Chapter 1: New Life
Written by: IEndWorlds
Today was a joyous day because it marks the year of the creation of the Heilong Kingdom located on the Wulin continent. It was also the day of the Stellar Alignment that only happens once every 1000 years. The Heilong Kingdom had been established since the end of the great war between humanity and the Black Soul Eating Dragon, also known as Heilong. In honor of defeating the dragon, the kingdom was named after it.
The Heilong Kingdom wasn’t the only kingdom, nor was it the largest kingdom, it was actually the weakest kingdom and definitely the one with the least history. However, it was made up of people from different kingdoms that had been wiped out during the war.
Festivals and parties were at a full swing today, especially for one family, the Zhou clan.
The Zhou clan lived in a small city that could be categorized as a big town, that went by the name of Blue Tear City. Despite not being a large city, it had all the necessities of one due to its location at the very border of Heilong Kingdom.
Lots of merchants and people would pass Blue Tear City, thus allowing a large amount of money to flow into the city and made the residents wealthy.
Blue Tear City was run by three clans, the Zhou, Wu, and Liu. Each clan having control over a different aspect of the city.
The Zhou controlled the regulation of trade, making it the wealthiest of the three clans. While the Wu controlled a small army stationed to protect the town, thus making them the law enforcers of the city. And finally, the Liu who neither had the most wealth or power but control most of the land in the city. They alone own basically half of the city’s farmlands and possess the longest history in the city, being able to trace their lineage back to the founders of Heilong Kingdom.
The Zhou and Wu clan had a friendship spanning over many generations and were in league with one another. Whereas the Liu clan remained secluded by themselves, believing they were above the other clans and residents of the city because of their lineage.
Today the Zhou clan would be welcoming the newest addition to their family. The wife of Zhou Cheng the leader of the Zhou clan, had just given birth to his first son named Zhou Zhang.
Zhang’s birth was just like any other baby, but the midwife panicked when he came out, he was a particularly odd baby, unlike most babies he did not cry when he was born. She had thought that he was possibly stillborn.
But as soon as he opened his eyes, a ray of blood-red moonlight from the stellar alignment shone on his tiny body which attracted the attention of everyone in the room.
Zhang’s mother picked him up and cradled him gently in her arms, as he stared at her and everyone in the room intently.
“What a precious looking child you are.” She said as she cradled him in her arms.
Their mansion was filled with activity, maids and servants were running left and right in preparation for the big party that was going to be thrown tomorrow to celebrate Zhang’s birth. Invitations were being sent out to the other clans, and to just about everyone in the city, anyone who had considerable status would be at the party.
The next day, the Zhou mansion was filled with people, servants were outside keeping an eye on horses and carriages while their masters were congratulating Zhou Cheng.
Gifts of gold, jade, and other expensive things were stacked into a small mountain. Every guest was seated to a table filled with various food that would make anyone’s mouth water. Beautiful maids were pouring wine and dancing to add to the festivities.
Zhou Cheng was so happy that he had ordered his servants to allow everyone who wished to join the festivities to enter the mansion. People that usually would not be at such a social gathering soon flooded into the mansion and seated nonetheless.
Everyone was enjoying the food and the dancing until an old man dressed in rags walked in the front door. The man’s clothes were so tattered he was practically half-naked, and his body gave off a foul smell that made everyone take a few steps back as he walked in their direction.
“Is this the place that’s giving out free food?” The old man said cheerfully.
Zhou Cheng’s servants assisted the man to his seat as ordered to by their master.
“This way sir.” A maid said as she led him to a table.
“Oh, my so much food, and all of it looks so good.” The old man said as he stuffed food into his mouth with his hands, paying no mind to anyone else at his table. As soon as he finished a dish, he would move on to the next and then the next until there was no more. Servants would bring more food, but the man’s appetite was enormous, everything they brought soon disappeared into his stomach.
Not so long after the man had entered the mansion, Zhang’s mother, Zhen Jin, who was known as the prettiest woman in the city walked out of her room carrying Zhang in her arms.
Soon she was surrounded by a sea of people hoping to see the newborn and offer their blessings. But then a foul odor flew into her nostrils, which make her almost gag. Then she noticed standing in front of her was a man dressed in rags.
