StoryTime - Spiritual Realm (Chp. 25)

edited January 7 in Original Stories

You can find this Story on Royad Roadl too. Would be happy if you could drop a comment and tell me what you think.

https://royalroadl.com/fiction/12040


Synopsis:

There once was a Legend, about a World, and a boy. As chaotic the world is, as peaceful had been his childhood.

Now it`s time for him to jump into a World full of mysteries, dangers and opportunities.

Follow him on a journey, with creatures out of the depth of your dreams and treasures unheard of.

Take a deep breath and prepare to witness an adventure, witness a Tale untold.

Info:
 
 What the story is about? Well a boy and stuff and I am absolutely clueless, I just write and look where i end up.

This is my first book and my first and only rule is to finish it. I will try to improve, but can not promise anything.

This is released for free. Satisfying read not guaranteed ^^

(No "Prologue", No Chapter titles)


© 2017-18, StoryTime, All Rights Reserved


Comments

  • edited November 2017
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  • edited November 2017
    (Place Holder)
  • edited December 2017
    Chapter One

    Many needle forests stretch along the mountains, all of them overflowing with busy little life and most of them peaceful paradises. In one of these dense forests, quite close to the White Mountains, a young boy sat beside a thick branch that grew its way along the ground.

    Exhausted the boy stared, with a vacant gaze, at the desolate branch he had previously balanced on, before he swung his small body back, rolled it on his head and pressed with all his might against the ground. The strength, accumulated from many years pain-stacking training, filled his arms and with the momentum of the push his figure took up in the air and steadily he landed on his feet.

    He exhaled a deep breath and patted his black shirt. The soil scattered, but the scent remained. His short black hair was drenched in cold sweat and it chilled his head whenever the wind gently stroke it. Slowly a comfortable feeling of exhaustion filled his body and mind. He stretched his numb limbs and grasped for the white clouds, who drifted slowly in the sky. A dream to once touch them passed his eyes.

    As he stared into the endless sky, a smile revealed his white teeth. Silently he listened to the melody, all kind of birds formed with their morning chirps, announcing the approaching dawn. Long did he enjoy the fresh air and calm atmosphere, until a bird crossed his sight happily flapping its small wings. An entire sky to its self.

    He inhaled, his lungs inflated to their brink and he released a yell with all the energy he had, " One day I will fly like you! "

    " Shen Zheng Sovereign of the skies. ", he chanted on, with sparkling eyes as he listened to his prior scream getting carried far and beyond. The leafs in the surrounding trees rustled, as irritated birds rushed out of them. In an absent-minded state and a broad smile stretching across his face, he watched all of them take off. A sky filled with birds, yet still empty.

    His head sank, the body relaxed, but an invisible burden, the size of a mountain, appeared on his heart.

    Soon it is time...

    The sun gradually rose in the horizon above the White Mountains, bathing the world in a comfortable warm light. Shen quietly anticipated the sunlight to cross over the treetops. When it finally touched upon his restless face, a feeling of warmth filled him. The restlessness was slowly replaced by a determination that could split the sea and crush a mountain. An inborn drive to succeed!

    With what grandfather has taught me, with all my training. I should, I will, NO I must definitely make it! Without question, I will!

    Abprubtly he pushed his feet of the ground and left the comfortable feeling of soft grass between his toes behind. Vividly he travelled through the forest. Every corner engraved in his memories. He quickly dashed like a tiger and never stumbled, as he made his way. His entire live spend searching and studying the forests secrets, he could describe it's every last corner. A place in the distance made his soul stir and he sped up, just to halt a short while later. A cliff, a moment to overlooked the emerald-green sea in front of him, before he closed his eyes.

    " Free like a bird! ", he softly said and leaned forward. His body drifted over the edge, the wind turned into a rush, his heartbeat soared and a comfortable heap of straw received him. His eyelids trembled and opened, “ Free for a moment... ”

    With his heart calmed down, he immersed himself in the soft bed of straw. For a moment he felt as light as a feather, before his heart froze. The clear sound of a door entered his ears. A horrible precognition crept up his back and he carefully crawled out of the straw like a flexible snake and discovered a man. He stood still in the doorstep of a cosy wooden house. The grey coat, frayed at several spots, nearly touched the ground and a grey long beard disappearing within. Shen knew it actually stretched down to the man's hip. The familiar wrinkles shaped an old face and straight white eyebrows revealed the man's rage. Only his eyes lay calm, they never wavered and always stayed unfathomable mysterious like a deep-sea the ground you could not see of.

    The man rushed down two tattered wooden stairs. They creaked so loudly, it was always a surprise they did not yield, a surprise Shen's mind could not comprehend right now, as he felt the end approach. It felt like an eternity, but in reality the distance between them was crossed so swiftly, many people would be shocked about the good condition this old man was in.

    Grandfather noticed I sneaked out. My life is so over. Maolin Zheng a true devil to the law of spanking!

    As this thought passed Shen's mind, his face slightly distorted and mentally he prepared for the worst.

    Maolin held his steps and watched Shen hurriedly getting to his feet. All the way from the ground to his feet, he had avoided his grandfathers eyes, but without a choice he shifted them now upon his grandfathers. The volcano erupted and everything burst out of Maolin with an unimaginable vigor.

    “ You did it again! ", Maolin yelled with a flushed face. Shocked Shen retreated to dodge the spit fountain.

    " You left without telling me, and what did I tell you about jumping of the cliff. ", he continued with a fading intensity. A big part of his fury was vented and in the first place it was not anger but worry that drove him enraged. " It is extremely dangerous! “, he severely berated and crossed his arms.

    “ But grandfather I knew I would have a safe landing and I never got hurt before. ”, Shen tried to argue and begun to count down on his hand.

    Bewildered Maolin stared at Shen, as he stretched out one finger after another, counting down how many times he had jumped of the cliff. If it was worry before, then it now turned in real anger. It brewed up in Maolin's stomach and his face darkened with every finger Shen stretched out, until finally he released it, in a frightening deep voice, “ You knew, because you did not remove the straw, as I told you too. ”

    “ I never said I would do that. ”, Shen replied without a second thought.

    “ What... did... you... just... say? ”

    Shen immediately regretted his words, as he saw the situation was getting totally out of hand. Quick-witted he explained while he used his hands in an attempt to calm his grandfather, “ I was so eager to train for the exam and I got caught up in my practice. I really did not realise the passage of time and you know that it takes so much longer if I walk all the way around. ”

    “ Practice? ", Maolin whispered dangerously, piercing Shen with his blue eyes.

    A silence, like an upcoming storm followed. It slowly filled the atmosphere with its invisible pressure. Uncomfortable Shen shifted his weight, but did not dare utter a word. After quite some time Maolin opened his mouth and barely spoke loud enough for Shen to hear him," I told you to stay home. I told you to get a good sleep. But you... you wandered off, AGAIN! Didn't I tell you... lately there are rumours of beasts roaming the borders. Beasts especially like to eat brats like you! ”

    “ Grandfather I was at our usual training spot. I would never dare to wander off to far. ”, Shen hastily spoke out, but thought, that he really would want to see one of these beasts.

    Maolin studied Shen for quite a while before he helplessly shook his head and turned round. " We are already late. Wash yourself and get dressed. "

    Shen sighed in relief and headed into the house, careful not to get too close to his grandfather. You never know, when the spank devil attacks.

    Some time later Maolin's displeased voice rang out, “ Shen! Hurry up, we will miss it. I swear to you, I will come in and drag you out with my own two hands. ”

    " I am coming. ", Shen screamed, scared his voice might not pierce the thin wooden walls.

    The door swung open and he rushed out. His wet hair shimmered in the sun and overall he had changed with all the dirt gone. Previously it could have been the soil, but now it was obvious his skin held an healthy brown taint. He stepped down the first creaking stair, while he threw over the best black shirt of his miniscule collection, but when the cloth took his sight he stumbled and lost his balance.

    Ahhhh

    Maolin watched as Shen fell face forward right into the mud. He covered his eyes and spoke in bitter agony, “ Unbelievable, simply unbelievable, this kid will get me into an early grave. ”

    Shen got up again and revealed his muddy face. With an awkward smile, he scratched the back of his head, “ I am sorry grandfather. I think I will need to wash myself again. ”

    Maolin only sighed frustrated, " No time, just come. Doesn't matter how you look. The result will still be the same, which we will only get if we move out now. ”

    “ Grandfather... ", Shen started nervously. " What if I am the only one looking like this? ”, he asked with clear worry.

    Maolin bend forward, looked into Shen's dark-green eyes and carefully said, “ Do not care what others think, child. As long as you are happy with who you are, or in this case, look like, others will like you. Remember this for the rest of your life. " He stretched his hand out and flicked against Shen's forehead, " Persons that judge with their eyes are but nothing more than narrow-minded and will fail to see the beauty and true meaning of life. ”

    Without wasting more time Maolin turned around and led Shen, who rubbed his forehead and pondered. They travelled on little paths, passed through bushes and crossed creeks on fallen trees. Fresh air, filled with a strong scent of needles and the sound of an awakening forest accompanied them on their journey.

    After twenty minutes of painstaking hiking Shen finally saw a light between the trees, an opening to leave the forest. Stepping out, the rising sun blinded him for a moment before a large open land appeared in his sight. A road, build of unremarkable grey stone, ran along the valley without end. Many people traversed it, dressed in simple and partly tattered clothes. Most bigger villages and all cities were connected with these kinds of streets. This one leads from a city in the south, through some villages to their destination Starlight City. First they would follow it to a village called Leaf Town from where they would take a carriage towards Starlight City.

    When they drew close, quite some people stopped to gaze at them.

    “ Grandfather, they are looking. ”

    “ And? ”

    “ Maybe they think you look funny in this long dress. ”, Shen suggested. It always was a thorn in his eyes this piece of cloth.

    “ You brat that's a coat, not a dress. ", Maolin snapped. " it is a traditional clothing. ”

    “ Looks like a dress to me. ”, Shen muttered.

    “ What did you say? ”, Maolin asked, his eyebrows taking a dangerous vertical form.

    Shen drew an innocent face, “ Nothing grandfather. But why are they looking, if it isn't your "coat"? ”

    He gave his muddy faced grandchild a glance. “ Since we were faster than expected, we will stop at the next river for a minute, so you can wash yourself. ”

    Caught of guard by the opportunity to wash himself, he totally forgot about the matter at hand, “ That's great, grandfather. ”

    After roughly a few minutes, under the curious and judging gazes, they finally arrived at a bridge leading over a beautiful little river. Shen didn't waste any time as he immediately undressed and leaped with a loud splash into the clear, sparkling river water. The people on the bridge watched as Shen enjoyed himself, splashing water everywhere, giving Maolin comical looks, who only covered his face in embarrassment.

    When they were on their way again, Shen had to notice that the water on his skin glued the clothes to his body and they itched horribly.

    " At least people stopped staring. ", he thought and gave his grandfather's robe a look.

    Still there, why did they stop staring? But grandfather...

    Maolin shivered as he would resist an intense urge. Further inspection led to the conclusion his grandfather's condition wasn't good for him and he was terrible happy, his grandfather wouldn't go as far as to spank him now. Travelling silently Shen used the time to observe all the weird people, their partly even more bizarre luggage and the surrounding scenery. It wasn't his first time visiting Leaf Town, but it was still a rare event.

    A full hour later Shen discovered the village in the distance and Maolin said, “ There we are, Leaf Town. As expected the sun still hangs low, the carriage towards Starlight City will most likely take off in three to four hours. "



  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Two

    Flabbergasted Shen looked up at his grandfather, “ What? You said we are late! ”

    “ Because we have to sign up, pay, and be sure to have a spot. ", patiently Maolin explained. " Or we will need to walk, what in my age is really no option! ”

    Annoyed Shen grumbled the entire patch to the village. A short walk later they arrived in front of a little house. The Golden Goose. Leafs Town notorious, best and actually only tavern. The smell of cheap liquor and smoke struck them upon entering and disrupted Shen's complains.

    " Cough.. cough.. Awful, how can people stand this. ", Shen cursed before he held his breath, but long it did not last. When he finally turned blue, he reaped what he had sown and was forced to take a deep breath. His blue face shifted into a dangerous green and he barely resisted his urge to puke. Battling with the smell, he only noticed now that it was weirdly stuffed.

    Normally a tavern, in the morning hours, should be a forsaken place, for the poor souls of the last night, but today it was filled to its brim. The most bustling area was located in the far back. A line of people waited patiently for their turn and apparently eagerly conversed with each other.

    “ Come ", Maolin said. " We have to line up. ”

    He dragged Shen deeper into the pot of smoke and stopped at the end of the line. Shen needed some time to adjust to the uncomfortable smell. At the point he had come back in charge of his stomach, he happily eavesdropped on the discussions for the first time.

    " You heard what they call this generation? ", a slender giant of a man asked his friend with obvious delight.

    In the smoke it was quite difficult to see and Shen could only guess the man was talking to the barrel in front of him. When the barrel suddenly moved, his chin dropped.

    The man's companion had a belly so large Shen doubted he could see his own two feet. He wasn't even much taller than himself and his neck was nowhere to be found. He appeared to nod, what was a challenge to detect.

    " The rain of geniuses. ", he said in a pitch high voice and Shen started giggling, badly. " Some clans even arranged for their children to be tested earlier. Well tested is wrong. They already know after all. "

    " Right and my kid is participating this year too! ", the thin man declared happily. " It's simply unbelievable, a true blessing for Samsara, this generation. "

    Mr. Belly, as Shen decided to name him, dragged at his pipe, before he responded. " Your kid would first need to pass the test and be regarded as anything to mix up with this people you know. "

    " Don't be so negative you fat lump. " Patting his son he added, " I am sure he will do just fine. "

    Mr. Belly looked like he had a curse sitting on his tongue, when he saw the skinny child out of the corner of his eye. He swallowed his original words, " Right after all we don't know. "

    Shen couldn't get a hold of himself and stupidly giggled for a while. When a few happy tears were shed, he somewhat found his composure.

    This generation is the Rain of Geniuses? What does that mean...

    The interesting conversation had ended, so Shen could only patiently wait. He inspected the skinny boy in front of him, since it was more or less the only thing he could truly see in the smoke. Ripped shorts, half a shirt and brown hair he asserted. He was about to try talk to him, when the giant pulled his son forward and they approached the table. It took just a moment and they left.

    " Finally our turn. ", Shen muttered as they stepped in front of the table.

    " Two persons ", Maolin directly announced and carefully put down four shining green coins on the table.

    Grandfather had told me that this was the common way to pay in the kingdom of Samsara. There are green Brinkle's, blue Cleton's and purple Seltin's which are used for trading. Ninety-six Brinkles make a Cleton, while seventy-two Cleton make a Seltin. They are provided by the Royal Family as a form of currency.

    The most important thing is that they have an actual use. Brinkle is a resilient iron used for tools. Cleton is an iron too, but it's significance overtakes Brinkle by a large margin. It can absorb natural energy and is used to create weapons and armour. Seltin on the other hand is found deep within the ground and is extremely rare. It uses stretch way beyond the others. It is a very mysterious substance and the fundamental material for a clan to groom their off springs.

    One day I will head out, discover the world. Journey over the White Mountains, into the Nirwana, where there are many beasts, even Gods it is said, but treasures are not lacking!

    He stared into the revolving smoke daydreaming about fighting beasts in the skies and discovering unimaginable treasures, like in the stories his grandfather always told him.

    When Maolin received two paper strips with a number on each, they left the tavern. They walked across the entire village, until they left it on the other side. Right outside the village many people were gathered, awaiting the departure. Five simple, enclosed, but heavy wooden carriages were lined up, each strapped to four Horned-Crawlers.

    Nothing really special about Horned-Crawlers. They are just normal four-legged animals, with massive bodies and a calm temperament. Though they can pull eight times their own weight and have great stamina, what makes them ideal for pulling heavy carriages.

    Just as they had arrived a grim-looking man called out, that they will depart early since all spots were sold out already.

    Maolin puts up a smug face and looked at Shen, " You see! "

    Shen had simply no come back for this and accepted that his grandfather had been right.

    Still does he have to be so proud about it...

    Everyone assembled and lined up once again, as did Shen and his grandfather. Shen studied the man taking the paper strips. He was a tall man, wearing only shorts. His rough dark brown skin, underlined the many white scars visible on his arms, legs and chest. A particular ugly one ran across his cheek down his chin. But most impressive to Shen, was the incredible big silver sword on the man's back.

    Shen watched him take the paper strips. He inspected the number and surprisingly smelled them. This unexpected action left not just Shen, but many people dumbfounded. A young man at the back of the line, stealthily retreated into the village.

    " Grandfather why is he smelling them? ", Shen inquired curiously.

    Confused Maolin gave the man a look, before he smelled the paper strips in his hand. " They smell like fresh bread. Apparently the paper was within a basked of freshly baked ones. "

    " Fresh bread? Oh !! Now I get it. They made the paper strips smell like bread, and now no one can use a normal paper strip to fool them! "

    Maolin rolled his eyes and nodded, " Right. "

    Shen was impressed by their craftiness, while his grandfather thought that he was a little easy to impress. Maolin turned in the paper strips and Shen straightforwardly told the man, " Our paper strips smell like bread! They are the real deal! "

    Maolin covered his face, like he so often did, " Argh, he made it sound like, as we would try to trick him, this kid. "

    Amused the man eyed Shen's innocent appearance and released a hearty laugh at last, " Excellent how you figured that out, I must say. " Afterwards he sized up Maolin with a smirk, " You shouldn't be embarrassed. An honest and straightforward person is so rare. We should treasure every single one. "

    Maolins' eyes travelled along the man's countless scars as he slowly replied, " Your words are true, but we both know why these people are so scarce. "

    A sad glint crossed the grim man's eyes. He had tasted the world's wickedness many times. He had seen more good man die, than he could count. Without another word he nodded and pointed at the fourth carriage in line.

    Maolin thanked him, in form of a light bow and they strolled to their carriage. Shen could make out the giant heaving his boy into the carriage behind theirs. Mr. Belly likewise stood there and Shen enjoyed the spectacle he presented. Mr. Belly tried to climb into the carriage. Shen kept his calm, but Mr Belly dropped off from the edge, bounced onto the ground and rolled some feet. Shen lost it completely. He roared for laughter and held his stomach. But not just Shen, even Mr. Belly's friend, who had tried to help him, hung on the edge with tears in his eyes.

    Maolin frustrated by Shen's behaviour hit him quite hard on the head. Shen cleaned the mixture of tears of happiness and pain and massaged his throbbing head. They climbed into their carriage, but it was already filled up to its last breath. It went so far, Shen had to sit on his grandfather's lap, as a last resort.

    “ You should try to sleep now, we won't see much, and you need a good rest. ", Maolin said and berated with narrowed eyes, " After all you spend the entire night, once again, in the forest and tomorrow will be a long day. ”

    Shen snuggled his head up against Maolin's chest and just closed his eyes.

    “ Sight, not even a minute and he already fell asleep... I hope he will have a decent result. ”, Maolin thought and closed his eyes as well.

    ----------

    Shen was awoken by a tumult. As he was about to take a look out of the carriage, someone grabbed him at the shoulder and pressed him down on the cold wooden floor.

    " Stay down. ", Maolin said flustered.

    Shen couldn't see much. It was a pitch black night. Today was the monthly Starlight day, what meant none of the three moons hung in the sky, a perfect day to stare into the sky and watch the stars or to sneak up on someone. He could just spot the flickering lights of torches dancing on the blanket covering the carriage. Sounds like screams, Horned-Crawlers neighing and steel heavily clashing against each other filled the air. When all of a sudden the darkness vanished and everything was thrown into a deep red light, the red of flames.

    “ A Fire Soul carrier. ”, someone screamed hysterically.

    Someone else released a bursting laugh.

    “ Are you kidding me, he would burn us straight to crisps if he were. Keep going! ”, the man yelled. Shen wasn't sure, but the voice felt familiar.

    Shen managed to lift his head a little, even though his grandfather was on top of him to act as a shield. He clearly saw what had turned the world red. Flames were ravaging like mad and turned the entire carriage, behind them, to ashes. Distinct muffled noises filled the cool night. The other people in their carriage were all panic-stricken, talking in low voices and held their heads between their hands.

    “ Grandfather the people in the carriage behind us? ”, Shen said in a shaky voice.

    There was no response, but his grandfather held him now even tighter and pressed his head back down. In his sight was the red light dancing on the blanket, in his ears were noises of the fight, but all of it felt not as frightening as his thought.

    Mr. Belly and his giant friend. The giant's son? Are they...

    -------

    “ They fled into the woods. If we rush on now, we can make it to the borders of the city outskirts. They won't dare attack us there.”, someone yelled to the front.

    Not even a minute later their carriage moved again and the red light grew dimmer, until it disappeared. Maolin sat back up and cleaned the cold sweat of his forehead. Finally free from his grandfathers restrictions, Shen climbed over the other people, until he reached the open end of the carriage and stared into the distance.

    A fire the size of a carriage enlightened the entire street behind them. There were many figures spread on the ground, with the fires light reflected in pools of blood. A true nightmare to behold.

    Shen stared deeply shocked for a long time, not comprehending what had happened. At some point his grandfather had pulled him back into his lap , “ Don't be scared, nothing will happen to you as long as I am here.”

    “ I am not scared grandfather. ", Shen whispered. " But why did they attack us? This people in the carriage they didn't do anything.... "

    " An heart wrenching disaster... many people carry the fees for the exam, you see... ", Maolin answered and exhaled a deep sigh.

    They did this because of... money?

    Shen couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it.

    With some tears in his eyes he asked, " Grandfather, why did you not fight? "

    " My first and only care in this world is you. If I would go out to fight, who would protect you? We can not safe everyone, Shen. "

    Shen leaned his head against his grandfather's chest, engraving a night in his memory, a night he will never forget. He had never... Heroes slaughter the evil and save the innocent. But where was the hero this night? Many thoughts filled his head and made it dizzy, while he drifted into another land, a land of dreams.



  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Three

    A world of raving flames enclosed Shen. Desperate he tried to escape, but the more he ran the more helpless he felt. Sweat covered his entire body, the clothes were nearly torn to pieces and covered in countless burn holes. Another flame arose in his path, bigger than all the others put together. It crackled, zished and twisted, like a living being. Spreading around him it truly encircled him this time and grew as high as a mountain, leaving him with no hope of escape.

    Two dark black holes drilled themselves out of the mountain in front of him. They stared down at Shen, unmoving, lifeless, like a demon of the deepest parts of darkness. An ice-cold shiver ran down his spine. He wanted to turn around and run, even if he had to jump right into the flames. Just away, that's what mattered, but every try, every attempt to move, resulted in one truth, he couldn't. Stuck on the spot, Shen watched the Flame and its dark black eyes approach. The circle of flames slowly shrank around him, incinerating everything even the air. Shen could barely breathe any more, when finally it swallowed him.

    " Ahhh... I am burning... I am burning! Save me grandfather! "

    " Calm down Shen, calm down, open your eyes, its fine you had a bad dream. ", an anxious voice responded.

    Shen slowly opened his eyes. Still in the lap of his grandfather, he stopped struggling and started stuttering, " Gr... Grandfather it ate me. The flames, they, they ate me. "

    " No one has eaten you. Look there are no flames anywhere. ", Maolin consoled him, ignoring the displeased looks of the other passengers.

    Shen gradually calmed down, but when he thought about the lifelike dream his heart pounded heavily. Only after a long time passed did he find his composure and thought reassuringly. " Something as scary as this, can not possibly exist. "

    But doubting his own thoughts, he asked, " Grandfather are there... Demons, like of flames and big as mountains? "

    " I can promise you, that you won't meet any Demons, nor will I let them eat you. ", Maolin spoke with as much confidence as he could muster. " Believe in your grandfather! "

    Satisfied he felt Shen calm down and added, " In a while we will arrive at the City gates. Use this time and try your best to remember what I taught you. "

    Shen didn't waste any words and closed his eyes. This test is his stepping stone. This is his destiny. Just the image of the horrifying Monster, the feeling of helplessness, he could not shed off for quite a while. At some point the events from the night before welled up as well. When he finally had shut off and barely scratched the surface of what Maolin had taught him, the city walls were already in sight.

    In the meanwhile Maolin stared with moist eyes at his grandchild. " He shouldn't, no he can not possible.. remember. He was a baby back than... ", shaking his head he closed his eyes, forcing himself not to remember, not to suffer under the past, but his face was so much older after having spend just a moment in his memories.

    A deep male voice resounded and announced, " This is as far as we go, we won't enter the city. Leave the carriages now! "

    Shen sighed and opened his eyes. The other people were in a rush to leave, while Maolin hadn't moved yet. Their eyes met and Shen could see a form of suffering he did not understand. Maolin shifted his gaze and gave Shen a push to move him of his lap. Puzzled he looked at his grandfather.

    " Could you settle your heart and remember what i taught you? ", Maolin asked gazing out of the carriage.

    Shen opened his mouth to honestly admit that he had failed, but the expression in his grandfathers eyes, " Yes I did grandfather. "

    " Very good. Really very good. You really deserve your father's name. ", Maolin said turning his head back with a forced smile.

    Shen was shocked, in all these years his grandfather had mentioned his father not even twice. With a bright smile and in a respectful manner he said, " Thank you grandfather."

    " Now let's get moving. We have to sign up in the City Hall, but didn't even enter the city yet. ". Maolin said and lifted his old body.

    Shen followed his grandfathers example and jumped up like an arrow. They left the carriage and directly ended up in the masses of people floating towards the city. Shen had actually wanted to say good-bye to the grim-looking man, but they were pushed forward without mercy. Shen was the first time in such an extremely uncomfortable situation and stuck as close to his grandfather as possible.

    When they had some space he looked around and was instantly dumbstruck. Dark walls stretched into the sky, seemingly without end they ran to the left and right. An indestructible fortress, with a gate that even ancient monsters should easily fit through. The entirety of this defence gave him the feeling of an ant. Nothing in the world can possible tear down this wall.

    Shen stood there and simply couldn't hold back to yell out loud, " It is so huge and all this people! In my entire life I have not seen so many in total! "

    A tender and gentle female laugh resounded, delighted the girl called out, " Bumpkin! "

    Shen shifted his head and a girl stepped in his line of sight. Her long inky hair drifted in the low breeze and the white smooth skin, comparable to the most delicate jade, lets even her brief and perfectly fitted white dress seem ordinary. Her appearance remembered Shen of a white flower and it shook his mind to its very foundation. Never had he seen a girl like this in his life. His eyes were so deeply attracted that he couldn't shift them off of her.

    Not understanding why, but he truly wanted to talk to her. His mouth hung open, but no words left it. As if she had felt something, she turned her head waving her long hair in an arc. Still staring with an open mouth, Shen made quite a fun appearance. Her little mouth broke into a smile, one little wrinkle formed to each side and her blue eyes met his. They were not like his grandfathers, deep like the sea, more like a calm clear lake and without any impurity.

    " Never seen a beauty, bumpkin? ", she called out to him with an amused look and disappeared in the surrounding crowd, before he could utter a word.

    Maolin emerged in front of Shen with relief written all over his face. He inspected Shen's dazed condition and flicked his forehead, " Hey Shen, what are you doing? Come, stay close to me. How should you find me if you get lost. "

    Irritated Shen looked up at his grandfather, " I am sorry, but there was this girl and I think she called me bumpkin. What is a bumpkin? "

    Dumbfounded Maolin ringed for words, but merely said, " Ähm, well, that's... not so important for now. You should focus on the task ahead of you. "

    Distracted Shen looked again in the direction the girl had disappeared into and mumbled. " The task ahead of me? Oh yes the test, I will. "

    " Sight, a girl? He is a little... way to young. I hope he won't get that easily distracted when he takes the test. " Maolin muttered. " Afterwards I should have a serious talk with him. ", Maolin thought then very bothered by the idea of having this conversation.

    He laid an arm around Shen to make sure not to lose him again and together they continued their sluggish journey towards the gate. Eventually they arrived at the gate, where a huge cluster of people blocked their path. You might think that the huge gate leaves enough space to traverse it easily. In reality there were three paths. One to leave the city, one to enter the city and the one with the largest space was meant for carriages and soldiers. After a full hour of fighting not to be squashed by the crowd, they could pay the city entrance fee and step across the impregnable line of defence.



  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Four

    Shens' eyes bulged as he watched his grandfather hand the gate sentinel four Cletons. A question seeped in his thoughts, yet he waited, until they entered the city. With enough room to comfortably walk side by side he asked then, " Grandfather is everything so expensive? "

    " The city is definitely not a cheap place. To enter with a carriage would have cost at least a hundred times more. That's why they delivered us to the entrance, but did not enter. ", Maolin explained in an unbelievable monotonic voice. " It might look very populated, but only wealthy people can afford to enter on a whim and enjoy the remarkable possibilities it offers. While money alone won't be enough, to find more than a tavern to live within. Commoners like us come for the superb market to trade, sell and buy. Festivities are the most common reason for many people to gather and enjoy the grand spectacle together. As of today and the masses of people, has its little special reason, the entrance exam you are going to participate in. "

    Shen had long got used to his grandfathers unbelievable boring narrations, only his stories he told with true affection. A while he spent thinking, before a decision fell in his mind. He had to find a way to earn money, a lot of money. The world's size was a thing he did not understand. But surely he needed to enter many cities and pay many fees. Racking his brain, he always ended up with treasure hunting, until Maolin interrupted his repetitive cycle of thoughts, " We will take a little detour through the market and I will show you the auction house, before we sign you up. "

    Excitement welled up in Shen. Leaf Town's market held already so much interesting stuff, the market in a city must without question be many times bigger and have a lot more to discover. About the auction house he always stayed confused. Not that Maolin hadn't explained it many times, just the difference appeared not to amount too much. Nevertheless, with his plans to make money it was a good idea to broaden his horizon and something that could stand shoulder on shoulder with the market must be a dazzling existence.

    As they passed through the city Shen noted many people dressed in beautiful and extravagant clothes. Often guards surrounded them and they preferred to occupy the middle of the street. Whenever they passed, most people avoided their eyes and sometimes bowed in a timid manner. Shen curiously inquired and Maolin explained that most were from clans with wealth and influence. Others held important positions within the city or other ones, maybe even in the entire kingdom.

    Wealth and influence? Isn't strength what matters most.

    Shen played a game, he normally had no victims for. It was developed back in one of his visits in Leaf Town. He would pick a person and start to make up a story. Who they are, what they do and what they are like. Just as he was immersed into a tragic hero passing him, a group of nobles caught his attention. They sat on a magnificent wagon, carried by soldiers.

    Shen had seen it a few times by now, people carrying people and he did not understand why they not just walked.

    How odd.. this guards.. aren't this Royal Guards!?

