Proofers/Editors: nick0 (Pascal)
While old man Lao Zhizhe was taking Zhang away, something horrifying was happening elsewhere.
The Zhao army, after scattering the last of the Shu army, had gathered every last person in the state of Shu in one place. Massive holes could be seen in the ground and thousands upon thousands of people could be seen bound and standing on the edge of the holes.
“Shu scum! We gave you the chance to surrender, but your buffoon of a king thought he could fight back.” A hulking giant of a man bellowed as he pointed to a head on a spike not too far from him. The head belonged to the previous ruler of the state of Shu.
“Now for your ignorance you will all die.” The man said as he motioned for his men to begin slaughtering the people lined up in front of the holes. In fact, these holes were dug to be mass graves for the poor folks who were gathered here today.
Men, women, children, elderly, no one would be spared.
However, as the soldiers of the state of Zhao raised their swords to the sky, black clouds began forming and a thunderous roar sounded out.
“Immortal upon death and worshipped upon birth. Any who spill the blood of my clan will be met with demise.” A voice rocked the skies. Soon from behind the black clouds, hundreds of massive fireballs began descending. The horrifying thing about these fireballs were that they were pitch black and seemed to embody death itself.
Everyone present looked into the skies with despair in their eyes. There was not a single thing they could do to stop the hundreds of fireballs and all was left to do was accept their fates.
Moments later the fireballs descended and smashed into the ground, however upon touching the ground they instantly began spreading and didn't do any damage to the ground or vegetation they touched.
Soon a sea of flames formed and enveloped everything within hundreds of miles. The soldiers of the Zhao army covered in flames, did not feel a thing because the instant the flames touched them they slumped over and fell to the ground.
Strangely enough the people that were to be executed, although bathed in the flames, we're not harmed. Upon realizing that the soldiers of the Zhao army were the only ones dying, everyone got on their knees and began praying to the heavens for its mercy.
“The innocent and the wronged shall be spared, but all who spill the blood of the innocent shall perish.” The thunderous voice rang out once more before the black flames disappeared in a flash and the black clouds above dispersed.
In a place far away, atop a small mountain hidden by mist, Zhang can be seen lying asleep in a bamboo cabin. The light of the sun barely broke through the thick mist and shone onto his handsome but boyish face.
The rays of the sun penetrated the veil of mist and struck Zhang’s face, awakening him from his slumber. His eyes slowly opened, revealing a simply decorated room. There was a table fashioned out of bamboo, along with a few chairs and a set of drawers, other than that there was another bed across the room. But nothing luxurious or out of the ordinary.
Rolling out of the bed, Zhang stumbled to his feet.
“Where am I?” Zhang questioned in his mind as he looked around the empty room. The last thing he could remember was an unbearable pain and a mysterious elderly man.
Zhang made his way to the door and unlatched it, soon he found himself atop a flight of stone steps that led to a large serene looking courtyard. Zhang was able to overlook a vast valley covered in mist from where he was.
“You're awake.” A voice rang out. Atop a large boulder lodged into the ground in the courtyard was a lone figure. Oddly Zhang did not notice this figure the first time he looked over the courtyard.
As he squinted his eyes, he saw what looked like a young man with distinguishing features looking back at him.
“Can you tell me, where this place is and why I was brought here?” Zhang yelled out as he made his way down the stone steps. Although he was still very depressed about the death of his friend Shu Shang and the destruction of his home, Zhang felt the needed to find out where he is and what’s the current situation instead of moping around doing nothing. That would not be the way his dead friends and family would want him to live.
“How should I know? When I was assigned to this courtyard you were already here.” The young man sitting on the boulder said as he hopped off and headed for Zhang.
“As for where we are, we are in courtyard number ninety-nine in the northern region of the Mist Mountain Sect.” The young man said.
“Misty Mountain Sect? If you don't mind telling me, where are we located in the state of Shu? ” Zhang asked, since he's never heard of such a sect.
“State of Shu? Never heard of it. I'm from the Red Lotus Province in the southern region.” The young man replied as he neared Zhang.
Similarly, the young man, Zhang has never heard of the Red Lotus Province at all.
Suddenly the ringing of a bell echoed into Zhang’s ears.
“What's that?” Zhang muttered, however before he could say anymore, the young man he had been talking to this entire time grabbed his arm and began running toward the courtyard’s exit.
“Quickly that was the assembly bell! We have to make it to the hall or else we will miss the orientation!” The young man yelled out, as he and Zhang exited the courtyard and began descending the mountain.
As they ran, Zhang noticed how handsome this young man was, to the point where if he dressed in women’s clothes he'd be able to make nations fall. But of course as a man with such features, he would be able to make many women fall for him. A natural born playboy, as some would put it.
“Where are we going?” Zhang asked as he and the young man sped down the mountain.
“To the sect’s outer disciple hall! The orientation is today! Cultivation manuals will be handed out! If we don't hurry, we won't get any of them and might even miss out on the pill distribution!” The young man yelled in a hurry.
But the word cultivation caused even more questions to pop up in Zhang’s mind. But he figured once they reached the hall his questions would be answered.
“I almost forgot! My name is Zhou Zhang! What's your name!” Zhang yelled.
“Cai… Cao!” The young man yelled with a slight phase in between.
“Brother Cai!” Zhang yelled, although he was still confused about many things, he felt Cai Cao was not a bad person so Zhang choose to befriend him and of course it was best to make friends especially when you're in a place you don’t know.