The man proceeded to thank her and husband for the food and offered to give them his greatest treasure, and a few words to the baby.
Zhen Jin thought to herself, “what could this man possibly have that her family did not already have?” Nonetheless, the treasure of someone of his status was probably worth nothing to her. But she kept quiet and simply smiled.
The man pulled out from his pocket a pitch black jade pendant, with an exquisite dragon carved onto it. The man said, “This has been in my family's possession for hundreds of year and is carved out of the crystallized heart of a dragon.”
The pendant had a strange glow to it, although it was pitch black there was a somewhat blue sheen to it, which mesmerized everyone who looked at it.
Stunned by the appearance of the pendant, Zhen Jin did not say a word except for “thank you” and received the pendant from the man.
The man then proceeded to say, “Your child’s future will be riddled with tragedy but also filled with greatness. He will experience the most terrible ordeals and enjoy the best world has to offer. He will stand on top of millions with power that can bring down the heavens or he will be like me, penniless, homeless, and alone. Being born during the Stellar Alignment and blessed by the Blood Moon could be viewed as a blessing, but it can also be viewed as a curse.”
Everyone was left speechless to what the man had just said, they did not know whether to laugh or cry at what he said.
Zhen Jin however was furious, she had not heard anything the man had said after he had told her that her child’s life would be filled with tragedy. She was certain that this man was a lunatic and then ordered her servants to kick the man out of the mansion. And in a fit of rage, she tossed the pendant the man had given Zhang into the pond in her garden on her way back to her room.
In the morning, when the servants came to nurse Zhang, they found that the pendant which was thrown into the pond by her mother somehow ended up around his neck. And when they tried to take it off, there was a strange force that kept them from touching it. No matter who tried to touch it they weren’t able to, and the only one who seemed to be able to touch the pendant was Zhang.
Eventually, the people in the mansion gave up trying to take the pendant off Zhang’s neck.
A few months had passed since Zhang was born, and the city was once against filled joy, the leader of the Wu clan’s wife had given birth to a daughter, named Wu Ling.
Zhou Cheng and his wife Zhen Jin brought their son to the Wu clan’s mansion to celebrate Wu Ling’s birth.
In no way did Wu Ling’s party fall shorts of Zhang Zhou’s, esteemed guests filled the Wu mansion and to everyone’s surprise Wu Tong who was the leader of the Wu clan had engaged his daughter Ling Wu to Zhou Zhang.
This was to change the long-lasting friendship among the two clans into family ties. And thus two destinies were tied together, Zhang and Ling were to be married when they both reached the age of sixteen.
“Brother Zhou, don’t you think our two kids are meant for each other?” Wu Tong said as he and Zhou Cheng watch their wives cradling the two newborns.
“How am I supposed to know? All we can do it hope they get along or else we might end up being terrible parents for doing this.” Zhou Cheng said with a chuckle.
As a baby Zhang was very well looked after. Teams of maids and servants helped his mother him take care of him around the clock.
He was given the finest clothes and the best things that could be bought. From silk woven blankets to gorgeous tiny articles of clothing that were made especially for him.
One could say that besides Ling no other baby was treated as wonderfully as Zhang in Blue Tear City. Being the first and only child of the richest and more influential man in the city had it’s perks.
Zhang was like any other baby who was showered with love and care grew very quickly. By the age of eight months, he had started waddling all around the Zhou clan’s mansion. Sometimes he even managed to waddle away from the watchful eyes of the maids assigned to watch over him.
Some of the maids often said “ if you take your eyes off the young master for a second then he might disappear right before your eyes.”
By the time Zhang was around two he was reintroduced to Ling. The two toddlers quickly became playmates as their parents often left them together. They would mumble baby talk and giggle about with each other when together. They became so attached that one of them would start crying if they were separated.
As Zhang’s father and Ling’s father watched the two children play they felt at ease about their decision to engage the two.
“See I told you it was a good decision.” Ling’s father Wu Tong would often say to Zhang’s father Zhou Cheng.
Thier attachment grew as the months and years went by and the two toddlers became small children. The two playmates became the best of friends who were inseparable from each other. Without a worry or care in the world the two of the spent every waking minute playing with each other.