    There were at least two dozen. Each covered in thick silver-golden armour, what alone was already a mesmerizing piece of art. Capes, black as the darkest of nights, fluttered in the low breeze and a bird, stitched in blazing gold, was as crest on their capes. Royal Guardians have extremely strict rules and conditions for one to join. This led to them being the acclaimed elite within the kingdom's army. Absolute loyalty and absolute obedience are their daily bread. It might have harsh requirements and even more brutal rules, but once succeeded your future will be a bright one.

    A young man, with a kind face and a warm smile, crossed the street. He accidentally blocked their procedure. The most basic of natures gifts kicked in as they stared at him. He couldn't see them and just a feeling of threat crept up his back. He turned around and spotted who he had disturbed. You could observe his facial colour taking a pale-white. There was not even a breath that passed, as he threw himself to the ground, knocked his head against the hard cobblestone street, apologizing for being an useless trash and wasting their precious time. The force he hit the ground with was apparent as blood flew down the man's face. His appearance could only be described as miserable

    Shen had halted utterly and completely stupefied, but Maolin dragged him on, telling him to ignore it. Forced forward he could only gaze back. A man, to the front of the open wagon, wearing dazzling black-golden garments, gave the guards a sign. In a tranquil coordinated march and accompanied by the nobles shrill laughter, they approached the man. Shen expected them to help the badly bleeding man, but instead of help, they presented a brutal punishment. No one interfered, no one spoke up. People just silently passed. Frightened out of their wits they walked at a quick pace. Seemingly doing their best to avoid getting caught up in the situation.

    Still consumed in his mad laughter the man announced loudly, " What a rebellious little insect, actually dared to block my path! "

    " This is the fate for your treacherous act against the Royal Family! ", the man yelled, acting unbearable haughtily. The others in his group watched the beating with satisfaction and actually praised his words as a fabulous choice.

    This is not right!

    Shen tried to loosen his grandfathers grip and help the man, but Maolin pushed him forth with a force he could not resist. " Do not look back, do not interfere with matters that are not yours! ", Maolin whispered.

    Shen unwillingly moved on, but his impression of the Royal Family couldn't be any worse. The man had even apologized in such a grand manner, thrown away all the honour someone can have and still they beat him to the point, where no one knew whether he was still alive

    A fury rose in his heart. " Something like this should be forbidden. "

    Maolin observed Shen's blushed face and worried. "There is a law... But you heard him, he called it a treacherous act against the Royal Family, creating a reason to act this way. If you'd stand up for the man now, you'd indicate to have exactly this idea. ", Maolin helplessly said. " Shen you are to young and too weak to do anything about it. "

    A glint of resentment shot through Shens' eyes. " But.. ", he tried to argue, yet was interrupted, " They wouldn't care at all if it had been this man or you a mere child, so do not think about helping in this kind of situations. You would only share the same fate and make your grandfather die of grief. Please promise me you won't interfere in such matters. Do not anger people from big clans and do not anger the guards. At least as long as you can't even hit back. "

    The world turned not out as Shen had imagined it to be. Does it look like this around every corner? Will this be what I will find when I travel the world...

    I am too weak and too young... can't even hit back... but I will grow strong! and then I will interfere every last time!

    A wish, a promise grew in his mind. The man on the carriage representing the very foundation of the promise he made to himself. Shen had lost all of his former curiosity for the strutting people, instead he focused and observed them, like a predator attempting to find flaws in his prey. One clue after another he collected. Symbols and similar sewn clothes were the easiest to spot and he asked his grandfather about them, and figured out the difference between the officials and some bigger clans his grandfather knew about.

    The ones dressed in black long armed shirts and short-armed white robes were officials while the ones in cloaks covered with runes were an association concentrating on the research of the mysteries of runes. The third he learned about was the Descending Dragon clan, very proud and very skilled in the fire element and its usage in combat. Their fame but stemmed less from their power, but from the fact that they produce an alchemist quite frequently.

    As time flew by, a situation like before did not reappear. Not every group was this presumptuous and down right rotten like the one of the Royal Family. Most of them acted normal and just enjoyed the lively atmosphere. A junior, thought much older than Shen, of the Descending Dragon clan actually received a resounding slap for bothering a woman.

    " She sure has courage: ", Maolin chuckled, but Shen asked flustered, " Is she in danger? "

    " No not at all. ", Maolin said with a smile. " I told you his clan is specifically proud and wouldn't bully someone over a minor matter like this. "

    Indeed the junior took it with dignity. He politely bowed and left with a friendly laugh, resuming his walk. Shen sighed in relief. Just because one group had acted despicably, he could not put them all in the same boat.

    Not every corner will be bad I guess. Where there is kindness, there is evil, one can not exist without the other, grandfather said, but I think i only know now what he meant.

    " There we are. " Maolin announced and grinned. " The market of Starlight City. ", he added and made the same face whenever Shen asked a question he could lecture him about for hours.

    Two fairly ordinary guards watched the entrance, each standing straight to one side of the gate. Golden letters hung above the gate.

    Starlight Market!

    Steadily they passed the gate with the flow of people. Once inside, Shen found the very definition of cramped. Vividly was a devastating understatement. Order a dream... Everywhere people yelled about their great prices and fantastic products, while watching the customers with sharp eyes, as not to miss a thief.

    Though they had to squeeze through the market, Shen was too ecstatic to care about the casual nudges. The first thing that picked his interest was a fairly ordinary booth, but the counter was filled with oddly shaped transparent objects. What really made them eye-catching was the colour that danced inside them. From leaf green, to deep blue and fiery red. He wanted to pick one up, but the merchant smacked his hand and yelled at him, thus he could only use his eyes to inspect them, while he had to bear the owners sharp eyes on him.

    While he watched the colours dance, forming odd shapes without end, Maolin started to explain to the side, " What you are looking at are Mortal Terra Essences. They can be obtained from the lowest rank of Magical Beasts. They are ranked like Cultivators, while beasts often have special inherited abilities and stronger bodies than humans. Depending on their lineage they can vary in strength drastically. The strength of the lineage of a Magical Beast is ranked in three different stages Terra, Caelum and Deus. While within the same stage they are separated as low, middle and high. Their rank is appraised by considering their natural bodies, intelligence and inherited abilities."

    Shens' eyes grew and he asked curiously, " How strong would a high Deus beast be? "

    Maolin touched his chin and pondered. " I never saw one, ", he said. " but stories are, they are born by the world itself. Childs of the heavens. They are at least at the Heaven Soul stage when born. One specific legend tells about a new born Deus beast, at the Heaven Soul stage, slaying a Divine Soul cultivator. "

    " Born as a Heaven Soul... Fight people beyond their stage... Are they not a little to powerful? ", Shen asked dumbfounded.

    " If they weren't this powerful, they would have been already extinct for their essences. Magical beast essences contain their natural energy and the foundation of their life. ", Maolin said, but lost a little of Shen's attention. " The most common usage is in rune formations, alchemy and armoury. These essences are all ordinary Mortal Terra Essences and therefore are worth a single Cleton. " Noticing the lack of attention he added, " While lets take your example of a high Deus beast Essence. That would most likely fetch a sky-high price like the entire city, even on the Mortal Soul Realm, though there are no Mortal Deus beasts "

    Shen gapped the mouth open. " The entire city? ", he exclaimed. " Isn't that a little too much... If I could get one...", he dreamed quickly about.

    Maolin laughed heartily over Shen's greedy face. " You don't have the strength to deal with this kind of beast, nor the ability to keep the essence. ", Maolin ridiculed crushing all of Shens' hopes at once.

    " Still if I hunt many Mortal beasts I can maybe even make a Celtin! ", Shen replied indignantly.

    " Just because they are considered the weakest kind of magical beasts doesn't mean that they are actually weak. ", Maolin said shaking his head a little. " As I had said, beasts have their natural abilities and if you are unlucky you might run into a herd, with one having only strolled about. "

    " You would become their object to be played with, until you drop from exhaustion and can only endure the agony of being eaten alive. ", he whispered in a sinister tone, accompanied by a broad evil grin.

    Suddenly the shop keeper yelled at them, " Enough you two! Get the hell out of here, if you don't buy anything! "

    " Alright, alright, we are going. ", Maolin scowled and led Shen away.



  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Five

    Shen roamed from one shop to another, listening to his grandfathers narrations. Dreamedge, Ravenstone and all kinds of materials were on display. They had so many uses and so many different properties, Shen soon gave up listening to every last of his grandfathers' words.

    They soon stopped at a grocery shop and Maolin bought food Shen had never heard off. The one he enjoyed the most had a tough shell, but was filled with soft white flesh. For him the sweet taste was close to the best he had ever experienced, but the amount left him feel empty, thus they stopped at a restaurant, with a great view on the spectacle in the market. As they took their seats, Shen's stomach released a roar. The delicacy he had treated himself too, had his stomach remember that it was empty for quite some time. Maolin shook his head, yet chuckled and ordered a variety of different good meals.

    As the food came Shen basically recognized one thing on the table, bread...

    He dived into the foreign dishes like a maniac and only when he nearly dropped a plate, did he slow down a tiny little bit. After all was done and finished, he regretted every last bite. This was simply too much for his little belly. Thankfully they weren't in a hurry so they sat comfortably for a while and gazed into the market.

    " You heard about the attack? ", a croak male voice gnarled nearby.

    Shen turned his head to meet a wall. It separated him from the voice. As he was about to sneak a peek, another voice emerged and he instead strained his ears.

    " Did, how could I not. ", he said. " But how come you call it an attack. They just disappeared after all. "

    Attack? Who disappeared?

    " Naturally was an attack. Three hundred people don't just disappear overnight. Or you think they all just went nuts and took a trip to the mountains! Happily getting eaten by some beast? ", the man gnarled upset.

    " Don't be like that.. I get your point, but you shouldn't just go assume and spread nonsense. ", he said and fell silent for a moment. " I agree you know. Looks a lot like this cult was involved. They always up to something nasty and we simply can't get a hold of 'em. "

    " And I was worried you got blind in your years. Despicable rats.", the man cursed. " I once got to see their work. Five children cut in pieces to form some kind of rune. My stomach still revolves every time i recall the scene... " The other man raised his voice, but he interrupted him and added, " Weird thing was, from the cult were only dry corpses left. Well deserved, though I would have preferred them being torn into a million pieces and fed to the dogs. "

    An ice-cold chill ran down Shen's spine, while genuine fear gripped his heart. The cup in his hand slipped and fell.

    Five children cut into pieces? Why would someone..

    Maolin had watched a young man ensnare a woman with some nostalgia, before a clear ringing of something shatter woke him. He turned his head just to see his grandson with a panic-stricken white face.

    " What happened? Are you alright? Shen answer me? ", he asked in quick succession.

    Shen did not react at first, when he opened his mouth an undistinguished grunt left it. He gulped and said, " Grandfather why, why would someone cut children... into pieces? "

    " What? ", Maolin asked stunned. " Who said that children were cut into pieces? "

    " The man behind the wall just... ", Shen was about to say, when someone cleared his throat.

    A man dressed in a black long armed shirt and a short armed white robe scowled at them.

    " Eavesdropping what kind of things are you teaching your kin? Boy you misheard, that's what happens if you listen in on another's business. ", he snarled.

    Maolin instantly recognized the man's status from his clothes. He hurriedly rose from his seat and when he was face to face, clear rage filled eyes met him, but not just rage, a hint of fear was visible.

    " My apologies, it is not like I hadn't taught him that it is rude to do so, but his childish curiosity must have gotten the better of him. ". Maolin said in a try to melt the situation. He understood, this man shouldn't have been allowed to disclose this information. If he acts correctly, there shouldn't be any trouble.

    " I have not misheard, he definitely said... "

    " Silence Shen. ", Maolin snapped abruptly. Definitely he had been prepared for Shen's revolt.

    The official gave them another glare, before he vanished behind the wall. While Maolin scolded Shen loudly for his behaviour, the man whispered nervously to his companion, " Good that it was just a child, this information shouldn't be disclosed to the public. I could have gotten in seriously trouble. Let's better leave. "

    The tumult caused by Maolin's loud lecture and their lack of new orders led directly to them being asked to leave. Without a complaint Maolin led Shen back on the street, where he tried to shift Shens' thoughts of the topic and announced that they would now head for the auction house.

    Shen had accepted to be scolded, but he did not accept his grandfathers deny about what he heard.

    " I have not heard wrong, grandfather. ", Shen said once again, frustrated already.

    Maolin had raised him and knew Shen better than anyone else. He decided to use his most powerful parenting method and ignored him.

    His confidence had slightly muddled his senses, when it came to his grandson. Shen wasn't stupid. Already a long time ago, he had understood whenever his grandfather put a deaf ear on him, it was no use. But he had as well figured that everything his grandfather ignored must have something important to it. Frustrated Shen moved what he had heard into a corner of his head, where he kept all the things his grandfather ignored.

    Sometimes they dodged left, sometimes right, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. It was a taxing and consuming task to move in a crowd, where you never knew who you could offend. The market slowly disappeared behind them, as they advanced on the less crowded street. Maolin searched for something very specific and discovered it with delight, " The Auction House is over there! "

    Shen followed the direction his grandfather pointed at and as he laid eyes upon the thing Maolin pointed at, he momentarily lost his soul.

    What an odd, captivating gate. Why does it give me the feeling to be one. It is even changing between the colours of a rainbow. The insides must be... There isn't anything beyond the gate?!

    Maolin took Shen by the hand and with a little struggle they managed to cross the street and enter the side-street that's sole purpose was to lead to the auction house. The walls to the right and left had carved pictures of odd creatures, created with utmost precision, but it could have been gods themself and still no one would waste their time on them. This gate was simply to mesmerizing.

    " Where is the Auction House? ", Shen asked irritated. Absolutely certain, there wasn't anything beyond the gate. Just a wall having strings of colour falling like a waterfall.

    " You noticed. It's the gate. It wasn't build by the auction house, but always stood here. The Research Association I told you about, with their coats covered in runes, tried everything they could to solve its mystery, but never even gained a bit of information. Once you step through the gate, you will be able to see everything inside. A little like entering another world. "

    Dumbfounded Shen gazed at the gate. This sounded like a fairy tale. Entering another world?

    In the middle of the street housed a counter as white as snow. A beautiful young woman in a black dress and tied up hair sat within. She glanced at them before shifting her head away, inspecting her long finger nails. A reaction clearly seen by Maolin and he felt downright offended, but without a choice he approached the counter and cleared his throat.

    She indignantly turned her head back. Obviously annoyed, but a smile on her face she leisurely said, " The entrance fee is one Seltin. "

    The day was truly filled with shock for Shen. His chin hung low and utter unbelief was written all over his face.

    " I wish to sell, not participate in the auctioning. ", Maolin stated.

    " You are aware that.. "

    " I am. ", Maolin rudely interrupted.

    The woman narrowed her eyes and her faint smile dropped. Coldly she now said, " Good, than you will still need to pay the fee in case you can not uphold the condition. It will naturally be refunded, if you actually can. "

    Maolin nodded and searched his inside pockets for a moment, before he pulled out a small brown leather bag. With shivering hand he carefully received the thing contained within. A small shining purple bead was revealed. He placed it with utmost care on the counter and looked at her with expectation, but she just kept staring at him.

    Maolin cleared his throat, but she did not react. " Is there a problem? ", he asked slowly.

    A somehow satisfied smile shone on her face as she said, " I count two. "

    Maolin stood there, when he finally realised her point, " He is just a child and... "

    " Child or whatever, one Celtin per person. ", she snorted.

    Maolin seemed to have gone lost in this argument. He really did not expect this could become a problem.

    " This woman really is a handful. But there is no choice. ", Maolin thought, before he turned to Shen.

    He placed his hands on Shens' shoulders and said, with a stern face, " Shen you wait right here. Do not talk to anyone, do not leave this spot, simply do nothing! I will be back soon. Understood? "

    Shen had never felt as disappointed as right now. But pressured by his grandfathers serious demeanour, he could only nod and accept.

    An entire Celtin just to enter? I won't be able to visit this auction house any time soon...

    Helplessly he watched his grandfather pass the waterfall. The moment his body touched it, he disappeared.

    " You dirty my sight get lost. ", someone suddenly snapped.

    The woman stared at him with clear disgust. Stunned Shen looked at her, trying to comprehend what was going on.

    " But.. "

    " I said get lost NOW! ", she said and stood up. " Or I call the guards. "

    The soldiers patrolling, turned to watch and paid now attention to them. All by himself, Shen grew anxious. With what he had seen today, he really was afraid what this guards might do. There was no other choice than to walk. Not to far, just far enough so this woman stops nagging him.

    " Don't you dare stay in this street. ", she added, as he walked away. She then sat down, a cold smile hanging on her face.

    What is it with this woman...

    Clueless he entered the street he had come from. Standing there, he felt very lost. People passed and time on time again a person nearly ran him over. So, he decided to step into a small backstreet. Silently he observed the road waiting for Maolin.

    " Will I even see him in all this chaos? ", he thought, when suddenly something touched his back. Badly frightened he leaped forward, back into the street and hit his head against something cold and solid. The obstacle made him tumble backwards and fall on his bud.

    " What the heck. ", the obstacle called out angrily.

    Shen rubbed his forehead, before he gazed up. A hand covered in black armour appeared in his sight and grasped for him.

    " You little street rat. I will teach you good. ", the guard snarled.

    Shocked Shen tried to fight free, but all his struggle was like a drop in the sea. The hand wasn't going off and he had a hard time gasping for air already. The pressure grew stronger, when out of the blue he got released as quickly as he had been grasped. He held his throbbing throat and saw something crash in the ground, barely missing his feet.

    A ridiculous big silver sword tore into the cobblestone.

    " Ups, did I drop my sword. I am so very sorry. Luckily you reacted, otherwise this nice hand of yours might have been cut off cleanly. ", a man spoke in a concerned manner, emphasizing the last part of his sentence.

    Shen stretched his head to find a tall brown man with a scar running down his cheek.

    " You dare! ", the guard called out angrily.

    " I do dare. ", the man replied with a broad smile.

    Many passersby halted their steps and watched the fun. An odd silent filled the street. As the soldier gazed around, he grew anxious. It was a really busy day and the crowd grew exceptionally every passing moment.

    " This is not over. ", the guard scowled and disappeared into the crowd.

    Scar-face just snorted and watched the guard run with his tail between his legs. Next he bend over and pulled Shen up by his arm. He went a little over board and Shen was tangling in the air again.

    " There you go. ", he said as he released Shen. " Sorry little one, didn't want to scare you. But standing alone in a dark street isn't quite safe, you know. "

    But Shen didn't listen. The sword and the deep ravine it had created took his breath. He recovered his manners, but instantly when the man smacked his head.

    " Why, does it always have to be my head... ", Shen grumbled in dissatisfaction.

    " What do you mean? ", Shen said and put up a firm look. " I definitely wasn't scared! "

    " Right didn't hop like a rabbit when its life depends on it, did you. ", he laughed. " Why are you alone in a backstreet? "

    " They didn't let me wait in the street leading to the auction house. ", Shen bitterly explained.

    " Auction House? So that's where this irresponsible old man went too. "

    He touched his chin, before he announced, " I will wait with you, as a little apology for the trouble with this guy. "

    " Thanks a lot. ", Shen said with honest relief. " But why did the man run off? ", he asked, not that he really minded.

    " As busy as it is today, I doubt there is a single guard that isn't on duty. He wore a wall guard uniform so he either abandoned his position or was on an assignment. Either way, if his superior hears about him wasting time or that he is not on his position it wouldn't be good for him. "

    " You know a lot, do you. "

    " i served myself, after all. That's just basics, kid. "

    " I totally forgot! ", Shen said and scratched the back of his head. " My name is Shen Zheng. What is your name mister? Grandfather would... not be happy, if he knew I hadn't introduced myself. "

    " Haha- don't worry I won't tell. My friends call me Hairy. ", he grinned.

    " Hairy? "

    " Because i have the biggest bush. ", he answered with a smug face.

    " Bush? ", Shen repeated and inspected his head. " You are bold. "



  • Chapter Six (last this week) Have a nice weekend :)

    Whilst Shen conversed with Hairy, Maolin had already arrived in the interior of the auction house. Currently he was silently waiting in a dimly lit room for the inspector. The treatment he received couldn't be called favourable. Not that he cared, there currently was something odd about him. Very tightly he held something in his fist. His eyes blank, but his mind active as never before.

    They will certainly buy it. It's after all... For Shen's future I need to fetch the right price, otherwise... I will not accept...

    Maolin couldn't sit any more and stood up pacing the room, when he finally heard the door open, he nervously turned to look.

    A man presumably in his middle ages stepped across the threshold. A thick book pinched under his arm. He walked pass Maolin without even giving him a look. Carefully he placed his book on the table, before taking a seat himself.

    Still without any concern for the customer he opened the book on its mark. After a few scribbles that apparently weren't meant to be ever read again he asked, " What kind of object do you want to sell? "

    Maolin loosens his grip on the thing hidden in his hand and carefully placed it on the table.

    The man followed his hand, bend over the table inspecting if that thing was safe to be touched. In his defence this was the lowest floor. Very, really very rarely something interesting appeared here and he had learned to touch something unknown without inspecting it first, can lead to an unpleasant outcome. Such an unpleasant outcome had more or less destroyed his opportunity to move up the letter. Up till now he still curses his inexperienced younger self.

    After being absolute sure, it wasn't harmful to touch the object. He picked it up, rolled it around in his hand and eventually looked at Maolin with confusion written all over his face,

    Maolin sat there straight as on needles. Nervously and with some hesitation he explained, " This is a containment unit. "

    Perplexed the inspector looked back down on the object in his hand. " But it doesn't let me open it. These units are extremely valuable, but with it being dam... "

    The mans' eyes bulged. " This symbol.. ", he muttered, stood up and left the room.

    Maolin's mind blanked. This man did not just run off, with...

    He ran out of the door and found the inspector on the ground, just a few steps away. Maolin was about to angrily shout, when he discovered the inspector hadn't fallen by himself. A woman, covered by a short fiery-red dress, stood there with narrowed eyes. Her eyes shifted onto Maolin before it discovered the inspector tightly clutched hands.

    " GUARDS! ", she shouted.

    " It is not like you think. ", he said and´the man crawled backwards in absolute panic. " I just.. Luka.. "

    " Did this man leave the room with your possession? ", she interrupted facing Maolin.

    Maolin nodded and the woman moved. Maolin stood there motionless and watched as she stored her light sword away. It had been a simple movement, but this one sword strike had soundlessly cut through air and the inspectors neck.

    Just as her sword disappeared as fast as it had appeared, a male and a female guard approached, each dressed in light emerald-green clothes. Their clothes were thin, but they appeared to be somewhat special.

    " Receive the thing he is holding for me. It was a theft attempt, I dealt with him accordingly. ", the woman said without any emotion.

    The guards bowed lightly and then stepped forward. The female guard received the object and the man's head. An expression of terror, shock and disbelief still hanging on it, while the male guard shouldered the headless body.

    She received the object and carefully held it up, while the guards retreated. This man had been so excited, that he forgot their customs. As an auction house this was absolutely intolerable! The consequence for breaking their customs was sever. He would not be necessarily executed, but his luck ran out when he was about to mention a certain name. No witnesses except Maolin, who could only report that the inspector wanted to run off with his possession.

    She was curious what had made this lackey lose his composure. After all to break the custom would be punished accordingly and this specific one had worked here for a very long time.

    " A broken storage unit. Looks rather old and the way it is damaged, hmm. This .... Symbol? ", her eyes sparkled.

    She turned her head, returned the object and looked Maolin dead serious in the eye. " In the name of Mount Glory I apologize sincerely. ", she said with utmost respect and bowed deeply. " If you have lost trust in our service I naturally understand, but if you would still want to conclude this transaction, than I would be more than happy to lead you to my office and ensure it happening without any more unexpected occurrences. "

    " Apologizing in the name of Mount Glory? Only an actual branch member would be permitted to do so. I just hope this is a blessing and not a demon in disguise. ", Maolin thought and nodded.

    " Fabulous. My name is Amary. Please follow me. "

    Once they had returned to the entrance hall, she led him towards the staircase. Every floor had restricted access. The more important or influential you were the higher you could climb on the floors and receive better treatment. Depending on the amount of your transaction you could enjoy the higher floors as well.

    In front of the staircase were guards with their enchanting clothes. She nodded towards them and they let her and Maolin pass without a word. They arrived at the first floor, turned left and walked until they reached the very last door to the right.

    On the way a man stepped out of a room. He laughed heartily, " Amary your beauty still shines bright, but if you don't marry me soon, I might not want you any more. Imagine being stuck on the first floor for the rest of your life, while watching me Luka become the head of the branch. "

    She had ignored him, but Maolin was quite surprised, since he very much took this woman extremely serious. How she had ascertained and acted in the prior situation. Intelligence and beauty isn't something she lacked. After the one sword strike he had actually added her to a list in his mind, who he should better not cross a hostile path with. A beautiful, intelligent, talented and ice-cold woman as your enemy. This man is asking to have bad end.

    They entered a darkly lit room. No windows and honestly the only word Maolin found to describe it was closet. Their was barely enough room for the two chairs and the small desk. With two persons inside, he was worried how long the air will last.

    She took her seat, " My apologies, this is as much as I can offer. "

    " I do not mind. ", Maolin responded and took his seat.

    She was inspecting the small black object once again. Carefully she turned it to all sides. Maolin patiently waited for her to thoroughly inspect it, though he doubted she could see much in this dark place.

    Staring at it she asked slowly, " How come? "

    A bit caught of guard Maolin said irritated, " How come what? "

    She turned her head and pierced him with her dark-brown eyes as she asked, " How come, you sell this object on the lowest floor? "

    Maolin shifted his eyes away. He had a really good reason for it and actually had hoped to simply collect the amount for Shen's fee without revealing too much.

    " A thief wouldn't try to sell such a thing in an auction house. You don't look like a thief. ", she concluded. " So if I had to guess I would say it was passed down within your family."

    Maolin tensed up, when she said it like it was a fact and not a guess. " I found it when I was young. ", he abruptly said.

    " Have you... ", she smiled. " Fine lets assume you found it when you were young. How much would you expect for it? "

    With a bad feeling lingering in his stomach he leaned back. " My reaction totally gave it away, this woman..: ", he thought, before he pulled himself together and firmly announced, " Fifteen Celtin! "

    Her casual look disappeared. She stared quite unbelieving. Maolin wasn't surprised at all. He had started with a sky-high price. Even if she agreed to just a fifth, it would be enough.

    His intense look took her by surprise and she started nodding, " Fifteen it is. Wait here for me I will need to get it. "

    Her figure swiftly left her chair, quite hysterically she moved to the door and nearly tripped. She stepped outside closed the door and Maolin vaguely heard the door lock click.

    She, she, she, what?! She did not just simply agree to it ???

    Maolin was so badly shocked by the result, that he re-evaluated what he was selling.

    It's quite the mystery what happened. Maybe some people will pay even much more for it, otherwise she wouldn't have just agreed. Never mind I get out of it way more than I actually need. I guess I can put it to good use for Shen.

    He waited with a grin, which disappeared once he heard the door click. It made him realise that he had been locked in. Heavily panting the woman stepped back in.

    " I locked the door out of routine nothing to worry about. "

    She studied his face and saw a determination. She had actually been worried he had changed his mind about the price when she had reacted so un-merchant like.

    But Maolin did not care. He just waited for the deal to be finished and leave. This thing was just a troublesome matter to him.

    Carefully she placed a small sack on the table. Maolin opened it and 15 shining purple beads appeared in his sight. This was an amount a merchant on the market can earn in several years.

    " About the papers could we.. "

    But she cut him off, " Naturally no problem, but this is something that can't leave this room either. I prepared papers concerning this beast shaped ring for two Celtin as an excuse. Since I personally led you up, we need an excuse. "

    Maolin once again asked himself what this woman was doing in this chamber at the first floor. And why she is faking papers.

    He received the papers and she led him out. On the stairs she apologized in a strange loud voice for the accident and watched him leave the building. When Maolin threw a last look back, on the threshold, he could see the man named Luka with a red face talking to Amary.

    Maolin walked in a trance towards the gate. The dream like scenery of a garden he had praised just a short time ago wasn't enough to stir his senses now. This had played out absolutely not the way he had anticipated to do. He was nearly robbed, met an astounding personality and managed to receive five times the amount he needed. He could not believe his luck. Not even his name was recorded and this ruthless woman did not appear to be interested to disclose anything that happened.

    " Most likely it was a horrible deal for me, but I can not stop grinning: ", he thought and his lips reached their apex of a smile.

    Passed the gate he anticipated his grandson waiting right there in front of the counter. But Shen was nowhere to be seen. All the happiness disappeared at once.

    He suddenly broke from his calm happy walk into an anxious rush. Panting for breath he reached the counter.

    " Where is my grandson? ", he desperately asked.

    The woman pursed her lips with amusement.

    He saw her reaction and couldn't resist. " You cunt! ", he cursed turned around and rushed down the street.

    His mind was in a total mess. This was his worst nightmare. He started to scream for Shen and it was his very first desperate call that had a result.

    " Oi, over here brain-dead grandpa. ", someone called.



  • edited November 2017
    Chapter Seven

    Maolin was not entirely sure why he reacted to this taunt. Maybe he felt like a brain-dead person, leaving his grandson alone on the street, but when he turned to look, to his surprise, a familiar face appeared. Above the face with a remarkable ugly scar he discovered, what he so desperately looked for. Shen sat on the man's shoulders happily waving his hands.

    He approached them quickly and watched the man with sharp eyes as he released Shen to the ground. Once he touched Shens' shoulders and made sure he had no injuries, all of his worries dissipated into nothingness.

    " Are you all right? ", he asked with a soft voice.

    " I am fine.", Shen said, shifting his eyes and intensely inspected the ground as he added. " Hairy had to save me from a guard."

    To his surprise his grandfather did not start a loud lecture and when he looked back up, he was startled not to find even the slightest hint of anger in his grandfather's face. He released a sight of relieve, before his eyes widened, like he had found something important to say, " Oh and his name is really Hairy, because of his bush and he has no hair and i don't really get it. "

    " Bush? ", Maolin repeated and turned to look at Hairy with a complex expression.

    " What are you looking at! It was a joke and well it really is my name... ", he explained.

    When Maolin kept assessing him, he added, " I saved your little one from a guard. Was my fault, but still some appreciation would be great! "

    " Yes grandfather, he picked me up on my throat and I couldn't breathe, when suddenly Hairy let his sword drop and accidentally made the guard release me. Afterwards the guard even ran off! ", Shen explained with enthusiasm.

