to go now mother,” Eznho said with reluctance and stood up.

    He was heading halfway down the hill when he met Martin who was holding a gourd of wine.

    “Hey little Ez, sorry I got held up by something.” Martin greeted him.

    “No worries,” Eznho smiled and replied.

    “I’ll also go and say my goodbyes, you can go ahead,” Martin said with a sad tone.

    “Okay,” Eznho could feel Martin’s sadness and started to head back to the city.

    Looking from afar, a lonely silhouette could be seen chugging down a gourd of wine on top of the hill.
     
  9. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 8 The Mines

    There is still half an hour before sunrise, snow continued to fall over Sin city. Chimney smokes could be seen from houses while the winds brought forth a chill that makes you shiver. Homeless people gathered around bonfires seeking warmth from the harsh winter. Some corpses could be seen buried underneath the white snow, such is the cruelty of life.

    The front door of the pavilion opened, three people came out wearing fur coats and hats. A man, a boy with a pick axe and a woman.

    “I’m sorry but I don’t want to see you leave, so I'll just see you out from here. By the way manager Tang said this was your accumulated salary.” Minchin spoke while breath vapor was coming out. She took out a small pouch filled with coins and gave it to Eznho.

    She was still reluctant but had no choice but to accept reality. She could only hope for the best. She went in front of Eznho and hugged tightly while he hugged her back. After several seconds, they let go each other and she kissed him on the forehead. A kiss full of hope and a wish that the boy would come back to her.

    “Take care my little Ez,” Minchin said dotingly while gently holding Eznho’s face with palm. Then she turned to Martin.

    “Martin, I entrust little Ez to you while you are traveling together.” She said with a stern voice.

    “Don’t worry Miss Minchin, as long as I, Martin, lives, nobody can hurt little Ez,” Martin vowed while sticking out his chest.

    “It’s good you know, now go,” Minchin commanded while waving her hand.

    “I will be back aunt Minchin, I promise,” Eznho said with a serious face then started to walk ahead.

    “I’ll be right here,” She answered.

    “See you after a year Miss Minchin,” Martin bowed and started to jog catching up with Eznho.

    Minchin just stood outside while watching two silhouettes disappear, a tear fell down then she turned around and entered.

    ....

    While Martin and Eznho were halfway to their destination, Martin stopped Eznho.

    “Little Ez, I have something for you, it is just for precaution,” Martin said and took out a dagger.

    “I hope you will not have to use this, but if you must, don’t hesitate to use it when your life is in danger,” Martin said solemnly. Then he handed the dagger to Eznho.

    He was having second thoughts when he planned about the dagger, but after thinking about it, he decided to go for it. Unforeseen events may happen anytime and a weapon may come in handy.

    Eznho was surprised but he received and unsheathed it. The dagger was light, about half a kilo, it was nine inches in total length. The spine was curved like the blade that resulted in a pointy edge, it was obviously sharp and could easily cut apart the skin. It was forged from a common metal which had a dull gray color, the handle was made from a fifty-year old Nara tree which was harder and more resilient than the average tree. A simple brown leather was made as it’s sheath.

    “Thank you, big brother, I’ll make sure keep it all times with me.” Eznho was touched by Martin’s thoughtfulness.

    He then hung it on his left waist while his small pick axe was on his right. They continued to walk until they reached their destination.

    “Wait for me here, I’ll just go and change to my uniform, I’ll be back,” Martin said to Eznho and jogged towards the military office.

    .....

    A while later Martin came back with his gear. He looked heroic with his armor, most of his armor was made of thick leather. The only metal part was covering his chest down to his waist and his back. He held a spear in his left hand while a saber hung on his left waist. This was a standard uniform for a new recruit, then a coat of animal fur was draped on him.

    “Gahaha, look at me little Ez, I became more handsome with this. I’m afraid girls would come flocking, gahaha.” Martin said loudly while walking towards Eznho.

    Eznho just rolled his eyes and was a little embarrassed because Martin aroused the attention of other people.

    There was a surprise on their faces when they looked at Eznho holding a pickaxe. He was the youngest of the whole group most of them were twenty years old and above. They were wondering why a young boy like him would go and risk his life in the mines and if you look carefully he had a better clothing than most, a fur coat, thick clothing with matching fur hat, leather boots and leather gloves. This piqued their curiosity and started whispering to each other.

    “Attention! Start assembling and we will march in five minutes!” A soldier with a better armor than Martin shouted and instructed the group.

    “Okay we have to part now little Ez, we will probably see each other for a short period when we reach the mines, see you there. I will be in the front group,” Martin spoke and hugged Eznho.

    A couple of seconds later they let go of each other.

    “Don’t die on me little Ez,” Martin grinned and raised his hand for a fist bump.

    “You might die of old age before me old man,” Eznho said jokingly and also raised his fist.

    “That’s more I like it, gahaha,” Martin laughed and both went on their respective group.

    No more words were needed to be spoken, they understood each other. After all these years, that they have been like real blood brothers, they only had one thing to do – survive.

    .....

    The group was divided into five, the front line was composed of the soldiers, there were over a hundred of them being led by a middle-aged man in a full metal armor. They were followed by a dozen of mercenaries, then the miners which number in hundreds. The fourth group were supply carts being pulled by horses, contained the belongings of the miners which was delivered a day before. And the last one was another group of mercenaries.

    “March!” The leader shouted.

    The group started to march out of the city, their families stayed behind while watching the group depart. The road was covered with few inches of snow. They would reach their destination before night fall.

    .....

    Snow continued to fall while the caravan continued to head to their destination. They were covered in snow but continued to silently walk while the mercenaries and the soldiers were on guard for bandits or wild animals or beasts. They only stopped to rest and eat for lunch then continued on their journey.

    The sun was starting to set over the horizon when they reached a mountain clearing. A majestic view could be seen, the snow covered mountains reflected the sun. The mountain was a part of the Nara mountain range that spans at about twenty kilometers and on the middle is the border between the two kingdoms.

    Below the mountain was a valley divided by a sixty-meter wide river that looked like a snake from above. Tents and structures made of wood have been spread out on one side of the valley just below the mountains. A bridge has been made on the shallow part of the river for people to use. Bonfires were scattered through out the camp spreading warmth to ease the evening chill.

    “Let’s go, we should reach them before dark, lest we will attacked by the hungry beasts of the night.”

    The military leader commanded and started to head down the valley.

    .....

    “Vice captain, the new group has already arrived. They are crossing the bridge.” A city guard saluted and reported.

    “Got it, let’s go meet them.” The vice captain replied.

    Randolph was a middle aged man but still filled with vitality. He was well built, tall and dark skinned. He was bald with sharp black eyes and lips.

    He stood outside with the other city guards. Other than the mercenaries, fifty city guards have been assigned in the mines.

    The incoming group started to cross the bridge led by the soldiers, the leader directly went to Randolph’s group.

    “Greetings vice captain,” the leader cupped his hands greeted.

    “Welcome to the mines, No need to be so formal, hundred man Greg. Come inside you must be tired from your journey, I have already prepared dinner for you.” Randolph greeted back and invited the leader in.

    Greg was a hundred man commander and was a cultivator, his position was somewhat similar with Randolph and they already knew each other. He was assigned to patrol the borders and visited Sin city from time to time. He was a military man with a short black hair, gray color could be spotted in several areas. He was in his fifty’s with a strict look on his face.

    He turned around and faced the crowd,

    “We have arrived at our destination, everyone, make your temporary tents and settle down. The vice captain of the city guard will tell you detailed instructions tomorrow. Rest well you have a long day tomorrow.” He commanded and followed Randolph to his tent.

    .....

    The crowd started to disperse and found their own spot. They have been briefed earlier, they would set up temporary tents for the night as it was already late for further instructions.

    “Hey little Ez, found you,” Martin shouted while waving his hand heading to Eznho’s position.

    “So, where should I set camp?” Eznho answered back.

    “Uhmmm, just anywhere will do, it’s temporary anyway. I’ll help you set up camp.”

    “Okay, thanks.” Eznho nodded.

    They set up camp with the others after getting their things from the supply carts, the tents varied in size. Other people who came in groups have larger tents to accommodate them, while others have small ones just for themselves.

    .....

    “Alright, it’s done. Perfect!” Martin happily voiced out after making the tent.

    It was triangular in shape and can contain two people at most. Their small group contained six tents that formed a circle, a space for bonfire has been left in the middle. The camp was getting livelier while people started to chat with each other around the bonfires.

    .....

    Inside Randolph’s tent,

    “How’s the mine going?” Greg asked while drinking wine.

    “We are progressing smoothly, but lately the miners have started to encounter beasts which lead to casualties but it has been easily quelled by the mercenaries. We are already four kilometers deep from the entrance, the gold we mine is also increasing but so is the risk. I believe stronger beasts have made their nest in the deeper parts, let’s just hope we don’t encounter magical beasts.” Randolph replied with a bit of fear in his eyes.

    “I hope that does not happen or else... I can’t even imagine the consequences.” Greg shook his head while imagining the valley filled with corpses.

    Magical beasts are powerful beasts that surpassed the strength of wild beasts and have already started to set foot in their own unique way of cultivation. They are normally stronger than cultivators on the same level.

    “It is highly unlikely but there is still a slim chance, let’s just hope for the best. The pressure along the border is increasing especially now that the mines are going deeper. I’m afraid that if the gold deposit is big, both parties will try to seize each other’s entrance to monopolize the mine. Ai, many of the recruits will surely die. Enough of the gloomy conversation, come, let’s have a toast and forget our problems for the moment.” Greg sighed and raised his cup.

    “Haha, there no way I’m declining that toast, enough with this dreary topic, cheers!” Randolph merrily toasted.

    .....

    While the two leaders were drinking, the evening rations were being distributed. A soup made of vegetables and a bit of meat was being served for everyone else. The miners started to fall in line while holding their own bowls for the soup.

    The soldiers, city guards and the mercenaries have their own separate dinner, they also had soup but with more meat and lesser vegetables. Wherever you go, there will always be status differences.

    Martin came to Eznho’s camp after getting his share and waited for him while warming himself on the bonfire. A while later, Eznho came back holding his bowl filled with his dinner.

    “Oi, little Ez, come here beside me, let’s compare our food, gahaha I bet mine is better, gahaha” Martin boasted while showing his meat soup.

    Eznho ignored him and just sat beside him.

    “Wait, let’s trade, you need more meat than I do so let’s exchange our food. It would be shameful if you can’t even raise your pickaxe, gahaha.” Martin laughed while teasing Eznho.

    Veins started to pop on Eznho’s temple.

    “Just kidding, just kidding gahaha.” Martin continued to laugh.

    “Come on little Ez, smile a little, luckily we still get to see each other, I thought our last meeting would be back at Sin city, who knew.” Martin grinned and offered his food.

    Eznho looked at the food, he can’t deny he was tempted. This may be his last chance to eat a good meal, but looking at Martin’s grinning face, he couldn’t help but get pissed.

    Left with no choice he agreed with the trade, Martin would persist relentlessly if he will not.

    “Thanks,” Eznho said after the exchange.

    “No big deal,” Martin smiled and started to eat his dinner.

    The other people in the group looked at the duo with curiosity. A rowdy man and timid boy, a strange combination. They were strangers to each other. They were not in the mood to talk with each other as they were tired from the journey and wanted to rest inside their own tents. Besides, they can see that the boy was the kind of person who doesn’t talk much and prefers to be alone.

    They were silent while eating dinner while Martin occasionally talked without care for the others.

    After eating dinner,

    “Hey little Ez, It’s not bad to have friends and talk to others you know, you should try it sometime so you won’t get bored and be lonely. ” Martin rustled his hair and stood up without waiting for Eznho’s reply.

    “I have to go now and rest with my squad, take care of yourself.”

    He started walking outside the circle and raised his hand indicating a wave of goodbye.

    “I’ll try big brother, see yah around,”

    Eznho mumbled to himself while looking at the disappearing silhouette of the man he respects from the bottom of his heart.

    He then raised his head and looked into the night sky, wondering if he could be one of those stars, sitting in the distant sky looking down on everyone.

    He thought about Martin’s words and decided to give it a try, even though he likes to be left alone, he was not a stone and also want to know and befriend other people. Sometimes when he passed by children who were playing with each other and seemingly happy, he constantly asks himself, how would it feel to have a lot of friends and play with them.

    After thinking for a while, he tossed it at the back of his mind. Making friends would take some time, he will just do it slowly and try to pick carefully.

    He then entered his tent, which had a wooden box that contains his basic amenities. He laid down and warmed himself up using a fur blanket, closed his eyes and looked forward to tomorrows activities.
     
  10. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 9 Old Man

    Mist covered the mountain peaks while hilly winds blew over the mountains down to the valley where people set up their camps. The sun had not yet risen but the soldiers already started to pack their things and stood in a formation with their full gears awaiting orders.

    “Everyone get into your positions as instructed last night and start marching towards the border, we should arrive there in a couple of hours if there are no accidents, all assignment will be issued there.”

    Hundred man Greg was in front and instructed the soldiers. They split into two groups half in front and the other half at the back, putting the supply carts in the middle.

    “So rowdy and it is still early in the morning, Ughh.”

    Randolph just came out of his tent with a groggy face while walking towards Greg.

    “Tsk, what a lazy way to live, you should look at yourself. What a disgrace.” Greg scoffed with a look of contempt.

    “Look at you and your discipline, what a boring way to live, anyways good luck on your journey,” Randolph replied lazily.

    “Tsk, you too, be careful, I have been having a bad feeling since I arrived and saw the mine entrance,” Greg warned and started to go in front to lead the soldiers.

    “You worry too much, I still have time to sleep.”

    Randolph ignored Greg’s warning and started to walk lazily back to his tent.

    While the soldiers were heading out, a silhouette of a young boy could be seen watching them leave.

    “Take care, big brother,” Eznho whispered while gripping the dagger on his waist.

    ....

    The sun had already risen and the camp was starting to get rowdy, they just finished their breakfast and the newly arrived miners were instructed to gather for instructions. They gathered in an open space and formed lines. Randolph was in front with his uniform exuding an aura of a leader and an invisible pressure originating from his cultivation.

    “Welcome to the mines, many of you may have ideas on the activities happening around here but for the sake of everybody, I will tell you about the rules and other things. First and foremost, don’t even think about stealing gold for yourself. The lightest punishment would be decapitating the hands while the worst would be execution.”

    Fear could be seen in the eyes of many which was the intended effect by Randolph.

    “I will only give general information, as for the specifics you can ask the older miners or the guards. You will be working in pairs while inside the mines, it is to make sure that at least one can run and inform the guards if a beast has emerged to avoid more casualties. Stealing from others is prohibited, if proven guilty, necessary punishments will be handed down. As for your payments you can choose from two options, a fixed payment every month or a percentage from what you mine every month.”

    The miners started to mumble to each other, this option has its pros and cons. Choosing the latter would require luck and hard work, but if you get lucky you can instantly become rich. The miners started to ponder what options to choose.

    “Silence! You can talk it out with your partner later on.” Randolph shouted when the crowd started to buzz.

    “Some of you might be cultivators so killing beasts also have a reward and you can sell the beast at the trading building managed by the Black Scorpion Treasures. You can also buy things from them. I am warning you don’t even think about hunting them, you will just throw your life away. If you happen to see one, better run with your life and inform the patrolling guards. Treasures will be useless if you die. The guards will be patrolling around the mines and they also have designated posts inside.”

    Randolph warned them earnestly as a bunch of people already died inside due to beast attacks. Black Scorpion Treasures is the biggest trading house in Sin City owned by the notorious Black Scorpion gang.