Besides each other they didn’t really have any friends that were the same age. This of course is because there were no other clans besides the Liu clan who were equal to the Zhou and Wu clan. Meaning that no other children were fit to be their friends status wise. If given the chance there were many people who wanted to kidnap these two children and demand a ransom from the two families. Thus, they only had each other as friends, well not that they minded only having each other.
When Zhang was not playing with Ling, he was exploring the clan’s large garden. Zhang could be described as a very curious and adventurous child who could run about for hours on end and not become bored. Zhang often spent his time sitting under a large apple tree that was on top of a hill that overlooked a part of the city. He and Ling would often play under the cool shade of the apple tree on hot summer days.
All this being said Zhang’s time was not all spent playing once he reached the age of four his father arranged for a private tutor to come to their home and teach him. Zhou Cheng wished to groom his son and provide him with the best tool needed in life. Thus, Zhang was taught all kinds of things by the many private tutors the clan employed.
He learned art, literature, basic etiquette, and other general knowledge that one should know. Zhang was about to learn everything taught to him at an astounding speed that made his tutors all awestruck. As the eventually ran out of things to teach him, they soon left one after another ashamed of their lack of knowledge. In the end, only one tutor stayed behind to teach the young boy.
Although Zhang was able to quickly learn many things he did not seem to enjoy sitting in a classroom, writing poems or drawing pictures. Instead, what he truly enjoyed with learning about the sword. Due to his adventurous personality, Zhang really enjoyed learning how to hold a sword or ride a horse.
One time he scared the living daylights of out of the maids assigned to watch over him. Zhang had climbed up on a horse for the first time while the reins were being held by a male servant. Once Zhang was on top of the horse he accidently pulled on the mane of the horse which caused it to go mad and kick about sending him flying off the horse. Seeing this, all of the servants rushed to where Zhang fell to see if he was okay, worrying about his safety.
When they got to him they could see that one of his knees had scrapped on a rock and was bleeding. However strangely Zhang got up as if he did not feel a thing and climbed back up onto the horse that knocked him off.
This however was not the only odd thing about Zhang. Often times late at night he would wake up screaming and yelling. And when asked what happened he would tell everyone that he saw scary looking man chasing him.
Time flew by Zhang grew to be more handsome by the day, and his trusty childhood friend Ling grew more beautiful. People called them a pair made by heaven itself.
Zhang had recently turned ten years old, he was like any other child of his age, except sometimes he would talk about things that someone his age would have no knowledge about. When asked how he knew such things he would say that he saw them as fuzzy images in his dreams. One dream that he could clearly recall was that of a man laughing and running towards him wielding a knife on his hand, to which he would wake up screaming.
Most people just shrugged it off as the random talk of a child, who was probably just repeating what he heard an adult had said.
Now at the age of ten, Zhang would have to take the city’s internal essence test that happened once a year in a few months. Which basically measures the amount of essence a person possessed. Essence being the energy needed to bend the elements to one's will.
Essence was in every living thing; some called it the soul, others called it life energy. Essence had many uses, one could harness the powers of nature and bestow it to their weapons for combat. For instance, someone with essence related to lightning might be able to bestow their sword the power of lightning. If one was able to train and reach a higher level, they could possibly shoot lightning from their fingertips; or use the elements to strengthen their bodies beyond the realms of man.
There were ten basic levels, and each level they managed to pass, they would be able to produce enough essence to prolong their lives and if someone was able to pass the ten basic levels they would be able to live indefinitely and be labeled immortals or saints. But this was easier said than done, average people would only be able to reach the 6th or 7th level at most through hard work and countless years of training. And some geniuses would be able to reach the 8th or 9th level, and even less would be able to reach the 10th level and so on.
Although it was very hard to become saints, there were quite a few of them in the Wulin continent, mainly because once they became a saint they would be free from illness, aging and live indefinitely.
Zhang was waiting for his turn to test his essence level with Ling. The vast majority of the residents of Blue Tear City had come to see the tests. An official from the capital of the Heilong Kingdom came to administer the test for those between the ages of ten and sixteen, to record their level and see if they would later qualify to attend the Royal Academy for gifted youths in the capital of the kingdom.