    Maolin surveyed the sword's size. " Accidentally dropped. ", he repeated, before performing a light bow towards Hairy. " You helped my grandson, when I couldn't. I did not expect there would be any problems. You have my utmost gratitude! "

    Hairy snorted, " Whatever. But if I see that kid alone again I will teach your old ass a lesson you won't forget! " He then patted Shens head and pulled his sword out of the ground. " I take my leave now. Have some business to get done. "

    " Wait. ", Maolin spoke up. " A good deed is ought to be rewarded. Take these transaction papers. You can turn them in at the auction house counter. "

    Hairy received them with a shameless smile. " This really is something, but... you only got that much? Feels like I am robbing you for such little assistance. "

    Maolin watched him struggle and his favourable impression widened. He shook his head and said, " I gained everything I needed. You do not need to be worried. "

    " Alright, I take you by your words. ", he said and carefully stored them in his small brown leather bag.

    Shen watched him and the moment his attention wasn't occupied any more he bowed and said, " Thank you a lot Hairy! For saving me and that you waited for my grandfather. When we meet again you have to show me how to use this big sword of yours! "

    Hairy currently overjoyed about the unexpected reward nodded, " Maybe if you are fully grown, but if you can't even lift it, it will be a problem. Train hard and grow strong. "

    Shen flexed his arm, " I am not weak you know. I am already close to form my first ring and I have a cool technique! "

    Seeing Shen show of his puny muscles, he burst into laughter and held his stomach.  " You shouldn't show off, if there isn't much to see. ", he smirked, turned around and waved his hand, " Farewell. "

    Hairy left heading directly for the counter and Maolin followed him with his eyes until he disappeared. " The world really is filled with odd coincidences. "

    " Puh, but now, we should get a move on. ", he said and took Shen by the hand. " Time to get you signed up at the City Hall. "

    They walked and walked for more than two hours. Unnoticed the city started changing around them. The outer city territory is neatly arranged with buildings stringed together, while the closer you moved to the centre the more frequent mansions became. It is needless to say, where the influential and rich people were to be found.

    " The city is so huge, how much longer will we need to walk grandfather? ", Shen frowned.

    " We entered through the southern gate, what is the farthest, but I think the next street, which leads left will be an entrance to the Star Plaza. Very inconvenient, if I remember correctly it will be the exact one that's the farthest from the City Hall. "

    " The next one already? ", Shen shouted excited.

    He started pulling at his grandfather's hand. He couldn't walk calmly any more and all the pain in his feet had disappeared. His grandfather had told him, the City Hall is a beautiful dazzling building, with an enchanting interior and you could see parts of the Starcastle from the Plaza.

    Taken over by anticipation, he released his grandfather's hand and ran towards the corner that would lead to the plaza. He dodged diligently every obstacle and left a smiling grandfather behind.

    Last step and he reached the corner. There it was Star Plaza, a white ocean. The white ground had pitch black lines shaping symbols all across it and eight extraordinary big statues stood in the middle of it, forming a circle. These statues were even visible above the now crowded place.

    Grandfather told, legend has it these eight statues are the Starlight City founders. Brothers in arms, fleeing from a battle above the White Mountains, they stumbled across unknown terrain in their frenzy to flee. Lost in the woods, but save from danger they rested. This very night, on a Starlight day, nature itself turned into a nightmare. The weak night breeze transformed into a hurricane and cleared all clouds in the sky, one earthquake after another shook the world and everything in it and the final most beautiful and most devastating Shower of Stars befell the earth. It split the sky and shattered mountains alike.

    The eight founders, in the middle of the end of dawn, had run around in complete panic, clinging to their last string of hope by out running the end of the world itself and stumbled upon this place, which was totally unaffected by the earthquakes, missed by the falling stars, even the wind had turned to a breeze upon entering. Till today there is no explanation for the events, nor why this place hadn't been affected.

    When the disaster ended and the world was still in existence the eight brothers in arms decided to honour this place by building a city around it. A long time later it turned into a bustling city and the statues were placed right here on the Star Plaza. Nowadays it is a fortress at the borders of southern Samsara and run by an offspring of the Royal Family.

    Shens eyes shined brightly and he quickly crossed the short distance to the white ground and when he stepped on it, a weird feeling overcame him, but it disappeared as fast as it had appeared. Just a fluke he thought and took his second step on Starlight's City sacred ground.

    People were very cautious around here. It was forbidden to place shops and as crazy as it sounds to dirty it whatsoever. Normally people would clean their shoes before taking a step on it. Shen was aware about it, but in his opinion this was ridiculous. He wouldn't dare dirty it on purpose though.

    Only after every years turn, on the first months Starlight day, there is a grand festival. It is the biggest festive you can find out of the Capital in the north. There will be many attractions and a parade moving through the city, finishing its journey right here on the plaza. Of course the plaza is always carefully protected by a barrier at this point in time. Why it is so loved and so well visited? Because the city asks for no entrance fee this day!

    Shen now carefully looked around in search of something. " Didn't grandfather say I can see the Starcastle from here? Over there is a huge tower. ", he ascertained. He watched the tower for a moment, and then searched for something specific on the plaza. His eyes stopped on something.

    I have a great idea and there grandfather will definitely see me or I will see him!

    Maolin had casually walked towards the corner of the street. When he crossed the little distance to the plaza he had to realise, Shen was gone. His calm attitude and happy smile, dissipated and was replaced by uncertainty. " Where is he. Not again, damn it. I told him to stay close, why didn't he wait around the corner. What am I thinking, why didn't I tell him too! Argh, this brat," he tried his best to spot Shen, but all the wrenching of his neck led to nothing.

    He hurried into the plaza and his uncertainty turned into anxiety. Slowly losing his composure he started asking random people, about a child, and described Shen, but neither did he see him, nor were the people he asked any help.

    " This is horrible! ", he thought. " Maybe he didn't go this far and was close to the beginning of the plaza and i just... ", this very thought was interrupted by an uproar.

    " What is this child doing? ", a man screamed.

    " Is he crazy, the guards might actually throw him into the dungeon for this. ", another person yelled.

    And somewhere a girl chuckled, " He truly is a Bumpkin. "

    Maolin's heart sank, as he turned and looked towards the direction of the noise. He saw the eight famous founder statues in all their might. All armed with their respective weapon.

    " Look there is a child on one of the founders heads! ", a woman nearby pointed. Maolin followed the direction of her hand and prayed. He narrowed his eyes and the next moment he turned pale, so pale a dead persons skin would be acclaimed as lively when compared.

    " Shen! ", he murmured.

    The air around him lightly fluctuated, when he directed it through his veins in a strange manner and activated a technique. He moved, the first step slow, with the next his body fluttered and he moved like the wind, appearing only a short time later under the statue. Startled people stepped back and eyed the newcomer.

    What an incredible view! I can see so many people and there it is Starcastle. It is huge!

    Shen stared with widened eyes and half open mouth at the tower, which stretched far into the sky. The black-white walls were decorated with pictures. Each carefully carved inside the stone.

    From here I can only see the two biggest pictures. The left one should be the eight founders heroically fighting on the mountains, while on the right one they are kneeling on the plaza and are surrounded by falling stars.

    " SHEN ", someone screamed. " Come down immediately! "

    Shaken by the volume of the voice, he awoke from his thoughts. He looked down and saw many people pointing fingers at him. 

    Grandfather sounds angry, but why? He saw me after all as i thought he would!

    Worried he climbed along the statue, till sliding down the left leg. He landed directly in front of his grandfather, who picked him up and threw him over his shoulder, before Shen could say a word. Another fluctuation turned the air around Maolin turbulent and he moved once again in a weird unpredictable manner through the endless stream of people.

    " So fast! ", Shen exclaimed. " Grandfather why are we running so fast? "

    Maolin did not respond. Fully concentrated he dodged the people on the crowded plaza, until he reached one end of it and headed into a side street. After taking two more turns, he finally stopped. Heavily panting, he sat down, while Shen was standing to his side.

    " Shen. Why on earth... ", Maolin tried to begin, but stopped. " Did I not tell you to stay close? "

    Bashful he looked to the ground, " Yes grandfather, but I could only see the tower, but not the castle and I thought you would certainly see me on the statue. "

    " Shen... " Maolin took a deep breath and said, " You have to think before you do something. This plaza is sacred, especially the statues. By climbing on top of one of the heads, you offend the whole city. You were lucky no one acted and even more so that the guards hadn't come, before we were gone. Otherwise, we would be in serious trouble! "

    " Please promise your grandfather, you will never ever do anything like this again. ", Maolin begged in a broken voice.

    Shens heart ached a little and he swore with an honest face, " I promise you grandfather I will never again climb on the swordsman head! "

    Maolin covered his face with the feeling that the boy hadn't quite understood him. He looked at Shen, " And? "

    " And I will think before I do something. "

    " Think about what? "

    " Ähm, how I do it without getting caught? "

    Maolin's head sank, " He didn't get it... "

    He spend some time asking himself, where he went wrong with his education, before he slowly explained, " No, it is thinking about the consequences of your actions, Shen. Listen carefully! Everything that happens in life, every decision you make has a consequence. Every step, every word, every thought is linked to your future. Never forget this. "

    " I think I understand grandfather. ", Shen said in a low voice.

    " Good I hope you really do. For now there is nothing we can change. We will need to avoid attention. ", he said.

    He took the end of his robe with moist eyes and waved his hand. A short intense howl sounded and a part was cleanly cut off. Next he bound it around Shens head. Carefully inspected it and nodded. Then he stripped his robe and turned it. To Shen's surprise it was white, instead of grey. Not just any white, as white as the stone in the plaza.

    " This should do. Let's move to the City Hall, sign you up and hope no one can recognize you from the incident. ", Maolin spoke with uncertainty. He took Shen's hand and this time pinched it so hard that it hurt Shen a little.

    They returned to the plaza with a little detour and approached the City Hall. Maolin overheard many people discussing the incident, but luckily no one talked about their exact appearances.

    The City Hall was a building with a single amazingly huge door. The entire interior was combined to be one room and the pillars, that carried the roofs weight, had many different pictures engraved. Not like the castle wall ones, these were actually painted, what made them nearly look truly alive. But Shen couldn't enjoy the marvellous variety of pictures, because he had to keep his head down.

    When they approached the area, where you sign up for the entrance exam, a picture in the corner of Shens' eye picked his interest. He looked up and stared. It was a picture of a flame with two black holes, just that it showed a person inside of the flame. While dumbfounded staring at this familiar scene, a voice sounded behind them.

    " It is actually you. "

    Maolin was startled, looked at Shen and then cursed their bad luck. " Why can people not mind their own business. ", he grumbled and turned around. Shen as well turned and was instantly thrown into a daze.



  • Chapter Eight

    There stood a woman, her hands on her hips, drawing a cute arc with her lips and a sweet girl to her side checking out Shen's deeply dazed expression. It was without question, this pair were mother and daughter. They both had straight pitch-black long hair, sky-blue eyes, a slender body and wear the same shaped dress, just in different brilliant colours. The only true difference between them seemed to be their years lived.

    The awkward silence gave Maolin an uncomfortable feeling, and Shen was no help standing there in a daze. The girl giggle in delight, while her mother studied Shen from toe to head, until she shifted her eyes onto Maolin. As he felt a condemning gaze penetrate his body and soul, he lightly coughed in his hand and said, " A good day to you two. My name is Maolin Zheng. Is there something I can help you with? "

    " No, not at all. It's just my daughter pestered me to come over. ", the woman spoke with an arrogant demeanour. Giving him the feeling that in her opinion it was a waste of time.

    " I did not pester you, I suggested it mother. ", the girl said unhappily.

    Maolin rather confused about the situation, threw Shen a look, who was still in a trance and pinched him. Awoken from his daze, he turned a little red, before he bowed and spoke in an unnatural formal way, " Greetings, my name is Shen Zheng. "

    " You did not totally fail after all. ", the mother said, giving Maolin an indifferent glance and then just turned, to view a picture on a close pillar.

    " Mother, please. ", the girl looked at her and stamped her foot.

    The woman sighed and spoke coldly without looking at them, " My name is Asteria and this is my daughter Valery. I apologize, if I have sounded a little rude. My words might have not been the best choice, but after all I am talking to a person that let's his, grandchild I assume, climb around on a founder's head. "

    Maolin's face twitched and he was about to refute, when Shen, who had avoided the girl's gaze, grabbed his arm.

    " Grandfather look this picture, that's what I meant in the carriage. "

    Maolin unwillingly moved his eyes of this arrogant woman, to the direction Shen pointed at and discovered the picture that Shen's attention had caught. There was an army standing to the left, led by a man on a wave. The grey wave equal in size to the deep red flames, that a single figure was covered in, to the right. On the upper part of the flames, were two pitch black holes. Maolin lost himself in his thoughts, while Valery stepped forward, put her hands behind her back and viewed the picture.

    She spoke with surprise, " This is a very famous scene throughout the Kingdom and beyond it. "

    " Very famous? ", questionable Shen looked at her.

    " Indeed can you not recognize it? It's the Burning Demon. ", Asteria said to the side, while once again throwing Maolin a judgemental look, but he was fully immersed in his thoughts and did not notice it at all.

    Shen shook his head and said, " The Burning Demon? No, grandfather never told me anything about a Burning Demon. Is it something special? "

    " Something special? Of course, it is, let me tell you, it's one of my favourite stories. ", Valery said and started narrating to him, " 352 years ago, before the great war and the founding of Samsara, there was a man called High King Atmos. He had reached an unfathomable deep level as a practitioner and could be counted alone as an army. With his strength he managed to align many kingdoms, clans and sects. But the world is big and full of mysteries. In his campaign he lost half of his army to secret cards, powers played who didn't want to bend their heads. So he stopped his march and started threatening one little kingdom, clan and sect after another into his alliance. "

    She went silent, with a grin and observed Shen's face. Shen had clung to every single word she spoke and immediately asked desperately, " What happened then? "

    " The Hidden Spark happened. "

    " Mother, you... Don't ruin my story. I am trying to create an atmosphere. Argh OK, she spilled it already. The Hidden Spark is to the north-east, close to the white mountains. It was a clan similar in population to Starlight City, and famous for an ancient bloodline. High King Atmos had decided to threaten them to make them join his alliance and become subordinates to him, but the clan head had refused without hesitation. Atmos hadn't been rejected in so many years and it truly enraged him. So much that just to prove his power and to make a statement. He summoned his entire army and headed for the Hidden Spark Clan to annihilate them. ", she turned her head and pointed at the picture. " They were expecting to fight the entire clan. In the end it was not an army they faced, but a single man. ", she pointed at the person in the fire. " The hidden sparks Clan head Huoyan, heir to the ancient bloodline. Huoyan said to Atmos, that he should return to where he came from, or there won't be anyone left to regret coming, because no one will leave alive. "

    " No one survived, how do you want to know he said this? "

    " Mother, why are you doing this to me. ", Valery said distressed.

    " I am just confused, why you would add this detail. "

    Valery spoke now in a slow and certain voice, " Because I am sure he said this and now please mother, do not interrupt me again. "

    Valery puts up a serious face and continued, " They didn't retreat. ", she pointed again at the person in the flames, " Clan Head Huoyan activated a secret technique named The Burning Demon. It was developed by one of their clan forefathers, who is said to have transcended this world. It can not be ranked with certainty, but it should count as a divine technique. Within fifty kilometres nothing survived this day. Huoyan must have lost control, because his clan burned too. "

    " The entire Army, the Clan, Atmos they all died? What about Huoyan? ", Shen asked in a stupefied manner.

    Asteria explained from the side, " The Burning Demon comes with a cost not many would pay. It will set ablaze your life, burn your body to ashes, incinerate your soul into nothingness, to create a devastating flame, a so called burning life. Upon using this method, you will die, never to be reincarnated. A true eternal death. "

    " Nothing and no one survived this day, within fifty kilometres! Even today the flames that spread are still burning, never extending, never shrinking, a hell on earth. Over time many people tried to enter it, but not many returned and the ones that returned hadn't gone in to far, but despite that were still severely injured. The place was therefore named The Everburning Land of Death. "

    Shen was staring at the picture with big eyes. He had never expected that something like this can be possible, never had he imagined that there are flames, that can burn for centuries. A single person against an entire army? A single person that burns an entire fifty kilometres to a Land of Death.

    " This is the power of a Sovereign? ", he asked dumbfounded.

    " Sovereign? No, a Sovereign is a person reborn by the universe to become a Spiritual Body. This person hadn't reached the legendary stage of a Sovereign. What makes the entire thing quite the mystery. Even if it was a divine technique the result was and is simply to overwhelming. That is why people were so crazy to enter this place. ", Asteria said.

    " Not a Sovereign? ", Shen mumbled, completely ignoring the rest.

    Maolin had long broken out of his daze and carefully listened, " To have such a detailed report on this. They should be from a Noble family close to the Royal family, or even from the Royal family. "

    Maolin adjusted his mind, then smiled at Valery, " You really are a one of a kind story narrator. I am happy, I did not tell Shen the Story before, and was so fortunate, you to tell him, with me so fortunate to listen. "

    Valery grinned brightly, " Thank you, Mr. Zheng. "

    " We will need to separate now. Valery come we have a reserved spot to sign up, but only if we are punctual ", Asteria said, turned and walked away without looking back.

    " Oh, i nearly forgot about this matter. Alright, till we meet again. ", she gave Shen a smile, then followed in little skips hastily her mother.

    Suddenly Shen realised something, " I forgot to thank her for telling me the story. "

    " Don't worry about it. She enjoyed telling it as much as you enjoyed listening. ", Maolin patted his shoulder and added, " We should go line up. It will take a long time, and if you do a good job on the Exam, you will see her definitely again. "

    Maolin was delighted to see the effectiveness of his words in Shens' eyes. A determination had been awoken and planted itself in Shen's mind.

    " Only sad that they can not have much of a future. At least not more than acquaintances. ", Maolin thought gloomily.

    The sinking sun dyed the normally white clouds in a scarlet red, creating a breathtaking scene, while it slowly disappeared in the western parts of the world. Finally, before the last light had vanished, it was their time to sign up. They approached the table with an old man, sitting cross-legged, behind it.

    " Name, Age, district and the fee for the exam, please. ", he said like a person that would soon die from boredom.

    " Shen Zheng, 10-Years old, Leaf Town Outer South District and here is a Cleton. ", said Maolin while handing the man carefully one of his purple beads.

    " Are you able to afford the yearly fee? "

    " Yes this won't be a problem. "

    " In case of a missing payment, the child will not be removed, but will need to serve military service for 3 years. This is an option that can be taken from the beginning and is always open. Even the already paid fees will be refunded. "

    Maolin thought, " Military service for three full years? Simply ruthless. ", but only said, " I am aware. "

    " Than this is settled, the Ceremony of Examination will start tomorrow morning. The first part will test the participant's talent. If the participant has not the required talent, he will be refused. On the condition that he passed, a second test will be conducted in the noon. This test will be a way to ascertain, where the student stands in all of the important aspects. In case there is a need for special classes, the fee will be doubled, until the student has caught up. "

    When the old man finished his explanation Maolin thanked him, and they left to look for a place to stay overnight. Wandering the streets, lit by torches, from one place to another, they had to realise, that not a single room was available. Maolin had not expected to be stuck for such a long time, but the participants were a lot higher in number this year and now everything was sold out. Shen couldn't support his own feet anymore and Maolin carried him. They kept walking and Shens' eyes fell shut. The last thing Shen remembered of this night was when his grandfather lied him down on a comfortable cloth. He didn't open his eyes and just used the thing he lied on to cover himself and fell asleep to familiar calming scent.



  • Chapter Nine

    Shen was once again haunted by terrifying dreams. Just this time when he opened his eyes, he instantly forgot the content and was only left with cold sweat and fear clinging to every last part of his body.

    He sat up, gaped and rubbed his eyes. " I feel like I haven't slept at all. ", he muttered to himself. A cold wind stroked his face and a jolt went straight through to his core, leaving him startled. Only now he realized he wasn't in a room. He tightly gripped the cloth he had covered himself in and discovered it was his grandfathers robe. Confused he looked around and could see buildings in the distance, but around him were only some trees and he had slept on the ground. When he looked behind him, he found his grandfather sitting with his legs crossed, leaned against a tree. The morning dew visible on his skin.

    Maolin opened his eyes, " Shen you are awake. That's good. Did you sleep well? "

    Grandfather didn't find a room and he let me have...

    A warmth filled Shen as he nodded. He stood up, took the robe and shook it. Some grass went flying and he returned it to his grandfather, who received it with a smile.

    " Since you are up. ", he said and stood up as well. " We go have some breakfast. "

    Maolin took the lead and Shen silently followed. " Where are we? ", Shen asked after he examined the surroundings a little.

    " In a park close to the north gate. "

    " A park? It kind of feel's wrong. "

    " Feel's wrong? ", Maolin curiously inquired.

    " Back in the woods everything grew just as it wanted. ", Shen said and added," It kind of looks forced to arrange everthing in an order. "

    " That fits you perfectly. A total mess is your dream come true. ", Maolin laughed.

    It's not a mess, just normal...

    Shen went silent again and examined the park on their way. He loosened some strings from a tree that bound branches, when Maolin wasn't looking. With a satisfied smile he continued, but got caught the next time he tried and was forced to walk directly beside Maolin. They quickly arrived at the park entrance and entered the maze of streets. Ten minutes later they found an open place and watched the sun rise, while having a good breakfast.

    With the first light the city awoke. At first slowly, one merchant at a time passed to open their shops, then the city gates were opened and all the people stuck outside steadily streamed inside. When Shen had taken his last bite, the city was already as lively as yesterday. Shen still tired, was about to lie down his head for a little rest, when a loud *gong* sounded in the city. Caught of guard, he jumped nervously of his seat.

    " Ah, it's soon time for the exam. ", Maolin said and waved the waiter over.

    The exam... I have to make grandfather proud!

    They paid and leisurely strolled down the street, towards the centre of the city, Star Plaza.

    A while later two successive *gongs* sounded, then three and then four. With each time the streets became more and more packed. It couldn't be compared to the day before. Normal streets were as filled as the market. When they approached a street leading on Star Plaza, it was simply impossible to get through. First Shen thought that the Plaza was already full and so people couldn't get in, but then he spotted city guards keeping people of the plaza.

    " Stay back, only participants with one guardian are allowed to enter. Get back and make space for them! ", a guard screamed with the full might of his lungs.

    Shen felt a pull and Maolin dragged him at his arm. There was no other choice than violence, or they would never get there.

    " Participant! ", Maolin screamed every time he pushed someone out of the way. They slowly moved with loud noises of dissatisfaction through the crowd, but it was not only them. Many people did so and the bystanders had already witnessed guards heavily injuring people who took a fight with the participant's guardian. They complained loudly, but accepted it.

    " What is it this year. ", Maolin cursed. " All this people can't be possible family members. Why are so many bystanders so damn interested this year. "

    They broke across the last line that kept a careful distance from the guards. In the never land between guards and bystanders Maolin picked up Shen and loudly announced, " Participant. "

    Shen turned scarlet red. " Grandfather what are you doing? ", he whispered.

    " You never know. ", was the answer.

    The guards took a careful look at Shen, then nodded and let them pass.

    Maolin released him to the ground and Shen pulled his cap down as far as possible. They crossed the line of soldiers and entered Star Plaza. Maolin's face distorted when he saw the sheer amount of children and rubbed his head.

    " This is ludicrous! ", he angrily grumbled. " Why are so many people here this year... "

    Shen was too shocked and remembered something, " A man in the tavern said something about a Rain of Geniuses. Something about early entering as well. "

    He received a look like he had just again jumped of the cliff back home.

    " Rain of Geniuses? Argh, no wonder. If I had known, I might have changed our last name. ", Maolin said bitterly.

    " Change our last name. Why? "

    " Because the participants are called out according to their last name... But I would never change our last name. It was just a joke. "

    With a bad feeling Shen asked, " And how long will we need to wait? "

    Maolin's head sank. He took a deep breath and just said, " A long time. A very long time... "

    They stood on the Plaza and waited. Seven *gongs* sounded and it filled further up. When the Plaza seemed to have no space left eight consecutive *gongs* sounded. With the ringing of the last one a voice echoed over the Plaza.

    " Last names starting with an A approach the City Hall! ", the deep voice announced.

    A and we are Z...

    Shen hung at his grandfathers robe and tried his best to stay in his shadow. The former energy that filled him, when it came to the test was now gone. He vaguely heard the voice announce D, but it had already been so long. The sun was now standing straight above them and roasted all the people on the white ground.

    So many are so quickly leaving the City Hall and it still does take soooo long...

    Four hours later, the Plaza had already changed. the amount of people had significantly dropped. All the children, who were declined left, partly with silent tears, partly with loud weeping. Their parents all having gloomy faces.

    So many are getting declined? But grandfather said everyone has the talent to communicate with the world's energy...

    " Grandfather why are so many declined? ", Shen asked, clear fear in his voice.

    " They use a simple device to see how you resonate with the world's energy. It is simply easier to focus on people who have a stronger connection to it. "

    " And when I pass the test? "

    " As the man yesterday said. They will test your knowledge. Don't you dare fail me on this one! "

    " First I need to have the talent... ", Shen whispered.

    " Don't worry too much. It will work out just fine. I promise you.", Maolin said and smiled encouragingly.

    Shen nodded and watched once again the stairs leading to the City Hall. While he watched the children climb them, he already understood his grandfather will need to stay behind. The only thing that bothered him was he still didn't spot Valery anywhere.

    The deep voice boomed over the plaza, " Since the last few letters do not amount too many people, all of you can now approach the City Hall. "

    " Finally, Shen it's your turn, let's walk to the hall. ", Maolin spoke.

    They walked over the Plaza and arrived in front of the guards waiting at the stairs. Maolin stopped and Shen progressed up the stairs.

    " That's enough stay back. ", the guard behind Shen yelled and stopped some children from further advandcing.

    He slowly took one step after another, passed the gigantic door and was now in the bubble of children who waited. The same old man, that they had signed up on, was standing before them. He rose his voice and said in the same bored voice as he had back then," Line up behind the Spiritual Orbs. Report your name, before approaching them. You only need to put your hand on it. If it is white or yellow you will be declined. Please leave the hall then. Every other colour proceed to the back of the hall and receive your mark for the second test. "

    All the other children reacted quickly and lined up, when Shen finally reacted he could only choose in which line he would be last.

    The first ones in line approached the Orbs, telling their respective observers their names. They put their hands on the orbs and they gradually started to shine in different coloured lights and afterwards symbols appeared above the orbs.

    So many are white? What does white even stand for or the other colours... I just need anything other than white or yellow...

    It went down quite fast and Shen now nervously stepped forward, reported his name and walked to his orb. He had seen many colours from the frightening white, yellow to blue, red, orange and once green and violet. The one assigned for writing down the results had a smile appear, when he saw the green colour and couldn't even sit still any more, once he saw the violet colour. " Another Genius, we actually have another one ", he had called out.

    Shen slowly put his hand on the orb, at first it didn't change at all, but then it started to slowly glow in a white colour that turned yellow.

    Come on.. CHANGE!!!

    The yellow deepened, until it slowly turned blue. Shen's heart jumped.

    I made it!!! Grandfather will defi... what?

    It now quickly revolved into red and then orange. As it started to turn green, the observing man had already a grin on his face, which grew brighter, as he saw the green deepening into a violet.

    " Hm, no Origin Symbol? ", startled the man stood up.

    The colour once again changed. The violet was replaced by a fearsome black. Crack, the orb splintered. It resounded in the entire hall, the other children and the people conducting the test, stared at Shen with open mouths.

    The old man from signing up, rushed over and asked the man assigned for writing down Shen's result, " What happened? How did the orb break? "

    " I don't know. It was violet but the Origin Symbol did not appear. It was just a moment, but it seemed to turn black, then the orb simply shattered. ", the man frowned.

    " It was violet and turned black? " In all his year, where he was in charge of these tests this simply had never occurred.

    Shen stood lifeless with his hand still lingering where the orb had been. " I am sorry, I didn't intend to break it, it just happened. ", he said in an odd tone, as he wasn't particular speaking to anyone.

    The old man's bored voice was now replaced, with a kind of excitement he couldn't hide. " Boy don't worry about the orb. My name is Xenos. I am in charge of this test. What is your name? "

    Shen turned his head and let his hand sink. " I am Shen Zheng. "

    " What should I write down now? ", the subordinate asked in between.

    " Nothing for now, announce the results, when you are done with the others. I will lead this one to the Headmaster. "

    Xenos, then looked towards Shen and asked him, " Is there someone waiting for you outside. "

    " Yes my grandfather. "

    " Good, you heard the child, deliver him a message. The kid is going for an extra exam, once its conducted I will personally inform him about the result. "

    Other test? What other test.. He doens't look angry about the orb, but why is everyone staring at me.



  • Chapter Ten

    Xenos laid an arm around Shen and led him to the back of the hall. Curious eyes followed their every step and not a single pair of them left their figures, until they disappeared through a gate in the back. Certainly many had engraved the boy's appearance in their mind.

    The back of the City Hall held a garden and several carriages were lined up, but they passed them all. Xenos came to a halt after a few steps, shoved Shen behind him and stretched his right arm out. He pulled back his sleeve and revealed a green mark criss-crossing his entire arm.

    The mark radiated with a glow, illuminating the surroundings in a green light. A somehow illusionary dust silently floated to the ground. The density increased and as it did so it turned to a kind of smoke. It slowly spread around them, covering their sights, before it abruptly pulled together and formed a green shape in front of them.

    It stretched for at least three meters, stood on four, slightly bend long, legs and pressed a wing to each side of its body, while its head sat on a long neck. A sharp nose and two horrific empty holes, where eyes should be, resembled its face. Its figure and face was already unusual enough to shock everyone, but its skin, green and partly transparent, sent an ice-cold shower down one's spine. You could still see the smoke revolve within it, changing the brightness on its skin.

    What... Is this?

    " Impressed? ", Xenos asked proudly, thought he looked exhausted.

    Shen unconsciously leaned his head to the side, " It looks ill and ugly. "

    Xenos blanked for a moment. " It is a Spirit. ", he said and tried to build back up his lofty demeanour, by announcing, " A Wind Spirit to be exact! "

    Shen vaguely remembered his grandfather mentioning Spirits, but he meant it was a dangerous task to subdue one and you would attract the wrath of every spirit you meet from then on.

    Shen stepped forward, " A Spirit? " He stretched his arm out to carefully touch it, but something grabbed him at his shirt. He was flung through the air and ended up sitting on it, with Xenos right behind him.

    " I kind of have a limit for how long I can have it materialized... ", he admitted barely loud enough for Shen to hear and slapped the green mass on its flank.

    Wushhhh

    Immediately Shen's eyes teared up and he closed them. The sudden acceleration had caught him fully unprepared. He used his hands to shield his eyes and slowly opened them. For a moment his soul left him, his body drifted and a tingling sensation flooded him.

    "We.. we... are in the air?? We are flying ??", Shen stuttered and called out loud in the end.