    “A map will be given to you which contains the general outline of the mines. You will be rotated around so that everyone has a chance to dig good stuff. Rails will be inside the mines with mine carts to transport your rocks. As you can see, there is a rail leading to the processing building where your hauls will be listed under your name. Payment every month will be distributed but you can choose to leave it to us for safe keeping and get it in bulk when you wish to. Working is done alternately, half of you will work today and the other half tomorrow which means one day work one day rest. How you spend your rest days will be up to you. That’s about it, now form two lines, the ones with pairs to the right while the others to the left. As I have said earlier, if you have questions, ask the others. Today will be your rest day, the other half will start tomorrow. Use your time today to familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Good luck.”

    Randolph finished his speech and headed back to his tent with two subordinates in tow. Two tables were set up in front to accommodate the listings and distribution of maps. The miners started to form a line, most of them have already pairs while the others did not have one, these people came here alone with no companions. Naturally, Eznho was one of them, he was in the middle of the left line. Some people were curiously glancing at him, they could not help it because he was the youngest of them.

    Time passed by, it was already Eznho’s turn, the guard on the table gave him a curious look.

    “Name?”

    “Eznho,” Eznhon answered blandly.

    “Family name?”

    “None, I’m an orphan,” Eznho answered honestly.

    “Hmm?”

    The guard looked at him for a second then continued on, orphans were common around the city. But he was curious about this boy, he should not have been allowed inside the mines, he was still too young and would only be a hindrance. Then his companion whispered something to him.

    “Ah? I see, what an unlucky fellow,” He said while shaking his head.

    He was informed that an order was made by the City lord to send this boy here. He did not want to pry anymore, afraid that he might get dragged in. After thinking for a while an idea came up in his mind.

    “How would you like to be paid?”

    “Uhmmm, fixed pay for the first month,” Eznho answered after thinking.

    He knew it was his first time and he may not dig much for the first month. Most of the miners do this in their first months.

    “Seeing that you are still young, you might become a hindrance to everyone else but there is someone who is an exact match for you, Old man Dan. He was here with the first batch so he has a wide experience.”

    After the guard listed his name with his pair, he and his companion couldn’t help but chuckle which made Eznho frown.

    “Alright, here is your map. You can find your partner at the edge of the camp, he likes to be himself, don’t worry he will not eat you. It’s his rest day today so you can find him and you will be working with him tomorrow”

    He gave him a map and a name tag, a small flat metal like a military dog tag with his name on it.

    Eznho walked out of the line and went to a corner and looked at his tag and put it inside his small pouch. Then he took out the map, the map contained the explored areas with danger areas marked red, danger areas have are places where beast have been spotted, few miners bravely go there and try their luck. They believe these beasts guard some sort of treasure or deposits of gold. The main and the biggest tunnel is headed east to the border, while many tunnels branched out forming like tree branches. The railway was only located at the main tunnel. After studying the map, he decided to walk around and explore the area.

    The tents were located in one particular area while wooden buildings have been erected in another one. Eznho was walking around this place, it was like some sort of village center, there was a drinking establishment, trading house, gambling den, stalls that sell food and other things. The place was full of people, life in the mines was boring so most of the time people who were on rest day came here to entertain themselves.

    After walking for over an hour, he came to the bank of the river. He heard some people drowned and were dragged down by river beasts, as for the truth he did not know. Some parts of the river were really deep and the bottom was dark like a beast was lurking below waiting for their prey. He sat down under the shade of a big rock while appreciating the beauty of the river glistening under the sun while fishes occasionally jump from time to time.

    Hours passed and Eznho decided to look for his partner, it did not take long for him to find the place he was looking for. A tent was erected a hundred meters away from the camp, it was triangular like the others, and a fire was burning outside with a pot above it but no one was around.

    He slowly walked getting closer to the tent.

    “Who’s there?!” A shout suddenly came from the tent.

    Eznho was frightened and stopped.

    “Uhmmm, I was told to come here and look for you sir,” Eznho said after mustering his courage.

    “Who sent you? Why are you here?” the voice answered back, it sounded old with a hint of irritation.

    “My name is Eznho, the guard sent me here, I was told you would become my partner?”

    “What?!” another shout came and the tent opened.

    An thin old man came out, he was draped in animal fur with a disheveled long gray hair and half a foot long beard. He had an irritated wrinkled face, he was grumbling and his yellowish teeth had gaps with some black spots.

    “Tsk! They sent me a sissy? Shooo! Go find someone else and stop disturbing me,”

    The old man rejected him while spit was coming out of his mouth and went back inside.

    “But...” Eznho stared blankly while trying to come up with a sentence.

    “No buts! Stay away or else I’ll cook you later for dinner!”

    The old man interrupted and shouted.

    Eznho was irritated and kicked his leg and accidentally kicked a stone that coincidentally went inside the pot.

    Shit!

    He felt like a bucket of cold water was poured over him and started to run going back to his tent. He felt dejected when he went back and started to come up with a plan, he needed to pair up with the old man if he wants to survive. The others would surely reject him because he would not be of much help to them.
     
  11. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 10 First Encounter

    Eznho woke up early and got himself ready for his first day of work, he planned on waiting for the old man at the entrance. After breakfast, he followed the crowd and waited for the old man at the entrance.

    An hour has already passed but the old man still did not show up. Eznho was in a pickle on what to do, even if he wanted to enter they would not allow him, especially that it is his first time. He tried to calm himself down and patiently waited.

    Another hour has passed, still no signs of the old man.

    “Did he already enter?”

    Eznho asked inwardly and decided to go first check on the old man’s tent. He was about to go when he saw the old man coming with a pickaxe in tow.

    He looked the same as yesterday except with a lazy look on his face.

    “I have been waiting for you,” Eznho tried to talk calmly while suppressing his anger.

    “Huh? Who are you?” The old man looked at him with a confused face.

    “I am your assigned partner to enter the mines, I went yesterday to talk with you, remember?” He replied with a forced smile.

    “Hmmmm?” the old man was trying to remember.

    “Aha! You’re the sissy, tsk! Still trying to follow me? I don’t want any sissy following me, shooo you are in my.” The old man tried to dismiss him while waving his hand and walked past him.

    Eznho was starting to get furious when the old man stopped.

    “Wait a minute, did you put something in my food yesterday?”

    The old man turned back with narrowed eyes.

    Crap!

    Eznho suddenly felt a chill.

    “No, why would I do that?”

    Eznho answered while trying to show an apathetic face but cold sweats started to come out on his back.

    The old man was still looking at him trying to have a good read on the boy.

    “Tsk! Stop following me, go find someone else,” He turned back and continued to proceed inside.

    Eznho heaved a sigh of relief but was determined to follow the old man, he had a feeling that he will learn things from him so he still followed.

    The old noticed him but was too lazy to bicker with him and continued on his way.

    The entrance was wide about three meters high and three meters wide. Eznho continued to follow the old man after passing the entrance guard and did some miscellaneous things. They were quite the whole time while sounds of men chattering and digging echoed inside. The tunnels were lit with lamps. Finally, after walking for half an hour they turned left then walked for another fifteen minutes. The old man stopped and started to check out the place.

    They were the only ones in that place, but echoes could still be heard.

    “Uhmmmm, what should I do?”

    Eznho asked he had to start work already because he started late. Even though he has chosen the fixed payment, he had to meet a quota.

    The old man ignored him and started to dig with his pickaxe after examining the wall.

    Veins popped out on Eznho’s head after the old man still ignored him.

    He walked and stood a meter beside the old man and raised his pickaxe above his head and swung it with all his might.

    Clang!

    The pointed edge of the pickaxe clashed with a hard stone and produced a spark then went sideways and landed few centimeters from the old man’s foot.

    Shit!

    The old man could not react as it happened fast, the boy walked beside him and suddenly swung his pickaxe and the next thing he saw it landed on the ground barely grazing his foot.

    “Are you crazy?! Huh? Does my foot look like gold to you?”

    He yelled at the top of his lungs, while sweet was trickling down his wrinkly forehead.

    “Fuck!” He cursed while pointing his finger on the boy.

    Spit was showering on Eznho’s face but he did not dare to move.

    “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” He apologized and repeatedly bowed his head.

    “Tsk! Go dig far away from me!” The old man shouted.

    Eznho immediately backed away and picked a place ten meters from where the old man was digging.

    “Stupid sissy, you’re gonna be the cause of my death.” The old man grumbled while continuing to dig.

    Clang!

    He turned his head to see what’s happening and saw a rotating pickaxe hurtling towards him.

    Fuck!

    Both of them shouted inside their minds.

    “Tsk, Stupid sissy!” He cursed again and easily dodged it by jumping backward out of reflex.

    The axe landed and stuck on the wall. Veins were popping out of the old man's head while his face was beginning to get red. He looked sideways towards the boy who had an apologetic look on his face.

    “You sissy! Fuck! Are you trying to kill me, Huh? Might as well come and struck me with your pickaxe! Fuck! What kind of shitty luck is this? Fuck! Are the heavens toying with me, Fuck!”

    The old man started to curse loudly while Eznho buried his head on his shoulders enduring the old man’s curses.

    After a while, the old man stopped but was still breathing loudly, clearly still pissed. He walked towards Eznho’s pickaxe and easily pulled it out and headed towards Eznho.

    Eznho saw and wanted to run but could not, he was nervous. Who knows this old man might be mad and murder him here. He mustered his courage and started to back away slowly and tried to run.

    “Stop!” The old man shouted.

    He stopped and just stood there waiting for the old man.

    “Are you really that stupid? Did you think you could come inside and randomly swing your axe and strike gold? Huh? Tsk! Do you even have a brain?”

    The old man berated him and handed back his pickaxe. He tried to calm down and after a while, he took a deep breath.

    “Tsk, seeing that you're stupid and I am stuck with you I’ll teach you the basics, first carefully observe the walls and try to find out if there are gold deposits and then...”

    He briefly explained the basics while Eznho listened earnestly.

    “Alright, I told you the basics, now go and stop trying to kill me, if that happens one more time, I promise you, I will bury you here with the gold you understand?”

    Old man Dan said with a serious face.

    “Yes sir! Thank you,” Eznho bowed and immediately found a spot a little bit further from the old man.

    “What a sissy, tsk!” the old man grumbled and continued his digging.

    .....

    No accidents happened ever since and Eznho slowly learned the way of mining, he had his fair share of hardships especially the first week where he could barely raise his pickaxe because of muscle pain and blisters on his palms. Bruises and small cuts also formed on different parts of his body.

    Every morning before work, he still waited for the old man. They still did not talk much with each other and worked silently. The mine slowly progressed and was only three kilometers from the border. Eznho stored his payments and started to get paid by percentage, he was improving. His life was a routine with some variations, he sometimes visited the old man or went for a swim in the river. He never knew anyone else, everyone pretty much minded their own business.

    .....

    Six months already passed since Eznho first arrived, it was the end of spring and the summer heat started to bore down. Green grass filled the valley, and the mountains were painted in green. Just like always, Eznho waited for the old man and they went inside and started to dig.

    He was digging while the old man was several meters away from him. Suddenly he noticed from his peripheral vision that small rubbles were falling a meter from the ground two meters beside him.

    “Hmmm?” He got curious and stopped digging and walked towards it.

    More and more rubbles started to roll down. It piqued his curiosity and bent down to take a closer look while narrowing his eyes trying to focus. Then suddenly two wiggling seemingly antennas came out which surprised him.

    “Huh?”

    He had a bad feeling and wanted to back out but a dark blue green centipedes head suddenly came out and spit something towards his face.

    “Ah!”

    He was surprised and landed on his butt then adrenaline came pumping in and he subconsciously covered his face using his left hand. A green toxic liquid land on his left palm which made a sizzling sound when it made contact with the leather glove. It easily corroded it and made contact with the skin.

    “Arrrggghhh!” He could not help but shout due to the sudden pain. He poured his strength on his right hand that held his pick axe and swung it towards the centipedes head.

    He did not have time to look at the result of his struggle as he felt a painful burning sensation on his left hand. He started to get dizzy and landed on the ground, his eyes were blurry. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a silhouette of a man standing beside him and a feeling of being carried while a strong gust of wind was passing by.

    .....

    An unknown time has passed, Eznho slowly opened his eyes, it was blurry at first and he was trying to adjust his vision. He felt a stinging pain on his left palm but he could not move it, his body felt weak all over. He tried to familiarize himself with the surroundings, the smell was a mix of medicinal herbs, sweat, sewer and the smell of old men, it was unpleasant.

    After adjusting his vision, he can see that he was in a tent while he was covered in blankets. The tent was a little old, the blankets also had holes in them.

    The tent opened and an old man came inside with a bowl of medicine, it had a sweet aroma,

    “Wakey wakey, sleeping beauty, I thought you’ll gonna lay down there until you are dead.”

    Old man Dan greeted him.

    Eznho felt irritated and wanted to get up but he had no strength to do so.

    “Ugh!” he exclaimed.

    “Tsk! Do you wanna die after all the troubles you made me do? I should have just left you inside to rot, stupid sissy,”

    Old man Dan scolded him.

    Eznho just listened and did not argue, his life was in the old man’s hand so he just endured.

    “Okay, now that you are awake drink this and I’ll change your bandage later, you will be like this for a couple of days.” Old man Dan instructed.

    Days passed like this and on the fifth day he regained his strength and struggled to wake up, he removed his blanket and saw that he was butt naked.

    The hell?

    He could not imagine the old man taking off his clothes and...

    Bleggh!

    He nearly vomited thinking about it but what else can he do, he just prayed that the old man will not talk about it.

    He found his robe and put it on, there was stinky sticky black ink on his body and on the blankets, he ignored it and went out. All his things were inside the tent but it was really smelly inside. A bandage was wrapped around his left palm.

    He walked and saw another tent outside, his tent. He was on the old man’s tent and still on the edge of the camp. A pot of boiling soup was outside and he helped himself. He went to peek inside his tent and saw that the old man’s belonging was there.

    The heck?

    He was puzzled and wanted to ask the old man but he was not around. He went in the river and took a deep that made him feel alive. He took of his bandage and a white scar was almost covering his left palm. He touched it and felt smooth.

    It was already evening when the old man came back from the mines, still grumpy as ever.

    “Ow, the sissy is up now, time to pay up for my services. Don’t even think that you’ll get a special treatment from me, the great Dan without paying,”

    The old man spoke first without care.

    “Fine, I’ll pay you, but why are you in my tent?”

    Eznho rolled his eyes and answered back.

    “Tse, you speak like your tent is a special dwelling, mines definitely better. I had no choice but to switch it you know, you made my tent stinky!”

    Old man Dan answered back like he was wronged.

    Eznho was irritated but did not want to argue, he owed the old man.
     
  12. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 11 I Struck Gold!

    Eznho just ignored the old man and prepared dinner.

    “So, old man, can you at least tell me what happened?” Eznho broke the silence and asked.

    He vaguely remembered everything and had many questions, he also had suspicions about the old man but did not voice it out, afraid that it would bring trouble.

    “I don’t know what has gotten into your brain, if you even have one, to actually go and offer your face to a toxic giant centipede? How stupid can you get?” the old man ridiculed.

    “Well, how would I know, I was just curious,” Eznho protested.

    “Tsk, that’s what you call stupidity, any way you got lucky that the poison got into your hand so it did not spread that fast, if it was your face, you would be buried right now with an ugly face.”

    “I don’t know what dog shit luck you have to actually kill it by accident, you hit it on the head with your axe but it got corroded so you need to buy a new one. Anyways I carried you back to my tent and had to use my important medicinal herbs just to treat you, I’m even regretting it now that I think about it. I sold the centipede and used the gold to repay what you owe me, the leftovers were left in your account. The poison is already out of your system, rest for maybe two days and you’ll be better. That’s about it, anyways are your parents cultivators?”