Thus the two young men set off toward the Misty Mountain Sect’s hall for outer sect disciples. Soon they ran into dozens of others heading toward the hall, all of whom were new arrivals to the sect.
Soon they arrived at the front of many massive buildings. This was the center for the outer disciples of Misty Mountain Sect. Zhang found out that despite all of the disciples of the sect being assigned to various courtyards spread throughout the mountains, they would all congregate here from time to time.
A massive building which was the sect’s outer disciple hall was surrounded by four beautiful towers that shot into the sky.
Zhang and Cai Cao arrived at the front of the hall, so did thousands of other sect disciples. The gates of the hall were shut so all of the disciples were waiting outside.
Zhang, not knowing anything chose to stand quietly by Cai Ca who did not converse with anyone else. Many of the other disciples were chatting away with each other and it was evident that various groups have been formed amongst the disciples, as people tried to form connections.
Moments later dozens of rays of light could be seen streaking through the sky. The Rays of light descended and in a flash the gates of the hall disintegrated into light particles. The light particles then faded into nothingness, revealing the inside of the hall.
Zhang stared, dumbfounded as this happened. In his entire life he has never witnessed something such as this. One could say that Zhang was a country bumpkin from the stone ages who has just step foot into a futuristic city that is thousands of years ahead in technology.
“Quickly, let's go in.” Cai Cao said to Zhang who had been staring in awe, as he and the rest of the disciples began entering the hall.
As the disciples were entering the hall for the outer sect disciples, ten elderly man could be seen standing atop a stage at the very end of the hall.
“Look it's the ten elders of the inner sect!” A young man in the crowd said excitedly.
“I heard that most of them are at the mid stages of the profound realm and a few are almost at the enlightened realm.” A young woman said with glee.
“Profound realm? Enlightened realm?” Zhang thought with curiosity evident on his face.
Cai Cao could obviously see that Zhang had no idea what these people were talking about, so even more questions popped into his head. “How can someone not know a single thing about the sect or cultivation be here?” He thought as he eyed Zhang.
As Cai Cao continued questioning Zhang in his mind, an elderly man with a head full of snowy white hair standing on the stage at the far end of the hall began to speak.
“Welcome, new seedlings of the Mist Mountain Sect. I, elder Jiang of the inner sect would like to welcome to your new homes. As part of our tradition of welcoming new disciples, everyone will receive one essence supplement pill and a manual regarding sect rules, along with our sect's beginner cultivation manual and lastly a Mist Mountain jade badge which will allow you access to certain facilities and areas within the sect. In a month’s time the bell will ring once more and you are all to report here for a merit awarding.” Elder Jiang said and with a wave of his hand thousands of white streaks of lights shot into the air and arrived in front of each and every person present.
Zhang had no idea what use he would have for the pill but he quickly tucked it into his robes. As for the two manuals he held onto them tightly because he knew they would possess the answers he wanted. Lastly the jade badge soon hung from his waist.
After handing the manuals, pills and badges out, the ten inner sect elders flew out of the hall and turned into streaks of light.
“A merit awarding? What’s that?” Zhang thought but before he could even finish his thoughts, Cai Cao’s voice sounded out.
“Brother Zhou, let's return to the courtyard quickly. Before anyone gets any funny ideas.” Cai Cao said in a whisper as he began heading back toward the direction they had come from.
Zhang quickly followed Cai Cao because if he had to navigate his way back alone he might get hopelessly lost. However, as the two made their way back to their courtyard, prying eyes were out and about. Unbeknownst to Zhang, an essence supplement pill is worth quite a bit and each member of the outer sect would at most be able to receive four a year from the sect.
Cai Cao knew that once the elders were gone, the other disciples who certainly knew the value of the pills would resort to thievery, thus he had told Zhang to leave in a hurry. True to his hunch once the elders were nowhere in sight, a few of the disciples began demanding their peers to hand over their essence supplement pills or else.
Although some of the disciples who lacked confidence, immediately coughed up their pills, a vast majority of course retaliated. Soon after a massive brawl broke out between the new disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect. Actually this wasn’t an unexpected occurrence, every year such a thing would happen. In a way this was the sect’s way of sorting through their new batch of disciples to find gems hidden in the rough or bad seeds.
Many disciples like Cai Cao and Zhang had fled the hall to avoid being caught up in the massive brawl and had dispersed throughout the forest. Some of which were hoping to get their hands on an essence supplement pill, some of which had caught sight of Cai Cao and Zhang.
“Brother Cai, can we stop for a bit? I’m running out of breath.” Zhang asked as he was panting, running down the mountain to get to the hall had been exhausting and now to add to that exhaustion the two of them were running up a mountain.
Unlike the rest of the disciples, Zhang was not a cultivator or well at least not yet, so he did not possess as much strength or as much stamina as the rest of them.
“We can’t stop or the others will catch up or else we might get robbed.” Cai Cao said as he looked back at Zhang.
“Okay I’ll see how much longer I can hold out. If anything leave without me.” Zhang said as he continued follow Cai Cao. He was very well aware of his limits and knew he would only drag down his new friend if they continued together.
“You two! Hand over your pills or else we’ll have to rough you up.” A voice rang out.
Looking toward the direction where the voice originated from Zhang could see a young man who happened to be shirtless with bulging muscles walking out from behind a bush.
In an instant Cai Cao ran back toward Zhang and extended his hand. After moments a dozen strikes landed all over Zhang’s body, sending him tumbling onto the ground with pain emulating from dozens of spots on his body.