    A laugh resounded, " Yes we are, no time to waste. "

    Shen overlooked the mighty city and its countless buildings. There were only a few places he could clearly recognize. The plaza, with many little dots covering it and the City Hall, but it appeared quite unremarkable, if you compared it to the colossus of a castle throning on its hill.

    They quickly approached the other thing, which still gave Shen a good fright. The City Wall stood as high as ever and he discovered many soldiers patrolling it. They passed over it and kept on heading north with the White Mountains hanging unchanged in the east.

    Shen fought a little with himself before he decided to ask, " What is the wall for, if you can simply fly over it? "

    " I beforehand passed a message to the guards, otherwise they would have attacked us. That matter taken aside, in time of war the city naturally posses it means to secure itself from sky infiltration. "

    Shen was about to further inquire about their means, but as they passed a forest, another city appeared in his sight. Not comparable to Starlight City, but it was without question bigger than a town.

    " This is the Starlight School you might attend it in the future. "

    Dumbstruck Shen asked against the wind, " This is not a city? "

    Xenos heartily laughed, " No this is the heart piece to the territory of Starlight City. "

    Starlight School.. might attend? I definitely will!

    Afterwards they lowered their altitude quickly. They landed in the middle of the school territory on a large open ground. The Spirit simply dissipated and caught Shen of guard. He fell hard on his bud, but did fell nothing. His body was filled with excitement and his mind in a state of euphory.

    Xenos had steadily landed and waited for Shen to quickly jump up. " We will walk from here. ", he said.

    I just flew, I just...just like that? Hostile? I take you all on. I will get my own Spirit!

    He led Shen over the open ground, into the most dazzling building. Shen tried his best to work out all what was happening, but it overwhelmed him by now. They entered a hall with many statues and pictures. The ceiling held an image of the eight founders kneeling on the plaza and the stars surrounding them gave of light, enlightening the hall, but all this barely scratched Shen's mind.

    What is the other test going to be...

    They climbed a circular staircase to its top and entered a straight path leading towards a golden door. Every few steps a large window was placed to both sides giving flowers, which bloomed all along the walls their light. Xenos stopped in front of the golden door. It held the largest variety of coloured flowers. Shen was about to ask something, when all of a sudden one of the flowers reached out to them from the middle of the door.

    A high and lovely sound ringed from it, " What shall I report to Sir Headmaster "

    Shen's mouth gapped open. The flower can talk?

    " Xenos wishes to report an urgent matter. "

    " Please wait a moment. ", the flower chanted and returned to the door.

    " The flower can really speak! ", Shen exclaimed.

    Xenos smiled and explained, " It's not a flower, it's a door. It communicates using the flower, but its existence is the door. A Spiritual Object. "

    Shen didn't feel any better and repeated, " A living door. Spiritual object? "

    " A soul is sealed within it. Naturally it was first dominated to make it controllable. "

    " Dominated a soul? ", Shen's head started spinning.

    Xenos sighs, " All this you will learn in the future, you don't have to worry about it for now. "

    The door swung open and there was no room. Shen stared right through it. No walls, no ceiling, no ground, no room whatsoever. In the middle was a desk comfortable hovering, with a man placed in a brown, extravagant carved throne.

    To Shen's surprise it was not an old person, but a young man, without a trace of old age visible.

    " Please step in. ", a calm yet sturdy voice ordered.

    Xenos stepped forward and set his foot over the threshold like it would be a normal occurrence, but Shen had stopped at this point.

    " Don't worry you can walk normally here, just try it. ", the young man said.

    Shen collected all his courage and slowly set his foot over the border and indeed he felt a resistance. Xenos had watched him with amusement, before he proceeded to the front of the table and Shen carefully followed him placing his feet on the same spots, Xenos had stepped on. Some steps off the table Xenos stopped, fell to his knees and bend his upper body down.

    " Shen this is a formal greeting and required of one in front of the Headmaster. ", Xenos said as he stood up.

    I know what it is but....

    He looked down, gulped and unwillingly he performed the ritual. He stared down to the ground far below him and quickly stood up again, releasing a sigh of relief.

    " You said there is an urgent matter to report? ", the man asked with clear interest in his gaze.

    " Yes Sir Headmaster. This boy I brought with me, took the test for his talent and Origin Soul, but the orb turned dark, before it splintered. Since this has never occurred, I thought I have to consult you in this matter. "

    " Turned dark and then shattered? This is indeed odd. ", his eyes shifted on Shen and carefully inspected him. " There were some cases where someone tried to alter the test, but the orb normally stayed intact. Hmm... "

    Alter the test? " I didn't use any tricks! ", Shen spoke out with a light red tint in his cheeks.

    The Headmaster raised of his throne, " In any case, we will know soon. Xenos step aside and boy sit down. "

    " Hrmpf, you will know soon, but I already do! ", Shen thought aggrieved and sat down.

    " Close your eyes. Feel the Spiritual Energy and try to absorb it. "

    Calm down. Empty your head. Feel the Spiritual... using tricks, argh. They will see I don't!

    Shen slowly shed the accusation off his mind and started to collect the Spiritual Energy in his surroundings directing it towards his stomach and carefully added it to a transparent ring within it. The first ring of his core formation was already vaguely visible.

    While Shen's mind was occupied with gathering and directing bits of energy, the Headmaster walked around him and whenever he stopped he drew a blue sign. They hovered then silently in the air as he moved on in a circle around Shen. He stopped when he reached the first and largest sign he had drawn. A light flashed across his pupils as he touched it.

    The row of symbols started to rotate. It steadily increased in speed, until they turned to a blue line. The blue circle shrunk, but stopped once it was about to touch Shen. The blue colour dissipated and was replaced by white, but this was not the end to it. It turned yellow and went through the same changes as the orb did. It reached violet and surprise flashed across the Headmaster's face, which was but instantly replaced with confusion when the line turned black and broke apart.

    Shen opened his eyes when the line dissipated, since it had sent a ripple and distorted the Spiritual energy he had guided.

    " This... ", the Headmaster stood there dumbfounded. " Xenos leave the room. "

    Shen saw the Headmaster's stiff and serious face all of a sudden and asked, " Is everything alright? "

    Xenos swallowed his words in face of such a change in the Headmaster. " Don't worry. ", he told Shen, before he left the room. The door closed and the Headmaster ordered, " Close your eyes and continue. "

    " I wish grandfather would be here... I really miss how he explains more than I want to know... ", Shen thought. " I just do as they say and can tell grandfather I passed and he will be proud! "

    Shen closed his eyes again. The headmaster waited for him to do so and walked then to his desk. He pulled something out of one of the drawers. A beat the size of his hand was revealed. It shined with white light and instantly enlightened the entire room, like a sun had appeared.

    " It is odd, to odd. ", the Headmaster mumbled.

    He circlet Shen once again and drew many signs in several rows and with every symbol he condensed, the orb in his hand grew dimmer, until finally the orb lost its last light and he stopped.

    " Good, let's see what your Origin Soul is. "

    He took a deep breath and touched the first and biggest sign. All lines simultaneously started to rotate and turned into lines. This time they did not approach Shen immediately, but merged first. Once they had turned to a single being, they approached him. Gradually a sign appeared above Shen's head.

    The Headmaster took a step back and waited. He stared intensely at what was to come, when suddenly the entire room vibrated. The symbol started to suck in the Spiritual Energy surrounding it and increased in density quickly, while its light grew brighter and brighter.

    The room changed, the invisible walls, ground and ceiling reappeared. Flashes of light shot from all around the Headmaster into the symbol, when everything suddenly stopped. Cold sweat ran down the Headmaster's forehead as everything was in silence.

    A zish sound resonated in the room as the sign above Shen's head shot straight through the ceiling into the sky. A few seconds later an earth-shattering explosion occurred. All clouds within sight of Starlight City disappeared at once, a ripple of Spiritual Energy shook every last living being to its very foundation and the heaven was replaced by a single all-encompassing light.



  • Chapter Eleven

    " Please. ", a girl begged a guard. " Just let me have a peak. "

    " I already told you. Only participants, who haven't taken the test yet, are allowed to enter. ", the guard said and shifted his weight on his other foot. It was a long day and this girl didn't stop pestering him.

    " But it's only me, no one will notice! ", Valery kept on.

    " Enough! I said no. ", he shouted and waved his hand, " If you annoy me any further, I will get rude. "

    She narrowed her eyes and took a step back. " Fine. ", she said, stretched her tongue out and quickly ran back into the crowded plaza.

    " Where were you? ", Asteria asked emotionless, as Valery approached her.

    Valery's lips trembled for a moment, " I just took another look at the City Hall. "

    Asteria shook her head and resumed her conversation with another woman, while Valery mumbled, " Does she even care. "

    A few minutes passed, when a deep voice filled the air. " The first test has concluded. The results will be on display shortly. ", while he spoke a man approached him and whispered in his ear. The speaker nodded, " Shen Zheng's grandfather, please enter the City Hall. "

    Maolin stood in the crowd and waited. His mind fully focused on the entrance. The deep voice and its words echoed on the plaza and only when it extinguished he realised its content.

    Startled first, but then with a quick pace he approached the City Hall, yet with his foot on the first stair he froze.

    " Did you hear, a child actually broke one of the orbs. ", a woman snickered.

    A man responded, in a doubtful voice, " No way, I never heard of something like this, has ever happened. "

    " My child saw it. Afterwards they took him away. ", she narrated happily her gossip.

    Maolin's hearth was gripped by fear. " Please let it not be Shen... "

    Walking up the stairs towards the grand entrance of the City Hall, many curious eyes followed him. It made him uneasy and he wanted to directly enter, but a guard stepped in his way.

    " The City Hall is closed. ", the guard spoke with indifference.

    " I was called out. ", he said and wiped the cold sweat off his forehead.

    Interested the guard sized him up and moved to the site. " Someone will await you. ", he said, Maolin nodded and stepped inside, entering the hall he normally adored, just this time, he was very close to a collapse.

    " Shen Zheng's grandfather? ", the man responsible for writing down Shen's result, walked over and asked.

    Maolin collected his senses and responded nervously with a simple, " Yes. "

    " Your grandchild was taken for a second exam and will soon return. "

    " Second exam? ", Maolin asked doubtful and added with some hesitation, " I heard an orb shattered? "

    A sly smile hanging in his face, " It shattered. Indeed it did. Naturally we have to find out the reason behind it. "

    Maolin was stunned for a moment. " What are you implying. ", he asked with a raised voice and clear anger.

    " I just... ", the man was about to say, when every last person in the city had the same chill run down their spine. A frightening mass of Spiritual Energy had appeared. Maolin had the short impression to be an unremarkable ant, as an earth shacking explosion penetrated the air and all people turned pale of fright.

    Maolin ran out of the hall with all the others within following. When they discovered the origin of the explosion, they were rooted in place. The entire heaven was lit up by a small sun in the north. The Sun slowly sunk and fell towards the ground. One wave of Spiritual Energy after another swept over the entire city. All around children and weaker people collapsed and the rest was left with ashen faces and feeble bodies.

    Maolin revolved his Spiritual Energy and called forth a layer to protect himself, but he still felt how frightening it was. Screams now cracked the atmosphere and a tumult formed in the city.

    What is this? What is happening? My child is unconscious! Protect the children!

    All kind of screams filled the city.

    Asteria stared into the distance sun and had a hand on her daughter. Both were protected with a translucent barrier, wrapped around them.

    " Mother what... ", Valery stuttered. " I don't know, but it feels... "

    Valery stared dumbfounded back into the light. With the oppression of Spiritual Energy gone, she could now clearly feel an otherworldly suppression. It was not just them everywhere people had the same feeling. Worst off was the currently shocked Headmaster. Bathed in his sweat he was the closest to the explosion, but it did not have a destructive force, it was rather a message. He watched as the little sun fell, depleting its energy and only with an unremarkable amount left it melted back into Shen's body.

    Shen hadn't noticed anything, he carefully trained, when something strange occurred. A voice or was it a feeling he couldn't tell, but it called out for him. He tried to follow it, but when he drew close to the feeling it disappeared. He returned his mind to continue drawing in energy, yet when he investigated the situation within him he became bewildered. An unbelievable amount of energy had showed up out of nowhere. First nervous, but when he realised it was actually absolute calm and followed all his orders, he rejoiced and delighted guided it toward his ring.

    Is this what grandfather meant. The first of the five rings to form my spiritual seed feels filled up? It really rejects the energy! I can start the second already.

    Left with more than a third of the sudden unexpected energy, he carefully guided it to form a ring the exact same size of the other one, only when he completed it and made absolutely sure it would fit perfectly did he start to fill it.

    Once finished he sighed and opened his eyes with a bright smile. " Sir Headmaster I... ", he said, but fell silent. " Is everything ok? ", he asked the Headmaster, which stared at him like he saw a frightening monster.

    As the Headmaster didn't answer he decided to say, " I completed my first ring and the second feels quite filled too! "

    " It... It... ", the Headmaster stuttered. " How can it draw in energy... It even shared it with the boy... What exactly is going on? "

    " Draw in energy? Shared? You know where the energy that suddenly appeared was from? ", Shen asked with big eyes.

    " I do. ", the Headmaster said and stood up, pacing the room.

    I do? As helpful as if he had said nothing. He was odd before, but it is worse now...

    " It was conscious, but it could not support itself without its host... An Origin Soul should contain nothing else than a remnant of ones former soul... ", the Headmaster murmured.

    He was in thought for a moment longer, then waved his hand and said, " Open the door. "

    The door swung open and Xenos fell face forward in the room. He abruptly stood up and spoke in a fast voice, " Lydus what happened? What was the explosion a moment ago? "

    Explosion? Lydus, is this his name?

    " Boy step outside. ", Lydus ordered. Shen sat there motionless attempting to grasp the situation. " Now. ", he ordered again in a sharp tone.

    Shen stemmed himself of the ground and looked desperately at Xenos, but he shook his head, so he silently stepped outside and watched the door close.

    " Xenos lead him back and let him take the other tests. They might be interesting for you. "

    Xenos wanted an answer about what happened, but since the Headmaster had ignored his questions, he rather felt to inquire, " Interesting? "

    " I want you to leave Starlight City for a year. You will personally teach the boy. In case you meet nosy people tell them I conducted an experiment, which failed terribly. ", the Headmaster narrated and added with a cold glint flashing through his eyes, " If they don't back off, kill them. "

    " Currently I am clueless, but I have a bad feeling. In recent years Samsara's alliance with the Mountain states got better, because Eswa and Oshira pulled their troops from the mountain front, breaking the 300-year-old contract, and left us with splitting part of our west troops to protect against the beast attacks. Beast attacks to the east, Eswa and Oshira terrorizing us in the west, clans silently changing their state of loyalty and a cult killing people all over the place. I fear it will get very uncomfortable very soon. This generation is beyond the stage of the past thousand years and our enemies know. They will definitely not let us groom them peacefully and this boy... ", the Headmaster released a very long sigh and shook his head.

    " I will head to the Capital and conduct research on the matter. I will send word, if I find anything. ", he slowly said and added, " Do not get yourself too attached to the boy. "

    Xenos listened carefully and nodded.

    " You are one of my oldest friends and you yourself are not far of the point of condensing your Spiritual Soul, so be careful while travelling and give me good news once I return. ", the Headmaster said with confidence and a smile hanging in his face.

    " I will Lydus. Safe travels. ", Xenos said with some underlined meaning.

    Lydus smiled, " This is all. You can return. I will leave tomorrow, I wish you the best. "

    Xenos bowed and walked out of the room. The door closed and Shen gazed at him.

    " We will return now and you take the other tests. I will be your master from now on, address me accordingly! And we will go on a journey for a year. ", Xenos stated without any gap for discussion.

    " A journey for a whole year? ", Shen asked flabbergasted.

    " Yes. You will learn better this way. ", Xenos explained.

    Shen's head was spinning with all kind of thoughts, while they left the building.

    Whatever happened if this man teaches me, this should mean I am accepted! And most importantly they know I didn't use any tricks as i said!

    Eagerly Shen jumped down the last few stairs to the big open ground and impatiently waited for Xenos. But Xenos just passed him and walked towards another building. Shen followed and asked hopeful, " Are we flying back? "

    " No I didn't have enough time to recover. We will take a Nightsteed from the stables. ", he said absent-minded.

    Shen followed him with hanging shoulders. He tried to ask questions about his talent, about the explosion, about basically everything, but was ignored. He then tried to strike a conversation with his breakthrough what did catch some attention, but all in all they silently rode back into the city.



  • Chapter Twelve

    They rode right through the city gate and the guards saluted. Quickly they arrived than at the garden behind the City Hall.

    " Disciple do not tell anyone, anything about today! ", Xenos warned him another time, before they entered the building and had immediately people rush towards them.

    " Elder Xenos something happened. An explosion and.. ", one of the lost sheep's yelled in panic, but was interrupted.

    " Calm down. ", Xenos said loudly. " What occurred was merely a failed experiment of our Sir Headmaster. Nothing to worry about. Please pass this information on, so we can proceed with the exam. "

    Many drew cold breaths and some sighed, but summed up they were relieved. Even thought it had been a terrifying scene, if it was something the Headmaster had done, they wouldn't worry too much. An old man broke through the masses and called out for Shen.

    " Grandfather. ", Shen yelled with joy and ran towards him. He hugged him like he had finally found a safe harbour, in the middle of a great storm.

    " Everything alright Shen? ", he asked with concern.

    " Yes. I think I am accepted! "

    Xenos went forward and spoke with a smile, " Greetings Mr. Zheng. My name is Xenos. I am an elder of the Starlight School. From today onwards I am as well Shen's master. "

    The former discussions about what kind of experiment it might have been died off. An elder just announced he would take a personal disciple. A disciple who hasn't even enrolled in the school yet! The topic shifted and everyone whispered looking at Shen.

    " Wasn't that the boy who broke the testing orb? "

    " Yes it was! What has happened, Elder Xenos you never had a personal student. ", someone inquired courageously.

    Xenos snorted and spoke out loud again, " It is none of your business, why I am taking him as a disciple. Return to your duties. There is a lot of work to do for the second exam. "

    With these words the chit-chat didn't die off completely, but the people scattered and returned to their respectively duties, while Maolin was standing there like he had been hit by lightning.

    After a few moments he recovered a little and said slowly, like he couldn't believe it, " And this means? "

    Xenos smiled and started narrating, " Shen will take the second exam in the noon. Tomorrow noon we will leave Starlight City and go on a journey for one year. He is my first disciple and I admit, I am not the most experienced teacher, but I can promise you that nothing and no one will harm your grandchild on our journey and i will give my best to teach him. I will leave him now with you, since I still need to lead the test. Have a good evening. "

    Xenos simply left and let a dumbfounded Maolin behind.

    " Do I have to go Grandfather? ", Shen asked nervously.

    " What do you mean, if you have to? ", Maolin asked mystified. " You get the chance to be taught by an elder of the school! "

    " But a year away.. ", Shen tried to argue.

    " It's fine. You will need to find your own way at some point and now you have the chance to see a bit of the world in safety. Opportunities like this one are something you can not ask for. You will leave tomorrow noon, so we will need to get you some new clothes and I will buy you something useful for your journey, but all this tomorrow. Now let's go outside and wait for the second exam. "

    They left the hall, as the middle point of attention and walked down the stairs. At the end of the stairs the results had been hanged out already and they started searching.

    " Your results are not on there. ", a girl's voice sounded nearby.

    Shen turned and spotted Valery one table to the right with her mother. " What do you mean? ", he asked confused.

    " I checked the list, your name is not on it. ", she repeated and walked over with her mother.

    " He was accepted by an elder as a personal disciple. I guess it is ok. "; Maolin said with a proud face and gave Asteria a bright smile, before Shen had a chance to open his mouth.

    Valery exclaimed in surprise, but Asteria narrowed her eyebrows, took Valery by the hand and pulled her away. " Mother what..: ", Valery wanted to say, but only an ice-cold look hit her and she didn't dare utter another word.

    " What happened? ", Shen mumbled.

    Maolin just smirked. " She didn't look happy. ", he said delighted.

    They went to have some food and Shen naturally told Maolin everything that happened, but at some point in the story Maolin made him talk in a whisper.

    Maolin stared at his grandchild unbelieving. " Was he the reason? ", he muttered.

    " What.. d.. you say... ", Shen said with a full mouth and gulped, " grandfather? "

    Maolin hit him on the head. " Don't talk with a full mouth and do not tell anyone about what you told me! "

    Shen rubbed his head, " Ok. Hm, Elder Xenos said the same thing. "

    " I figured. You can tell me everything, but otherwise listen to what your master tells you! "

    Shen sighs, " Alright grandfather. "

    They spend some more time eating, before the familiar ringing of *clongs* sounded in the city and they returned with a lot less of a fight to the plaza.

    With the eight *clongs* in a row, the deep voice boomed once again over the plaza, " The second part of the exam begins now. Since the amount of participants is low enough in number, we can test all candidates at the same time. Enter now! "

    Shen traversed the plaza and entered the hall. There were many tables placed all over the room. he was directed to one at the right side of the hall and took his place. The man ordered him to write his name on the sheet and not to turn it around, until it is announced to do so.

    Shen silently sat in his chair. He was exhausted, his very spirit was shaken by all what had happened.

    Just a minute.

    His head sank on his arms and he closed his eyes. Slowly he drifted, without noticing, into another world filled with all kind of wishes and fears.

    When he awoke, he rubbed his eyes and looked around. Everyone was writing already. Stunned for a moment, he then hastily turned the sheet around and took the feather in his hand. When it touched the sheet, a voice called out in the hall.

    " The time is over. Turn your sheets around and gather at the back. "

    Shen didn't move. The feather set on the paper, he stared on the empty sheet.

    " I failed? Just like this? ", Shen was speechless.

    " Disciple you can give me your exam. "

    Xenos had appeared beside him, with expectation written all over his face.

    Shen shivered as he heard his voice, slowly he turned his head and opened his mouth, but not a single word left it. Xenos saw him in such a state and took it upon himself to take the test. He looked over it and stared dumbfounded.

    " Shen why didn't you answer a single question? ", he asked in unbelief.

    " Master I.. I fell asleep. I didn't sleep well and was so exhausted. ", Shen answered with a hanging head.

    Xenos softly patted his shoulder. " I guess we will do one, once we left the city. Follow now the other students. You will be brought to the arena. Try not to fall asleep while fighting. ", he said with a laugh.

    Shen looked up at Xenos and whispered, " Thank you. " Afterwards he headed to the other students, who were waiting in front of the back entrance.

    " Shen. ", a lovely voice called out. Valery walked over with a puzzled expression.

    " Were you done so fast, when I looked over half-way through the exam, you seemed to sleep. Oh and I am sorry, that my mother dragged me away so suddenly. "

    " I fell asleep before the exam begun. ", Shen admitted with an awkward expression.

    Valery's eyes widened and she bent her body over holding her stomach laughing. With tears in her eyes she said, " You really are a one in a kind Bumpkin. "

    Many other children had heard their conversation and many shook their heads, while others started to whisper behind their backs. Valery's face darkened, when she heard some whispers.

    " Do you want to walk over together? ", Shen asked her out of the blue.

    Totally thrown off by the question, she only smiled and nodded.

    The children were escorted, by the school's personnel, through the city and the forest, until they reached a round huge building. Valery had spoken the entire way about what she liked and what she didn't like, how often her mother made her do things she didn't want to do. Once she had started a sentence about her father but fell silent, midway through. Shen had asked her what she wanted to say, but she only shook her head and meant it wasn't so important. They walked into one of the half-moon shaped entrances. When they left the tunnel, all the children mouths gaped open.

    " It's huge and so.... so many people are here. ", a boy called out.

    Shen was speechless by the spectacle in front of him. The so-called arena was an oval-shaped building with an open roof. In the middle was a platform, that can't content with the Star Plaza, but still was enormous. A sea of people surrounded the platform. Most were squeezed together on stone benches that stretched all around the building. The higher you looked the more space appeared to be for the people. The spectators cheered loudly, when they saw the fresh blood entering.

    " Why are so many people watching? ", Shen asked Valery.

    " After our tests, there will be a tournament between the older students. Not all students participate, but with the first price being one hundred Seltin, there are still lots. Oh and if you make it to the first place you will be accepted by an elder as a personal student. Not that it would have any interest to you any more. ", she explained and threw him a curious look.

    " One hundred Seltin? ", Shens' eyes sparkled.

    " Didn't you hear me? The ones that are graduating are the most common participants. Besides, we didn't truly enter the school yet, so we can't participate. "

    " How sad, but in the future I will try for sure! Oh, why are people who graduate participating, if they leave, they can't be a personal disciple to an elder or? "

    " If you are a personal disciple to an elder, you will naturally be able to enjoy his wisdom beyond the limit of the school period. "

    One of the teachers stepped in front of the group and told them, " There are eight circles on the platform. Every circle has a number inside of it. Your name will be called out with a number. You will then enter the circle and display everything you can. Elder students will be your opponents to ensure we don't have any tragedies. There are only three rules. Once forfeited the fight stops, once someone is injured the fight stops and most importantly, in case you have condensed a Spiritual Ring already, you are not allowed to draw strength from it, or it would be harmful to your development. As the foundation the Spiritual Rings are meant to be merged, to create a space, called the Spiritual Seed. This so called Seed will be your container for your Spiritual Energy. If you would merge a damaged ring and create a fractured seed, it could break apart and the saved energy would be fatal to yourself. "

    The man then called out eight names, eight numbers and advised them to be careful, while he asked them if they require a weapon. The people who had been called out, moved onto the platform and discovered quickly their opponents. Eight persons in green uniforms, were standing straight and watched them approach, with indifference, excitement or disdain.

    Shen closely observed, how they entered the ring. There isn't much you can do. Most techniques need a certain supply of energy, or veins and meridians to correctly be used, but there are very simple and crude ones, which work with an external support.

    For now these children can only draw their weapon and infuse it with the little bit of Spiritual Energy they can absorb.

    A boy in the seventh circle for example had chosen a spear. It looked quite comical, since the spear was twice his size. The boy ran forward and struck down with his spear infusing it with spiritual energy, he had absorbed. It was barely noticable. His opponent, a girl, didn't move at first. Only at the very last moment she stepped to the side. The spear nearly touched her nose as it swung down to the ground and left a small crack in the stone. Quite some exclamations came from the spectators. The boy retreated and tried a stab motion, but once again missed her stomach just by an inch, after a few more swings and stabs, the girl waved her hand and a wind arose who blew the boy out of the ring.

    " Thank you for holding back. ", the boy said, bowed and walked back.

    The teacher who had observed him gave him a satisfied nod.

    " You are going to far. ", a teacher screamed, all of a sudden on the other side.

    In the first circle stood a boy around the age of fifth-teen. He was currently standing, with one foot, on the head of a blond boy. The boy had blood flowing out of his mouth and barely moved any more.

    " Release him, he is injured! ", the teacher snapped angrily at the elder student.

    The boy smiled, nodded and moved his foot. He stretched his arms then to the side, " You shouldn't blame me. He had the option to forfeit, if he thinks he can actually fight me, then it is my duty to teach him a lesson. After all this is a school. In the outside world, if he would act so brash, he would be killed. "

    The teacher only snorted. After having taken a look at the boys wound, he did not tell the elder student to step down, but instead he signed the teacher, by the children, to send the next one. One after another, stepped up and the matches concluded quickly. Some drew attention, by manipulating an element, others used their respective weapons. One boy actually managed to set an elder students robe on fire, but got brutally beaten up for it.

    " Shen Zheng. Ring one. ", the teacher called out.

    " Just forfeit, don't give that idiot a chance. ", Valery advised Shen with a concerned face.

    " I have to at least try. ", Shen said with a smile and walked towards the first ring.

    The boy looked at Shen's meagre appearance and snorted with disdain, " Another wimp. "



  • Chapter Thirteen

    " Shouldn't we replace Bailong Moonwell. All the new disciples simply forfeit. ", Xenos suggested to Lydus. They sat comfortable on the highest rank with some other important figures of the school.

    " And quibble with the Royal Family, why we did that. No, thank you. It might even be good for the young ones to experience this. At some point in life you will run into a wall. Either you tear it down or you overcome it, otherwise you will be stuck. All these children, who don't even consider attempting it, don't really understand, that giving up is not an option for someone, who wants to reach its aims in life. "

    " Well spoken Sir Headmaster. ", someone laughed. " Just there is no one in my son's age, who can content with him, so you should understand why they prefer to cower away. "

    Xenos turned around and was about to release his frustration, when his eye corner caught Shen moving onto the platform

    Xenos watched and then silently cursed, " Does it have to be the first ring." He shook his head and watched his disciple enter.

    The teacher responsible for the first ring announced, " The match begins. " Actually he was already prepared to summon the next child, but to his surprise the boy in front of him did not immediately forfeit, like all the others. He mused for a moment, if he should advise him too, but then again he could intervene, if the situation turns poor.

    Bailong laughed heartily. " Another idiot who wants to learn, what it means to get beaten up. ", Bailong said with an arrogant demeanour.

    Can't even hit back. Grandfather watch me!

    Determined Shen stared at the boy in front of him and slowly started to walk, step by step, approaching his opponent. Bailong watched his prey closing in on him. Shen formed a weird fist with his right hand, when you took a close look, you could see a small sphere forming inside, that sucked the surrounding air in.

    Shen leaned his body forward and shot like an arrow towards Bailong. At such a close distance, it took him only a moment to arrive. Bailong chuckled faintly, seeing Shen approach in this manner and threw a punch, aiming at his head.

    Shen's entire childhood was shaped by training with his grandfather in close combat. This direct punch, he easily dodged and used his left hand to touch Bailong's chest. Shen then retreated quickly, as to not give Bailong any chance to land an attack.

    Exclaims sounded over the entire arena and the fight between Shen and Bailong slowly moved into the centre of attention.

    Surprise flashed over Bailong's face as he followed the boys retreating steps. Shen came to a stand still and stared at his opponent. Considering his options.

    " What a scary look and you dodged my fist, but with the strength you just displayed you won't even scratch me. ", Bailong snickered.

    " A good reaction, that's my disciple. ", Xenos called out and smiled brightly.

    " Your disciple? " Xenos cringed. " Oh I heard rumours you took one on. It's just, that he may regret trying to show off speed, but not having the strength to beat his opponent. ", Bailong's father said with disdain.

    When I touched him, he didn't protect himself at all. The only technique I can use is my Wind Blast. It can be powerful, even with the little amount of spiritual energy I can absorb. The only downside is, it requires time to form and I need to touch him to release it. But if I strike him, before he can react and defend himself properly, I might have a chance to beat him. It would have been better to wait a little longer, until I finished the Wind Blast. He looks like he is on his guard now.

    Shen watched his enemy's guard with some frustration, but collected himself quickly and prepared for the next exchange.