    Old man Dan was lazy to tell him every detail but was curious about one thing.

    “Huh? My mom is not from what I know but my dad, I never met him so I have no idea, why do you ask?” Eznho answered honestly with a hint of curiosity.

    “Nothing, forget about it, and one more thing you can stay here but we are switching tents. I advise you to burn the blankets and buy new ones as the poison dregs got stuck on them and it won’t be easy to remove it. Tsk! What a waste, they were my favorite.”

    Old man Dan spoke like he lost something valuable. He was curious about the boy’s origin because when he scanned his body to eject the poison, he felt that the boy had a spiritual seed and a high grade at that, but he did not know what grade exactly. Spiritual seeds are graded from one to five in general, it is the foundation needed to start the road on cultivation.

    He was thinking if he would introduce the boy to the world of cultivation but chose not to, the cultivation world is a mess and he did not also want to add a baggage that would drag him down as he had his own personal vendetta to do. He also saw the ring on the necklace and was curious but did not pry in the end, he did not want to be dragged by unforeseen situations. Helping the boy was already diverting from his plan, he did not want to see an innocent boy just die horribly in front of him.

    He did not want to drag the conversation and went inside “his” tent.

    “You...”Eznho was pissed but swallowed it, he did not have the right to argue.

    He brought out all the soiled blankets and burned it. He had an extra blanket and would buy new ones tomorrow including a new pick axe.

    .....

    Early in the morning, Eznho went to buy new blankets and pickaxe, people were looking at him with strange looks but ignored them. He found that what happened inside was spread and they told him it was a miracle that he was still alive, if it were others, they would have died on the spot as the toxin from the centipede can kill a low-level cultivator in minutes, let alone a child like him.

    A few days passed and he was back in his peak condition, even stronger than before. He continued to work like before while accompanying the old man. There were occasional deaths due to wild beasts like centipedes, snakes, spiders, giant ants and even rats.

    As time passed, the mines were getting dangerous due to the appearance of beasts. The miners were scared now to go deeper, even though payments were increased, only a few were brave enough to go deep. Naturally left with no choice, most of the people chosen were low-level cultivators.

    Another five months passed and only a month is left before Eznho could take a break. Only a kilometer was left to dig before reaching the border but the progress was slowed down as more and more beasts came out to kill the miners. Fights broke out deep inside the mines and some cultivators even died.

    .....

    Inside Randolph’s tent, he had an ugly look on his face. What he feared most has come knocking on his door. He held a meeting with two of his trusted subordinates.

    “By the looks of it there is a high chance that a magical beast lives inside, we need to call for reinforcements right away. We cannot fight with it, we will just die with in seconds, something must be happening deep inside the mines that’s why it does not attack and just sends the nearby beasts. Miller, go to the city and inform the military office I am sure they will be interested and they might send experts. Jones, you will go to the border and inform the captain so he will be ready, I am sure everybody noticed this already and everyone is preparing for it, now go.”

    Both acknowledged their order and departed immediately with the fastest horse.

    Randolph stood there furrowing his brows, trying to think of a way to minimize the losses and how to progress the digging.

    .....

    Inside the tent of one of the mercenaries,

    “Jake, go and inform the captain to get ready, tell him that there is a high chance that a magical beast is inside the mines.”

    A muscular mercenary leader instructed his subordinate while a hint of fear could be seen in his eyes. Magical beast, just the name itself brought fear to many, it was rare for them to encounter such beast in places like this. Most of them lived in the beast territory, which was located beyond the Green Pine Mountain Range.

    .....

    All parties sent out messengers to their respective groups, an invisible pressure loomed over everyone in the mines. Everyone knew a big event will happen in the near future, some miners started to go back home, in fear for their lives.

    A meeting was held in Randolph’s tent, the group consisted of the mercenary leaders, there were eight of them with each one commanding at least a dozen mercenary.

    “I’m sure everybody in here has their own ideas about what’s happening, frankly I don’t care what is inside the mine. I don’t want to sacrifice the lives of the innocent miners anymore. They will just mine on the outer region, if we want to continue mining I suggest we send our own subordinates to do the work. Whatever comes after, leave me out of it, my duty is to protect the lives of the miners. Does everyone agree?”

    Randolph spoke directly with a serious tone. He did not want to get involved especially that experts are coming soon to deal with the problem.

    “I agree,”

    “Me, too,”

    “Agreed,”

    Everyone agreed without hesitation. They might not be able to fight this battle, but they were confident in their own captains.

    .....

    From that day on, only cultivators were allowed deep in the mines, the others who stayed were to mine the outer perimeters.

    The old man disappeared and told Eznho that he had something to do and was not sure how long it will take. This left him with no choice but to work alone, he was allowed to enter as he was already considered a veteran as long as he did not go in too deep.

    He chose an isolated tunnel going north not too far from the entrance, he started to dig as usual. Hours passed and he already dug quite a bit. He swung his pickaxe but got stuck, he tried to pull it out but it won’t come out.

    He tried again with more force and finally unstuck it while he stumbled backward and nearly fell on his back. He regained his balance and a light caught his attention.

    A ray of golden light came from the hole he made, he could not see what’s inside. He was unsure what to do but was tempted. He carefully made the hole bigger and bigger until more light came out illuminating the place. Luckily no one was around to see it. He dug until the hole became wide enough for him to crawl inside.

    The light was bright and the inside cannot be seen, he was hesitating, afraid it might be a beast nest. He waited for a bit but nothing happened. He took a deep breath and got on his knees and bravely went inside with the dagger on his right hand.

    He put his hand above his eye to cover it from the glare, it took time for him to adjust his vision and was astounded by what he saw.

    “Whoooaaa!” he could not help but exclaim.

    His eyes nearly popped out and his jaw dropped. A small cave of gold flooded his vision, what a sight to behold! He had to squint his eyes because of the glitters of gold. His heart was beating fast, he was stunned and did not move for how many seconds. Never in his life could he imagine that such a place exist.

    I struck gold!

    It took a while before he calmed down, then his mind became clear and he suddenly felt dejected.

    “Damn, I found this but I can’t even take all of it, damn!”

    He was heavily disappointed, even though he struck gold, there is no way he is taking all of it, he would be lucky if he could negotiate to take a bigger portion of it than usual.

    “Darn it! Now that I need the old man, he went missing, what a useless old fogey.”

    Deep in the forest in front of a cave, an old man was meditating while heavenly energy converged around him. An intimidating pressure surrounded him and if you look closely, a few inches of distorted layer surrounded him.

    “Achooo!” he suddenly sneezed without warning.

    He looked towards the direction of the mines.

    “I bet that sissy is talking behind my back, wait ‘till I get back and you’ll see,”

    Then he focused again on his meditation.

    .....

    Many thoughts were running through Eznho’s mind, he even thought about hiding some of it but he immediately discarded that thought.

    “I was actually thinking like that old man and big brother, I bet if they were here they would think of something to sneak some of this gold out if not all. But to be honest I am really tempted.” He shook his head while a wry smile hung on his mouth.

    It could not be helped that he was somewhat influenced by those two.

    .....

    “Achooo!”

    A soldier sneezed while on guard on top of a wall, the wall was twenty meters made of rocks. It was used as a barrier in the mountain pass, the pass was one of the main route used to travel between the two kingdoms.

    The soldier was naturally Martin, his hair got longer and he had a short beard and a mustache. There was a certain aura of a military man within him, it was obvious there were changes that happened during his stay in the border. He rubbed his nose and suddenly thought of his little brother.

    “I hope you are doing fine, little Ez,” He mumbled while continuing his watch.

    .....

    After being dazzled, Eznho stood up, the small cave was three meters tall and wide and at least fifteen meters long. He looked around, the wall and the ceiling were filled with gold nuggets of varying sizes, the biggest was the size of a human head they shone brightly that lit up the cave.

    He slowly walked forward while marveling the sight with mouth wide open the whole time. He still could not believe it, he was nearing the end of the cave when an object piqued his interest. A small rusty bronze lamp was floating with unfamiliar writings on its body, small ripples were fluctuating below it. The lamp was slightly moving up and down, a small dark gray flame was flickering on it.

    “Hmmm? Is this what the people call magical objects?”

    Eznho stopped walking and just stared and observed the lamp. He also saw the gray flame that seemed dying and could go out any moment.

    He furrowed his brows and was contemplating what to do, he heard about people who changed their destiny after finding magical objects. He was tempted and immediately thought about the people he wanted to get revenge with but was also scared especially the gray flame that looks like it will give a curse. He would not hesitate if the flame was golden or something similar.

    How the heck is a gray flame something good?

    He wanted to get away but he thought about Martin, he will never get revenge if he will live like this. This might be his chance, his only chance.

    He gritted his teeth and slowly raised his right hand and pointed his index finger. Then with a movement, his finger was only an inch from the lamp’s body. He was getting nervous and his palms started to get sweaty. He held his breath, closed his eyes and finally touched the lamp.

    A few seconds later, he opened his eyes but nothing happened, his index finger was still touching the lamp.

    “Huh?” He was confused why nothing happened.

    He tried touching it a few times but nothing happened, he even grabbed it avoiding the gray flame and tried to move it but he couldn’t.

    “Tsk! What a useless...”

    He was frustrated but before he could finish his sentence, the writing on the lamp lit up and flickered a few times. After flickering the lamp started to disintegrate into ashes and vanished leaving only the gray flame floating.

    “Yii?”

    He was surprised and started to back away, he did not have a good impression on this flame. Before he could even hasten his step, he suddenly froze and the flame turned into a streak of gray light and headed towards his forehead.

    Crap!

    After it entered his forehead, he could finally move but felt dizzy and started to lose consciousness.

    Oh, come on!

    He shouted inwardly and the world went black.
     
  13. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 12 First Step On The Road To Cultivation

    An unknown time had passed and Eznho woke up, he was still inside the golden cave.

    “Ughh!”

    He groaned while holding his head, it felt like it was splitting. He remained lying down until he felt better and stood up going towards the hole he made, afraid something might happen again. He went out and reported the cave to the guards, he had no choice.

    The guards were skeptical but were astonished when they found the cave, they immediately reported the situation and Eznho was given the credit. He was allowed to take a three-day break and to report to Randolph after.

    He went back in his tent feeling exhausted and directly fell asleep. He woke up afternoon of the next day feeling much better. He was about to get up when the ring on his neck felt hot, he looked at it and saw that the engravings lit up then a white smoke came out and suddenly entered his nose,

    “Are you kidding me!” He blurted out while suddenly feeling dizzy again.

    Really? How many times does this have to happen?

    He was frustrated about losing consciousness, this was his third time already.

    .....

    A head splitting headache woke him up along with his bellowing stomach, he was feeling weak, it has been days since he ate. He ignored his pain and crawled outside, it was early in the morning and the sun had just risen. He went back in and forcefully chewed dried rations, his stomach felt painful while the food was going down his stomach.

    His strength slowly came back, he started to hate the feeling of losing consciousness. He took a deep breath and went for a bath, he boiled soup after and slowly fed himself. Now that he felt better, he tried to feel if there were changes in his body. He was disappointed to find nothing, his mind also became clearer and found out that a new information was stored in his memory.

    Heaven-Seizing Breathing Technique.

    Breathing techniques are used by cultivators to absorb heavenly energy to be used for cultivation, they are graded from one to ten. One to three is low grade, four to six is middle, seven to nine is high grade and ten is the legendary top grade. The higher the grade, the faster a cultivator absorbs heavenly energy to improve his cultivation. The grade also affects how far you can achieve on the road of cultivation. It also one of the most basic requirement to start cultivation, it is used to break the spiritual seed and start the cultivation path.

    Dragon-Tiger Dance.

    A technique used to aid the cultivator shorten the time in passing the cleansing stage, the first two stages of cultivation are awakening stage and cleansing stage. The awakening stage solely depends on the spiritual seed and breathing technique.

    The spiritual seed is located in the dantian, it is a multicolored bubble-like sphere that contains the sea of knowledge which is a transparent liquid. The more liquid the seed contains, the higher the talent of the cultivator will be. If the liquid fills one-fifth of the seed it will count as grade one talent, two-fifth would be grade two and so forth until grade five talent which would make the seed be full with the sea of knowledge.

    The breathing technique and the Dragon-Tiger Dance were the two main subject contained with in his memories and the others are general information pertaining to cultivation.

    .....

    Blankness filled Eznho’s eyes until a while later it became clear again and he came back to his self. He was breathing rapidly as he scanned this new information, he was not sure where this came from, the ring or the flame but he did not particularly care as long as he will have the means to push through with his plans.

    He calmed himself down and studied the information thoroughly, he did not immediately start to experiment if this was true as he had to meet with Randolph the next day and did not want to garner his attention. He spent the day thinking and planning what would his next move be.

    .....

    The sun had just risen and Eznho went on his way to Randolph’s tent. Randolph was sitting in his chair sorting things out. A subordinate came in to inform him that Eznho was waiting outside.

    “He’s early, let him in,” he commanded.

    Eznho went inside and saw Randolph looking back at him. It was not his first time seeing him but it was his first time standing right in front of him. He could not help but feel a bit nervous but he did not show it and stood there like he feels nothing.

    “You’re Eznho, correct?” Randolph broke the silence and inquired.

    “Yes sir,” Eznho promptly replied.

    “Hmmm, I see, I have read your record and it seems the city lord has a bit of a grudge with you. But seeing you, it is highly unlikely that he has met you so I am betting it has to do with that fat son of his, am I right?”

    “Yes sir,” Eznho answered honestly, he had nothing to hide.

    “Too bad for you, you’re quite lucky to survive until now. You even have an impressive record here in the mines, you were poisoned but did not die and after that, you even found a good deposit of gold.” Randolph praised him with a delight.

    Eznho just stood there without answering.

    “As much as I would like to talk with an interesting fellow like you, I have no time as you can see the mine is becoming a big mess. I’ll cut to the chase, basing on the circumstances inside the mines and your impressive record I can cancel the city lord’s decree.”

    “What?” Eznho was caught off guard and widened his eyes.

    “Huh? You don’t like it?” Randolph asked with raised eye brow.

    “No no no, of course, I would gladly accept it, I was just surprised.”

    Eznho immediately answered back afraid he will take the offer back.

    “Good, all your payments have been deposited in a bank card.”

    Then he took out a brown bank card that looked simple and nothing special. Eznho took it while staring at it with curiosity. It was his first time hearing things like this. Looking at the boy’s reaction, Randolph explained its usage.

    “Bank cards are used when an individual reached a certain amount of gold coins, you wouldn't want to carry sacks of gold walking around, would you? The lowest card is the brown card which can be used by commoners like you. It is filled with simple formations and can be used to purchase things in certain establishments that accept bank cards. The card you are holding has no value right now, you have to go to the bank in the city to register it under your name. I already placed your payments there with the captain's seal for authentication. Further instructions would be given to you inside the bank.”

    “Okay thank you,” Eznho nodded while listening to Randolph’s explanation.

    “About the city lord’s decree, I already made another decree informing that you have served well and contributed much in the mines and that you are hereby free form the previous order. Anyone rebuking the new decree is going against the city guard captain himself. If anyone comes making trouble for you saying that you broke the city lord’s decree, show them this scroll and I am sure nobody will make things difficult for you. The city lord would have to find other reasons to cause trouble for you but I doubt it, he wouldn’t want to waste his time scheming against a commoner like. So I advise you, keep out of trouble young man. Spend your earnings well and if you want, you can go to other cities, you have the money to spare. That’s all, you can go now, good luck.”

    Randolph handed a scroll with the city guard captain’s seal. Eznho received it with delight, this scroll meant his freedom.

    “Thank you,” He respectfully bowed, he engraved this gratitude in his heart.

    Randolph nodded and thought about something important.