To be able to attend the Royal Academy was an honor that most of the families dreamed of, but the requirements weren’t easy to fulfill. Every age group had a set of parameters for essence levels and one had to be at least two levels higher than the average of their age group and a high elemental amplitude to even be considered for admittance.
As the line began moving, Zhang heard the official call out names of people being tested and their levels and amplitude. They would have to walk up the stage watched by the entire city and sprinkle a drop of their blood into a transparent crystal. The crystal would then glow in different colors telling people what element they had the high amplitude, and a number would also appear on it reading their essence level.
Typically, someone at ages of ten through twelve would have an essence level of one, and someone at the age of thirteen through sixteen would most likely be a level 2. Whereas essence could be increased and trained, amplitude was what one was born with and would never increase or decrease.
Ling and Zhang were an inseparable pair that was often seen playing together and being born only a few months apart they would be taking the test at the same time.
When it came to their turn for the test Zhang walked up to the stage where he was greeted by a kind looking old man who happened to be the official who administered the test. The official had picked up a clean needle and pricked Zhang's index finger and directed him to the transparent crystal on the center of the stage.
Zhang then sprinkled a drop of his blood onto the crystal, and in an instant it projected his age and essence level, which as 10 years old and level 1. He waited for the crystal to change color to reveal what element he had an amplitude in, but it remained transparent. Disappointed and somewhat ashamed, Zhang walked off the stage.
Ling had run up to Zhang and asked him if his finger hurt, to which he laughed and said, “no.” Ling then wrapped his finger with her handkerchief, told him to “stop pretending it didn't hurt” and walked towards the stage.
Zhang couldn’t help but smile because it truly didn’t hurt, it wasn’t that he was pretending it didn’t hurt nor was it that he was distracted by something and didn't notice the pain. Zhang simply could not feel pain, ever since he was born Zhang had never been able to feel pain. No one knew of this besides his parents.
As Zhang was busy staring at his finger, the crowd suddenly roared, as the official read out Ling’s test. Wu Ling, age ten, essence level three, the high amplitude in the element of water. Not only was her amplitude high but she was also two levels ahead of the average of her age group. From this day on, Ling would be labeled a genius.
If Ling’s essence kept increasing at the age of sixteen, she would be admitted for sure into the Royal Academy.
Seeing Ling’s results Zhang cheered for her and smiled, he was truly happy for her but also in a corner of his heart sad he was sad because of his poor results.
Ling came running down from the stage towards Zhang, with a broad smile across her face as her silky black hair flew in the wind.
The two of them walked shoulder to shoulder on their way home from the exam. Seeing that Zhang was somewhat sad, Ling tried to cheer him up.
“You’ll do better next year for sure Zhang!” She said.
Zhang not wanting her to worry about him, he said, “I sure will! Next year I might even do better than you Ling.”
And so they continued on their way home, when they had reached Zhang’s home, he took Ling’s hand and told her that he wanted to show her something.
The two ran through the mansion, and out into the garden. The Zhou clan had a massive garden that expanded from the back of their home onto a hill. Filled with all sorts of unique flowers, and fruit trees, one would be able to immerse themselves into nature here.
Zhang and Ling ran up to the hill and stood under a big apple tree. Zhang began to climb up the tree and Ling soon followed. Once they reached the top they were able to see the whole city and the sun setting.
Smoking chimneys and the people walking around the city could be seen from here. The sight was something to behold for these two.
Zhang picked an apple and handed it to Ling, and the two would sit and chat until it was time for Ling to go home.
Zhang was laying on his bed tossing and turning, he was having a dream that he often had, in this dream he would see a man running towards him wielding a bloody knife, and the knife would reflect an eerie red color due to light from the moon. Every time Zhang would wake up panting, the dream seemed so real, and after each time, he saw this dream his head would be filled with a bunch of just random knowledge. Things that he knew nothing about would become common knowledge to him.
He didn’t think too much about it, it became a common occurrence for him and would happen quite frequently.
At first, he would question why he kept having the same dream, who was that man and why did he attack Zhang. Many questions popped up but like all else with time, everything goes away.
Zhang woke up the next day somewhat tired from the lack of sleep, but nonetheless still energized, he began dressing to get ready because his tutor was coming.
His father hired a private tutor for him, the tutor taught various subjects such as literature, geography, art, and overall basic etiquette.