    It might seem like the Headmaster wasn't too concerned about anything, but in fact he was observing Shen like an eagle. Not even the smallest change would be missed by his eyes, naturally he had already discovered Shen's right fist and the light fluctuation within it.

    " Good control. Royal blood, Royal arrogance, he won't even consider this boy can harm him in any way. Little does he know. ", he smiled.

    Shen collected his strength to attack once more. One step at a time, he moved towards his opponent, but this time when he started his sprint Bailong was prepared. When Shen was nearly touching him, he performed a sudden straight up kick. Caught off guard, Shen barely dodged it by falling to the side.

    Bailong didn't stop there, he moved after Shen and kicked him in the stomach. Shen went rolling and felt a warm liquid soar in his throat, but gulped it back down. A taste of iron lingered in his mouth, he hastily stood up prepared for another ambush, but Bailong hadn't gone after him. The teacher didn't say anything, since Shen still had the strength to forfeit and was in no severe danger.

    " Just another trash! You think just because you can stand up again, it will change anything. Remember it was me Bailong, who gave you this gift. ", Bailong said, held his hand up and condensed a fire. The fire rotated and formed a ring.

    It happened to fast. The teacher was watching Shen in case he wanted to forfeit. Therefore, he saw the fire ring, when it was already to late.

    " This bastard actually... ", Xenos cursed and jumped up.

    Shen stared dumbstruck, he had trained with his grandfather, but it had never gotten dangerous. He quickly tried to dodge it, but his daze had left him with no time to react and he was hit on the shoulder. A dreadful pain filled his shoulder, his very mind was shuddering from the pain. The air turned hot and the smell of burned flesh filled it. Bailong started laughing like a mad man and many spectators unhappily watched it unfold, while the other elder students threw him disgusted looks.

    All this changed the moment Shen abruptly appeared in front of Bailong, who had laughed so happily, that he didn't notice him approach. Shen touched him, this time with his right hand, directly in the middle of his chest. A heavy silence filled the atmosphere, no sound could be heard. A tense atmosphere that was ultimately broken by a zishing sound. It resonated in Bailong ears like an explosion. His face changed drastically, but he could do nothing. A sudden feeling of intense pressure filled his chest, like a hammer hitting him with all its might. His feet left the ground and he flew out of the ring and crashed into the hard stone outside of it.

    All the fights stopped and all the attention was on the first ring. No one had expected this outcome. Bailong's father nearly dropped of his chair, while Xenos sarcastically spoke in an extra loud voice, " Truly a genius that no one in his age can content with. "

    The Headmaster had a satisfied smile on his face, that grew increasingly rich, when he saw the members of the Royal Family staring dumbfounded and having ugly looks on their faces.

    " Quite the ability. It must be taxing, but to swallow a great amount of air in a sphere, condensed out of externally drawn Spiritual Energy, just to then seal all options for the air to go anywhere else then the target, with the bare hand. Very interesting. Simple but effective. ", Lydus praised in a low tone.

    Bailong suppressed his pain, but still threw up a mouthful of blood. Staring at the blood, flames of anger arose in his heart. Only if he could tear this wimp apart, could he possibly release the hatred and shame he felt.

    The observing teacher watched Bailong, as he felt the sensation of a killing intent building up, he swiftly reacted and moved in front of Shen. " Bailong fell out of the ring. Shen Zheng wins. ", he announced perplex.

    Bailong glared angrily at the teacher first, then followed a look of hatred towards Shen. " Don't think this is over. ", he threatened, stood up and walked away. No one bothered to stop him. The atmosphere in the arena had changed drastically. People only dared to whisper, while many eyes followed Bailong leave. Once he disappeared in a tunnel, they shifted their gazes towards the seats of the Royal Family. They had awkward faces, in the end, one of them started to applaud, what led to an earth-shaking applause in the arena.

    The teacher examined Shen. " The burns are not too bad. Return to the other disciples and I will arrange for the medicine. "

    Shen respectfully thanked him and returned with a smile that soon would break his face apart to the other children.

    " Are you alright? ", Valery had waited at the edge of the platform. Her hands finally relaxed, revealing clear fingernail imprints and a little blood flow.

    " Yes I am alright. ", Shen answered with a smile.

    She glared at him and boxed him on his shoulder. He turned ashen and fell on his butt.

    He groaned, " Why did you do that.. "

    " Don't lie to my face. ", she said with narrowed eyes and red cheeks.

    Sitting on his butt, he discovered her bleeding hand and asked, " Why is your hand bleeding? "

    " That's nothing, just a scratch. And you deserve this pain! Making me nervous like this, with your reckless stupid, argh. ", she snapped at him angrily.

    Stunned he sat on the ground and asked the first thing that got to his mind, " You were worried? "

    She blushed, turned around and walked to the other children.

    What just happened?

    He carefully followed her back to the other children. They all welcomed him, asking him about the Wind Blast, his wound and where he is from. The blond boy actually thanked him for getting revenge and promised that he will make up for it in the future.

    " Don't forget Shen, that this win is a double-edged blade. ", Valery said out of the blue. " Luckily you are a personal student of an elder, otherwise this could become a serious problem for you. "

    " Problem? Why would it be a problem to me. And what do you mean by a double edged blade. ", Shen asked surprised.

    " This person is part of the Royal Family, Bailong Moonwell. You beat him yes, but you as well just gave them quite a resounding slap in public. It's actual quite fun, if you think about it. ", she laughed delighted.

    " Oh, and the problem is that the Royal Family might consider playing a dirty trick on you, but with an elder behind you it should be fine. They wouldn't start an internal fight over the issue of sparring between youths... I hope. ", a memory of a man covered in blood flashed her mind, when the last words left her mouth.

    What is she thinking about? She suddenly looks so sad.

    He studied the girl who had change from a cheerful person into someone, who was close to tears. Not knowing what to do he put a hand on her shoulder, " I will be fine. "

    Curious she looked up, at the boy in front of her, " Why does he appear different. He is so calm. Still a bumpkin, but the confidence. Maybe he doesn't understand how serious the situation is. "

    Everywhere people snickered about and discussed, if Bailong will dare show up for the tournament, when a cold yet beautiful voice filled the arena, " How intriguing. It has been so many years, I was fascinated by a fight between the weak. "



  • Chapter Fourteen

    Xenos and Lydus bodies shook, as they had been struck by lightening rather than a cold monotone voice. They exchanged a meaningful look and simultaneously sighed in frustration. " This crazy woman came herself to investigate. I guess I will leave... now ", Lydus grumbled suddenly.

    Dumbfounded Xenos stared for a moment, as he watched him actually turn tail and try to sneak himself out of the situation.

    " My old friend Lydus you aren't leaving, are you? ", the voice resounded once again, catching Lydus just as he was about to use the confusion to leave. " We have so much, to catch up to. "

    " Serves you right. ", Xenos chuckled. " Letting me hang like that. "

    " Oh, another acquaintance. Xenos, still stuck on the threshold as I can see. How many years is it by now? "

    Xenos shivered and blushed. He gazed towards the direction the voice came from and called out, " We can not all be blessed by a lack of emotion. "

    A figure appeared on the southern wall of the arena. A woman in an elegant designed long black dress. Her slender long legs were partly visible and pale, but clear white skin gave her an mysterious note, while her silver-grey hair hung down to her ankles. Her face carved out of stone, without a single imperfection. This goddess between mortals, held her delicate hand to her mouth and chuckled, before she gave the place Lydus and Xenos sat at, a light smile, " Aren't words unremarkable and empty, while actions... ", she paused and her smile faded, " reveal ones true colours? "

    Xenos stiffened under the piercing gaze she threw him and subconsciously gripped his right arm. As this mesmerizing beauty gave his reaction another cold smile, many men inwardly had a hard time restraining their lewd thoughts, but no one actually dared express them, because this woman gave them a frightful scent of death.

    Bailong's father, within the ranks of the Royal Family, raised from his chair, with a hand to his heart he bowed. In an evident try to curry favour he said, " Mistress of the Dark Cloud how fortunate it is. You truly are without question, one of the two unmatched beauties. A true dream come true to witness it personally. "

    The Mistress eyes lost its amusement and she snorted in clear disdain, " You dare compare me, to this nuisance of a person. "

    " Nuisance? Such a courteous choice of word today. ", another voice dropped into the arena from the north. It transmitted a strange feeling, soft, gentle and it ringed in ones' ears comforting the soul.

    " Clear the arena. ", Lydus yelled with a bad feeling. The people within the arena awoke gradually from the enchanting voice and drove the students into the tunnels, from where they watched the spectacle unfold.

    A woman with golden hair, a pink dress underlining her full rosy lips, snow-white skin and a fragile body appeared. She gave someone less an alluring feeling, than the Mistress, more it bore a feeling of instinctive protection.

    " Where would we be without some courtesy. But if you prefer to walk a harsh path, I could advise you. ", the Mistress chuckled.

    They smiled at each other in a strange manner and an invisible pressure spread through the air, shaking up the on viewers.

    Xenos studied the tense atmosphere and nervously whispered, " Lydus, I don't worry about the Fairy, but if Edea goes all out, there will be deaths. "

    Lydus leaned back and took a deep breath, before he responded, " They are the cornerstones of our southern defence. I don't think they will go as far as all out, besides that, are you asking me to go between this two woman? "

    While the higher-ups discussed in low voices how to loosen up the situation, Shen stood in the tunnel and watched the woman with her golden hair dancing in the wind. He could feel a distinct pressure just by laying his eyes upon her, like a single breath could take his life.

    Shen shifted his view on the black woman. A sudden darkness erupted from her, forming the shape of a snake, a huge dark snake. It was at least a hundred meters long. At the same time the white woman arranged strange hand seals. It was way to quick for Shen to even actually get a glimpse of one. When she stopped, a little white orb flew out of her hand. The orb was covered in fissures and broke apart. It was a dazzling white bird the size of a fist, but with every swing of its wings it grew and travelled back circling the white woman.

    Are this spirits? But Xenos Spirit had no eyes and felt dead... The only thing i think off is.. Grandfather said to step into the Heaven Soul stage you need to condense an Elemental Soul. So if this are no Spirits than they are... are... this strong?? To use them as a weapon, isn't it dangerous to expose them...

    Shen awoke from his guessing game, when Edea snickered, " How alluring you made a breakthrough too. "

    " Just like in old times. ", the fairy chuckled. " Please come at me. "

    The words still lingered in the arena, when the bird and the snake disappeared from Shen's sight. They reappeared far above the arena. Every time they collided a thunder like explosion sounded and made the onlookers cover their ears. Shen ran farther out, close to the platform and stared up. His eyes filled with expectation. The bird had now its fangs deep inside of the snake's body, but the next moment it twisted its tail up and gripped the bird's neck. The bird flapped and rushed down into the arena. A moment later they crashed into the platform and blasted it apart. Lydus had reacted in time and shielded the lower audience from the flying gravel.

    Shen was blasted back and crashed into the barrier. Lydus had saved the audience, but Shen stood inside and took the full hit. He now slowly slid down the barrier. Blood was flowing out of his mouth and his chest had a deep cleft. Clinging to his last breath, Shen lost consciousness.

    In the darkness Shen randomly drifted about. He slowly faded into the distance, but the longer he drifted the more he had the feeling to be actually pulled somewhere The closer he drew to the thing the more conscious he felt. A light now brightens the horizon.

    What is... My..head... I can't..think... a gate?

    The source, a place in light he had never seen before. It took the shape of a gate. He was pulled towards the gate and the light carefully covered him. All at once his mind was comforted. He could clearly see it now. An existence he could not describe, he could not tell how large it was or what it was, but in the darkness it appeared to be the only thing.

    The only thing... No a rope or chain is going.. down?

    He focused on it for a moment, but felt it did not matter and his instinct told him, he only needed to pass the gate. That's what mattered, to pass the gate! The moment he felt fully immersed by the light, and the pull was it strongest, everything disappeared at once. The gateway shut tight and disappeared, only the chain still hung motionless.

    " A price paid in eternity. ", echoed in the inky nothingness.

    Shen fell back into absolute darkness and loneliness. Deeper and deeper it dragged him down, until he nearly lost all of his gained consciousness. But there in the darkness was something, the chain. It was only vague, it attracted him to follow it. It was something he had felt before. With a new aim he tried his best to direct himself with the little bit of will he had left. An ever-changing constellation of dark symbols appeared. He had nothing left to guide himself on. His will was now drowned, his mind buried and he drifted. Only his barely existing instinct shuddered when he came into contact with the shell of symbols. A sudden pain tore through his mind.

    " SOUL! SOUL! SOUL! GIVE ME YOUR SOUL! ", the pain screamed.

    It ensnared him, dragged him farther down and the pain increased. Something entered him one bit after another.

    AHHHHHHH Nooooo....

    His very existent attempted to struggle and resist. But it had no chance. He felt like everything would be over once it had swallowed him. He already embraced the moment the pain stopped, when he was abruptly ripped out of the darkness, carrying a small part of the thing with him.

    Shen awoke in a dimmed place illuminated by a white light. The pain he had felt burned deep into his memories and over-shadowed everything else. His first life sign was an unnatural ejection of sweat and the blood rushed in his head. Pain filled his mind, he raised his arms and screamed with the full of his lungs as something intervened with his thoughts and memories. All the noises in the room had no chance reaching his ears, he felt his arms getting restrained.

    " End it, end this pain! Let me die! I want to die! ", Shen screamed in agony.

    It ended as fast as it had come. The pain disappeared and he lost consciousness.

    " Shen! ", someone yelled with an already hoarse voice. " What, what happened you said he will be alright. ", Maolin stuttered in tears.

    " He.. I don't know. It was close, but she dragged him back. He shouldn't be in any great pain... ", Lydus muttered.

    " Whatever it was, it was not his body. There shouldn't be any problems, beside that he is crippled. ", the fairy spoke in her melody.

    " Why do you even bother. ", a cold and bored voice asked.

    Maolin's face distorted and he was about to jump Edea, when Lydus intercepted.

    Maolin shot Edea a glint of resentment, before he asked, " Is it not possible to heal his back? "

    " If it were just broken, but the stone shot right against his foundation. The following blast from the freed energy basically erased a part of his spine and part of his organs. Honestly even with this condition you can still speak of luck he didn't instantly die. There isn't much more I can do. You can ask the Tower of Runes, they might have an idea. For now you can only wait until he wakes up. ", the fairy explained. " Lydus you need to explain what happened today. Let's leave. "

    " I agree this is just a waste of time. ", Edea said uncaring. " Rather tell us what you were up too. It was quite the show. "

    With them gone, only Maolin was left in the room. He kneeled down beside his grandson, muttered to himself and repeated the scene in his mind. He had a grin brighter than ever on his face, when Shen won his fight in such a splendid way. Then two woman appeared and fought. He discovered Shen out of his eye winkles, right in the middle of the arena and before he could scream the platform was blasted apart. The next moment he laid there half-dead.

    It was only a long time later, that Shen opened his eyes again. He stared on the ceiling for a while, before he tried to lift himself, but was hindered by a flood of pain. A long scar stretched from his right chest down to his abdomen.

    What exactly happened. I was watching and then... This pain, first when I was in the darkness and then again when I woke up.

    He held his head for a moment when he thought about the moment he woke up. " It's is gone now. ", he said with relief and pondered a moment longer, when memories flushed his mind. Heavily irritated he let his hands sink and stared back at the ceiling.

    Why did it close... A price paid in eternity? This chain it led from the weird gate to... what was that? It wanted my soul? It tried to swallow me!

    Thoroughly confused he suddenly played after every event in his life. Once finished he was absolutely certain, there was something he remembered that never happened. Shallow but it was there. A man, in a mirror, talking to himself and a book he never saw before.

    The Wrath of Heaven the man said and opened it. Shen could clearly remember every last sign in the book, like it was burned into his mind, but he did not understand the language and the man hadn't said another word.

    He felt so odd recalling things he definitely never saw in his life. Recalling the wound in his chest, he closed his eyes and Investigated the pain he wasn't too bothered with till now.

    My Spiritual Rings are gone? And why do I not feel...

    He opened his eyes and stared at his feet, but nothing moved.

    Why can I not move? But my chest is healed...

    " What is wrong with me. How am I so calm. ", Shen muttered perplex over his own state of mind.

    He looked around, " Grandfather. "

    Where is he?



  • Chapter Fifthteen

    The Tower of Runes stood high erect near the northern gate of Starlight City. It was just one of many. An organisation challenging time itself. Their records stretch far and way beyond most kingdoms or clans. Their independence is unquestioned. They rarely have intervened in history and normally watch from the side lines. What their actual strength and resources are is completely unknown, but not to long ago, when the Great War erupted and the seven beast kings attempted to invade the Waving Continent from the White Mountains, they revealed their prestige.

    The Great War over the ownerless territory of High King Atmos shifted into a desperate battle of survival against the beasts from the east. At the point it was most dire the Tower of Runes sent their troops. It was a devastating line-up of fifteen Divine Soul cultivators. Every last one of them an Emperor Runewalker. They drowned the battlefield in storms, shattered the sky with gigantic boulders and burned the battlefield to a desert, sending the seven kings and their army, with extremely heavy loses, back to where they had come from!

    Since this moment the mighty prestige of the Tower of Runes had once again sky rocket, but the organisation itself hadn't changed. They were as calm as ever and the struggle in the continent once again erupted, when everyone was assured the Tower of Runes would just watch as they always did. Their buildings were always off-limits, but nowadays the caution that flames up, when people fight on a territory having one of these is indescribable.

    But though they do not intervene, their service still can be bought. They will not fight or provide fighters, but for the right price they will provide pills, weapons and formations.

    And this kind of service Xenos and Maolin are seeking. Early this morning Xenos had picked up Maolin and they now entered one of their branches. The Tower's entrance hall was a large round room. Only one person was sat behind a counter, obviously about to daze off. The sound of the door closing, woke him and he looked up.

    They approached him and Maolin was met by white eyes. They stared at him, so he took a step to the side, but they followed him.

    " I am not blind, just a little accident. ", the man said and continued to stare at him with his milky white eyes.

    Maolin performed a light apologetic bow, but when he wanted to open his mouth Xenos intervened, " Greetings. I am an elder of Starlight School and would like to make a request in the name of the Headmaster. "

    The man leaned back and casually nodded, yet a kind smile appeared.

    " A student was injured. A stone hit his foundation and the energy erased part of his spine and organs. ", Xenos explained.

    " This really is a heavy injury. ", the man slowly said. " But we can assuredly deal with it. Especially since it only concerns a mortal body. "

    " I am willing... ", Maolin quickly wanted to say, but was cut off once again.

    " It would require at least a 4th Tier Runewalker and a Binding Gem to manifest the healing formation. "

    A Runewalker one of the most desired names to wear in the world. A person walking the path of Runes. While cultivators solely attune to the Spiritual Energy and the Elements, a Runewalker concentrates on nourishing his Soul strength.

    To bend the Spiritual Energy within a material you will need to manifest the written Language of Spirits, so called Runes. The most common Runewalker will create formations, but to create spiritual objects or pills you will need a certain attunement in the required elements.

    Depending on the element you can craft objects with special abilities, while only alchemy has a sole request of the fire element. Alchemist is the rarest occupation found in the continent and is heavily sought after by cultivators. They can create pills to replenish Spiritual Energy or to increase the rate of regeneration from an injury and even pills that can help someone to break through a bottleneck. Yet in the end nothing is absolute. A formation master might achieve the same points with the sole Language of the Spirits. It is just easier, to be exact safer, to study herbs, than random arrangements of Runes. Not only one genius perished in his experiments.

    The hierarchy of the Tower of Runes has White, Blue and Red cloaks. White Cloaks refer to sole formation creators, Blue cloaks to elemental creators and Red cloaks to Alchemists. Depending on their stage of skill they will have different runes wandering their cloaks.

    Eight tiers, to advance a tier you need to complete a formula that is considered of the difficulty and then there is the frightening stage of an Emperor cloak. A stage that can only be reached by stepping in the most reverted realm, the Divine Soul realm. A Soul reborn by the heavens itself.

    Currently Xenos and Maolin did not face a monster like an Emperor cloak, but a 4th Tier Runewalker was still considered a local hegemon and would be recruited with every cost possible.

    Xenos sighed and pulled a book out of his robe. " Would this be considered enough of a payment? "

    The man received the book and carefully studied it with his creamy white eyes. He opened it and only a peek was enough to make him nod like a chicken. " Enough, certainly enough! "

    " At what time can we expect... ", Xenos said with a face like he had lost more than he had gained.

    " The Head of the tower should return in three days. ", the man said while he now intensely studied the books content.

    " The Head of the tower? Is there maybe someone... "

    " Else? ", the man finished his sentence. " I do admit, he is a little eccentric but his methods are superb. "

    Being reprimanded like that Xenos had not much more to say and could only accept it. To start bargain was not something he actually dared. In light of this he said, " Please contact me, once he arrives. We will take our leave. "

    Maolin had listened with his every pore and though he was curious in what way a noble person, like a Head of a Tower, could be eccentric, he only bowed deeply and followed Xenos out of the tower.

    " Only three days and he will be fine. ", he spoke out loud with a bright grin.

    He walked a few more steps, before he noticed Xenos had halted. " What is it? ", he asked when he saw Xenos absent state.

    " Um, nothing... Three days.. I do not want to crush your hopes, but it won't be like a finger snip and everything is fixed. ", Xenos said in low tone. " How long it will actually take him to heal and if he will be able to ever cultivate again is not clarified. "

    Maolin's high spirit was crushed. In silence he stared at Xenos, but his empty eyes appeared to look right through him.

    Xenos stepped forward, gripped Maolin's shoulder and said, " Do not over-think it for now. Return and look if he woke up. "

    Maolin nodded, but did not forget to express his sincerity, " The lengths you go... Alone the price you paid must... If there is any chance in the future I will repay you for this magnanimous deed! ", he said and fell to his knees, performing the most respectful ritual he knew. Never in his life was he so grateful!

    " Enough of this. I did it for your grandson not for you. Don't forget that! ", Xenos said with narrowed eyebrows and a red face. Something bothered him. He liked the kid and this man... It was stirring his insides, but the Headmasters words he had not forgotten.

    " I... I will return than. ", Maolin said with an awkward face.

    While he left the city, through the northern gate and returned to the Starlight School, he pondered about this odd reaction. Something about it bothered him a lot. Sincere thanks and a ritual of respect is something most people do not meet with anger.

    In his thoughts he stepped back into the dimly lit room Shen lay in. A groan finally woke him and his eyes cleared. Two pair of eyes met his. Valery had her fist in the air, while Shen had his arms raised in a poor attempt to defend himself.

    " He is an idiot and I am giving his medicine. ", Valery suddenly snapped, gave Shen another glare, stamped her foot, before she ran out of the room.

    Maolin watched her run off. " What did you do? ", he asked confused.

    " Why do I think I did something... ", Shen spoke, obviously frustrated. " She came in, asked me how I am doing. When I said that I can't move my legs she started hitting me... "

    " Are you sure that was all you said? "

    Shen pondered for a moment, " I asked her, who won the fight too. The snake or the bird, but nothing else. "

    Maolin shook his head and sat down to the side of the bed. " Shen in three days a Runewalker will come to heal you, but... it is uncertain how long it will take. "

    " I can be healed? ", Shen said and would have jumped up out of joy, but his feet didn't quite want to join in on the fun. Since stuck on the bed, he asked, " Runewalker? "

    " You remember the organisation I told you about, the Tower of Runes? "

    " Yes, they were the people wearing odd cloaks, right? "

    " Correct. One of their people will come. He is even of the 4th Tier. You have to absolutely promise me to be polite and to thank your master since he made this possible! "

    A 4th Tier Runewalker...

    " This is good. ", he slowly said, yet he turned his head away and stared at the wall. " Grandfather my... Spiritual Rings are gone.. "

    " For now what counts is to heal you. Everything else is left for the future. "

    Shen looked back into his grandfathers face and found a comforting smile. It calmed him in so many ways. The one thing he could always count on, his grandfather. He himself didn't know, but deep within Maolin was the most precious thing to him and it was his biggest shame to have gotten himself hurt, just when he thought he had made him proud.

    They stayed in the room and Maolin helped Shen with his daily tasks, which turned out to be quite taxing if you couldn't walk. Lydus visited the next day and informed them, he would leave the city for some time.

    Maolin had asked for what reason, but as expected he hadn't gotten an answer. His curiosity was once again unsatisfied. There were many things in his head, but one unexpected thing started to bother him. Shen was Shen, but he acted.. odd. From time to time, he could swear he saw something flash through his eyes and at other times he acted out of character. He concluded his eyes were tricking him and the whole situation would naturally lead to changes.

    But nothing much occurred otherwise. Since Valery had entered the school, it was a short trip to Shen and she stopped by another time and learned from the good news. She looked delighted about them and meant she would come by again when Shen is fixed, so she doesn't feel bad to beat a cripple. Maolin had laughed, but Shen didn't look forward to it. He anticipated she really will beat him up and he could just pray for one of her random mood changes.

    The third night was calm. Shen slept already, while the only person strolling around was Maolin. Tomorrow was a very important day and whatever the outcome, he had to have a plan. Muttering to himself he stared in the sky, watching the third moon raise. His feelings were in a turmoil and at some point they pulled together and a fright shot through his body. He took a deep breath and returned to the room. The flour empty as always, the moon light flickered through the windows. He pushed open Shen's door and stepped within.

    In his eye winkle a shadow moved. He opened his mouth and felt a sudden pain in his chest. Light foot steps distancing themself, entered his ears. He staggered backwards into the flour and fell. He touched his chest and held his hands up. The moon light illuminated the dark red blood on his hands.


    Busy week... Will try to step up updates <.<
  • Chpter Sixteen

    " Hohoho, dead man? Noooohoho not dead, not dead... Good or bad, bad or good, tonight. Tonight... tonight... ", a man muttered about and fell in deep thought. " GOOD ", he suddenly yelled apparently delighted about his choice.

    He got to work and after a while he started muttering again, " Year, year, year more can not do. But odd, so odd... "

    Maolin laid on the cool stone. Only now his eyelids fluttered and a moment later he stared into a face so close he could see every pore and a horrible odour struck his nose. " Who ", was the only speech he was capable of.

    " Who? whohohoho ", the man repeated with a grin and suddenly laughed loudly, " Hohoho.. Saviour I am! "

    Taken by surprise Maolin crawled backwards and an intense pain filled his body. He swiftly grabbed his chest, but beside the pain, nothing was there. Relieved he cleared his mind of the fatigue and looked back to the man, but a large pool of blood caught his attention.

    The man followed his eyes and stared at the blood, " You shall not drink! "

    Maolin thoroughly irritated, looked back to him, " What the... Shen, why... "

    " Shen, Shen, Shen. ", the man repeated and heavily nodded. " Boy yet not boy, weak yet not weak, sane yet crazy. "

    Maolin was about to open his mouth, when another figure appeared in the flour. Xenos ran towards them. He stopped heavily breathing, " I just got informed. Welcome Head of the Tower, Fengzi. I... " Taking in the picture he asked, " Maolin? What happened? "

    " Shen.. ", he said once again and Xenos left him no time, as he already rushed in the room. A short moment later he came back out. " Where is he? Who attacked you? "

    Fengzi kneeled on the ground and watched the situation with great joy. As Xenos asked, he saw his chance, jumped up and screamed into his ear, " Boy, boy, boy! "

    Xenos nearly lost his soul of fright and his face took a scarlet red, while Fengzi fell on his back and rolled about releasing his nerve bugging laugh.

    " Shen... attacked me. ", Maolin finally managed to say.

    " What? ", Xenos said and his irritation might have reached his life's apex. " Shen can't even walk, how can he attack you? And why even.. "

    " I don't... ", Maolin said with great pain in his soul. " But there must be... a reason. You have to... find him. ", he said barely able to get a full sentence together.

    Xenos stared at him and thought, but no logical answer crossed his mind, " Where did he go? "

    " I.. ", Maolin tried to say, yet Fengzi giggled around again, before he yelled, " Feel, feel, can you not FEEL! "

    Xenos gave him a look as he would soon rip him to pieces, " Once in your damn life, give an... " The ground vibrated, the moonlight flickered and Xenos stepped to the window. A figure stood in the middle of the schools main-square. Black signs danced in the sky.

    " Shen, what is he... ", Xenos stuttered and opened the window, directly jumping through it, heading for the main-square. He stopped at the edge, blood-red eyes met his. He tried to take a step forward, but something kept him from advancing. His eyes fell on the ground were black signs threw off dark dust. Only the outlines could be seen the rest of the square was covered in darkness.

    The red eyes stared at him for a moment longer, before Shen continued whatever he was doing. One sign after another hovered into the sky and the vibration in the ground grew stronger with each one.

    " Hohoho, Soul strength, all mighty Soul strength. ", Fengzi appeared beside Xenos and muttered to himself.

    " Fengzi ", Xenos slowly said. " These signs are Runes, right? And what is he doing and why do I feel tremendous disgust from each one? "

    " Obvious, obvious! Boy not boy! Possessed! Dark Runes! Must take soul, must win soul, must live! "

    " Possessed? Dark Runes? You mean the language of Diyu? ", but got no answer. Intensely he instead stared at the signs. He had seen the Headmaster, the Fairy and occasional people of the Tower of Runes work, but what he saw right now frightened him. Every sign felt like a mighty existence beyond his understanding.

    " Hohoho, finished! I think, I guess, I KNOW! "

    The shadows on the ground started rotating, the symbols in the sky suddenly erupted in speed, only gods could follow with their eyes, but as fast as the sudden change had erupted as fast it had calmed down. The darkness on the ground had pulled together covering Shen, while the symbols in the sky formed a... door?

    Shen.. no. A laughter shrill, crazy, simply absolute mad resounded on the square. " AT LONG LAST! ", a sound blasted over the grounds. A sound so dark and evil it made everyone shudder.

    Xenos ignored all the students streaming out of the school and the teachers who called for an explanation. He did not even notice Fengzi who silently sat down, with an orb in his hand. Little runes started rotating around it.

    The sky between the signs, which formed the gate, broke slowly apart. A light white yet not white, colourless but bright, beyond any live could understand, shone upon the Starlight School. Every person had a comforting soul-stirring feeling from their hearths and it was impossible for them to shift their eyes.

    A vague shadow of a chain formed between Shen and the gate. Gradually it appeared to pull something out of the gate and with every little distance it over-came, the mad laughter grew louder.

    A figure stepped on the platform. The signs had pulled directly to Shen's body and lost its restricting momentum at the edge. Maolin ran like his life would depend on it. His speed slow, nearly falling every few steps, he ran towards Shen, when a change occurred in the sky. The white light dissolved, the gate simply disappeared, the signs shattered and the mad laughter chocked. After a moment a hellish scream filled the air, a scream no one would believe a human can make.