    “One last thing, you don’t have to go anymore inside the mines you can leave anytime. Be careful going back, I’m sorry but I can’t have someone escort you back. With that sum of money, I am sure there are people who are willing to hurt you to get a hold of it. There’s also a possibility that it won’t happen but be extra careful, you’ll never know.”

    Randolph earnestly warned, thievery and murder are not uncommon in this world. He just hoped that the boy survived and have a good life. He also came from nothing and slowly made it to where he is now. His eyes contained a reminiscing look, he remembered his dark days and the man who helped him get back on his feet.

    Eznho nodded in response and also became wary.

    .....

    “Boss, I have heard the boy has been pardoned by Randolph and was allowed to go back. He even gave him a bank card.”

    A thin small man with a bow on his back reported to his leader.

    “I see, money is still money, it’s a free picking so why let the chance go? Hahaha, when is he leaving?” the leader laughed maliciously while eating a roasted meat.

    “I have no idea though,”

    “Hmmm, Eagle Eye since you discovered it, you can take the mission if you want, just do it cleanly I don’t want any trouble especially that the boss will be participating in the upcoming events.” The leader warned.

    “Don’t worry boss, easy prey hehehe,” Eagle Eye laughed eerily.

    He was a low-level cultivator that specializes in archery, killing people with no cultivation is easy for him. He has done it so many times before.

    .....

    Fall already started month’s ago, and the winter chill started to blow. It has been almost a year since he came into the mines. He prepared his winter outfits and other things, it is finally time to go back. He was happy but at the same time sad, he could go home but his big brother can’t. There was still three weeks until the supposedly allotted vacation for them, he was excited to see his brother again.

    He decided to stay here for twenty days before departing, he had to at least make preparations to guard himself just in case. He found a small clearing in the nearby forest beside a creek, no dangerous animals or beasts could be found. A large tree stump was there and he decided to sit on it. Assuming a meditative position, he started to practice as instructed by the information on his brain.

    He emptied his mind of all distractions, it was hard at first but he got used to it. After that, he started to breathe in and out but after a while, he felt nothing. He was starting to get impatient but still persisted. Hours passed and he finally felt something, aside from breathing air, an indescribable feeling entered him. He did not know how to explain it, a warm and relaxing feeling entered him but suddenly disappeared when he got distracted. He was not disappointed, instead delighted that he made progress.

    He adjusted his breathing and the warm feeling started to go down from his head to his body. Every time it flowed to a new area of his body, a popping sound could be heard. It was described in the information as the opening of the qi passageways. These passageways are normally closed but when a person starts cultivation and absorbs heavenly energy, they open up. The higher grade the breathing technique the easier it is to open the passageways, low-grade techniques take at least a week to open it fully.

    He continued to breathe until he reached the dantian, and a stinging pain met him, the pain came from the inside.

    “Ughh!” The pain surprised him but he endured.

    He continued to absorb heavenly energy until every passageway was opened. It automatically circulated but it was sluggish and slow, the passageway was not still fully opened. He had to continue absorbing and circulating until it became smooth and at the same time fully opening the passageways.

    While he was absorbing, energy was accumulating on his dantian and attacking the bubble, this was the cause of the pain. As he continued circulating, it became better and finally the passageways opened fully but the pain was still increasing. His lower abdomen become hotter until...

    Pop!

    The sound of a bubble bursting came from within, at the same time he vomited black blood. He did not have time to care about it, immediately after that, the transparent liquid evaporated and turned into motes of black light and some small transparent particles then gathered together.

    They formed a vague shape of a black dragon sorrounded by a thin layer of transparent film then suddenly went out of the dantian and followed the meridians going up to the brain.

    Crack! Peng!

    The sound of mirror cracking and shattering was heard and a sudden sharp pain entered Eznho’s head.

    “Ahhhhhh!” He could not help but scream at the top of his lungs while holding his head frightening the nearby animals.

    The pain was unbearable, he felt dizzy and signs of losing consciousness appeared but he held on and bit his lip to stay awake. The pain lasted for a minute until it subsided down and replaced with a warm refreshing feeling. He adjusted his breathing again and he was surprised when he closed his eyes and concentrated he was in a different place.

    He was in a boundless sea, the sky was clear blue with clouds rolling by. The water was calm with no waves or ripples and reflected the sky. He had no form but he could “see”.

    “Is this the sea of consciousness?” he wondered.

    Sea of consciousness was described as the place where the soul resides, without opening it, you cannot control your consciousness.

    Once the sea of knowledge got out from the spiritual seed, it will automatically attack the barrier isolating the sea of consciousness and allowing the person to control his consciousness.

    The place was peaceful and tranquil, he moved around until he saw a light in the distance.

    “Is that my soul?”

    He started to get closer but when he reached a distance he could not move any further, it seemed like an invisible barrier was put into place. He did not force it and just focused and observed.

    A wisp of white light was floating, the light was pure and untainted, it seemed like it did not belong to this cruel world. Inside the light was a human figure floating in a meditative position with eyes closed, he was also made of light and looking at it closely it resembled Eznho. The tiny black dragon earlier coiled around it and slowly disintegrated again to motes of black light and tiny trasparent particles while being absorbed by the soul.

    While they were being absorbed, Eznho felt like his thinking became much clearer, his senses enhanced and he had a clearer mind.

    “This feels good,” He was delighted and enjoyed the feeling.

    The absorption was slow so he decided to go and look at his dantian, it was filled with thin white mist, obviously made from heavenly energy. He continued to absorb more energy but his dantian reserve was only increasing slowly to the point that it was negligible. Aside from blood, heavenly energy was also circulating around his body.

    The sun had already set when he opened his eyes, they looked clearer than before and looked intelligent. He was exhausted but at the same time he felt good, he clenched his fist and felt excited. Now, he had his chance to change Martin’s situation.

    He took a bath in the river, had his dinner meditated for a couple of hours and then called it a day.
     
  14. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 13 Baby Steps

    “Wait, wait for me,”

    Eznho was trying to catch up to a man while running out of breath. He could only see his silhouette and did not even know why he was chasing the man. The silhouette got further and further away.

    “Why? Why did you leave us?” Eznho shouted with a desperate voice.

    He stumbled and fell on his knees while his two hands were supporting him.

    “Wait!” He shouted again but it was useless and started to sob.

    ....

    His eyes snapped open, two deep black eyes stared at the tent ceiling while his left hand was hanging in the air.

    “Huh?”

    A tear rolled down from his left eye down to his ear, he lowered his hand and wiped the tear.

    “Just a dream, was that father?”

    He clearly remembered his dream but could not get any clue out of the man he was chasing. Deep within his mind, a nagging feeling of wanting to look for his father was tugging him but he was suppressing it.

    “Priorities first,”

    Closing his eyes again, he took a deep breath and calmed down. He got up and changed because he was drenched in sweat. As much as he wanted to look for his father, he still had more pressing matters to do. Martin was far more important to him than his own father.

    After taking a bath, he had his breakfast of bread and milk. Going back to the place where he practiced yesterday, he adjusted himself and performed the Heaven-Seizing breathing technique for an hour before starting to study the basics of cultivation.

    Basing on his performance and current situation, he had officially finished the awakening stage and ready to step into the cleansing stage.

    The cleansing stage is preparing the body by removing the impurities of the mortal body and infusing it with heavenly energy. This process can be done by just slowly absorbing heavenly energy and integrating it into the body but that will take a long time, that is why techniques such as the Dragon-Tiger Dance were created to aid the body in removing impurities at the same time strengthening it.

    Take note that the heavenly energy only circulates in the meridians and has not yet been absorbed by the fleshly body. Removing the impurities allows the person to be able to make the heavenly energy strengthen the fleshly body.

    The cleansing stage is generally split into four parts, the muscle development stage, bone hardening stage, blood purification and internal organs strengthening.

    Countless cultivators already have risen and fallen and many of them developed different techniques to improve cultivation methods.

    Most of the basic stances or techniques can only improve one part of the body that’s why they have to learn multiple of this technique to complete the cleansing stage.

    Higher grades such as the Dragon-Tiger Dance when practiced encompasses most if not all of these stages which results in shortening the time to complete the cleansing stage. These kinds of technique are very rare and not easily obtained by the public.

    Eznho skimmed through this information and studied how to perform the Dragon-Tiger Dance. It was thoroughly described but doing it is another thing especially that no one was there to teach or guide him, he was on his own. He would have to assess his progress by comparing it with the information available.

    Doing this movements would surely cause minor injuries especially that he did not have a good foundation and was not properly prepared. The only solution was to slowly integrate heavenly energy into his skin to form a little bit of protection and lessen the injuries after and this would give him a slight delay.

    Other children who had ample support behind them have already been bathing in medicinal herbs since birth and their bodies have been nourished. With this kind of foundation, passing the cleansing stage would be much smoother for them than the others.

    But for Eznho, he had to start from scratch, ignoring this fact, he started to circulate his heavenly energy. Then, he focused and slowly injected in into his skin, stinging pain followed suit. It was like he was being stung by many bees but he gritted his teeth and endured.

    Hours later, small amounts of black sticky liquid were flowing throughout his skin along with sweat, this was just the beginning but he was not discouraged as he could see he was making progress albeit rather slowly.

    .....

    Two days later, a very faint white glow covered his entire body.

    “Whew!”

    Eznho breathed a sigh of relief after successfully integrating heavenly energy into his skin although it was just a small amount, it will be a big help for him during the cleansing stage.

    After preparing himself he studied the first movement of the Dragon-Tiger Dance, Dragon Traversing the Sea.

    This movement is done in a body of water, the purpose of this is to have the cultivator have a feel on how to coordinate his body parts with one another.

    Although this step can be skipped, people like Eznho needed to learn this in order have a better understanding of doing the second set of movement, Dragon Crossing the Land.

    Dragon Traversing the Sea is movement imitating a dragon swimming in the vast sea. Its purpose is to let the cultivator experience first how to coordinate his body movements to attain flexibility without hurting his body that is why it is done with in a body of water.

    After scrutinizing the information, he first imagined himself doing the movement then went to the river. He picked a secluded place with the river depth half of his height.

    The movement is doing a wave-like and motion like a dragon, he calmed himself and started practicing.

    .....

    “Glurrgghh!”

    Splash!

    “Haa, Haa,”

    Eznho came out of the water catching his breath, water splashed everywhere.

    “It’s harder than I thought,”

    Eznho had a dispirited look on his face, imagining it was far easier than actually doing it. Hours passed yet he still kept on drowning and made just a little progress. If somebody was here, he would look like a child just playing in the water and not someone who was training at all.

    He went to the riverbank shivering and proceeded to meditate for an hour while playing simulations on his head.

    Three days were spent like this, aside from eating and sleeping, he was practicing in the river. Trial and error were his teachers, his comprehension got a lot better when his soul fully absorbed his sea of knowledge. This made him progress a lot faster and slowly understood the principles behind the movement. His sole and palms were already wrinkled due to hours of time spent on the water.

    On the fourth day, a boy could be seen doing weird movements while swimming in the river. It would look odd for others but if a cultivator were here he would immediately know that the boy was not swimming, instead, practicing an intricate movement that involves coordination of the body. He was like a young dragon swimming, his movements were not perfect but he was getting there.

    The sun has already set and Eznho just finished his meditation, according to the description, he already perfected the move and was ready for the next step which made him excited.

    .....

    Before starting the second movement, he already went to purchase medicine and pills in advance. The prices got doubled due to recent fights inside the mines but he had no choice but to buy it.

    He went back to the forest and started to study the second movement, Dragon Crossing the Land. It was the same movement but instead of doing it in the water, it will be practiced on solid ground.

    “This will hurt,”

    Eznho had a wry smile while imagining himself practicing. He started to circulate his heavenly energy and a faint white glow covered him.

    Scratches started to build up on his skin after practicing for an hour. He had to rest and recover his energy, an hour was his limit before it got depleted. Looking at this scratches, he smiled bitterly.

    He continued until the sun has set, his whole body was aching and the scratches produced a stinging pain. Dragging himself, he washed in the river and poured medicine on his wounds when he got back.

    “Ouch!”

    He gritted his teeth and endured the pain, the medicine was effective and the scratches immediately became scabs the next day.

    Just like before, he did not waver and continued to practice to the limit. It took him two days before perfecting it, his tanned skin now had a sheen and became tougher like a beasts hide.

    This move concentrated on the skin and had minimal effect on the bones, muscles and tendons. Normal weaponry wielded by non-cultivators would only at most leave a scratch on his skin. After perfection, it was easier to infuse heavenly energy now to his skin and after two hours of circulation larger amounts of black sticky fluid came out of his skin. His skin has now been cleansed and can absorb heavenly energy to nourish it, though just small amounts of it. A refreshing feeling entered him.

    The second movement was a lot harder than the other two, Tiger Chasing the Wind. This move imitates the tiger, leaping, pouncing, running and the like. It aims to strengthen the muscles, tendons and bone but there was a mantra accompaniment needed to fully strengthen the bone. He memorized this mantra and started his simulations inside his head.

    .....

    “Darn it, just setting up this simple formation took me a lot of time. What a disgrace,”

    Old Man Dan was grumbling while setting the final preparations.

    “Just you wait junior brother, I’ll give you a big surprise in the future, zehahaha,”

    Madness flashed in his eyes while remembering something tragic.

    Finishing the formation he looked towards the mines,

    “I wonder how that sissy is doing, might as well visit him while waiting for the show to begin,”

    A playful smile hung on his face as he disappeared in a flash.

    ....

    Old man Dan appeared where his tent was set up but the boy was not there. He spread his consciousness towards the mines.

    “Eh?”

    The boy was not there but he discovered something else and narrowed his eyes. The miners were already reaching the middle while beast kept on appearing.

    “It seems it’s on the verge of a breakthrough, that’s faster than expected but no matter it will still fall in my hands.”

    There was confidence in his tone and turned his sight towards the campsite while showing a crafty grin.

    “Hmph, you weaklings think you can snatch it from me, very well you might as well help me achieve my plans,”

    He then continued to spread his consciousness and noticed something in the nearby forest.

    “Hmmm? Interesting,”

    He raised his brow while rubbing his chin and disappeared.

    .....

    Inside one the mercenary tents, every mercenary captain was gathered. They all arrived days before and observed the mines.

    “I take it you know why we gathered, I believed you all sensed it. We cannot take anything unless we work together.”

    One of them spoke to preside the meeting, his name was Winston and was the oldest. He had white long hair and a thin foot-long white mustache hanging on his face. He was also the strongest in the group.

    “I agree with you Winston, but as we know two military officers came. I am sure they also sensed it, who knows maybe they called for back-up. If they did...”

    A burly middle-aged man with an axe on his back spoke with a worried tone, but before he could finish he was interrupted.

    “Don’t worry I am sure they will not call for one. If they do, then they have to split the spoils with more people, besides we already had an agreement. Although they are stronger than us, we got the numbers. As long as we play our cards right we can get our piece of the pie. Make sure your subordinates don’t blabber their mouth and attract stronger groups.”

    Winston warned everyone with a heavy tone.

    “Don’t worry, anyone caught will automatically die.”

    The others agreed in unison, they were at the bottom of mercenary groups and could barely count as one of the lowest D Rank. They have to make sure that other stronger groups don’t come and steal their prey.

    .....

    Two people were leisurely drinking wine inside Randolph’s tent while he respectfully stood on the side reporting.

    “Captain Batista won’t be coming, he told me someone has to hold the line or the enemies will easily flood in.”

    “What a shame I admit I missed that madman after all these years,”

    Wilky sighed with a look of respect on his face, he was a thin man with sharp eyes.

    Captain Batista was a retired military officer like them but due to an enemy attack, he sacrificed himself to fend them off resulting in serious injuries that destroyed his cultivation. After that, he voluntary retired and became the city guard captain for Sin city, his hometown.