    Finally Maolin arrived, only a few steps from Shen he halted. An arm penetrated his chest. " What.. ", a voice gnarled and red eyes stared at Maolin. " Did you do? "

    " WHAT DID YOU DO!!! ", the voice screamed into his face.

    Another person appeared behind Shen and touched his back with a little white orb, " Seal, seal, seal... nasty shall not be! "

    Shens' eyes cleared the red disappeared instantly. He stared in his grandfathers eyes, seeing them slowly lose their sight.

    " Shen.. ", Maolin said and spit a mouthful of blood. A light smile crossed his lips, " I am proud... never forget... "

    Shens' eyes slowly fell on his out stretched arm. It pierced his grandfathers chest, masses of blood flooded down and when he looked back up, his grandfathers head had already sunk. Motionless, emotionless, nothing in the world was of any meaning. It didn't matter why he is here, it didn't matter where he is, it didn't matter that hundreds of people stared at him.

    His arm grew weak and as it sank so did the still warm body of his grandfather. A flame passed his ear and his knees caved in. He dropped on the ground and watched his grandfathers body burn to ashes.

    " Not good staying. Not good at all. We leave, we must leave. ", Fengzi muttered and Shen felt someone drag him up on his feet. He was forced to walk, but there was actually no resistance in his body or soul. The mind a blank he only stopped his advancement at the edge of the square, as he stared back on the nearly gone body.

    " No good. You move. ", Fengzi said and tried to make him move again. " Man dead. Soul at peace. ", he said but Shen didn't budge. " You boy innocent! Other thing killed. Not your fault! "

    It stirred his blank mind. " Not my fault? ", he muttered. " NOT MY FAULT? ", he screamed, what turned into a howling filled with indescribable pain, until his mind blanked completely.

    " Better so... To noisy... ", Fengzi said and heaved the unconscious Shen on his shoulder.

    A step was as far as he got. Xenos had moved in front of him. " Fengzi what do you think you are doing? "

    " Taking boy... ", he plainly said.

    " You can't... "

    It was the first time something changed on Fengzi. His presence broken out and Spiritual Energy flooded his veins.

    " You! "

    " Head of Tower! Move or die! "

    Xenos eyebrows stiffened. With no choice he stepped aside and let Fengzi run away. The onlookers would have laughed, over Fengzi's odd way to run, but no one felt like laughing, especially one girl had tears stream down her face. Valery had been one of the first that had run out and saw Shen with his red eyes. The laughter, the sound of his voice scared her, but the look he had when the red eyes disappeared and he saw his grandfather. A moment engraved in her mind so deeply, tears were pouring the moment she recalled it.

    ...........

    Shen awoke a long time later. Cold, grey and rough stone were lightened up by the light of red dancing flames. The light directly poured memories into his mind. Shocked he sat up and looked around. A cave with a little fire.

    My chest?

    He looked down, the large scar still there, but when he looked at his feet, they actually moved.

    Healed... Grandfather... it was definitely a nightmare!!!

    " Grandfather. ", he yelled with all of his soul and listened intensely. His voice echoed in the cave.

    " Yell not yell. Dangerous to yell! ", a voice answered and a man wandered into the cave.

    " Where is my... ", but he lost his voice in the middle. " Who are you ? ", he instead asked.

    " Fengzi my name. Head, no no no, once all mighty Head of the Tower! "

    Once Head of the Tower?

    Shen wanted to grab his head in confusion, but his hands halted midway.

    The right arm was covered in a dark red substance.

    BLOOD??? Did all this really happen, did I... NO IMPOSSIBLE!!!

    He crawled backwards with his left arm and stretched his right arm from his body as far as he could. " GRANDFATHER WHERE ARE YOU!! ", Shen's desperate voice thundered in the cave. Fengzi appeared abruptly in front of him and touched his head. " Soooo noisy, not good... "

    Shen felt something force itself into his mind, he tried to resist, but he passed out again.

    Fengzi touched his chest and shook his head. " No good. Seal growing weak! Must reach Sage, all mighty Sage will know! "


    ------------------------------------------

    I hope you enjoyed the chapter. If you want, you could leave a comment how you think of the story for now. Or voice if something annoys you, or you like etc. Only with some critic i can improve my story or writing. Thanks for reading!



  • Chapter Seventeen

    Large stone pillars surrounded a round table. An ancient scent hung in the air and everywhere nature sprawled, submerging the area in a chaotic, yet beautiful sight.

    An old man leaned on a crooked rod, staring at the boy on the table. Fengzi obediently kneeled behind this man and waited patiently. For a while they stayed, as they were and if they hadn't breathed, you could mistake them as a part of the scenery.

    " Fengzi, you did well. ", the old man spoke in a faint, but over-bearing voice. " With the scripture you stole, we can soon start the procedure. "

    " Fengzi did well! Fengzi smart as ever! All mighty Sage acknowledged! "

    " Did well, indeed. After thirty years, I must admit I had some doubts, but you succeeded. Now the Tower of Runes will soon fall. ", the man said and a barely noticeable smile appeared.

    " Boy, boy, what should do? ", Fengzi asked and looked up. The old man didn't answer and Fengzi shivered lightly, before he couldn't resist his urge and spoke again, " Do, do, should... "

    The man turned his head and gave him a look. Fengzi sank down to the ground, " Many sorrys, many apologies, me Fengzi, me mad, forgive, please forgive! "

    " When I opened your eyes, I named you Fengzi. Never forget who your master is. If you don't want me to make you experience it again, do not speak, if I don't want you too. "

    " Yes, yes ", Fengzi said gratefully, but realised his mistake and quickly threw his hands in front of his mouth. After nothing happened he slowly looked back up and saw the old man still stare at him. A moment passed, before the man shifted his eyes back on the boy.

    " Two souls... or rather one soul and one fragment... the fragment holds a frightening strength, way beyond the complete soul.... Yet the heavens themselves dictate the superiority. A fragment will never be able to compare to a complete soul. "

    The old man fell back into silence, while Fengzi did his best to restrain himself, but with his personality it would not last. He was at the breaking-point when the old man talked again, " What to do... Fengzi... take the boy into the White Mountains. The seal I set will last for three days. "

    Fengzi had listened and couldn't understand the intention behind it, " Very powerful, very dangerous, very useful maybe! "

    " As I said, the fragment can't be a standalone. It would have weakened in the first place, but with what it did, it nearly lost everything it had. Whatever it tried it couldn't succeed and a fragment can not recover. This boy's appearance is most likely publicized while we speak. The Language of Diyu was clearly recognizable. The Tower of Runes will do everything to eliminate him and since you carried him off, they will first try to get information out of him. He doesn't have any, but let's not gamble. It is a sinful thing to murder a child, so let it simply do the beasts. "

    " Boy really not useful? "

    The old man turned around and walked slowly into the woods, " What was special about him is soon gone. His talent is low, his soul weak, nothing useful about him. "

    " Fine, fine, Fengzi will do as master wishes. Fengzi a good servant! ", he said and kneeled one more time, bowing towards the woods.

    He approached the table and picked Shen up and wandered too, into the woods, " Boy, boy... Shen? Grandfather... should not have used as decoy, bad Fengzi... really bad Fengzi... "

    The seal broke and dissipated. Shen's body illuminated the dark forest for a moment, before blood-red eyes flared up in the darkness. The body shot up and an inhuman mumble filled the air, " Bastard, bastard, this body and this bastard... What happened, everything was perfect, why than... "

    The red eyes shifted on the large scar on his chest and travelled on towards his hand. His right forefinger's nail pierced the left hand's skin and blood started flowing, slowly dripping onto the ground. The mind was fully immersed on the flow and some time passed, until a little pool of blood had formed. His hand moved and a sign formed, shifting between white and black, but half-way done, he was interrupted.

    The head was about to split. His existence suddenly suppressed. An anguished cry left his lungs. The hands pressed against the head and the body heavily shook. When the pain grew weaker, he started muttering, " That I would nearly lose to a soul this weak. Barely time left... This must be done quickly. "

    He finished the sign, but with every second the pain had grown stronger, just for a moment it disappeared, when his entire existent was focused on the sign falling into the blood.

    Upon touching the blood it ripped apart. The first time the blood-red eyes appeared to have lost most of its colour. " Cu.. cursed? ", he first faintly muttered, an unbelief written in his very existence. " CURSED BY THE HEAVENS??? ", he screamed. " NO, no, this is not possible! He is just a child, why would... It can not be! His ancestors, I shouldn't have killed this old man. He appeared to know more than he told this idiot... "

    He stared towards the north. " The countless pains I suffered, the countless hardships I overcame. I can not fail. They have to perish in my hands, all of them! " The pain suddenly spiked and another hellish scream echoed in the woods. The head pressed on the cold ground, the eyes over-turned and his entire body twisted in pain.

    An eye lost its colour. One red, one green, one filled with hatred, one filled with despair.

    " GO AWAY ", Shen roared, while the other thing screamed in pain. " BASTARD "

    But Shen did not give up. He was in a corner for so long, lonely, frightened and he had cowered from the thing locking him up, but at this point he only wanted back, back to the light. His soul started to attack the fragment with no hope, yet when he felt it to actually grow weaker, his resolve shot straight through the sky.

    " ARRHHHH DON'T... DIE!!! MY REVENGE!!! ", the hellish voice howled and the red light flickered in the right eye and faded. Shen bathed in sweat lay on the ground staring into the sky.

    One deep breath after another made him realise how great it was to be in his body, to be in control!

    Is it gone now?

    Just as this thought crossed his mind, he tasted another attack on his soul, an attack many times stronger, than the struggle he had gone through, but he spotted where it came from. His soul struggled, yet failed to fully defend itself.

    A voice echoed in his mind, " Since this part will fade, take this. Do not die! "

    The fragment seeped into Shen's soul and dissipated. Shen felt the fragment finally disappear and with it, his last string of will faded. He closed his eyes and the dark forest finally fell silent.

    But the tranquillity of the forest was soon broken by rustle and light steps. Several pairs of eyes gleamed in the shadows, approaching their meal. Shen could not move, the fight had just drawn upon his very soul, a strength, that once depleted can even mean death.

    His eyes shut, he could only hear the sound of heavy breaths closing in on him. Closer and closer they drew. He could smell the stench, but could do nothing, beside wait. Something was torn, torn apart. A ripping sound, that drove a cold shiver down Shen's spine. Desperate and pain filled howls filled the air. He took his last strength and gradually opened one eye. With his vision clouded, he could see a white shadow rush past. The eye fell shut again and after a few moments he fell into an abyssal slumber.

    One moon sank after another, gradually making room for the day to start. A light flickered in the horizon, submerging the white sky in a bright golden colour. Shen's mind dragged itself out of the deep pit his condition had sent him in. A finger twitched, the eyes flickered and he woke. His head hurt, his body was wet and ice-cold. He sat up, rubbed his head, where it had laid on the ground. Shivering he opened his eyes and his soul shuddered.

    The ground, the trees and even he himself was covered in dry blood. Flesh you couldn't tell its original form off, lay everywhere.

    Shen sighed, shook his head and muttered, " Every time.. Every time I wake up... Maybe everything is a dream after all... "

    He pinched his arm and clearly he felt the light pain, but he did not stop, instead strengthened the pinch, until his flesh turned pale-white and the pain had to be absolutely real.

    Staring at the red mark at his arm, a tear after another fell, " Grandfather "

    " It killed him... It killed him using my body, using my arm... ", he said and searched the spot he had felt its presence, but nothing was there. He clearly remembered the moment as it entered his existence, his soul and drove him into a corner.

    When grandfather came towards me, I couldn't stop it... Why couldn't I stop it...

    Shen took his knees between his arms and silently sobbed. He didn't know what to feel, he didn't know what to do. The first thing he did, when he could suppress the teas was to look around again. For a forest it was unnatural silent, and it didn't look like his forest, taken aside the masses of blood and flesh.

    Something killed these creatures and left me alive. Ripped apart, yet not eaten? Grand... He said that animals hunt to eat, this is their instinct, even beasts will not just kill each other. Someone protected me?

    His eyes searched the surroundings, but found nothing. He yelled, " Is there someone? " No one answered and his head sunk.

    Alone in a dark forest. What should I do? Grandfather, I was weak, maybe it was not me, but the thing was in me and I couldn't fight it. I was so.. why did I not try to fight it like I did now.

    A memory passed his sight. A man with a smile, " Shen... I am proud... never forget... "

    " Why did he say... I... It was my arm... ", he muttered. " I KILLED YOU WHY ARE YOU PROUD ", he screamed into the sky. A pain, he could not ignore, he could not defend against, a pain that tightened his heart and tore his soul.

    When no tears were left to be shed, he just lay on the bloody ground. His eyes fixated on something that wasn't there. After a while a frightening voice, Shen despised above everything else in this world, echoed in his soul, " Since this part will fade, take this. Do not die! "

    He abruptly sat up, " It disappeared, don't tell me it is not gone?! "

    He closed his eyes and concentrate his all on his body and soul, searching every corner he could reach, but the feeling was gone, there was only two memories left. A man with red eyes staring into a mirror, endless hatred raging within him, passed his mind and this book.

    The Wrath of Heaven a path against the Heavens themselves. Wait what?

    Startled his eyes opened, the signs were as clear as ever, but he understood them now.

    " Do not die? do not die... ", he mumbled unceasingly. He stopped his whispers and stood up and walked, without an aim, deeper into the forest.

    Every step helped him, every step he felt better, but nothing more than a corner that resembled the cliff at home was needed to throw him back. Memories of his grandfather one after another flashed up in his mind. An unstoppable storm of feelings filled him and his walk turned into a run and from a run into a sprint.

    With everything he had, he just ran. Nothing could stop him, bushes ripped his shirt part, branches scratched his skin, but he did not care. A moving shadow appeared, between the trees, in the distance and he ran directly towards it. The shadow grew and grew, until he was merely a few steps away. A beast two meters tall, brown fur and dark small eyes.

    The beast was vaguely irritated. Something ran towards it with such a tumult. It had actually been scared and when it now discovered it was just this... anger brewed up. It bared its teeth, stood up on two legs and roared loudly.

    Shen stared at it and did not move. The beast fell back on its four legs. When Shen still hadn't moved, it truly was enraged and sprinted for him. It opened its mouth and a white shadow flashed passed it. Blood splattered, the beast's head flew through the air, yet the body took another few steps, before it fell and landed in front of Shen's feet.



  • Chapter Eighteen

    Unmoved Shen stared at the body. A headless body, a life ended without the owner even noticing. A few weeks ago he couldn't have imagined seeing a life end or to take someone's existence, but it was him, his arm that took his grandfathers life. His attitude, his way of thought had taken a hit it might not recover from.

    Lost without a person to count on, lost alone in unknown woods filled with beasts, lost without an aim he had run. Maybe in his heart he wished to end it all, maybe he knew it would not end, he wasn't sure. His hands gripped tightly, before he glared towards the direction the white flash disappeared to.

    " Why ", he said. " Why are you protecting me? "

    As before, the thing hidden in the shadows, did not respond.

    Something really is.. protecting me.

    Unexpected coldness gripped his heart. " What if there hadn't been anything. ", he muttered. " I would have just... ", yet the last words were stuck in his throat.

    He sank to the ground, a face irritated, a madness over-came him. The world he didn't appreciate did turn into a prison of loneliness, something he could not change. At last, it was his stomach. Hunger something beyond the point any living being can resist. A desire he followed and focused on.

    His eyes fell on the body. To start a fire, he would need the stones he had at home and honestly it did not matter. He just wanted to satisfy his desire. A few steps and he stared at the massive body. Nothing to cut, he just bit into the warm flesh.

    His mouth suddenly burned, his throat was set ablaze and something pushed him over. He fell to the ground and spit the blood out of his mouth, but the raging flames of pain remained.

    Something gnarled, " Can you stop trying to kill yourself. It makes my objective, fairrrly difficult. "

    The burning sensation in Shen's mouth and throat hadn't lessened, but the sound of a voice, was something he so desperately wished for, that he forgot the pain he was in. His body turned to the voice and a large beast stood in front of him. A long nose, sharp teeth and short erect ears, a grey-white fur covering its body. A bag hanging on his neck and its black beady eyes stared at him.

    Shen coughed several times. " You, you can speak! "

    " Ignorrrant human! "

    " Huh, why are you protecting me? You said something about an objective. "

    " Stop trying to kill yourself, or I will eat you. ", the beast growled and was about to leave, when Shen's stomach released a rumble that might as well have been mistaken as a beast roar.

    The beady eyes shifted on Shen again. Annoyed it growled," Beast meat is toxic, your body can not handle it. "

    " But there is nothing else. ", Shen answered frustrated.

    The beast turned around and trotted into the woods, " Follow me. "

    Without a second thought he followed the beast. It kept quite the distance at all times, but stayed slow enough for Shen to follow. On the way a realisation struck Shen.

    Two weeks ago I badly wanted to see beasts and now one leads me, while another died in front of me. How strong is this beast? And it feels stupid to call it beast, it can talk after all, is it even a beast?

    " Grey what are you and how strong are.. "

    The beast had halted a dangerous air filled the atmosphere. It turned around, lowered its head and slowly walked towards him. It bared its teeth and growled in a deep voice, " Do I look like... "

    It stopped right in front of Shen, head-to-head, it dark beady eyes penetrating Shen's. " Do I look like a pet you can just name! ", it barked.

    Stunned Shen took a step back, " I just.. "

    " You just what! ", it barked again. " Humans are all the same, the most vile of all creatures. Thinking themselves above anything and anyone. "

    " I am! ", Shen whispered and shifted his eyes to the side.

    " You really think you stand above me? ", the beast growled in a threatening deep voice.

    Their sights collided, but Shen was not arrogant, he instead wear a firm look like he would take a fight if necessary. " I am vile, you are right! ", he yelled. " I killed my grandfather, I myself killed him! But I never thought I am above anything... "

    The beast fell silent. Who would try to be so stubborn, who would try to be so convincing about having killed his grandfather and the relief in his eyes..

    " Fine, call me Grey. ", he growled and wandered into the distance again. He trotted slowly for Shen to keep up. " Fengzi mumbled something about a grandfather. But that crazed person never talks straight. That scene before really was scary. Fengzi you bastard what kind of assignment is this. "

    Grey followed his nose and soon spotted a suited place. A small, calm waterfall from one of the mountain wells created a little lake. Shen followed him out of the woods and fell face forward into the lake. When there was no air left and he filled himself with the fresh clear water, a horrible noise of sharp things scratching on stone sounded.

    He followed the noise, walking along the lake and found Grey digging a hole into the wall behind the waterfall. " What are you doing? "

    " If you stay in the open i won't get any sleep. You stay in there. ", Grey barked as he finished. " I get something to eat. "

    " Thank you. ", Shen muttered, but Grey only snorted and disappeared into the woods.

    Shen stared at the entrance to the small cave, but caught his reflection in the water. He was a bloody mess. The cloth ripped and about to fall off, the hair clued together with blood and dirt as of the rest of the body, it wasn't any better.

    It took him a while, yet in the end he could not see himself in the reflection. He threw off his cloth and stepped into the cool water. The clear water he bathed in turned red, he watched the red colour fade.

    Like it never happened.

    The entire time his right arm had stayed above the water. He stared at it for a long time, before he stepped out of the water. The tattered shirt was gripped and ripped apart. A long string of cloth was left. He took it, tipped it into the water and started to carefully rub off the blood on his arm. Time silently passed and his movement found a harmony with the drizzling on the rocks. The last drop of blood was carefully cleaned off, when he then laid it onto a stone.

    He walked back into the water and started washing his right arm, he rubbed it for an eternity, but the heavy feeling it had, never disappeared. The one thing barely intact was his short. He washed it too and then carefully picked up the strife of cloth, binding it around his arm.

    This is all i have left...

    The trees rustled in the wind, as a snap noise entered Shen's ear. He turned around with an expectation. A beast had stepped out of the woods. It resembled Grey, but had a brown fur and was slightly smaller.

    Grey isn't back yet, but how can I fight a beast?

    Without a choice, he formed a weird fist with his right hand, preparing a wind blast. Back than it took him half a minute to prepare it. This time the sphere in his hand created a storm around his hand, a suction visible to the eye. Caught off guard the sphere broke apart and the blast send him flying back.

    The beast hadn't moved, but when it saw its prey fall on its back, it dashed. Shen had no time to think or move. One thought crossed his mind and he stretched his hand to the side, instantly another sphere formed and exploded, blasting him to the side. He rolled for several meters and jumped up as fast as he could.

    A light dizziness filled his head. Irritated the beast turned around and ran again towards him. It was a matter of a second, when Shen fell back, barely dodged a claw and stretched his hand out, touching the beast's chest. Instantly an orb formed, sucked in air and exploded between his hand and the beast's chest. It was burst away, flying through the air and crashed into the ground, but Shen wasn't able to handle the backfire at all. His arm had been dislocated and his dizziness grew several times over.

    This was not a fight in a ring, where everything ended, when he got it out of the ring. This was a battle devoid of all rules. The beast recovered and did not look overly injured. But its first taste of this weird attack filled it with caution. It slowly circled Shen, when it was absolutely certain about his weak condition, it tried again and dashed for him.

    An abrupt roar shook the air and the beast,mid run, jumped to the side. Facing the direction the sound had come from. Grey had returned with a dead animal clenched between his teeth. He dropped it and growled as he suddenly flashed over the ground. The disparity was unbelievable. Grey tore the beast, Shen couldn't even scratch, to pieces with as it looked like, no effort at all.

    Grey with blood all over his mouth, trotted back to Shen, " Why are you not in the CAVE! "

    With the dizziness clouding his vision Shen did his best to stay awake. " I wanted too, when the beast came out of nowhere. "

    His muddled eyes weren't missed by Grey and he laid his palm on Shen's head. " You over used your Soul strength.. What did you do? "

    " My Soul strength? ", Shen repeated. " I just used my Wind Blast, but something was wrong it happened way to fast and I lost control every time. "

    Grey's beady eyes inspected Shen for quite a while, when his head blurred. Shen screamed out, grabbing his arm. The dislocated arm was fixed and the pain flattened with the second.

    The moment he realised this all, Grey already dragged the animal body over. He pulled the bag of his neck, threw it to Shen and said, " Eat and go sleep in the cave. " Than he laid down in the sun, but his eyes stayed vigilant and mostly on Shen's body.

    Shen opened the bag and found a knife and two stones. One white, one black. " Firestones and a knife! ", Shen called out delighted. It was really everything he could have asked for.

    Quite sluggish he proceeded to collect fire wood. The dizziness was heavy, but his hunger was at a fatal stage. A full hour to get the fire going and another half hour until he got some burned meat. The black piece of flesh was most likely the worst thing he ate in his life, yet it tasted great.

    With his stomach filled, he laid down in the cold, wet cave and fell asleep. The sun sunk, the moons rose and sank again. Like a clockwork Shen awoke to the first day light and left the cave with a bad shiver.

    Grey still laid at the same spot like a stone. " You are awake. ", he growled. " Show me your Wind Blast. "

    My Wind Blast?

    Confused Shen stared a Grey, rubbed his eyes. " One moment. ", he said and started running around, before he stretched his numb limbs. Once he completed his exercise, he stretched his hand out. Shen tried it this time in an absolute calm situation. The orb formed, but the air was again thrown into dismay, the suction way beyond the point of control and it blasted apart sending him flying.

    Grey hadn't moved and just laid on the ground, but his feelings were in a turmoil. He waited for Shen to stand back up, before he said, " You use your Soul strength to draw in Spiritual Energy to form this orb and then proceed to draw in air, correct? "

    My Soul strength? I just do it like I always did..

    " Concentrate on only forming the orb. ", grey casually ordered.

    " Only form the orb? ", Shen repeated surprised. Without a clue what use it was, he tried. His hand stretched out the orb formed, but when he didn't switch to draw in the air, the orb in his hand suddenly grew rapidly.

    Grey appeared out of thin air and pushed him over. The orb stayed in midair for a moment, before it splintered. A wave of Spiritual Energy was released striking Grey who protected Shen from it.

    He stared at Shen, " You have no control at all. " And walked back to his sunny spot laying down.

    " I always did it like that. It stopped, well actually I couldn't get it stronger than it was. ", Shen said and stared at his hand.

    " Normally a soul of a mortal is weak. An easy task to learn the basic control and build a foundation. Yours on the other hand is too strong, you lose control. "

    Shen looked up, " Too strong. What should I do? "

    " You do your Wind Blast thing as you learned it. ", Grey said and put down his head on the ground. " You form the orb, once you can control the orb, you draw in the air. "

    A thought crossed Grey's mind and his head shot up again, " Do not try to build your foundation. You will die! "

    Shen felt a familiar look. A sever stare and he nodded.

    Grandfather you always told me, how beasts are monsters... Not all of them Grandfather.

    A smile crossed Shen's face. He always loved to prove his grandfather wrong. He shook of the heavy feeling rising in his heart and proceeded forming one orb after another, while Grey kept dashing to protect him, whenever necessary. Days passed, weeks passed and months did pass.



  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Nineteen

    " You really arrre a hopeless case. ", Grey growled, but his soul was shivering. Over the past seven months Shen had not succeeded to create a stable orb to be filled with air, but the aftermath of the failure had increased dramatically. Grey always protected Shen, yet lately he barely was able to endure the wave that struck him afterwards.

    " Grey... Are you really sure? ", Shen asked frustrated for the millionth time. " Nothing there, thought I agrrree that there is something wrong. ", he answered as always. Shen had early noticed that something was off. It did not feel like he lost control, but rather a part he simply couldn't control and it grew stronger.

    Shen raised his arm prepared to try again, yet an uncomfort spread. " Grey when I woke up today... ", Shen started, but stopped. " It felt... I can't describe it, but my hair stands erect since then and I have an odd feeling in my stomach. "

    " It is not just you. Listen ", Grey answered mysteriously.

    Shen gave him a look, before he closed his eyes. The wind howled, the trees rustled, but everything else laid in silence. No bird chirped its hearts melody, no beast growled in domination, a world depleted of life. A tingling, a pressure replaced the normally calm sky and land. Something was rising in a place they could not see.

    After a while Grey faintly growled, " The silence before a great storm. "

    " The silence before a storm. ", Shen repeated and stared into the blue sky. " Grandfather often told me stories. The time, the moment, a great war approached he used this. I never thought it is this intense. "

    " It is fearful. I myself can not say, that I have lived to feel this before. It fills everrry corner, my verrry body, my heart and soul, without doubt this will change the world as we know it... "

    Seven months passed, yet this was the first time Grey showed a kind of nervousness. When Grey spotted an impudent gaze sitting on him, he snorted unhappily and laid his head down. An amused snicker reverberated, as Shen sat down and took his legs between his arms. " What kind of war? "

    " I do not know. ", Grey muttered. " An unrest envelops the land and the sky. So heavy. It looks grrreater than what I know of. "

    " What do you know? ", curious Shen inquired, but was ignored. " Do you think Starlight City will be involved ? ", he then asked instead.

    " Starlight City? " Grey shifted his head towards the west and said, " It will. And it won't be a small matter. With the entirrre southern defence of Samsara gathered close to the place, a battlefield beyond most other areas. "

    I couldn't yet..

    " What is your objective Grey? ", he suddenly asked.

    A question he hadn't asked at all. It could hold an answer he didn't want to hear. But it was important!

    Taken by surprise Grey inspected Shen's change. " My objective is to keep you alive. ", Grey answered without any intention to dodge the subject.

    " You won't let me leave this place? "

    " This is the safest place I can imagine. ", Grey growled now. " Why would you want to leave? "

    " I want to... ", Shen firmly started. " visit the place.. ", he tried to say, but his words drowned in his throat. He tightly gripped the piece of cloth on his arm. A familiar smile lightened his soul and he calmed himself. " The place my grandfather died at. "

    The cloth glides of his arm and he pinched it in his hands. Rage and fury welled up the more he focused on it. His presence flickered and Grey had a shudder shake his body.

    " Where did he take his last brrreath? ", Grey asked in a low tone.

    The focus faded but instantly and with it the feelings dispersed. Astonished Shen answered, " On the main-square of Starlight School. "

    Grey rose from the ground, but did not say anything or move. A vacant gaze penetrating something Shen could not see. " Let's go "

    If Shen was astonished at first, then he was now thoroughly confused. Grey had told him, that he was in serious danger, because of the Tower of Runes. " But didn't you say... ", he attempted to speak and clear his doubts.

    " We won't move too close. ", Grey explained in an odd way. There was a hidden hint Shen sensed, but could not touch upon. " You can have a look from the Fallen Shrrrine in the north. "

    The covered reason Grey withheld, was not a particular new thing Shen noticed. It was something from the very beginning, something he could not form words to ask about. " Why would you help me? "

    " Why not ", he barked with a glare, remembering Shen, that he could change his thoughts. Grey watched Shen head back into the cave. " The first time he didn't say he killed his grandfather. Maybe the shadow can be disperrrsed... ", Grey muttered. " This prrresence... "

    Shen returned from the cave, nearly slipping on his path along the wet shore. He stopped in front of Grey, who gave him a dismissive look, before his front legs bowed. A bright grin shined up, as he climbed on top of his back. It was the first time he sat on Grey, actually it was the first time he touched him at all. The fur was soft and smooth, yet heavy. A truly weird thing to hold on too.

    Grey stretched his legs and adjusted to the very irritating fact of someone riding him. He gave his body a little shake, nearly throwing off Shen. " Hold on tight. ", he said and added, " If you fall off, you can walk yourrrself. "

    " I rode a spirit that can fly, I think I can handle... ", Shen spoke as Grey abruptly dashed forward. At the brink of falling Shen found a hold. With difficulty he pulled himself back and pressed his body on the fur.

    Grey released a snort, when he felt Shen's struggle. Shen's heart beat soared, the eyes in tears, he watched one, ten, a hundred trees pass them so closely he could have touched them. When he somehow adapted to the pace, he stared to the front. His heart froze on first sight. A tree they directly headed for, yet the expected collision did not occur. Only a moment passed and they dodged it without Shen even noticing. After a few more fearful situations, all trees disappeared.

    Shens' eyes lit up. They shoot through the air. He leaned up and screamed with the full of his lungs, as they fell back down in the emerald sea. The landing many times smoother than Shen had anticipated. Grey stopped in his tracks. He more casually, or rather cautiously proceeded.

    The change was so obvious, Shen couldn't resist asking, " Why did you slow down? "

    " We were in a place of the mountains, holding barrrely any strong beasts. But this is now the region, the border, between beasts and humans. ", Grey explained in a lowered voice. " Beside that you scrrreamed like an idiot! "

    Shen scratched the back of his head in shame and mumbled something indistinct. They carried on, passing through the forest without a sound. Slowly it grew lighter and the sun reached the ground between the trees. A majestic view presented itself. The sun light shimmered in the waving multi coloured leaves. Immersed in a picture only nature could draw, Shen was nearly ripped of Grey's back, when he took a sudden right. His speed peaked and nearly was double the starting pace. Shen clung onto the fur with all of his might, as every motion turned to a pull he could barely resist. They passed over a field, when Shen could see something rip out of the forest, directly coming for them.

    Grey tore around throwing Shen of his back for good. He landed on soft long grass and rolled for some distance. Uninjured he quickly stood up and stared at the figure, who now lay still. Every feature was shined upon. Three white tails topped in flames, which swung and captivated once soul. White short, brilliant fur covered its body, while its head was as red as its tails flames. Its head hung low, dark rage filled eyes and sharp fangs met the eye. 

    " Stay back! ", Grey barked threatening. The sound of his voice many times darker than normally.

    " A human riding a beast. ", snarled it. " How deep must one of our kind fall. "

    Grey's senses heightened, preparing for an unavoidable fight.

    " If you don't want to talk. ", snarled it again and shifted its eyes upon Shen and left only a shadow. Simultaneously Grey faded from Shen's sight and reappeared as he blocked the beast directly in front of Shen's body.

    The beast avoided a direct clash and retreated with a quick leap. Steadily it landed on its feet and slithered for a distance. An upset howl left its throat, " You dare protect our kinds greatest enemy! "

    Greys eyes laid cold and unwavering on the beast. " An enemy? ", he gnarled. " I just see a youngling. "

    " A youngling ", the beast snickered madly. " My brother was one too, when his throat was sliced, his fur cut off, his flesh burned and eaten. His essence stolen for what? FOR WHAT? "

    Shocked Shen observed the exchange. It actually matched Grey as it looked. There wasn't a single one capable of fighting back in the last months. They always attacked him, without a question, without restrain and tried to kill him. Without Grey, he would have died for sure. It never crossed his mind till now that Grey was acting against his own kind protecting him.

    Does he maybe hate me?

    Shen's heart tightened. The one he depended on, the one he spent so much time with. Never, not even for a second had he doubted the good intention behind Grey's actions.

    I don't believe he does. But this beast, its younger brother, for what?

    So many feelings drained him over the last few months. Sorrow, pain and a self contempt, but it was the first time he felt a kind of hatred. Unintentionally he started to ignite something within him. It was a feeling, a spark buried in his heart, when the thing took control.

    " If you won't budge by yourself, then I will make you. ", it gnarled and dashed. Their bodies blurred. One clash after another resounded and only the long grass, blown by their motions, revealed their movements. The beast tried to attack Shen over and over, but failed repeatedly. As it looked like, Grey held the upper hand. He had managed to claw at the beasts face leaving a deep cut behind.

    The pain, the beast felt, nailed the coffin. The last restraint thrown over board it grew truly enraged. With hatred bubbling in its soul, the flames on its tails grew. " Fine ", growled it and snarled on, " I will tear both of you to pieces, one or another way! "

    The head was suddenly stretched to the sky and a howl shattered the air and swiftly travelled through the forest. A glint flashed in Greys' eyes and a silver light covered his body. As he moved, not even the grass waved. The beast ducked and leaped back again, trying to gain a distance, but Greys' movements had grown unpredictable. He appeared, out of nowhere, below the beast and tugged the beast down on its leg. All of his might pressed in the movement, you could hear something rip in the beasts leg and a horrible noise of bones breaking echoed as it crashed into the ground. Prepared to end the fight Grey tore open his mouth.

    When you fight, you lose your sight. The opponent becomes an existence suppressing everything else. One wrong move, one mistake can mean death. So it always is and so it was for Grey, who only now realised the movements in the surroundings. Three similar red-headed beasts rushed for Shen.

    Shen hadn't moved since the beast had spoken. He had touched above the feeling the beasts words had filled him with. Hatred, yet the vague hatred couldn't compare to what his body shuttered about, in his sleep. The thing, not just the moment it failed, but the entirety of its existent had been... hatred.

    Unconsciously an orb formed in his hand, the former vague feeling of hatred grew to an inferno. His eyes flickered in a red light and the orb grew instantly many times over. The approaching beasts stocked in their motions and stopped. Their souls were stirred as they were suppressed and a presence struck them. Their eyes instantly lost their light and their bodies fell numb. The flickering in his eyes grew stronger, but the orb withdrew at a moderate pace. It stabilized at its intended size and then soundlessly dispersed. " Why is it... hatred. ", he muttered before Shen tilted forward into the soft grass.

    I will not! Not again...

    Shen filled the field with moans as he tried to resist the spark he ignited.

    Dumbfounded Grey stood on the incapacitated beast, both of them speechless. Another howl shook the forest and many followed. Awaken Grey immediately found his composure and didn't waste more time on the beast and instead picked up Shen, fleeing into the forest.

    " He found a moment of control. Only a moment of control to make three earthern beasts pass out? ", Grey thought shocked. A thought, that shot a cold shiver down his spine. This is unheard of, a mere mortal, with a soul beyond common understanding.



  • Chapter Twenty

    Worked a little on Chap 1 -  5 and 19... will go through the rest soon. As I write without much, well any plan, I just say since it feels like it.

    Arc One completed !

    I hope it was bearable for my first attempt :)

    If he hadn't... If he had... But in the end there is no path back. There is no medicine for regret. His way through the forest was only one of despair. He could hear his kind in his neck. But the worst was the kid he held between his fangs, constantly releasing a presence restricting his mind.

    A point was crossed, a threshold over stepped. Grey lost direction and blindly dodged the shadows in the forest. The trees grew scarce and disappeared. Grey's feet became wet and cold, icy air filled his lungs. Exhausted to the bone, he still kept running. Neither his will, nor his mind could drive him to this length. It was an objective, it was an order that drove him. An order he could only chose to fulfil.

    A cliff, an end and they fell. Grey instinctively shielded Shen by receiving the fall with his back. But this was the end for him, there was no other step to take. He released Shen and low groans reverberated in the mountain. The eyes clouded, he could just watch the snow slowly cover Shen.

    " My lady this servant has to report another failure. ", a man bowed in deep reverence in front of a woman.

    " A world and three moons... ", she softly chanted. " Yet it still does not hold a single Moonstone, this is quite frustrating. "

    " This servant... ", the man was about to say, when the woman asked out of the blue, " Do you sense them? "

    " The child and the beast? ", the servant doubted, but as she smiled, he said, " Yes I do my Lady. "

    Her white pupils followed a floating snowflake, " Isn't it odd... how they share the same fate. "

    " I have to admit my Lady. ", he said. " My eyes can not see as bright as yours. "

    " The beast has lost its freedom, while the boy is about to lose his. ", she said and took a graceful step, the snow rose and danced in the air, but the woman had disappeared.

    " My Lady is too kind. ", the servant muttered, before he disappeared too.

    With a warm smile she reappeared. Two snow hills lay to her bare feet. She stroked the air in an immortal brilliance. The snow lifted and gradually sank. Two bodies revealed, Shen and Grey.

    " My Lady. What do you wish to do? ", the servant asked. " Can I be of any help? "

    She slowly stretched out her hand. " I want to give them a chance. "

    For just a moment the world froze, the snow hovered still in the air. One ice-blue light flickered on her forefinger. The light left her finger and glided towards Grey's head, melting into it. Grey's body shook for a moment, but he stayed still on the ground.

    " The benevolence my Lady shows holds no words. ", the servant praised.

    She lowered her other hand, and touched Shen's forehead. All the suffering Shen felt faded and he woke in a place he could not recognize. A white field, taking ones breath, an illusionary beauty he could not grasp. Irritated he searched his surrounding and found a figure. Her existent felt as the field like an illusion. A celestial being transcended from the heavens.

    Shen's mind laid blank for a while as he took in a person that could not possibly exist. " Who... are you? ", he asked in veneration.

    She smiled, a smile that could steal ones soul, but just whiled without a response. A melody played in Shen's mind, " Do you know, what drives us to live? "

    A question, Shen had no answer for and the melody resumed, " Your ancestor has committed a grave sin. A deed punished with a curse. Everyone of your bloodline will be in eternal solitude, when they die. "

    Everyone of my bloodline?

    The melody had filled him and left him empty as it ended. he wished it to continue. Yet with the enchanting melody gone, he found what he really wanted to know. " My grandfather? ", he asked in fear

    " Suffers in the darkness. "

    An answer that filled him with despair. Not even the sound of the voice could over shadow this fact. The figure whiled and watched as Shen's face grew distorted and helplessness filled him.

    " Nothing is absolute. Maybe if you can grow powerful enough you can break it, or discover a method to do so. "

    Grow strong enough?

    He remembered how he has no control. How could he possibly grow powerful... " I don't think I can.. ", he whispered.

    " I can not remove the part, that seeped into you, but I can seal the connection, between the fragment and your Origin Soul. Do you wish me to do so? "

    There was no hesitation as Shen gasped, " YES "

    " Do you understand this might be an opportunity for you? "

    " You mean the strength it holds? I don't want it! "

    Her head tilted, " I should mention, it will take seven days and seven nights. "

    " Doesn't... "

    " In a torture you never felt before and if your will fades, you will die. After all it is a forceful procedure on the Soul. "

    " It doesn't matter, as long as it is gone! ", Shen said. A confidence radiating from him.

    A glint of surprise flashed across her eyes and she nodded. The place faded in an instant. Her fingertip had left Shen's head and she performed a similar movement. As before her action seemed to freeze existence itself. The blue light entered Shen's head and covered a string Shen hadn't even noticed before. The connection was sealed in but an instant. The draw of sanity in Shen's body stopped and his ragged breath calmed.

    " The cycle is completed. ", she whispered. A whisper her servant did overhear. " M.. My Lady the.. the Cycle? ", he asked in a stutter.

    Her hand sunk as graceful as every motion of her body, " What lies here is the seventh demon in line. "

    " Doesn't that mean they will all come back? ", the servant spoke out losing his composure. " Shouldn't we then end his life? "

    " And send him back into the cycle? ", she chanted. " No, let the boy try to merge and take control. "

    " But my Lady this gamble.. "

    " It is only the seventh in line and my gambles did pay out many times. ", she refuted and her voice grew more intense. " It would be great to draw in an enemy. "

    " As my Lady orders. This servant doesn't know its place. Please forgive. ", he spoke anew in his former reverence. " The era of gods and demons is returning then? ", he asked the question he could not suppress.

    " It appears so. ", she said and her eyes fell into the distance. " We should return. "

    " If you wish too, we could set this world on our path? ", the servant suggested.

    " No and do not tell anyone, what we discovered here. ", she reprimanded. " He is not the only one as it feels. "

    " But wouldn't it be important... "

    " You have served me good for a very long time. ", she chanted. " You should understand what this means to me. "

    " I understand my Lady. You should be worried about the Dark Alliance to try stomp the threat and ... "

    " Indeed. ", she interrupted and nodded. " Let's leave and find another person we can actually bring back as proof. It won't be long, before the Dark alliance notices it. All that have fallen in the war... will return."

    " The Moonstone? "

    " Lost its importance. "

    " I will prepare for our departure then. ", the servant said and disappeared.

    " Husband.. a million years have passed, but with the cycle at it's end. ", a smile that could shake the world crossed her face and she disappeared too.

    The fight over control, might have passed, but the promised pain thundered down on Shen. A pain he did not experience the first time. It was the same pain that filled him after he awoke and the demon had infiltrated him. Yet it was not the same, this time he knew it would be over, once he overcame it.

    In the meanwhile Grey awoke and felt his injuries healed. He got up and stared at Shen who didn't move. His presence low and weak. An attempt to shake him awake failed. Nervously he tried to figure out what was wrong, but could do nothing. He took Shen and found another hide out, where it struck him the first time. Something that drove his soul and heart had disappeared.

    " It's gone?? ", he barked suddenly. " IT IS REALLY GONE: ", he howled. " I can finally do what I want! ", he muttered and turned to leave the hide out.  He stepped out of it, yet halted.

    Annoyed he turned around and sat before Shen. " Can't leave him like that. That wouldn't be right. ", he said with as much resentment as he could muster, but actually felt none of it. The decision to help Shen was his, and his alone. Something he wasn't able too, for a very long time.

    Seven days, seven nights, a time Grey spent in silence. Shen's condition was weak, but did not grow weaker. It baffled him, but he at least saw some kind of hope. While Grey stood guard, Shen laid still, but his being was in a state no mortal should experience. It felt like an endless amount of needles, would constantly pierce his existence, while invisible flames roasted him.

    The first moment of the pain was bearable. After an hour a wish to die filled his mind, but he could drag himself back to remember it would end and he would be free. A day passed and Shen was at the brink to give up, to give in to the pain.

    Eternal... Solitude... I... can... not... I... must... safe... safe... safe... safe

    A word, a path to walk. He repeated it over and over. One memory of his grandfather filled his mind after another. In a pain beyond comprehension, in a state close to lose his life, he found a pillar to hold on too.

    The seal finally set and the pain vanished. His eyes shot open. A light flickered in them, an obstacle was overcome and an aim was born!




  • edited December 2017
    Chapter Twenty- one

    I wish you all, the best for christmas !

    It lay dark, his head comfortably pillowed. The world still and in peace. No pain filled his soul or body nor did regret and hatred flood his mind. The first time for a very, very long time, he felt absolutely calm.

    Was it all a dream? A really long dream.. Did we never leave for the test..

    His hand moved to his face and covered it. " It wasn't... ", he whispered and the scent of Grey's fur filled his nose. The ground not his wooden bed, but nothing else than stone and the pillow a paw, but the world was indeed still. Only a heart beating in a peaceful rhythm. He was at least not alone.

    This woman... she said I need to grow strong to break this curse. The gate that shut and left me in the darkness. Is this the place she meant? Ancestors.. Grandfather never told me a word about them. Grow strong, how strong? Method, what method could there be.. Maybe... I can find something about my ancestors at home.

    Seven days, seven nights have passed. Shen was clueless that he had achieved a point, only a few could. A wound of flesh might hurt, might burn, but as for a wound in one's soul.. The source of ones existent. The pain he overcame, he did not solely bite down. If he had not lost his grandfather, if he had not found a way to accept, his soul would've shattered. It is odd how there is so much research on the soul, but no one can actually tell, if it resides in the heart or the mind.

    To lay a foundation for ones cultivation might be the beginning and the most fundamental, yet to discover ones soul and body. Learn to manipulate and control both of it, is a heavy feed and the path that will be one of the most important parts on one's way to true cultivation. He had felt what it meant to be suppressed, to be a stranger in his own body. He had felt the exhaustion that came with using his Soul strength. He had improved on a stage most people do not even touch upon in their entire life.

    She said, she can not remove the part that seeped into my soul, but can seal the connection..

    He vaguely remembered the spot and closed his eyes. Months worth time spent on searching himself paid off, as it took him only a moment to discover the link. It was covered in a strange blue light. As his mind closed in on it, he could see runes. Not one, not a dozen, an uncountable number. Surprised he followed the line back and found his soul. No shade and no colour formed it. Just a feeling of existence surrounded it. The string disappeared within and there was no chance for him to actually tell where this part was at, that he despised so much.

    It doesn't do anything. I guess the seal keeps it from doing anything. Seal.. this woman and this field was so weird. But she helped me. Maybe in the future I can repay her.

    As he sat up, Grey moved his paw and stood up. In the darkness Grey's eyes blazed. Shen gave the pair a look, before he followed the path to the light at the end of the tunnel. Another small cave, that as the claw marks revealed, Grey had dug. The moonlight glittered in the snow. A snow-white world lay ahead. Three full moons stood unbothered in the sky, watching the world struggle.

    " Where are we? ", Shen asked in a light voice. " High up, ", Grey answered, as he left the cave. " in the White Mountains. "

    " The White Mountains ", he repeated an empty gaze set on the moons. " Did you see the white woman? "

    Grey sat down beside Shen. " No.. I did not. "

    Grey shifted his head to gaze at him. The child he protected, is not the child standing to his side. He had watched him struggle for months, heard him weep at night and saw him resist despair. But a calmness surrounded him, putting his own heart at ease. An odd grasp on himself, on his surroundings. Whatever happened in the last seven days... changed him.

    How could he understand... A person that walked already between the fade line of sanity. How could he understand... How it feels to be corrupted by hatred he had not even experienced once in his life. To live for seven full days with a pain that you can not resist, that you can not ease, that you can only endure. The natural calmness he felt was the presence of a will born in hell itself.

    " I could not say it before, but it was Fengzi, who ordered me to protect you. A long time ago, when I was a cub. Hunters killed my mother in the mountains and took me back to the city. I was sold to this lunatic. How could I.. I couldn't resist and a seal was set on my soul to control me... It disappeared while I was unconscious. ", he slowly explained. " I guess the white woman you talk off did it. "

    " She helped you too.. ", Shen smiled and chuckled then, " Since you are free, you really can eat me. "

    " Maybe I will! ", Grey barked and turned his head away. " What a lack of empathy.. "

    " Your entire life.. ", Shen muttered. " I guess I am a joke in your eyes. "

    " Don't compare us.. Never compare yourself.. ", Grey growled. " No one can understand their own past better than themselves and no one will have the same past. "

    Right we are different.. He was always in despair.. I just got a taste of it and still it might have hurt a lot more like that..

    " I will go home, Grey. ", Shen said with a smile. " I need to grow strong and find out who my ancestors were. "

    " Your ancestors? "

    " I do not really understand it. But I am cursed, my blood is cursed, my grandfather was cursed. ", Shen explained. " We can not pass on, I think. And are doomed to solitude after death. I have to find out why and lift it. I can not leave my grandfather alone. "

    " Cursed by the heavens ", Grey said clearly remembering the scene, as Shen awoke for the first time and Shen nodded. " Is that why this thing... "

    " No..  It is not. ", Shen answered and scratched the back of his head, " It is my Origin Soul, but the white woman sealed it. "

    Grey sighed in honest relief, " Good "

    " Where will you go Grey? "

    " I? ", Grey tilted his head. " I will wander the mountains, I guess. "

    " You know, you could come with me. ", Shen suggested hopefully. " I don't live far of the mountains and you are a comfortable ride. "

    Grey snorted disdainfully, yet said, " I would only tag along, so you don't get eaten, before you became any kind of strong. "

    A sudden roar filled the air and Grey leaped in shock, but stared then at Shen with big eyes. " Your stomach is a monster! ", he barked.

    Shen laughed and amused he looked at Grey, " How you hopped as a rabbit that's life depends on it. "

    Ridiculed by this meagre kid, Grey gnarled, " Do you want to catch your own meal once in a while? "

    " Ahh great Grey, all mighty Grey, how could I, a mere child catch as good food as you do! "

    " Right you can't even catch a rabbit! "

    Out of nowhere, Shen began  to laugh wildly. He held his itching stomach and fell on his knees.

    Perplex Grey sat down, " What is so funny "

    " Nothing ", Shen said as he supported himself with his hands in the cold snow. " Nothing ", he repeated and rubbed of his tears and smiled at Grey. It felt so good to laugh once in a while and relief the heavy heart.

    Grey tilted his head and gazed at Shen. A while they spent just looking at each other, before Grey shrugged and moved to Shen. He let him climb on his back and they departed. They decided to move to lower grounds and in a less dangerous part of the mountains, before they would catch a meal. The heavens must have blessed them, since they barely encountered anything and what they encountered did not pose a threat. As they finished a feast, Grey had pulled on land, they journeyed towards Shen's home. They were not particular fast, nor was Shen's vague description of any help. So it took them a while.

    One month later they arrived at the tree Shen always had trained at. Delighted Shen started to tell Grey all the secrets about the little forest. Every corner he pointed out, nothing really had changed thought the season was late now and leafs were falling, filling their path in a mixture of colours. They reached the cliff and Shen climbed off Grey's back. He looked down just to ensure the straw was where it should be, but an unexpected sight struck him.

    Without a word he jumped off the cliff. Shocked Grey dashed after him. The height was no threat to him, but for Shen it could have ended... Yet he saw Shen land in a heap of straw and his worry turned in annoyance. With a curse on his tongue he waited in front of the straw hill, but when Shen crawled out of it, he didn't even look at him as he passed.

    Annoyed Grey was about to bark at him as he saw what Shen headed for. Grey stopped in his tracks and watched. The ground Shen approached was black. Obviously a large fire had burned there. It wasn't hard to connect the dots. They aimed for Shen's home and this place looked like what he had described.

    Shen kneeled down in front of the ashes that were once his home.

    Grey sighed and came up to Shen. " Shen I know this was your home, but it was just an empty place without you and your grandfather. "

    " I know ", Shen said with a light shiver in his voice. " I just.. ", he tried to say, but could not describe the wish he had held in his heart.

    " We should leave soon. ", Grey said, yet added, " I will scout the surroundings for a while first. ", and left

    Shen did not watch him leave. He gazed at the ruin in front of him and stepped then within. Some thicker wood planks hadn't burned entirely and the foundation of stone was still intact.

    He stopped at a certain spot and muttered, " Here was my room. " All his possesions were gone. They weren't much, but they held important memories. But his mind wasn't bothered with it, to be exact it wasn't active at all. He did not look at something specifically and was still. Vaguely he shifted his eyes on another burned spot. Hesitant he looked at it, before he moved towards it.

    Grandfathers room...

    He bowed down and picked up some ash. Gradually it ran down his hand and floated back to the ground. As he watched it, his eye caught a silver shimmer. Startled he approached the place where his grandfathers bed once stood. He gripped the plank covering the shimmer. On the first contact the plank fell apart. He blew on the small hill of ash and it went flying, dancing in the air around him. A silver chest lay beneath. Perplex he stared at the chest he had never seen before and the ash slowly lay upon his hair and skin.

    What is this?

    He picked it up and was surprised how light it was. He left the ruin and sat down with the silver chest in front of him. Three words were neatly engraved on the top.

    Blood will tell?

    He tried to open it, but did not succeed. " Grey ", Shen yelled and waited. A little flustered Grey returned only seconds later. " What is it? ", he asked searching the surroundings for enemies.

    " I found this chest, but can't open it. ", Shen explained, but didn't take his eyes of the silvery brilliance.

    " Chest? ", Grey said and quit his search. He took a look at it, " Blood will tell? " He pondered for a moment, " Maybe you need to pour blood on it, to open it. "

    " Blood ", Shen took out his knife and cut his finger. As he felt the knife tear his skin, he embraced the light pain and got dazed for a moment.

    " Shen? "

    " It's nothing ", he said and let then the blood drop on the chest. It rested on the silver metal for a second, before the blood suddenly drew towards the centre and filled the three words engraved on it. It clicked and the chest opened.

    " It's empty "; Grey muttered disappointed. A disappointment Shen shared.

    " But such a chest is quite special and the symbol on the bottom is kind of familiar. ", Grey muttered in confusion.

    " The symbol? "; Shen repeated and gazed at the bottom. In fine red lines a symbol was engraved at the bottom.

    Maybe grandfather had all his important things in here and took them out when we left. This could mean this symbol might be related to my ancestors.



  • Chapter Twenty-Two

    " Familiar? You know what it means? ", Shen asked, his heart throbbing against his ribs.

    " I am sure I saw it somewhere... ", he said and pondered. " But.. Hmm.. I can't point it out right now. "

    Frustrated he grasped for the only thing that remained. " At least since it looks familiar to you, there is a good chance someone will recognize it. ", Shen said and shrugged his shoulders.

    He stared at the symbol in utmost concentration and carved it into his memory, before he asked Grey, " Can you dig a hole? "

    Reluctantly Grey looked at Shen, but in view of the plain task, he just nodded. In a matter of seconds, he dug a small hole. Shen took the piece of cloth of his arm and placed it in the chest, closed it and set it carefully into the hole. Already prepared to shut the hole, Grey stepped forward, but Shen moved the earth with his hands by himself.

    This looks to obvious..

    He strolled around, collected branches and leaves to cover the fresh earth. As he finished, he stood in front of the hidden chest. There was something he was confused about, though he appreciated it. The odd beast that stuck around for no actual reason.

    " Grey.. ", Shen spoke and stared into the beady black eyes. " why do you not hate me like the other beasts? "

    " Huh, why do you ask now... I am not like most beasts.. I didn't grow up in the mountains. ", he said and shifted his view onto the mountains. " From their very first step on, they learn how evil and veil humans are... "

    " Humans are hunting beasts for their essences.. ", Shen stated, at this point. " They have all reason to hate us.. "

    " and beasts kill humans... ", Grey muttered, before he released a sigh. " It's not just that.. Beasts and Humans prey upon themselves as well. We are not all that different, the race of beasts and humans. But in the end the stronger will rule, and the weaker will kneel. And with humans and beasts it appears there will never be peace, until either is wiped out. "

    Shen touched his chin. " either is wiped out... ", he repeated in a mutter. " You still didn't say why you.. "

    " Because I was with Fengzi, who is an odd figure, but he never mistreated me. "

    " I am not Fengzi, there is no reason.. ", Shen tried to argue.

    " Do you want me so badly to eat you. ", Grey barked annoyed. " I have my reasons, shut up and rather tell me what we do now. " How could he admit that it was for the sole reason, that Shen was the only human beside Fengzi that hadn't stared at him with blank hatred. Even his own wouldn't accept him, for how he does not behave like a beast.

    Shen smiled and scratched the back of his head. " Fine then.. ", he spoke and thought about a plan. " I think... I have, rather, I must cultivate again.. "

    " Cultivate.. why did you not start yet? ", it just had occurred to him the oddness of this matter. " and what about the Fallen Shrine? "

    " I did but my foundation was destroyed.. ", Shen explained in short and added, " no need... "

    " Destroyed? "; Grey exclaimed in surprise. " How was it.. ", he said but saw Shen's eyes flicker. " Still as a human you will need a teacher and manuals and techniques.. ", he carefully said in an attempt not to undermine Shen's hopes too much.

    To his surprise Shen gave him a smile." I am fine.. I just need time. ", he said, his tone leaving room for interpretation.

    " As you say, but don't do something stupid. ", Grey growled, unhappy about the fact, he wasn't let in on what exactly Shen intended to do. " Oh, and I checked the surroundings. ", Grey said quite delighted. " the people who came left a long time ago, and it doesn't look like anyone came since then. "

    " So we can stay around here? ", Shen asked. Sure it didn't matter, where he was now, as long it was safe, but it would still be great to spend some time in his home.

    " I don't see a problem in that. ", Grey nodded. " But not right here, we still should move farther up. "

    When Shen had no objection, they travelled a short distance towards the mountains. Grey dug another hideout, but as Shen called it a rabbit hole, that even the thickest fur wouldn't turn into something bearable. He growled and disappeared in the hole again. Shen wasn't allowed to get in and he thought he would now be stuck building his own place, yet as he started to collect branches Grey yelled for him. He returned to the uncomfortable rabbit hole and as he didn't see Grey anywhere, he entered and found a huge room. The ground was carefully levelled and there was even a fire-place, where the smoke could leave the cave at the ceiling.

    " Happy? ", Grey growled from the darkest corner and gave Shen a fright. Shen had the feeling he would really eat him, if he wasn't satisfied with it and overly praised the cave wherever he could. He comforted the hideout a bit more. Especially the spot he'd sleep on. He covered it with straw, a lot of straw, before he moved to his old training spot and sat down beside the thick branch. He shut his eyes and repeated the most important part of his training.

    Wrath of Heaven: Chapter 1: A Perfect Foundation!

    How it describes in perfect detail, where the meridians lay and how they are supposed to be connected. But everything beyond that I still can't understand... Anyway first off is forming my seed!

    When he was absolute sure, there wasn't anything he could do wrong, before the point of forming his veins, he attuned to the world surrounding him, to the Spiritual Energy it was filled with and started, as many times before, collecting it. His mind fell into absence as he focused on the Spiritual Energy and started to draw it in, building the first ring once again. In this kind of condition he could not notice the passage of time.

    Grey had taken the burden of getting food, a matter he didn't trust Shen with. After he stored the animal in the cave, he quickly found the place Shen trained at. Obviously Shen shouldn't be disturbed, so he took a comfortable bath in the sun light. His casual mood drifted about all the topics that disturbed him, when his pessimistic waterfall of thoughts was slightly interrupted.

    His eyes shifted on Shen's body, who still trained. He spotted a disturbance in the energy surrounding him and moved closer with light steps. The Spiritual Energy around Shen was in a complete dismay. It looked like he was trying to catch it all at once. Dumbfounded Grey watched it for a while. The tiny string that entered Shen's body was actually visible, what let to the conclusion that this kid was absorbing insane amounts of energy right now.

    To Shen the amount felt very much the same, but it was indeed many times the amount it had been back then. He unconsciously condensed the energy and while the size was the same the first ring filled at a ludicrous speed. Eight hours later Shen woke from his trance, with a brilliant smile hanging on his face. " I already finished the frame for my first ring! ", he yelled in delight. Taking a shocked breath, as beady black eyes sat right in front of his face.

    " Don't do that! ", Shen said, red in the cheeks.

    But Grey did not react and instead silently stared at him. A really uncomfortable gaze it was and Shen asked, " What is it? Why are you staring at me like this?"

    " How long.. ", Grey slowly said. " did it take you in the past? " His eyes sparkling with interest.

    " Hm? Ähm, a year I think.", Shen pondered with his hand to his chin. " Wait! ", Shen suddenly yelled again. " How much time passed? "

    " Eight hours... ", Grey growled and added, " You freak. You really can't do things normal, can you. "

    " Only eight hours.. ", flooded in emotions he stared at his hands. " But I don't get it. ", he abruptly spoke. " It's the same amount I collected in the past... "

    " The same? ", Grey snorted. " The amount you collect is abnormal for a mortal, even a genius between mortals. "

    " Abnormal? ", Shen repeated, before he shut his eyes again and drew in another string of Spiritual Energy, without the actual intend to refine it.

    Am I?

    He tried to retrieve some of his control. The Spiritual Energy spread out to a hundredth the size of the string as he retracted by accident all of his Soul strength.

    Soul strength? Am I using Soul strength.. I always used it with everything I had.. no wonder I didn't notice a difference.

    Beaming he opened his eyes. " My Soul strength increased that's why it's so much faster. ", he announced cheerfully, before dark spots appeared around his sight. " What can y.. ", he mumbled, as the dark spots grew, took his sight and he fainted.

    Grey watched Shen slump down and shook his head. " Seven months training and he still doesn't notice, when he overdid it. Yet this rate... His soul should rank as a 2nd tier.. what a frrreak.. ", he growled.

    Only on the next day Shen woke. The fatigued still shadowed his mind, but he could tell, he was in the cave on his carefully prepared sleeping place. He sat up and held his shacking head. As he searched his surroundings, he found a pair of blazing eyes. " Your eyes are creepy.. ", Shen said into the darkness.