    “Well, he’s always been like that you know. Let’s visit him after we are done with this thing.”

    Wilfred suggested, he was in his forties with a slim build. The three of them were known as the Killer Trio in the battlefield.

    Wilky nodded and started to talk about the main topic,

    “According to my investigation, it’s a magical beast making a breakthrough but I don’t know which one specifically. I could not penetrate inside so we have to wait. By my estimation, it is stronger than us but we still have a high chance due to his weakened state after the breakthrough. As for the mercenaries, let them be cannon fodders.”

    Wilky said with a tone of disdain.

    “What about the enemy’s side?” Wilfred inquired.

    “I am not sure how strong they will be, but one thing I am sure of is that they won’t surpass our group. I’m even pretty sure we know some of them, that fucking Floyd might even join.”

    Wilky answered with killing intent, Floyd, a name he hated to the core, the one who led the ambush that crippled their brother.

    Wilfred also turned solemn,

    “Don’t worry brother, he’ll better wash his neck if we meet him.”
     
  15. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 14 Watch and Learn

    Whoosh!

    Old man Dan appeared silently on top of a tree branch while looking down on a boy who looked silly jumping around.

    “Pft!”

    He could not help but snicker and continued to watch holding his laughter.

    The boy was naturally Eznho who was trying to practice the Tiger Chasing the Wind, he started yesterday but barely made a progress. He could only leap a couple of meters, according to the description, he should at least jump for ten meters if he successfully learned it.

    Aside from leaping, he had to do jumps, pounce and do zigzag movements. He tried to do as instructed but it resulted in sore muscles and even nearly snapped his tendons.

    He was exhausted and started to give up, tearing pain filled his muscles. In the end, his body was not prepared for this kind of activities. Feeling that his energy was depleted, he sat down and started to meditate.

    “Hmmm?”

    Old man Dan was observing and already scanned Eznho’s body without him knowing. He even performed a simple divination and was shocked.

    “To think that a big change happened to him while I was gone, I don’t even know if this is good or bad,”

    Destiny was a delicate subject to cultivators but simple divinations could be done by experts who reached a certain level. As long as they did not pry deeper, repercussions will not come. He already divined him previously but most of his destiny roads led to mediocrity, meaning he will not step into the path of cultivation.

    But after his divination today, he could not see anything. A gray mist shrouded it and he did not even dare to try and penetrate it.

    “His destiny is unknown, maybe only divination cultivators can read him.”

    His face turned serious and started to ponder.

    “Our karma has already intertwined, might as well gamble. Who knows he might be of assistance in the future,”

    After deciding, he made up his mind.

    ....

    Eznho, on the other hand, was frowning, he was applying ointment on his sore muscles. It was harder to infuse heavenly energy with it than the skin, doing it like last time would take at least a week. He was contemplating when suddenly he heard someone,

    “Ahem, since you are stupid and a dumb sissy I could not watch it anymore so I have decided to impart my boundless knowledge to you,”

    A boastful old voice spoke,

    Eznho already guessed who it is and started to get irritated,

    “Tsk, what do you know? You are just a smelly old man.”

    He was not that surprised as he had already some suspicions towards the old man.

    “What did you say? You sissy! Tsk, let’s see how long will it take you to perfect your movements, hmph!”

    Veins popped on the old man’s head and started to walk away. He decided to help but was pissed with Eznho’s answer.

    Eznho did not answer and continued applying ointment, his mind was in conflict.

    “He’s just messing around, but what if he really can help?”

    After a while, he gritted his teeth and shouted,

    “Wait!”

    But nobody answered, he looked back and no one was there.

    “Stupid old man,” He cursed and turned his head back.

    “What did you say?”

    A wrinkly old face with a beaming smile suddenly appeared out of nowhere and was a few inches in front of his face.

    “Ah!”

    He was frightened and subconsciously leaped backward.

    “Good reflex, zehahaha,” Old man Dan praised while laughing.

    “Tsk,”

    Eznho ignored him but his heart was still beating fast.

    .....

    The two of them sat in a meditative state facing each other with a meter gap space in between them.

    “How did you start sissy?”

    Old man Dan asked seriously,

    “Stop calling me a sissy, and I don’t have to answer your question.”

    Eznho answered back in an irritated manner. He still did not trust the old man so he didn’t want to talk about the ring or the gray flame.

    “I’ll call you whatever I want sissy, fine, I won’t ask anymore,”

    Old man Dan answered nonchalantly and continued talking.

    “I can see that you already started and made some progress, you even have a good assistive technique. But your body was not properly baptized, I don’t have time for that so I’ll teach some tricks to lessen the strain on your muscles.”

    He was inwardly surprised about the boy’s progress but he did not show it on his face and started to teach him.

    “I’ll teach a simple trick that greatly helps low-level cultivators like you, it’s called energy manipulation. This will also benefit you in the future, due to your limited energy stock you have to know how to use them properly and efficiently. I believe you already started to manipulate heavenly energy and generally spreading to your body.”

    Eznho nodded in agreement, it was true he could manipulate his energy in general.

    “Well, that is a total waste of energy, if you had a good teacher they will say the same. Have you tried moving your consciousness out of your body?”

    “No?” Eznho answered with confusion.

    His consciousness has always been inside his body and could not move not even an inch outside.

    “That’s normal, but once you surpassed the cleansing stage, everything will have a qualitative change including your soul. The soul has the most influence on your consciousness or what we call soul sense. It can be used in many different ways, it can be used to scout your surroundings, manipulate heavenly energy and others. Once you reach higher cultivation you can even use it to kill others but that’s none of your business right now, whether you succeed or not fully depends on you. Many cultivators spread heavenly energy throughout their body for protection, but for low-level cultivators, it would be hard to maintain it.”

    “For beginners like you, energy manipulation is quite hard, but based on your talent you would have discovered it yourself anyway but it would take time. Try controlling your consciousness and get into your dantian.”

    Old man Dan instructed.

    Eznho dove his consciousness inside his dantian filled with a thin mist.

    “Now, integrate your consciousness with the heavenly energy, be one with the energy. Do it slowly, your consciousness is still weak and can only control a certain amount. Once you control an amount, try circulating it throughout your meridians and do a full circle.”

    Eznho did as instructed, he had the gist of controlling it but once he tried circulating it, he lost control and the energy dissipated. Fully controlling heavenly energy is different from just absorbing and circulating it throughout the meridians.

    It’s like driving an automatic and a manual car.

    “I’ll give you half a day to perfectly circulate that energy around your meridians.”

    Old man Dan sat in a meditative position and spread out his soul sense observing any movements.

    Eznho calmed down and patiently started with small amounts. After having controlled small amounts, he slowly increased until he reached his limit. One-fifth of his whole energy was his limit.

    .....

    Only four hours passed and he gained full control. Old man Dan sensed this and opened his eyes.

    “Hmmm? Not bad, that was faster than expected. Okay, that’s for the better as I have things to do.”

    Eznho, on the other hand, felt delighted while circulating energy around his meridians with ease.

    “The next would be easier, now use the energy you manipulated and use it only on one part of your body that you need to use, for example, your feet or just use it on your chest if someone attacks you there. You can also use it to coat your weapon and make it sharper, if you even want you can use it to form a weapon but that would consume too much energy. The more energy you use the stronger the power output would be but there will always be a limit. It would be up to you to discover these things.”

    Listening to the old man’s explanations, Eznho already had insights and ideas and was eager to try it out.

    “I'm too lazy to explain everything, I’ll show it once and up to you if you learn anything. Watch and learn,”

    Old man Dan started to manipulate a small amount of heavenly energy and concentrated it on his hand. White energy covered his hand and punched it on a nearby three-meter tall boulder.

    Boom!

    He casually punched and the boulder turned in small fragments, some even turned to dust.

    “Opps! Zehahaha, sorry about that I couldn’t control my overwhelming power. Did you see that sissy? I could turn you into dust if I wanted to,”

    The old man boasted while puffing his chest out.

    Eznho could not help but be astonished inside.

    This smelly old man is that strong?

    But how could he allow the old man to boast in front of him? So he mocked him instead,

    “Tsk, what is so great about that? If I was your age I could turn that whole boulder into dust,”

    “You ungrateful sissy! That was just a tenth of my power,”

    The old man was furious, a boy was mocking his power. If it were others he would have beaten them to death.

    “Sure, whatever you say,”

    Eznho answered nonchalantly.

    The old man’s face was beginning to get red but he forced himself to calm down.

    “A mere sissy dares to look down on me? Hmph! Let’s see how far you go on the road of cultivation. Let me warn you, once you start, your road will be filled with blood and countless killing. “

    Old man Dan turned serious and warned Eznho.

    “Anyways, what you do after this is your business. One more thing, if I were you I’d leave within three days.”

    He started to walk and disappeared in a flashy way.

    Keep boasting old man I’ll make you eat your words, hmph!

    Eznho was a bit pissed about the old man’s boasting but he could not help but admit, he really possess the right to. How strong exactly is he, he has no idea. He stopped thinking about and meditated before starting to practice.

    .....

    Whoosh! Whoosh!

    Eznho leaped over nine meters and nearing ten meters then moved his feet to do another one but towards a different direction. Since practicing yesterday, he had great results.

    Using energy manipulation, he concentrated it on his feet while practicing the Tiger Chasing the Wind. By using the energy as a propelling force, the stress on his muscles and tendons lessened but there is a limit on how much power they can withstand.

    He had already a small success in doing the movements. The average man could not even compare to him anymore, his body became tougher and could do movements others could not.

    While doing the movements, he did not ignore his bones and chanted the mantra from time to time. Purifying the bone was so painful that he was traumatized and even had second thoughts every time was about to start the mantra. But despite that, he had no choice. Passing this stage was a requirement if he was to continue cultivating.

    .....

    Another day passed, this was his last. He continued practicing like usual and was already halfway through. Two days was his estimate before he could finally succeed. Reaching this point, he furrowed his brows, purifying the blood was not impossible but without external help, it could take weeks to succeed. Drinking beast blood could help but the quality and quantity should also be considered.

    He was thinking of buying but he had no idea how to differentiate this thing. A thought passed through his mind but he shook his head and ignored it.

    “I don’t even know where he is,”

    He continued to practice until evening, unknown to him that the old man was watching the whole time.

    “Not bad, let’s see what happens tomorrow and I’ll decide after that.”

    .....

    “Boss, the boy is leaving tomorrow morning by the looks of it. So I can’t work inside the mines for now.” Eagle Eye eagerly reported with anticipation.

    He’d rather set an ambush for the boy earlier and waste time rather than work inside the mines. More than a dozen had already died fighting the beasts, especially now, they seemed to go berserk and attacked with no regard. He had no time to investigate what the boy has been up to because every manpower was poured inside the mine.

    “Do as you wish but don’t take long, also, don’t forget my share.”

    A middle-aged man leisurely drank wine while answering, he didn’t care as long as he will get a part of the loot.

    “Yes Boss, then I’ll take my leave.”

    Eagle Eye left in a hurry with an excitement in his eyes.

    .....

    Eznho started to pack his things and got ready for his journey tomorrow.

    Home

    He could not hide his excitement, it has been a year since he left. A lot has happened during this year, he was already eleven years old. It’s time for him to go home and be with the two most important people for him in this world.

    After preparing everything, he meditated then called it a day.

    Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new journey for him.


















     
  16. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 15 First Kill

    Klop Klop Klop

    Snow was falling and the road looked like it was covered with cotton. Cold winds blew from time to time, howls of wild animals echoing from the nearby mountains and forest. A horse pulling a wooden cart with a boy covered in fur coat and hat was traveling on this lonely road.

    The sound of the horse’s breathing could be heard with steam coming from its nose, the cart driver was like a statue sitting on top with no visible movements, his hands were also covered by the coat.

    Swoosh!

    A glint of metal from an arrowhead suddenly came rushing from the nearby trees aiming towards his heart. The arrow was so fast and sudden giving him no time to react.

    Pffft!

    The arrow struck the boy, droplets of blood bloomed and stained the coat and some splashed on the road.

    Ack!

    Eznho groaned and was sent tumbling towards the back of the cart and fell on the road.

    Neigh!

    The horse was frightened and reared in terror then galloped forward and only stopped after a hundred meters. Everything happened too fast.

    “That was easy,”

    A thin man with sharp eyes came out from the woods holding a bow on his hand with a quiver of arrows on his back was grinning and walked towards the body lying on road. He did not care about the horse and only thought about the bank card with a beaming smile.

    ....

    A body laid down on the road covered in fur coat lying on his stomach. Blood stained the snow on his left side, a shadow slowly approached.

    Thud!

    Eagle Eye kicked the body but there was no reaction, even so, he did not let his guard down and brought out a dagger. He was still cautious and used his feet to turn the body around.

    “No hard feelings boy, just doing business.”

    There was no remorse on his voice.

    A pool of blood painted the snow, both of the boy’s hand were still covered by the fur that made him narrow his eyes. But the boy’s necklace caught his attention, the ring of gold. With his sharp vision, he could see the engraved patterns on it that made him curious.

    “Hmmm?”

    Greed took the better of him and actually kneeled on one knee on the boy’s left side and extended his hand.

    “What have we got here?”

    Before he could touch the ring, the boy’s eyes suddenly snapped open showing a pair of cold black eyes at the same time a tearing sound could be heard and a dagger coated with heavenly energy penetrated the fur coat and went straight to his chest.

    Shit!

    He knew he fucked up and immediately leaped backward but it was too late. Blood gushed from his chest and painted the snow red in front of him. He covered it with his hand and tried to stop the bleeding by revolving his energy but his heart has taken a serious damage. Blood started to flow from his mouth and nose.

    Eznho slowly got up with difficulty and pulled his right hand from his chest that was pinned by the arrow. He was on guard all the time because of Randolph’s warning, it turns out it was not for naught.

    But he still underestimated the enemy’s power and nearly cost him his life. He barely had any time to react due to the arrow’s speed and could only raise his right hand in front of his chest and cover it with heavenly energy. Despite that, the power behind the arrow was tremendous and actually penetrated his hand and went straight to his chest.

    Luckily, it hit a rib, with his bone strengthened and the heavenly energy’s protection, the arrow did not push through. Still, he was pushed back due to the impact and pretended to be dead, he knew the enemy was strong and only had a slim chance of survival.

    .....

    That was close.

    Eznho’s heart was palpitating, cold sweats ran on his back. This was technically the second time death stared at him. He tried to calm down and assessed the situation, blood was dripping from his chest and hand.

    “Fuck! You shitty brat, to actually think that me? The Eagle Eye fell for a brat’s scheme! You think you’ve won? I’ll drag you down with me boy!”

    Eagle Eye cursed and shouted, he could not accept this. A mere brat actually will be the cause of his death, no, he knew deep inside it was greed. A moment of weakness due to greed.

    He knew he would die today, there is no saving him, his heart has already been penetrated. With madness in his eyes, he threw caution to the wind and prepared to shoot another arrow.

    How could Eznho let him do what he wants? Gritting his teeth, he covered his dagger with heavenly energy together with his feet then leaped forward with all his might and pointed the dagger. The distance between them was only about six meters.

    “What?”

    Seeing the boy’s reaction, Eagle Eye was startled but could only twist his body sideways to dodge. The boy moved faster than him but with crude movements, obviously with no battle experience. After successfully dodging, he pulled the bowstring with an arrow and released it aiming for the head.

    .....

    Seeing that he missed, upon landing, Eznho immediately twisted his foot and leaped again towards his enemy but he was met with an arrow aiming for his head. It was already a few feet in front of him but his body immediately reacted and moved his head to the side making the arrow barely miss and leave a horizontal red mark on his cheek.