    " Why am I even bothering with you. ", Grey snarled in the darkness. " And you overused your Soul strength again. "

    " Again? ", Shen repeated. All the work he had done seemed to be worth less than dirt. Clearly he now remembered how he drew in the energy and when he tried to lessen his grip it retracted entirely.

    " Yes again. ", Grey snapped. " If you don't watch out. You might not wake up again... "

    Shen shook of the last of his fatigue but the world still kept lightly spinning. A horrible condition to concentrate, yet he gave it his everything, as he tried to collect the energy surrounding him. But the test turned out as on the last day, he either went all out or retracted it all.

    If I can't control it than I can only lessen the time I spend training, but first..

    He fell back into his bed and closed his eyes, leaving reality behind. Grey heard him snore again and sighed. There is only one way to recover one's soul and that is to rest. When Shen woke the next time he wanted to go back train, but Grey kept him from it and made him eat first. When they ate, Shen explained to Grey the matter of his Soul strength. What wasn't much of a surprise to Grey, but they struck a deal. Grey would wake him every hour so they can find the right amount of time for Shen to train. After the food was finished, Shen took a bath in a near creek and returned to the branch.



  • Chapter Twenty-Three

    A paw was raised, a head was smacked and a mind was ripped out of its concentration. " One hour ", Grey said, while Shen rubbed the spot the paw struck. " Thanks... but you don't need to hit me..."

    " I know ", he smirked and returned to the spot he found most comforting. Though it was not as comforting as normally, since today's clouds hung low and robbed him of a bath in the sun light.

    Shen watched him lay down and sighed, before he spent the next few minutes walking round. One problem was his control, what Grey had been worried about, but apparently was not as troublesome as expected. Yet the other problem was a tough shell to crack. Shen had no barrier when it came to his depletion of Soul strength. An illogical mystery Grey constantly threw his thoughts about. His latest conclusion was that something supported Shen, once he crossed his own capacity and kept him alive. Not a conclusion he liked and one he had not yet told Shen about.

    There was no fatigue, no numbness that restricted his thoughts. Shen's condition couldn't be better and so he returned to the spot, beside the branch and immersed himself in his training.

    Another hour passed, another paw was raised and another blow was distributed. Grey delighted in his doings, not without reason. Lately Shen's mischievous remarks grew exceptional, what was the only thing he had against the beast, that was more like a mountain to him. He thought about hitting back with all of his mortal might, but Grey would just tilt his head and ask him in a self satisfied-matter, if he hurt himself.

    Time flew and another four hours passed. He woke for the fifth time and a dizziness collapsed his vision for a moment. A sign that he shouldn't proceed, but he recovered from the first strike quite quickly and thus decided to drive it to its edge. The fact of the side effect he naturally kept to himself and went on with another hour. The sixth time he woke, he was at the brink of passing out. His vision was constantly shaking and his body shivered heavily.

    A situation, so obvious, a blind beast would feel it, not to mention Grey's sharp eyes. " Six hours.. ", Grey muttered his beady eyes dead fixed on Shen's condition. " Your Soul strength might be out of the ordinary, but your endurance, is what really creeps me out. ", he said quite disturbed.

    " Is that something special? ", Shen asked curious. He did have some thoughts on his Soul strength being strong, but the endurance was not a point he had considered. " The strength would be the amount you can draw out, while the endurance is the actual pool you draw from. ", Grey said in contempt, over Shen's lack of knowledge and added, " The Tower of Runes would have most likely promoted you to a freak class for this.. "

    " Freak class, huh ", Shen repeated and grinned. " I get the feeling you mean by freak something praiseworthy. "

    " Praiseworthy? ", he snorted in clear disdain and showed him his tail, as he said, " You might have something extraordinary, but if you can't control it, it's just wasted. Go eat and sleep "

    Without an objection or a mind capable thinking of one, Shen staggered back to their cave and fell into the comfortable Straw mountain he build himself.

    " Control.. What can I do.. when it just doesn't listen... ", he muttered depressed into the straw.

    Never mind that for now. Six hours.. But what to do with the rest of the time...

    A thought no one ever had, when they were about to pass out from their training, crossed his mind.

    I will train my body, there is still a sword to be lifted!

    His mouth took a slight up curve, as a memory of a scar-faced man passed his mind. A memory he drifted with, into the boundless universe of impossibilities.

    For the next day a fixed routine formed, where he trained his body in the morning. Bathed and ate, before he sat down to collect energy. Every time he did sit down, his chest pulled together tightly, making it a difficult task to breath. He understood that when he wakes from his training, his mind will be in a horrible state. There was only one thing that eliminated the knot in his chest.

    " Six hours, Mr. I lick my fur to clean myself. "

    Instantly Grey shot him a fury filled glint. " Five hours tops and no food tomorrow! ", he barked so loudly the birds rushed from their nests.

    " Wait what ?! ", Shen gapped, but Grey disdained off looking at him again and laid his head down. " Hrmpf, then I will catch my own food! Just see.. ", Shen said demonstrative and closed his eyes.

    Why the food, of all things... Just one day, I will be fine. Can't let him win!

    The next day Grey did catch something to eat. But he not just didn't give Shen a bite, he even finished it up, right in front of Shen, in awfully loud noises. Though Shen was lucky enough to find half a rabbit, some animal left behind. It was something he didn't give a second thought, as he ate it and proudly presented the fact to Grey. He might have connected the dots, if he wasn't in such a horrible condition from his training.

    A self torturing routine painted Shen's days, while the only thing that might have comforted him, happened in silence. After he trained himself half to death and fell asleep, Grey would come by. Once he was absolute sure, the brat wouldn't notice, he carefully laid his paw on his head and made sure he wasn't dying.

    Grey appeared quite uncaring to Shen, yet his dark beady eyes always laid on him. The child that tried to achieve something all people would call insane and impossible. It was not just all people, it was even Grey. He secretly too ridiculed his attempt and kept satirizing his big words. Not that he wanted to discourage Shen, but what he was saying, was just too much.

    Sure he has a strong soul, but as he understood it. Shen would not just need to grow strong, but he wanted to beat down the heavens. An all mighty existence Grey could not imagine, nor put to words. The closest he came to getting an idea of it, was whenever he thought about himself.

    " To lift a soul seal without killing me.. ", he muttered in the sun. With the time he spent to Fengzi's side he understood that this matter alone, was something unheard off. " A white woman.. The fairy wouldn't be able too.. " A torrent of thoughts he could not settle in a logical explanation flooded his mind. A torrent that not just messed up his normally calm sleep, but his opinion about how far a person can actually grow.

    A week passed and Shen passed out in his straw again. Grey checked on his condition and it was stable as always. He sat down in front of Shen and gazed with his blazing eyes at him. Not surprised, but suspicious. This kid raises every day and trains to the point that he barely stays consciousness. The first day might be normal, the second day a form of will, but since then you could say, that Shen was crumbling under the effects of his training. Yet he smiled every day, found a new way to annoy him and started his self-torture anew.

    With all the things bothering him. There was one that annoyed him the most. He wasn't sure if he could endure such a self-torture. When he had an honest moment, he was actually sure he wouldn't be able too...

    To think of laying down and have a good rest from doing nothing, became quite difficult to him. He wanted too, but his mind was giving him no break. There was this spark bothering him. It flooded his body with a drive, he could not explain, but it flamed up every time he watched Shen. Dejectedly he sighed, as he left the cave.

    As a beast, he was doomed to walk the path of a specific element, because beasts are born with their essence and only very few were born without a manifested element. On the other hand their natural affection to the element was therefore strengthened. They would grow up, attuned and comforted by it.

    He wasn't as crazed as Shen or had a call as nuts, but he wanted to test his limits. With Shen safe and sound in the cave, he could fully focus. So, in silence he sneaked farther into the forest and tried to improve his natural ability, Feign Wind. He would explode his energy and guide it how he had known it from his very birth, along his veins to cover himself in air and fake movements, changing directions mid motion. But he did not improve even a tiny bit. It looked the same from start to end, it felt the same from start to end. It had always been his instinct that guided him, but never his mind.

    After a month were Shen had already formed two spiritual rings, Grey executed his ability once again in the middle of the night, yet did not move. His eyes were tightly shut and he tried to follow the natural flow in his body and discovered a sort of resistance, a point he had never noticed. One failed attempt after another filled his days as he tried to overcome this resistance, in his natural ability, until one sunny day the wind brushed his fur and he had a sudden inspiration.

    " Maybe it is simply wrong.. ", he muttered and activated his technique right beside Shen thought he did his best to restrict the interference. The energy ran along his veins and passed his meridians, when he suddenly stopped it. A glint flashed passed his eyes. " It really does feel wrong at this point.. ", he muttered surprised.

    Grey started to execute the technique point by point. Every choice of meridian and the flow itself was put to question and slowly he found a better path, his own path.

    Days passed and only Shen yells filled it whenever he finished another of his rings.

    Three Rings...

    Four Rings...

    Two and a half months passed, until the final and loudest call resounded. " I DID IT "

    The fifth and final ring was created!

    Snow covered now the landscape as far as the eye stretched. The odd feeling of an upcoming storm had disappeared and the world laid in silence. A truly calm time gifted the land. Only a half naked child disrupted it, jumping and screaming like a mad person.

    If you looked closer it was naturally Shen, who had just finished the very base to his path of cultivation. Nothing truly remarkable or noteworthy, if you did not consider the time he needed. After he calmed down, another person showed. A tired person, with dark-blue rings under his eyes, bruises and cuts covering his entire body. A mess of a child, that would shock every mother to death, but a smile that could warm even a heart of ice.

    It might not actually be his first step, but it feels like he accomplished something for the first time in his life. All his boosts were not just empty. But it was work, more work than he had imagined it to be. Tougher and more taxing than anything he ever experienced, but it was his path, the path he decided on and the one he will walk to the end!

    After his sudden out burst Shen had halted and stood still. Grey fell in mutters, as he tried to remember the time that was normally needed, until a low thud disrupted him. His eyes fell on Shen, who lay on the ground, face forward in the snow.

    In the moment of panic, Grey grew illusionary for just a moment, as he moved above Shen and touched his head. He sighed in relief, as Shen was safe and sound. It took him a few moments, before he noticed what he just did, was what he attempted for the last two months. He had trained and silently guided the flow testing every possibility, but always struck a wall. In the moment of panic, he had just tried another path and out of instinct activated his technique and forcefully guided it from where he had been in his testing. Unconsciously he directed it and broke the wall down. A thing he was only capable, because of his countless attempts. The difference might not amount to too much, just a peak in his speed, yet it was an improvement, on something he never had improved on. The moment of delight, but did not last. He was sure he could further improve it, but for now he needed to get Shen back into the cave.




  • Chapter Twenty-Four

    Kind of forgot that last chap... A happy new year :)

    The seed or otherwise known as the Spiritual Heart, the very centre of once veins, is created by merging five rings, condensed of Spiritual Energy. It is somewhat special, if you consider the fact, that you can not alter the frame, nor the density of the rings. Even more so, when you understand you are not the one who actually merges them, but a spectator. A mysterious phenomenon only encountered thrice on one's path of cultivation. The seed is the very first contact, one will have with this force you can not interfere with and gave birth to countless theories, about the regulations in the world.

    Shen didn't give the odd circumstance, a second thought, as he was merging his five rings to create his Spiritual Heart. It is the step that breaks down the wall of a mortal. It is the threshold that alters once fate. A mortal may live for a hundred years, a mortal may overcome burdens even entities are twinkling their eyes over, but a mortal will always be the lowest of all forms.

    The path of cultivation, the path to immortality is the path that promises prestige, power and an endless life, but it is as well the path that corrupts the world. Good and evil is not an absolute in anyone's eyes. It is the person who wields the most strength, who will decide what is right and what is wrong, good or evil.

    A rule, a truth engraved in time...

    To merge one's rings is a fairly easy task. Since you only need to attempt the task, to start the procedure. From that point on, you will watch as one ring after another slowly melts into each other, guided by an invisible hand. But there are two dangers, one of them the incapacitation of the body. But with Grey having closed down all entrances to the cave, and him personally staying guard, a danger easily eliminated. The other was the perfection of the formed rings. It is true that they will feel full once completed and you can not alter form or amount, but there is the danger of a ring depleting by drawing on its strength. A thing that can happen unconsciously, if too much time has passed between the first and last, or it was forcefully drawn upon. There are as well some cases where people rush the seed on the last ring and doom themselves.

    A week has passed, since Shen created his fifth ring. The reason he waited for so long, was Grey.. He nearly barked him to deaf, as he announced he wanted to do it the next morning. Under the burning gaze Grey gave him, he had trained one more time and prepared all the rings. By now the fifth ring glided into the seed and was about to close the last gap.

    WHAT THE !!!!

    Right when the last gap was about to close a part of his soul acted on its own and pressed a small dark piece into the gap, before it closed. Without any option, he watched as the little dark spot melted into his seed, but nothing actually happened. Irritated Shen stared at his former white seed, revealing dark marks. A procedure that only lasted for a moment, before they stopped spreading.

    " What did you do? ", he yelled in his mind, and his eyelids flickered. " Shen what is it? "; Grey asked. " Nothing... ", he muttered. " The seed is finished, but.. ", a circumstance he normally would be filled with joy over, was shadowed by the last occurrence, which definitely involved this damned thing and whenever it did something, it turned out horrible for him...

    " Growwwww ", sinister it snickered in his head. " my vesssssel "

    An ice-cold shiver ran down Shen's spine. " BASTARD! What did you do?", he suddenly blasted out in his mind, but the thing lay silent again. After a variety of curses, he gave up and opened his eyes. " But what? ", Grey asked impatiently.

    " I.. ", Shen sighed. " It put something into my seed... ", Shen muttered in a low voice. Grey had by now told him about his theory and with what the thing just said... Grow my vessel... It is sealed, but apparently hasn't given up.

    Grey wasn't sure how to respond to his. Everything that happened around Shen was freaking confusing to him. " The air is stocked in here, lets talk outside. ", Grey suggested and re-opened the entrance. They sat down to the side of a creek and Grey asked, " What happened exactly? "

    " The seed formed as Grandfather, as you said, by itself. Everything was fine but in the end... The thing suddenly shot something into my seed... ", Shen explained and laid his hand above the spot his Spiritual Heart lay at. He was in an odd state, between the success and the achievement and the unknown.

    Grey pondered for a while, before he said, " It was sealed by the white woman, but a fragment remained within your soul. Whatever it did... It won't hurt you... "

    " It won't hurt me.. " A long time ago, Maolin had explained what irony is, but the smile Shen showed could be taken down as the picture pairing the word. " He called me his vessel... ", he said, loathing the idea to give up his body, especially to this thing.

    " Vessel? ", Grey snarled. " How dare he.. ", he barked. Everything had been fine, until now. Sure there were his assumptions, but there was no clue to proof them. " Shen ", Grey called in an odd tone. " If it planted something in your seed... ", Grey tried to say. " Then it will try to take control, step by step, when I am cultivating? ", Shen finished his thoughts.

    " I mean.. Either that or.. ", Grey slowly said, but instead asked," You do know what happens when someone reaches the stage of a Divine Soul cultivator? "

    " When you break through to the Divine Soul stage. The heavens will nourish your soul, right? "

    " And the Origin Soul will melt with the existing one. What normally has not much of an effect. They will only unlock the Origin Souls memories. But in your case... "

    Shen stood up and patted his shorts. " In other words, it's very likely it will depend on that to take over my body. ", Shen said. " Fine lets see. ", he said and grinned at Grey. " I got after all you. I give you permission to eat me if it takes control. ", he chuckled and stretched his hand out. " I don't think there is much I can do if it does... "; Grey muttered.

    For now...

    He drew for the first time upon the energy within his seed and directed it to his hand. As he did so his eyebrows narrowed. " It is slower, but I don't need any Soul strength. ", he ascertained in a whisper, as an orb formed in his hand. Since he had an arsenal, though limited, of Spiritual Energy, he could finally use it to replace the constant usage of his Soul strength. But his veins weren't born yet and the journey through his body was still a sluggish one. But once the orb formed it stayed absolute stable, a delightful difference to the past. But the collecting of the air was many times more taxing and lavish on the energy. He more or less used up all of his reserves on a single Wind Blast.

    Half a minute like in the past, but he was finally in perfect control of what he was doing. The orb dissipate and Grey growled appreciatively. He prefered not to worry all day about Shen throwing the towel.

    " Grey, I need a Moonstone. ", Shen suddenly said. " Do you know where I can find one ? " Perplexed Grey looked up. " A Moonstone? Never heard of that.. .", he answered.

    " It would be a fist sized bead. Transparent like glass and throw of light like the moon. ", Shen explained hopefully, but Grey shook his head. " Maybe an auction house has one. ", Grey figured.

    Shen turned his head and stared at Grey. In silence they gazed at each other and Grey felt there was something coming he won't like at all. " What ", he snarled finally.

    " Well.. ", he began and scratched the back of his head. " Do you have money? I never had any and the auction house wants a Celtin to enter and the moonstone wouldn't be cheap either, I think. "

    " Do I look like a walking money bag? ", Grey unhappily responded. Again this kid was planning something and appeared like he won't tell him a thing.

    " Well your essence is worth quite a lot. So you could say... ", a snarl so deep, a fright shot through Shen's body sounded. He might have overstepped a barrier there. " Just a joke. ", he said apologetic. " But I really need it.. ", he said and nervously added, " not the essence I mean, the money. "

    " What is that Moonstone good for anyway! ", Grey barked, showing no intention to help him if he didn't tell him. " I... ", Shen's mouth opened and an invisible restriction kept him from further explaining. Every time he tried, this happened. It was basically like the memory just vanished when he wanted to tell someone about it.

    Frustrated he gazed at Grey. " I need it. It's really extremely important! You will see why so, in the future I promise it: ", Shen begged.

    " This again.. "; Grey snorted disdainfully. " I don't have any money. I just have the essences from the beasts we encountered in the mountains. "

    " You do? ", Shen asked with big eyes, surprise written all over his face. " Would be a waste to leave them behind. ", he said, before he opened his mouth and disgorged a small pile of stones.

    " That's.. disgusting. ", Shen exclaimed and heavily gulped, holding his mouth, while Grey laid down ignoring him. Shen sat down and unwillingly washed the stones in the creek. Seven-teen in total he ascertained, while five of the pile appeared more energetic. The dancing colours looked like they would soon burst out of the stone from time to time. Questionable he looked at Grey.

    Grey felt his gaze and turned to look. " Five Earthern essences and twelve mortal essences. ", he explained in disdain. " This should be worth about a Celtin. "

    " Huh, only a Celtin? ", Shen said depressed. " WAIT! ", he suddenly called out. " What? ", Grey asked displeased over Shen's sudden yell. " You.. you just said Earthern essences? ", Shen asked shocked.

    " And? ", he asked and tilted his head. " And that.. that means you are what kind of? ", Shen stuttered. " It means I am an Earthern stage kind of. At the ninth stage to be exact. ", he growled quite smug.

    !!! Shen jumped up a chin hanging to the ground. " Ninth?! ", he yelled dumbfounded. " You are basically in the Heaven Soul stage!! ", he spluttered. " Basically ", Grey growled and muttered so lowly Shen could not hear him, " for ten years... " A circumstance that had bothered him a lot, but with his recent advances, he had the feeling it would not stay that way much longer.

    As Shen kept staring at him with admiration, he growled, " Beside the Moonstone, you need a manual for your Spiritual Veins. "

    " Manual? ", Shen repeated still in a state of shock of his discovery. " No I just need a Moonstone. ", Shen said. " You have a manual? ", Grey asked surprised. These manuals were normally treasures to all powers. There were many different ways to create Spiritual Veins and aside of the possibility of death, the veins would differ greatly in quality. You could connect all meridians and still end up with a worse result than skipping a few to have a faster connection between important parts.

    Shen nodded, but didn't explain any further. Unwillingly Grey let the topic rest and instead asked, " Why are you so sure, you won't find this stone on the market? "

    " Because Grandfather said, really rare things are only available on the Auction House. ", Shen explained. " Really rare? ", Grey chuckled. " Did he tell you too, that really rare means really expensive? "

    " Yes that's why I need to go to the Auction House and first find out how expensive. ", Shen said and then like he had totally forgotten about it. " But with the Tower of Runes.. "

    " Normally a problem, but right now they will be busy. "; Grey growled. " If you mask yourself this shouldn't be a problem. "

    A thing Grey said everytime Shen mentioned them. They are busy.. But he didn't want to tell Shen more than that. Since he knew asking was pointless, he instead said, " Good then tomorrow we head for Starlight City and sell a few cores on the way for the city entrance fee. "

    " Fine with me, but you will need to go alone into the city. Aside that I draw attention, beasts aren't welcome... "; Grey muttered.



  • Chapter Twenty-Five

    The black hair bound as a knot to the back of his head and the face, nose downwards, covered by a black and gruesome tattered piece of cloth. A shady combination, but it did definitely fit with the oversized green shirt, Grey had snatched for him, and the ripped black shorts. It perfectly contrasted how he had looked a few months ago, what was the entire point of his disguise. Though how he looked, wasn't a matter he cared about.

    What he cared about, was the village he stood in. It was surprisingly empty and with frustration he discovered as well, the market to be closed down. Leaf Town was covered in a deathly silence, Shen had never seen in it before. Only the Golden Goose, Shen had no good memories off, had its gate laid open for customers, yet no actual noises were heard from within.

    With utmost resentment, he sat his foot over the threshold, but the expected avalanche of smell did not strike him. It only hung lightly in the air and relieved Shen moved farther in. Even the tavern had only the owner, cleaning glasses and a group of three, drinking at a distant table.

    Shen moved to the counter and gazed at the owner, who seized him up. " What do you want? ", he snapped. A gaze filled with loathing, struck Shen and he needed a second to find his composure. " Do you buy beast essences? ", he asked in a very polite manner.

    " Why the hell would I buy essences? ", he said and spit into the glass. " Scoundrel, as you look they are stolen and will only attract problems. Get lost you rat! "

    Grey had warned him not to reveal his face, but the way the man acted towards him, disturbed him. He pulled down his mask, in hopes it would change the man's attitude. But after the man leaned forward and took a close look. His eyes turned from uncaring to stunned. " You are Shen Zheng! ", he shouted and the sound of chairs flipping filled the tavern. Shen stumbled backwards, as he saw the group heading for him. " GET HIM! ", someone roared.

    There was so much he had expected. A smile like in the past, a remark how much he had grown, but not this. He pulled back up his mask, blasted through the door out on the street. Directly he headed out of the village, towards the forest Grey was at.

    Half-way he heard steps catching up too him. The group from the tavern was quickly cutting down the distance between them. Shen didn't know them and they surely didn't look like as they wanted to have a nice chat. He sped up his pace and the men behind him mirrored his action. " Hey! Boy wait up! ", a man yelled, but Shen ignored him. " Damn it ", another cursed. " Don't let him get away! "

    Finally, Shen discovered the safety of the forest in the distance, but as his mind glided off on the trees, his next step found no ground. A rabbit hole had devoured his foot and brought him to fall. Like a crazed person, he tried to get back on top of his feet, but as he was about to dash on, the group had already surrounded him.

    " What do you want from me? ", Shen shouted, in the hopes Grey would hear him. " Oh not much. ", the man snarled and pulled out a piece of paper. " We are just curious, you see... ", he said and rolled out the paper for Shen to see. " Don't you think you look a lot like this kid. ", he grinned, revealing a disgusting mix of brown and black teeth. His companions fell into light chuckles, as Shen stared at the sheet, at his face. It was drawn, yet unmistakeably him. He hadn't anticipated there would be actual pictures of him. He now really regretted having taken of his mask and realised how imminent the danger was.

                                                                                                  Wanted: Shen Zheng

                                                                                                   The Tower of Runes

                                                                                                           <Picture>

                                                        Ten-Years old, five feet tall, black hair, green eyes and a scar on his chest.

                                                                                    Origin: Leaf Town Outer South District

                                                                                    Last known whereabouts Starlight City.

                                         Important Note: We have the suspicion he stands in contact with the organisation Eye of Sura !

                                                                                    Dead: 100 Seltin ||||| Alive: 500 Seltin

    " You know, your house was quite ugly. So ugly we had to burn it down. I hope you don't mind. ", the man snickered, an evil grin crossing along his mouth. " But five hundred Seltin.. We figured you would show, at some point. I am actually impressed. We not just once send someone to check if you have been caught already. "

    The sheet disappeared and Shen's vision grew clouded, as the mans' words reverberated in his head. " You burned down my house? ", he whispered and set his vision on him. His heart was gripped by an anger, by a fury. Ugly? His grandfather had built it! They burned down his last living memory. Hatred blossomed and slowly shadowed his mind, his decisions.

    As he saw Shen's eyes, flushed cheeks and hands clutched to fists. A hearty laugh filled his throat. " Are you angry now? ", he grinned. " Stop talking nonsense lets get him and get moving! The festival is in three days and we still need to travel the entire way to Starlight City. ", his companion shouted. " Fine then ", the man said and drew a dagger from his belt, with greed taking hold of his face. So long he had waited! Five hundred Seltin, a sum they could live on for the rest of their lives and maybe a few pain filled screams, when he cut the boy a little. A prospect that made his blood boil and sent a jolt through his body.

    Shen's eyes fixed on the sharp edge and his entire body lightly shook. The man took a step and Shen narrowed his eyes, as he drew his own small dagger. The moment he had gotten surrounded he had started to form a Wind Blast. The man absolutely assured of his victory, ran towards him, while his companions cut off the escape paths.

    Shen placed his weight on his front foot and the man shifted his focus on Shen's shoulder. After all, he only wanted to hear him scream and weep in agony, not actually kill him. The moment the dagger was shot forward, Shen bend the knee and turned his body sideways. The dagger tore along the shirt, but missed Shen completely, who pressed now his hand forward and touched upon the man's chest. As they made contact, Shen stemmed his foot against the ground and with the momentum of the chest pressing forward, the Wind Blast was sealed in-between, in a perfect condition. As it exploded a muffled noise, filled with the sound of bones crumble resounded. For a moment it was deathly still, before a mouthful of blood sprayed Shen's shirt and as he retracted his aching arm, the man's body fell to the ground.

    " BEN "; the man to Shen's right roared. " You bastard! ", the other shouted. They both drew similar daggers and tried to catch Shen, but with one man down there was an escape. Shen stepped on the fallen body and simply ran straight. The blood thumped in his head, as an idea crossed his mind. He threw a look back and saw both men coming for him. His Spiritual Energy depleted, there was only his Soul strength left. He tightly gripped the dagger in his left hand and stopped. Enraged as they were, they did not stop and instead tried to chop down on Shen, who dodged to the left and stretched his arm to the ground. Instantly a failed Wind blast shot him back. He sailed through the air, barely slipping by a dagger chopping down on him and at the very moment he passed them he swung his own dagger.

    They only saw a silver shimmer flare up. A frightening noise of flesh being torn ripped the air. Shen twisted in the air and fell on his side, rolling over and quickly getting back up to his feet. He stretched out his dagger and stared at them. At first, he thought he had missed, since both were standing unharmed on the spot. One stared at him with shock, while the other still looked at where he had just been. The man raised his hand and the same second he did so, his throat burst open and blood splattered everywhere. He fell to his knees blood flowing from his mouth, a clear look of panic and unbelief. In his last moments he attempted to stop the bleeding with his hand, but just a moment later he fell to the ground and ceased moving.

    " What.. what.. ", the last man stuttered and retreated. Shen's body vibrated in ecstasy. Every last inch of his body was on alert, combined with the frenzy of hatred he had fallen into. He did not feel like, as he actually was himself and he strained his arm muscles as he ran towards the last man, but as he was about to reach him. A white flash emerged at the height of the man's head and it disappeared between Greys' fangs. The headless body dropped with a low thud.

    Grey threw away the head and turned for Shen. " You alright? ", he asked, but Shen stared at the two corpses in front of him. His hands shivering and the dagger dropped. Fear spread in his body, but he suddenly squeezed his hands and narrowed his eyes. " They tried to kill me. ", he said. He would not regret. They came after him and paid the price. He picked up the knife and with shivering knees started searching the corpses. " You don't need.. ", Grey tried to say, but received an odd look, that made him shut up.

    " Nothing ", Shen said neither depressed nor as he would care and stood up, heading for the third man, who had fallen first. " He is still breathing. ", Grey said and stared at the man. He was shocked, he had looked for something to eat, but hadn't left for long. When he returned, he saw Shen on the field running towards that man, he just finished. In the past he wouldn't have been fast enough, but with his recent break through he really was fast when he used his Natural Ability. But he asked himself, if it had actually been necessary...

    Shen gripped the man at his shoulder to turn him. His eye caught a silver glint and a blade stopped right in front of his heart. Grey's mouth covered the stretched out arm and tore it off. The man screamed up in intense pain and howled curses, while Shen stayed quietly kneeled. His body and mind frozen.

    " An injured animal can still bite. "; Grey growled dissatisfied over Shen's carelessness. " Hm? ", Grey stared dumbfounded as Shen raised his arm and took a deep breath. He struck down with the dagger in his hand piercing the man's chest.

    Once

    Twice

    Thrice

    The man struggled and threw his arm around, until his movements grew lax and his eyes lost their light.

    " He tried to kill me. "; Shen said again, as he would need to justify himself. But he knew he didn't do it, because he tried to kill him. He hated this man, he wanted to kill him. Wanted to kill the person that had burned down his home. Burned down in some way his grandfathers last memorial.

    A thing Grey naturally knew nothing about, since he hadn't been around, when the man spoke. Nervously he checked on Shen's eyes, but they were dark-green as always, only the look in them was frightening. With all what happened only now Grey took a sniff and noticed abruptly. " This man was at your house. "; he said. " I know. ", Shen whispered. " He burned it down. ", he added in a voice he had never heard of himself. A voice filled with an endless and bottomless hatred. A voice like the thing.

    Shen withdrew his knife and stared at the person he had just killed. The first person he had actively killed. The fury, the hatred faded in an instant, while a fear crawled up his back. He hastily scrambled backwards, away from the corpse. His mind in a sudden mess. He felt like this thing had taken over again, he actually hoped it had taken over, but he knew it was him who did this. He shifted his head to the side as he felt his stomach over turn and vomited. His breath ragged, his mind spinning he stared at the ground, before he cleaned of his mouth and took a few heavy breaths.

    Grey nervously watched, but after he saw Shen was Shen, he understood. No one can understand how it feels to kill someone. Especially with Shen's normally kind disposition, it was totally out of order what he just did. In the end he was still a child.

    " Measly eight Cletons. But all we need I guess. ", Grey grumbled after he had searched the corpse.

    He turned around to pick up Shen, but Shen was already walking. Walking towards Leaf Town. " What are you doing? "; Grey barked, but Shen ignored him and stepped again into the village, into the tavern.



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