    Third!

    Only a short amount of time passed and another encounter with death happened. He could only steel his nerves and do everything to survive.

    His attack was not interrupted and aimed for the enemy’s throat. Everything happened too fast,

    Ssskk!

    The dagger successfully penetrated the enemy’s throat then pulled it out, another gush of blood came out rushing.

    “Gluurgghh!”

    Eagle Eye wanted to say something but could not and subconsciously covered his throat, unwillingness could be seen in his eyes but he started to feel cold inside. He knelt down and looked up on the boy’s face then fell on his chest.

    Dead.

    “Haaa, Haaa,”

    Eznho was breathing fast and his heart was still palpitating. Looking at the dead body in front of him, his bloody hands started to tremble.

    This was his first kill, not an animal but a man! A living human being, he might be an enemy but still...

    He knelt down on his knees with a blank look, snow began to settle on his head and shoulders. The smell of blood permeated the air, many thoughts ran through his head. He remembered the old man’s reminder.

    Let me warn you, once you start, your road will be filled with blood and countless killing.

    In the end, he was still an eleven-year-old boy with little experience in life.

    .....

    Awoooo!

    Awoooo!

    Howls woke Eznho up from his trance, he was a bit dizzy due to the loss of blood and exhaustion. Listening to the howls, they were not too far. Blood attracted them so this place will become dangerous, he got himself up, tried to focus and slowly walked towards the horse who was listless after hearing the howls. Looting the enemy did not even cross his mind.

    Blood was still dripping from his wounds, he reached for the horse and calmed it down. Blood was even smeared on it. He climbed up the cart and urged the horse to start walking. The wounds stopped bleeding after he applied medicine and started to replenish his energy.

    .....

    A few kilometers from the mines, Old man Dan was leisurely sitting on a tree branch while scanning the mines.

    “The show is about to start, I have finally found one of the core ingredients for the pill.”

    He mumbled to himself with a look of excitement and at the same time ruthlessness. Nobody is stopping him from obtaining what he needed to heal his wounds.

    .....

    Inside the mines, the eight mercenary captains and the two military officials were getting ready. Only a few meters and they will reach where the energy fluctuation was located. Different kinds of dead beast piled on the side, they did not value them and just left it there for others to collect later.

    Wilky and Wilfred was on the front leading the team, Wilky turned around and faced the captains,

    “We do not know what kind of magical beast is inside but we are sure it is a high-level one. Based on our agreement, half of the total loot will belong to us and the other to your group. However you divide it, I don’t care. Due to the energy fluctuations, we cannot determine how many enemies will be on the other side, which means we have to watch out for them and the magical beast. As long as we work together, we can prevent casualties, understood?”

    He announced with a stern and serious voice.

    “Naturally,”

    Winston answered and forced a smile. They obviously were at the disadvantage but they had no choice but to agree.

    “Good, get ready then.”

    He called to the miners and instructed them to leave, only the ten of them were left inside.

    After the miners left, Wilfred casually nocked an arrow, pulled it then infused heavenly energy and released it towards the end of the tunnel.

    Boom!

    The tip of the arrow collided with the rocky wall and debris scattered, a vibration could be felt after the impact. Dust filled the area limiting visibility to nearly zero. Wilfred casually waved his hand and a gust of wind carried the dust going outside.

    Light with a hint of golden color shone from the end of the tunnel, everybody started to walk towards it while raising their guards and brandishing their weapons.

    Wilky took the lead with a sword in hand and circulated heavenly energy around his body and stepped inside the light.

    Shudder.

    Once he was in the light, he started to tremble as if he carried a boulder on his shoulders.

    “Hmph!”

    He was surprised but immediately came back to his senses and circulated more energy. Only then that the heavy feeling disappeared.

    Everyone felt the same pressure and exerted more effort before removing it. These energy fluctuations were the reason they could not sense what was inside and could only vaguely guess.

    A cavern of golden nuggets with different sizes entered their sight, just like what Eznho found previously but the difference is like a grain and a bar of gold entered their sight.

    The hell?

    Everyone widened their eyes, this is a treasure trove!

    Before they could regain their composure, another surprise caught them. Some of these gold were melting like they were on fire and flowed towards the middle of the cavern and formed a golden lake about twenty meters wide. Every time a gold is fully melted, another one starts to melt and flowed towards the center like the others. One could only imagine how many gold has already melted.

    Ten meters above the lake, a huge golden ball floated about fifty meters in size. Large droplets of gold from the lake were floating and moved towards the golden ball to be absorbed. The golden ball was expanding and contracting like a beating heart.

    Upon looking at the huge golden ball, everybody turned serious. Whatever was inside that golden ball was the reason for these events and it was giving a tremendous pressure.

    “What kind of magical beast would use gold to cultivate?”

    Winston could not help but ask out of curiosity. Even though he was old, compared to the vast world, his knowledge and information were close to nothing.

    Hearing Winston’s question, a thought suddenly passed Wilky’s mind and remembered something he read in an old book when he was at the academy. After a while, he shook his head and thought inwardly,

    “Impossible, according to what I read they are nearly extinct and nobody has seen one in thousands of years. Why would one appear here?”

    He was skeptical but could not think of any other beasts that use gold to cultivate and a hope sprouted in his heart.

    Boom!

    Before everyone could even talk, an explosion on their opposite side caught their attention.

    “They’re here,”

    Wilky commented with a serious tone while trying to focus his vision. They were prepared for them and did not even try to communicate with them. By his estimate, the cavern was about three hundred meters wide, silhouettes started to appear on the other side but he could not discern their faces.

    Normally, with his cultivation, it was easy to identify a person a kilometer away from him. But due to the energy fluctuations, vision and soul sense was limited.

    .....

    Ignoring the other party, they started to move closer cautiously towards the golden ball but the pressure was increasing. Their plan was to observe in close range and if possible, interrupt the magical beast’s attempt to break through and cause him damage.

    The other group seemed to have the same idea and started moving.

    Halfway through the golden ball, it started to shine brightly like the sun. Everybody could not help but close their eyes.
     
  17. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 16 It’s a Trap!

    Thump! Thump! Thump!

    The golden ball midair continued to shine and started to beat faster as if a ferocious beast was awakening. Everyone started to get nervous, after a minute, the light dimmed.

    The melted gold stopped flowing and the lake started to churn. It began to rotate and formed a whirlpool. At the same time, the golden ball floating midair also started to rotate. At the middle of the whirlpool, the golden liquid gathered together and formed the shape of a vine climbing up a tree.

    The golden vine became thicker and longer until every drop of the golden lake was absorbed then coiled around the rotating ball.

    A buzzing sound sounded out and another blinding light exploded but it lasted only for a few seconds. Everyone’s eyes were a bit blurry, the huge golden all disappeared and was replaced by a golden light shaped like a coiled enormous serpent.

    A golden stream was still rotating around the serpent then it opened its enormous mouth and sucked every drop of it. The light faded and a jaw-dropping scene astounded everyone.

    A coiled giant golden serpent was floating midair with its head standing, staring at everyone with hostility and coldness with its golden eyes. Everybody estimated that the snake must be at least a hundred meters long. Every part of the giant serpent was cast in gold, it was like a golden snake statue that came alive.

    Wilky was shocked and could not believe his eyes and pointed his sword at the giant serpent.

    “It’s, it’s the go- golden serpent!”

    He stuttered while speaking, he was really in shock, the legends were true. Everyone looked at him with confusion, it was their first time seeing a magical beast like this.

    “Damnable humans!”

    The magical beast shouted with its consciousness startling everyone then flicked his golden tongue.

    Ssssss!

    An ear-shattering hiss was produced followed by a shockwave that pushed everyone backward by a couple of meters. Before anyone could stabilize, a heavy pressure descended that even affected their souls.

    “Argg!”

    The group moaned and rotated their energy at full power, those who were weaker vomited blood and had a hard time stabilizing, even starting to lose consciousness.

    “Blerrgg!”

    But before anyone could fall, the giant serpent suddenly vomited a big mouthful of golden blood and started to shrink and decrease its size by a half. With that happening, the pressure disappeared and everyone could see that the serpents energy was unstable.

    Judging by the events, this was their only chance to kill the giant serpent.

    “Attack!”

    Both sides simultaneously ordered the attack and everyone started to cast their own battle techniques.

    Wilky stabbed his sword and a sword intent shot out from his sword aiming for the serpent.

    Wilfred summoned his wind energy and shot an arrow that looked like a drill made of wind element.

    Winston tapped his staff and a ripple flowed out, pointy rock spikes suddenly came out below the giant serpent aiming for its belly.

    Everyone attacked at the same with different techniques using different elements.

    .....

    Looking at the incoming onslaught of battle techniques, the giant serpent could only form a defensive golden barrier around its body.

    He was furious, if it was any other day he could just kill this humans with pressure alone but because he had to rush his breakthrough, he was unstable right now. Rushing a breakthrough was dangerous but he had no choice, it was better than letting the humans attack him while attempting it.

    He succeeded but was extremely unstable right now and had to escape to recuperate.

    Crack! Bang!

    The various skills collided with the defensive barrier but could not withstand it and exploded. Golden blood flowed from the serpents mouth and wounds of different sizes were visible on his large body.

    Hisss!

    He produced another shockwave that disrupted everyone and at the same time summoned four golden balls that turned into javelins and willed it to attack each group.

    Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!

    Two golden streaks of light attacked each group and the four people who could not react fast were skewered and turned into golden human statues, their facial expressions before dying were preserved.

    “Shit! Attack at your own will, don’t let it get away. I’m telling you, the whole worth of the mine is nothing compared to this serpent!”

    Wilky tried to encourage the others after observing that they were shaken after the serpent’s attack. If they were to succeed in this mission, one could only imagine the price they could fetch.

    The serpent continued to fire golden javelins, four was his limit and could not even maintain it properly. He could only repel his enemy’s skills but there were just too many of them and his wounds were increasing, some were even bone deep.

    Boom! Boom!

    Skills collided that produced shockwaves, it was like fireworks producing different colors. Dust accumulated and rocks flew everywhere, golden and red blood splashed and smeared the cavern.

    A total of nine people already died and some were injured, four from Wilky’s group and five from the other. They did not bother to inspect thoroughly who was on the other side as long as they did not attack them. Their primary goal was the serpent, although the number of casualties was out of their expectations, the serpent was already on his last breath.

    “Despicable humans! You’ll pay for this!”

    Madness filled the giant serpent and sacrificed his vitality for a boost making his wound worsen, he had no other choice. His energy rose, rotated it to maximum then shrank himself to only ten meters long. This was his only chance to escape now that his enemies decreased.

    After shrinking and gathering momentum, he turned into a streak of golden light and headed towards Wilky’s group.

    “Not good!”

    Their hearts tightened and everyone could only dodge, death was the only thing waiting for them if they collided with the serpent. The light was too fast giving them no time at all to cast any skill.

    Taking this chance, the serpent went straight to the tunnel from where Wilky’s group came from and headed outside.

    “Chase! He’s not gonna last that long.”

    Wilky commanded in a hurried tone and turned into a blur going after the serpent. The others hesitated for a second but followed suit. Wilfred on the other hand purposely slowed down and was at the tail of the group. After re-entering the tunnel, he sneered and shot an arrow towards the ceiling of the tunnel entrance.

    “Sorry boys, try to catch up.”

    Boom!

    The ceiling collapsed and the tunnel closed.

    The other group was not fast enough and the tunnel collapsed before their eyes.

    A man in his thirties with a long black hair wearing a military uniform was leading the group. A bald middle-aged man who was also an officer walked to his side,

    “Floyd, what do you wanna do? Should we give chase?”

    Floyd had an ugly look on his face.

    “Fuck it, only the two of us will give chase. I’ll tell you the details on the way,”

    He turned around and instructed the others,

    “You three, collect the loot from the bodies and get as much gold as you can. We will meet at the campsite later and divide it all accordingly. Don’t even think about anything funny.”

    A killing intent filled the area that made the others shiver and did not even answer and started to do as they were ordered.

    The bald guy thrust his spear and produced a vertical tornado towards the collapsed tunnel making a hole.

    “Let’s go!”

    Floyd ordered and both of them disappeared in a flash.

    .....

    People were gathered outside the mines, most of them were mercenaries and a minority of miners. They were instructed to stand guard and stand by for further instructions.

    Five minutes have already passed since the last miner came out, the ground and the mountain started to slightly vibrate. As time passed by it started to get stronger and pebbles on the ground started to shake. Everyone raised their guard and started to get nervous.

    After a while, the trembling stopped and an eerie silence came after.

    Swoosh!

    A golden streak of light suddenly came out of the tunnel passing by the group in the blink of an eye. Before anybody could react, bodies started to fall on the ground. Some of them missing their head and others, a big hole on their chests. At least a dozen people died within that frame of time.

    What the fuck?

    Everybody’s mind was in chaos and cold sweats started to run down their backs. Others even stumbled down on their butt.

    “The hell just happened?”

    One of them cried out in terror with a pale face, he could not believe what was happening. In the blink of an eye, a dozen people died and nobody could even react.

    Before anyone could answer, five shadows came out of entrance but did not stop and just passed by them pursuing the golden streak of light towards the forest.

    .....

    Woosh!

    The golden serpent maintained his maximum speed and even killed humans on his way. Upon coming out of the tunnel he saw the greenery of the forest and immediately headed out there.

    “Damn! Damn! Damn! Just you wait after I recover. I’ll make you pay for this,”

    He was cursing while trying to find a place to hide, he was running out of juice. Once he will run out of power, death is already assured. He had yet to learn the ability to fly and could only float a few meters above the ground.

    His kind was nearly extinct, he and his mother was hunted down and had been running ever since he was young. Left with no choice, she sacrificed herself to form a space tunnel for him to escape and ended up in that cavern. Coincidence or not, it was a good spot for him to cultivate but alas, he was still discovered.

    They were a very rare variant of the ancient serpent clan, the golden serpent. They were not particularly strong but were not weak either. The only “curse” they carried was their unique golden core. Their core, if mixed with certain ingredients could repair broken dantians and fix it.

    Once a the dantian is broken, it is nearly impossible to repair it, but for some reason, out of the countless cultivators in the universe, somebody discovered that the golden serpent’s core can be used as an ingredient to repair broken dantians.

    Once that information was spread out, the hunting began and they got nearly extinct in a short period of time. Only a handful had survived and has been hiding ever since.

    .....

    A short while later, he discovered a cave in a rocky part of the forest. After scanning and making sure there was no danger, he immediately headed towards it.

    Before he could reach the entrance he suddenly froze mid-air.

    What?

    His mind was a mess, he clearly did not sense anyone around. Then a circular formation with complicated patterns lit up below him.

    “This is...”

    Before he could finish his sentence, a voice sounded out of nowhere.

    “You came late little snakey, I started to get worried.”

    The space distorted at the cave entrance and an old man with a messy hair clad in a fur coat came out grinning showing his yellow dirty teeth.

    An expert!

    The snake already encountered people who could manipulate space and use complicated formations for trapping. They were top of the pack and could summon the wind and rain, such people were the one who hunted him and his mother.

    “You humans are really despicable and shameless using any means to get what you want.”

    His heart was filled with hate and coldly stared at the old man in front of him.

    “Hmph! If I was in full power, I could easily squash you with my fingers.”

    The old man walked towards serpent with a smug look on his face.

    The serpent could only stare at the old man, he tried to struggle but could not even move an inch. Unwillingness and frustration filled his heart, he had still many things to do but in front of strong people, he could only resign to his fate.

    The old man was already in front of him,

    “If you want revenge, try it in your next life. I will be waiting, but you’ll die just the same. Let me end your suffering and depart from this world.”

    Old man Dan did not want to prolong the serpent’s agony. He could feel the serpent’s frustration, he felt pity but such is the world.

    It will continue moving on with or without you.

    Heavenly energy formed on his hand, he stuck his finger together and stabbed on the serpent’s head.

    I’m coming, Mother.

    A quick death, the serpent closed his eyes and felt somewhat relieved. At last, his days of running and hiding has come to an end.

    Old man Dan retracted his hand with a golden core in tow.

    “At last, few more ingredients and i can start repairing my dantian.”

    After looking for a golden serpent for so long, he finally found it. There was only an extremely small amount of chance that he could find one but he never gave up.
     
  18. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 17 Who Wants My Ball?

    Poof!

    The golden snake turned back into its original size of more than a hundred meters long. The sudden appearance of a giant snake produced a booming sound that startled every creature nearby making them run for their lives.

    “Hmmm, not bad, but what a pity, you would have had the chance of reaching the skies if you had not met me.”

    Old man Dan shook his head while feeling a little proud and took out a crude looking clay pot then filled it with golden blood.

    “This would be enough, the vultures are here. Time to go,”

    He had long sensed the presence of Wilky and the others. Space distorted around him and he disappeared.

    The core was the most valuable thing the golden serpent could offer, though its body had value, he did not want to carry it with him. Even if he acquired the body, he could not sell it. A golden serpents body was a hot potato, once known by the others, endless troubles will follow. Other cultivators would not rest until they found out where the core went.

    He got what he needed and did not want to constantly look over his shoulders.

    .....

    Wilky and the others were hot in pursuit and could not even sense the golden snake anymore. Their only guide was the droplets of golden blood along the way. It was too fast for them to catch up, their efforts would have been wasted if they did not kill the serpent.

    Boom!

    A loud sound caught their attention and they went up to a high vantage point to see what was happening. A few kilometers away, dust rose in the air and a golden light was reflected by the sun.

    “There!”

    Judging by the color, Wilky was sure it was the golden snake and immediately headed towards the place at full speed.

    .....

    Approximately three kilometers behind Wilky’s group, two silhouettes were rushing towards them leaving only flashes behind.

    “What’s this all about? Why do we have to risk entering our enemy’s territory for a magical beast? It even involves Wilky and Wilfred, you know how much they hate you,”

    Jack spoke with confusion while they were running and leaping over obstacles.

    “Hmph! Are you scared? If my guess is correct, that magical beast is a golden serpent. It’s not particularly a top predator among it’s kind but the golden core it carries can even attract the attention of an Emperor. It’s body, although far from the value of the core can still fetch a hefty price though I don’t know its particular usage.”

    Floyd answered in a serious manner, his plan was to hunt the mantis stalking the cicada. Jack did not answer and even started to get nervous, what kind of an object would attract the attention of an Emperor.

    An Emperor! An existence that rules over an empire with countless beings like them, very few items would warrant his attention. This was a serious matter, if they succeeded, he could jump ranks in the military. He even started to imagine himself commanding tens of thousands of soldiers.

    Boom!

    A loud sound vibrated through the air disturbing Jack’s daydream. Floyd went on top of a tree and assessed the situation.

    “Let’s go, something happened.”

    He urged his companion and rushed with full speed.

    .....

    Wilky’s group lowered their speed when they were five hundred meters from the serpent. They brandished their weapons and prepared their skills.

    Four hundred meters, nothing happened.

    Three hundred...

    Two hundred...

    One hundred, still no reaction.

    Wilky was sure the golden serpent was there, but could not pinpoint what’s wrong. Space was a bit distorted around the place so he did not want to rush in even though it seemed like the serpent was dead.

    Gritting his teeth he increased his speed and reached the enormous serpent in no time then slashed his sword creating a crescent sword energy and cut apart a large wound, golden blood gushed but there was no reaction.

    The others were about to attack but was interrupted by Wilky,

    “Stop!”

    Wilky shouted and headed towards the serpent’s head, a bloody hole penetrated it with golden blood flowing out. The wound was still fresh, obviously done just moments ago.

    “Somebody was already here and set up an ambush,”

    Wilky had an ugly look on his face, the core was gone and traces of a trapping formation were evident. He used his soul sense but did not detect anything for a radius of one kilometer.

    “Who was it?”

    Wilfred jumped over and asked.

    “I have no idea but I am sure he is an expert and a cunning one at that. He left the hot potato for us, it would be hard for us to prove that we did not take the core unless we swear an oath.”

    Wilky had a wry smile on his face, they did not get the core and even fell into a nasty trap. A huge headache was coming.

    He was thinking of a solution when he sensed something. And a heavy killing intent came out of his body.

    “Floyd is here,”

    Gnashing his teeth, he looked at the enemy’s direction.

    Wilfred immediately gathered his energy and pulled his bow to maximum power while infusing wind energy. The surrounding air churned like a tornado was about to form.

    “Tornado Shot!”

    Swoosh!

    He shouted and released the arrow leaving a trail of destruction, wood splinters, soil and rocks were flying everywhere the arrow passed.

    .....

    Floyd and Jack were sprinting through the woods, they sensed that Wilky’s group already reached the snake but the expected fight did not occur.

    “Is it dead?”

    Floyd furrowed his brows, they were only a kilometer away from them.

    “Let’s get closer,”

    He was confident in their ability to escape. They continued forward when they heard a whistling sound headed towards them followed by a trail of devastation. It was like a horizontal tornado was coming to meet them.

    “Hmph!”

    Floyd snorted in disdain. Frost energy gathered on his saber making it look like an ice blade and hacked it forward.

    “Frozen Iceworm!”

    The energy released by the saber turned into a huge ten-meter long iceworm made of ice. Opening its circular mouth full of fangs, it squirmed forward in a fast manner meeting the arrow tornado head-on while freezing its path.

    Bang!

    The two skills collided and debris flew everywhere, some shredded by the wind blades and others frozen.

    Wasting no time, Floyd and Jack sprinted and stopped a hundred meters from Wilky’s group.

    “We meet again, tri-, ow sorry, should I say duo killers now?”

    Floyd greeted them with a mock.

    “Hmph! An arrogant tone from a man who only sneaks on his enemy’s back and stab them.”

    Wilky retorted in disdain. He wanted to attack but did not want to stay here any longer. Who knows how many experts might come and things would become more troublesome.

    Floyd ignored him and sneered,

    “Wilky, oh, Wilky, you think you are the only one who knows about that serpent? How about you give us the core, the body will be yours and we would even close the mines on our side and return every gold”

    “Phe! Over my dead body!”

    Wilky was furious, his enemy was treating him like he was stupid.

    “We don’t have the core, but even if we did, why would we give to you? If you want I can give you one of my “cores” as a souvenir. Hahahaha”

    He laughed heartily while patting his private area. Everyone laughed with him in unison.

    Floyd’s face was beet red due to anger after being insulted.

    “Laugh all you want Wilky, do you think you can hold on to that with your measly power? A war might erupt because of you.”

    He also predicted that the core was not taken by them, it was impossible that there would be no sign of fighting before acquiring it. But he did not want his efforts to go to waste, he knew in his heart he will not get anything today unless he risked his life.

    “Hmph! How I handle my affairs is not your problem. Now scram or do you wanna go all out?”

    Wilky really hated Floyd but now is not the time to fight, the longer they stayed here, the riskier it gets. He rotated his energy then raised his sword, sword intent gathered and formed a gigantic hundred-meter-long sword intent that floated above him.

    “Sword’s Descent!

    A heavy pressure descended while his sword and the gigantic sword intent slashed forward at the same time towards Floyd.

    “Tsk!”

    Floyd had ugly look on his face, he chanted and did a series of hand movements. Frost energy gathered immediately.

    “Ice Wall!”

    A thick ninety-meter tall ice wall formed in front of them.

    “Celebrate while it lasts, I will have the last laugh. Let’s go,”

    With great hesitation, they sprinted away, as much as he wanted they were in the enemy’s territory with no backup at all. All he can do is go back and inform his superiors about the event.

    Bang!

    Another loud collision, everyone prepared to do battle but when the dust settled the enemy was already gone.

    “I’ll have your head next time,”

    Wilky stared at the distance with coldness.

    .....

    The serpent was too big and heavy so Wilky had to transfer his belongings from his spatial ring to Wilfred then sucked it in into his ring.

    “As discussed earlier, you will be paid in gold coins. I know you are unresigned with this but it is better than holding a hot potato and dying because of it. The core is the most valuable part but as you know it is gone, although the body is valuable it is nothing compared to the core. If you want to continue working in the mines, you can do so, but I bet the cavern has been emptied now. You decide it yourselves, just show this bank card to any bank and you can get your payment.”

    Wilky handed out three blue cards which already contained his seal for authenticity.

    Winston and the group were delighted, they did not want the serpent’s body. Basing on their observation, it’s an item of death so when Wilky proposed a payment method like this, they immediately agreed.

    After some more discussion, the three mercenary captains left to do their own business. They planned to leave the mines and head out to another location. The subordinates of the other captains would be divided by them if they are willing. Besides, they had enough money for them to get by for years.

    .....

    “What now?”

    Wilfred asked after the other group left.

    “Ai, what a headache. I will head out to headquarters and talk to the higher-ups and request a scroll oath for them to believe us and I will offer the serpent’s body. It is still valuable you know, even without the core. I have to go personally and show them, sending a message won’t do. It would bring us great merits, I will be back as soon as I can.”

    Wilky answered with a helpless look on his face.

    “While I am away, assist brother Batista here, I am sure Floyd will do something sooner or later.”

    Wilfred nodded in agreement and both disappeared with a flash.

    .....

    A stream of water flowed in the nearby forest creek beside the road, only a few kilometers from Sin city. The water was freezing cold but did not yet freeze. A red-orange dye stained the crystal clear water, it became thicker until the water’s clarity was gone.

    Eznho was upstream dipping himself in a shallow pool of water, frozen blood melted when it made contact with the water. His wounds stopped bleeding for a while now and found this stream to wash. His body was underwater while his head was popping out.

    He raised his right hand and a small hole was right in the middle of his palms. After staring it for a while, he clenched his fist and submerged his head wanting to feel numb, he did not want to think about what happened previously.

    Splash!

    Eznho stood up with his naked body while steam rose from it. Although he was still quite young, muscle lines started to manifest indicating a good body physique with some scars that had yet to disappear found all over. Thes changes were thanks to his arduous training, the arrow wound on his chest was still visible and did not fully heal. He walked out of the stream and changed to a new set of clothes.

    .....

    Entering the city was an easy task, the guards were slacking and did not want to move much due to the cold weather.

    There was still a week before his big brother could come home and he did not want to worry his aunt if she ever saw his wounds so he stayed at an inn. He ate at the inn's restaurant and tried to observe everyone and gather information. To his dismay, there was no major news so he went back to his room, meditated and applied medicine on his wounds.

    He was about to sleep when a creepy voice whispered into his ear.
     
  19. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 18 Surprise!

    Swoosh!

    He stabbed his dagger to where the whisper came from but there was no contact.

    Was it my imagination?

    The lamp was still on but he could not see anyone.

    “Pffft”

    A snicker sounded out.

    “Who’s there?”

    He stood up and raised his guard while furrowing his brows.

    “Zehahaha,”

    A loud laughter rang but he could not pinpoint where it came from, the space in front of the door distorted and Old man Dan came out. He eyes were teary due to laughing so hard.

    Veins popped out of Eznho’s head and his hand was trembling. He could not control his anger and throw out the dagger towards the old man.

    Swoosh!

    But before it could reach him, it stopped mid-air a foot from the old man’s face.

    “Why so serious sissy? What’s with the hostility?”

    Old man Dan teased and grabbed the dagger.

    “What kind of shitty dagger is this? How could you kill somebody with this cheap stuff?”

    He scrutinized the dagger and lost interest then casually throw it back to Eznho. It was a casual throw but it was too fast for Eznho, it was even faster than the arrow that nearly killed him.

    The hell?

    Eznho was shocked but forced himself to dodge, he poured heavenly energy on his feet and leaped on top of his bed.

    Thud!

    Half of the dagger’s blade sunk into the wooden wall. Eznho’s heart was beating fast and saw that the right side of his upper garment had a been cut.

    He coldly stared at the old man,

    “What are you doing?”

    “Whoa, chill sissy, Are you that eager to kill again? I thought you would become better at fighting now that you have killed somebody.”

    The old man calmly answered and raised both his palms facing forward. He then sat on a nearby chair. Listening to the old man’s words, memories came rushing to Eznho which made him uncomfortable.

    “How did you know?”

    He asked then pulled the dagger out from the wall.

    “I can smell somebody’s blood on you,”

    Old man Dan answered nonchalantly while Eznho just stood there in silence.

    “I told you before if you really want to pursue cultivation, you’re gonna have to bath in your enemies blood. If I were you, forget about it and move on, you survived and that’s what matters. Would you rather be the one dead? Tsk, what a sissy, if you can’t handle the killings I suggest you stop early on and live a normal life.”

    The old man lectured Eznho and brought out a clay jar, half a meter tall. On top of the cover was a small brown leather pouch the size of a palm.

    “I’m running out of time so I’ll just leave the jar and the pouch here. You can only open the pouch once you enter the Halo realm. The jar contains something that can aid you in your blood and marrow cleansing. You can open it after dropping a blood on top of the cover. Let me remind you, once you decide to open the jar, you will owe me a favor.”

    “I advise you one last time, if you cannot withstand the shock of killing your enemy, you better quit now. How much more if you have to kill someone you know,”

    The old suddenly turned sentimental after remembering something.

    “Anyways the decision is yours, see you around sissy, don’t die early.”

    The old man talked fast and did not even give Eznho a chance to talk back then disappeared. He had to leave now before other experts came and start investigating. There were still remaining ingredients he had to find.

    Old man Dan appeared and floated above Sin city.

    “I hope you survive this predicament you got involved in,”

    As much as he wanted to help, he could not for now. His cultivation is unstable and has to refine the pill as soon as possible. He could only hope that the boy would survive after being indirectly involved in this mess.

    .....

    Eznho stood there silently after the old man left, it was like a bee came buzzing in and suddenly left. He walked towards the jar and picked up the pouch, the opening was knotted and he could not open it no matter how he tried. Giving up on the pouch, he turned his attention to the jar. It looked normal, like those jars that were sold in the market.

    Gripping the cover, he used his full force but could not open it. Due to his frustration, he even tried to break it but it was like the hardest metal and could not even leave a dent on it. Gaining nothing on his investigation, he gave up and left the two items in a corner but the reminder of the old man that he will owe him once he opened the jar replayed on his mind.

    .....

    After breakfast, he went to the cemetery and paid a visit to his mother’s grave. The cemetery was covered in snow which added drama to the scene. After cleaning the tomb and the area around it, he kowtowed three times.

    “I’m here mother, sorry for not visiting you for a long time.”

    He put flowers and burned incense then meditated and performed the Heaven-Seizing breathing technique while pondering and thinking about what the old man said. He admits he was scared but at the same time there a subtle feeling of satisfaction after killing and surviving a death match. A conflict arose in his heart, will he be able to continue killing?

    After thinking about it, if he really wanted to protect the ones he cared about he had to at least have sufficient power to do so. He decided that he would continue but would only kill the ones who deserve it.

    .....

    He continued to train in Tiger Chasing the Wind. By training to the limit, he improved rapidly, his muscles and bones were getting stronger and his energy control was getting better and better. Remembering the feeling of adrenaline during a fight, he started to simulate fight scenarios inside his mind and practiced using the dagger as his weapon.

    Two days passed by, Eznho was seated in a lotus position naked beside a creek, sweat and black inky fluid flowed out of his skin pores. He was in great pain, this was the last purification of his bones and muscles. Gritting his teeth while grimacing, he continued to circulate his energy while chanting the mantra.

    Another hour passed and finally, a large amount of black inky fluid came out and warm feeling entered his body. Even though he was so exhausted and tired, the feeling of heavenly energy nourishing his flesh and bones was refreshing and intoxicating. He dragged himself up and plunged into the small pool of water.

    Splash!

    .....

    The next day, he decided to go to the bank and settle his account. He got dressed up, tidied his hair and covered himself in a fur cloak. The bank was located in the northern district where all the rich people live.

    Commoners cannot easily enter the district, there was a wall covering it and two gates were made for people to pass. If you want the best goods, you can find it there as long as you can enter. Most of the luxury items and establishments were found inside that district.

    After walking for a while, he reached the wall which was ten meters tall. He approached the gate and was stopped by the guards.

    “Halt! What’s your purpose in entering the northern district?”

    One of the guards stood in front of Eznho.

    “Bank,” Eznho replied blandly and showed them the brown card.

    “Ah?” The guard was surprised.

    A bank card, even if he worked his whole life, it was near impossible for him to acquire one. The lowest card has a minimum amount of one thousand gold coins and even if you had a thousand coins, a card would not necessarily be issued.

    He had his suspicions because it was a kid holding it and he had never seen him before. But his intuition says not to mess with him, who knows where this kid came from and might be the son of a wealthy merchant or some big family with connections.

    “Any problem?”

    Eznho was getting impatient due to the guard's silence.

    “Nothing, you may enter just make sure not to trespass on private properties or you will get arrested. Follow the main street and you will see the bank a kilometer after.”

    The guard came back to his senses, stepped aside and gave a friendly reminder.

    Eznho just nodded and proceeded inside. Once he entered, it was like he was in a different place and not inside Sin city. The road was filled with snow but it was obvious that it was well maintained. City guards constantly patrolled and carriages with grand designs passed to and fro. Establishments were designed extravagantly that sold precious and rare materials.

    .....

    After sightseeing and walking for half an hour, he reached the bank. The establishment was four-stories tall and one of the highest infrastructure in the area. Two large red columns stood in front with golden dragons sculpted coiling around them. A large signboard with golden letters hung above a rectangular door with a golden tree design.

    ‘Merchant Bank’

    Two tall guards in full golden armor stood on each side.He went in front of the door and the guard spoke without moving.

    “Proof of business transaction,”

    Eznho was puzzled then showed his bank card. After showing it, the door automatically opened then he entered.

    A big hall appeared in front of him with high ceiling and luxurious chandelier, only a handful of people were inside. Sculptures were scattered and paintings hung on the wall. Three tellers were in a counter talking with costumers while other people sat down in chairs drinking tea. Only one guard in full golden armor was inside guarding the stairs going up.

    He was a bit nervous but did not show it on his face, this was his first time entering an establishment such as this. There were other banks in the city but this was the biggest and most secure run by the alliance of merchant groups.

    A female bank employee noticed him and then approached. She was an average beauty and wore a tight fitting dress showing her curves.

    “Good morning, young sir, how may I help you?”

    Eznho composed himself and tried to act like it was not his first time.

    “Ahem, I am here to open my bank card.”

    He answered politely.

    “Young sir, you have to wait for your turn. May I take off your cloak?”

    The woman was not surprised, he had seen many rich kids do this. But she was surprised when the boy took off his cloak and he only wore simple clothing. Still, she did not think too much about it and put the cloak in a wardrobe.

    “This way young sir,”

    She gestured and offered a couch for Eznho to sit on while waiting for his turn.

    “Would you like a cup of tea, young sir?”

    “No, but thanks for the offer,” Eznho politely declined.

    .....

    The costumer in the counter was already finalizing her transaction with one of the tellers. Eznho was told by the attendant to get ready so he stood up and at the same time the door opened.

    A tall man in fur cloak came inside and was greeted by an attendant, he removed his cloak and showed his leather armor. He was a city guard, his name was Hans and a loyal subordinate to the city lord.

    Hans looked around and a boy in plain clothing who was standing caught his attention, he could only see the side of his face. Narrowing his eyes, he was trying to remember where he had seen his face. Then an incident four years ago popped up in his my mind.

    “Isn’t that?” A sneer formed in his mouth while he remembered the scene where a man was kneeling in front of him while begging.

    He mused to himself, basing on his calculation it was not yet time for the boy to come back.

    Eznho started to walk towards the counter when he heard someone shout from his back.

    “Wait!” The voice echoed across the hall that caught everybody’s attention.

    They saw who shouted and did not say anything, they were familiar with the man. He was a subordinate of the city lord and once in a while, he comes into the bank to do business transactions on behalf of the city lord. The people inside did not have a good impression on him, all they heard about this guard was him doing dubious things.

    Eznho ignored the shout and continued walking, there were other people inside so it was vague who the shout was intended for.

    Seeing that he was ignored, Hans felt humiliated and became angry then shouted again,

    “Are you deaf? I said wait, you punk!”

    Eznho stopped walking, furrowed his brow and turned around. He did not know why the newcomer would make trouble for him. When the man entered, he actually saw him in the corner of his eye but did not particularly care as he had something to do.

    Upon turning around and saw the man’s face clearly, his eyes immediately turned cold and a hint of killing intent permeated but immediately disappeared. To think that not even a week had passed since he got back and he encountered one of the people he hated the most and even thought of killing.
     
  20. NotNice

    NotNice Member

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    Chapter 19 In Your Face!

    It’s really him.

    Hans was delighted and was confused at the same time when he confirmed his suspicions so he walked forward and went in front of the boy. Eznho just stood without saying anything and looked at the man who was approaching with cold eyes. Everyone inside stopped what they were doing and enjoyed the show.

    “Well, what have we got here? Aren’t you suppose to be inside the mines? You think you can ignore the city lord’s order? Hmph! Let me personally behead you and hang your head on the streets,”

    Hans spoke in a domineering manner trying to regain his face then reached out with his left hand and circulated his energy to clutch the boy’s collar and rough him up at the same time.

    “Huh?”

    To his surprise, what he grabbed was air and the boy was standing a meter from where he originally stood. He couldn’t clearly see how the boy dodged and clenched his fist.

    Hans started to get furious and his face started to redden, he was humiliated again by this boy. Without any warning, he unsheathed his weapon and prepared to attack.

    “Stop! This is not a place of murder mister Hans,”

    A clear voice sounded in the hall that made Hans stop his movements. Eznho, on the other hand, did not have any fear in his eyes, instead, he wanted the man to attack first so he had a reason to kill.

    He gained confidence when the guard circulated his energy. Eznho clearly felt that his enemy passed the blood purification stage but something was amiss. There were impurities on his body and his energy control was sluggish. He may be able to beat normal cultivators below him but others who have a solid foundation even with lower cultivation can beat him instead.

    Eznho was not aware that it’s hard for others especially people with no backing to cultivate properly. They only have a crude understanding of the cultivation path and even use the lowest grade of breathing and assistive techniques. That is why even though Hans is far older than him, his cultivation was just at this level and may not even be able to progress anymore.

    A middle-aged man with a clean face and a tidy long black hair was coming down the stairs. His hand was on his back and walked slowly towards Hans with a serious look on his face.

    “Mister Hans, you do know killing is forbidden in this building. Even if you are here on behalf of the city lord, it does not mean you can do anything as you please.”

    Hans withdrew his weapon and apologized.

    “I’m sorry manager Jim, I was too excited to uphold the law and forgot where I am.”

    He calmed down and tried to smoothen things out, what the manager said was the truth. Heck, even if the city lord himself came, he could not openly murder people inside this place.

    “Upholding the law?”

    Manager Jim asked, puzzled.

    “To make the story short, this punk here, by the city lord’s decree had to work in the mines for two years and can come back for a one-week break after a year, but there is still a week left before he could come based on my calculations. Which means I have to uphold the city lord’s order and capture this brat to explain himself. Instead of coming in a peaceful manner, he resisted.”

    Hans spoke with confidence and felt as if he was delivering justice. Manager Jim slightly furrowed his brow, there was no reason for Hans to make up stories like these and even use his master’s name so it was most likely true and he had the right to take action.

    He looked the young boy who was silently standing there with a clear hostility on his eyes towards Hans.

    “Is this true?”

    Eznho did not answer and took out a scroll and handed to the female attendant who in turn brought it to the manager. He was holding himself back, this was not the right time and place. Instead of bickering with words, he directly brought out the scroll to clear out all suspiciouns.

    Upon receiving the scroll, manager Jim saw the city guard captain’s seal.

    “Hmmm?” He was a bit surprised and took another look at the boy and opened the scroll.

    After reading the scroll, his face had a mocking smile but did not say anything tossed the scroll to Hans. Looking at the manager’s face, Hans started to feel uncomfortable and caught the scroll. Upon seeing the seal, he had an ugly look on his face and could already guess what was inside.

    The more he read what was written, the more his face became uglier. After reading the content, he had no choice but to accept the truth and tossed the scroll back to the manager. In truth, he was scared of Batista.

    Even though his master had influence around the city and even assigned as the city lord, he was weak himself and did not even cultivate. He only had influence because of money and his background. There were even rumors that he was disowned and tossed into this place.

    “Would you still like to pursue this matter mister Hans?” Manager asked with a sly smile.

    Hans felt dejected but did not answer and just found a chair to sit on. He really felt humiliated right now and wanted to go out and dig a hole but he had business to do and could only sit in shame.

    Manager Jim walked to Eznho and personally handed out the scroll, he wanted to look at the boy and took note of him. It was rare for people to be associated with the brawny city guard captain.

    “Here you go, sorry for the trouble. Sometimes people don’t know where they stand. May I know this young master’s name?”

    “Thank you manager Jim, you can call me Eznho,”

    Eznho answered honestly and received the scroll.

    “So it’s young master Eznho, I hope we can have more transactions with you in the future. I would like to chat more but I still have things to do, I’m sorry but I’ll have to excuse myself.”

    Manager Jim slightly bowed and did not wait for Eznho’s answer and went back upstairs. Eznho did not think much about it and proceeded to the counter. The crowd went back on their own business but some started whispering which made Hans more irritated and furious but all he could do was stare at the boy with a fierce look.

    .....

    “How may I help you, young sir?”

    The teller asked politely after she saw how the manager treated the boy in front of her.

    “I would like to open this bank card,”

    Eznho brought out the card and handed it over. The teller did not think much about it and put it on top a rectangular object. A formation activated and golden patterned lines started to form on the cards surface and a golden coin design was imprinted at the middle. After that, she took it back and handed back to Eznho.

    “All done young sir, you can take it now.”

    Eznho stared at the cards new look and was amazed. He took it then examined it, then with an embarrassed looked he asked the teller how does it work.

    “Ow, Is it your first time young sir?”

    Eznho just nodded in response.

    “Okay, the card you submitted is called a blank card. It has to be authenticated inside a bank for it to become usable for transactions. The blank card contains the information of the person who gave it you and when authenticated by us, we deduct it under his name and transfer the said amount to you. Throughout the years, the banking system has been systematized and all banks use the same system throughout the empire. Every major establishment also uses these cards for transaction. There are three kinds of card, brown, blue and purple. Each color differs on how many gold coins it can contain, your card can hold up to a ten thousand. If you deposit a certain amount of money, the bank will decide if they will give you a card and you can even have your own blank cards as long as you satisfy the requirements. Blue and purple cards require you to reach a certain level in cultivation before you can use it, as for the reason I don’t know. For people who can’t reach that, they have to use a brown card.”

    The teller patiently explained while Eznho was becoming more and more amazed.

    What kind of power would you have to reach to make things like this?

    “For you to be able to use a new brown card, you have to let the formation inside the card scan your thumbprint. Try it,”

    Enzho did as instructed and put his thumb on the bottom front of the card, a small formation activated and scanned his thumb.

    “Now that is done, others can’s steal and use your card but don’t get too confident, there are still dubious people who can bypass this and can use your card. But of course, why would the bank care about this, they only consider brown cards as chump change so be careful. And one last thing if you want to check how much your card holds, just let it scan your thumb again.”

    Eznho was mesmerized and admired the person who thought about this. Especially for non-cultivators, you can just carry small amounts of gold for other transactions and keep the rest inside this small card. He then tried to scan his thumb again to try and check how much gold he owned and was surprised by what appeared and even widened his eyes.

    “Eh?”

    Ten thousand! Exactly ten thousand!

    He nearly fell on his butt, this was too much of a shock for him. With this kind of money, He could live in luxury as a mortal for the rest of his life. The teller saw the boy’s reaction and could not help but peak.

    Yiii!

    She was also startled by the amount she saw, no matter how much she worked she will never earn this kind of amount. Smiling wryly, she just accepted it and shook her head, people have their own luck and destiny.

    After calming down, Eznho composed himself and picked up the card then put in his chest pocket.

    “Thank you,”

    He bowed to the teller and headed for the door.

    ....

    Hans was coldly observing the boy for the side and was surprised when he caught a glimpse of a bank card.

    “What dog shit luck did this boy stepped on? Not only he was pardoned he even has a lot of money?”

    He was gnashing his teeth in jealousy, it took him years of ass kissing the city lord and his son before he was given a bank card.

    Eznho passed by and they gave each other looks of great hostility, if it were another place they would have jumped at each others throat.

    “Hmph! You better make the most out of your remaining days,”

    Hans was wracking his mind on how to get back on the boy, he had to do it discretely or else he might invoke Batista’s wrath.

    Eznho retracted his gaze and passed by. The attendant returned his cloak and bowed.

    “We hope to see you again young sir,”

    “Thank you,”

    He nodded and his mood was uplifted after seeing how the attendant treated him.

    “Is this how rich and powerful people live?” Eznho mused to himself and the door opened.

    Looking at the white background outside, he could not help but wonder what other things would he discover if he went out of the city and go to other places. What kind of people would he meet? Can he find cultivators who could fly in the sky? Or will he become one someday? Is his father still alive?

    Many thoughts and questions ran through his mind. It has been only a year since he came out of his shell and many things he could not imagine already happened to himself.

    He clenched his fists out of excitement and his blood boiled for the thirst of adventure. But before anything else, he had things to settle first. He took a deep breath and calmed down then took a step outside.

    .....

    On the top floor of the bank, four silhouettes sat in front of a table drinking wine. The place was filled with isolation formations.

    A stern and aged voice broke the silence,

    “Two days ago, there has been a rumor of a golden snake appearing inside the mines and a fight broke out ending with casualties. It was also rumored that two military officers of the kingdom acquired it, according to intel, it was Major Wilky and Major Wilfred. Another report came in that Wilfred is currently at the border with Batista while Wilky has been seen rushing back to their headquarters. As for the reason, we don’t have enough information yet.”

    “What? Is it the golden snake of legends?”

    Another male with a husky voice blurted in surprise. Everybody here owned a merchant company and was well informed about some things.

    “Won’t that start a war? If that is true, even the imperial capital might get involved.”

    An alluring voice of a woman asked.

    “I know, the rumors have been said that it came from Major Floyd of Kalbo kingdom so it is not that reliable. You know their hostility with each other. They even attacked the border without warning and nearly killed Batista’s son that made him went berserk so the other party retreated first. We have yet to receive information from the mercenary groups that have been involved.”

    “We still don’t have enough information to confirm anything, the crucial point now is finding the mercenaries and make preparations in case a war really happens. I have a feeling some monsters will come out, I’ll inform everyone if there is an update. Don’t get involved in this yet, let’s watch from the sidelines or else we might get wrecked by the storm.”

    The old voice advised everyone and warned them, their group have survived and prospered by playing low-key and did not directly get involved with things. Even if the rumors were true, they wouldn’t dare to touch the hot potato and get burned by it.
     

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