But today was different, Zhang waited for the tutor to come in his study room, but the tutor never showed up, instead when the doors opened an old man dressed in all white robes walked in.
The old man had long droopy eyebrows, a well-kept beard and long white hair that was kept tied in a bun. He then said with a smile, “you must be Zhang, your father invited me here to teach you how to cultivate your essence, I will also continue to teach you what your previous tutor was teaching you.”
Thus began Zhang’s path into cultivating, the first thing he was taught was the various uses of essence. He learned that a person who used their essence to strengthen their bodies would be classed as warriors, and people who used their essence to manipulate outside forces would be called mages. Generally, people pick one or the other, everyone had their own preferences but once they reached sainthood it would all be the same since they would have mastered control over essence.
Next, he was taught how to channel and make his essence flow. He had to sit cross-legged with his eyes closed and breath in and out while imagining a flowing river, that started from his stomach and circulated to every corner of his body.
He was told once he mastered this he could be able to use the energy in two ways, he could channel it into his body parts to make them stronger than they normally would be or if he had the talent release it from his body and make it take shape.
Most people were only able to channel it within their bodies because it was much harder to keep the released energy condensed as a whole and take shape when outside of the body. Hence, there were fewer mages than warriors.
Zhang would try to circulate his essence but each time he was able to gather some, in an instant it would disappear. As if he was trying to get water out of an empty well.
No matter how hard he tried, he was not able to gather any energy. His teacher checked his vitals and said that his body was perfectly normal but oddly, it possessed very little essence within it. Zhang was told that he would just have to train ten times harder than the average person if he wanted to advance. And without a word Zhang would keep attempting to gather his inner energy again and again.
Not seeing any results, however, his teacher offered him an alternative. Instead of strengthening his inner energy, strengthen his body. Instead of gathering energy inside a vessel and use that energy to strengthen the vessel, they would instead directly strengthen vessel itself.
This method wasn’t widely practiced due to the slow pace and amount of time and effort required, it was not a method for the weak-willed simply said.
However, not wanting to fall behind Ling any further Zhang gave it his all. He would wake up every morning and strap weights onto his arms and legs like his teacher told him and run laps from his house all the way to the hill in the back of the garden. Roughly a mile-long stretch to the hill from the house and as soon as he got back he would have to start over.
He would have to do this until he no longer felt the weights on his body, and when he wasn’t able to they would be exchanged for heavier weights. Sword play was also taught while the weights were strapped onto his arms and legs.
When Ling came over to play, Zhang would always be too busy training, he did not want to be left behind by her.
He would eat, sleep, and train until he dropped with these weights on. One would think that a ten-year-old wouldn’t have the determination to go on after a day, but Zhang was different.
Thanks to his weird dreams he possessed knowledge that someone his age wouldn’t normally possess, and this made him mature much quicker and had a firmer and decisiveness that others in his age did not.
Ever since he started training Zhang always had a weird feeling in the back of his mind, he felt that something or someone was telling him to get stronger and obtain more power. It made him feel afraid of being weak and afraid of being left behind thus, he would always push himself to the limit.
His parents encouraged him by getting the best doctors, and physicians to keep Zhang at top shape. He would be given rare medicines that helped one to recover faster. What would take a normal person three days to recover, he was able to recover in a day thanks to the medicine.
Most of his training was done alone, and did not need any supervision, so his teacher would only come to every couple of days to see his progress and teach him the ways of the sword.
Zhang learned two different sword styles, the first used a traditional long sword and was meant to follow a certain flow to use the enemy's power against them, which was more appropriate for one on one duels.
The 2nd style uses two swords a long sword and a short sword, this was a good style to use when fighting many people, one would use the longsword to keep enemies back at a safe distance and when closing in use the short sword to finish them off.
One followed a flow that was best for defending and fighting long battles, whereas the other was best for its explosive movements and fast attacks. Zhang honed his skills in both styles and would soon master all of the techniques that his master taught him.
Also only recently did Zhang notice that if he trained at night under the light of the moon he would not feel tired at all, it was as if the moonlight was giving him strength. He didn't know exactly why this was the case or did he really bother to look into it, but now he would often sleep during the day and on nights when the moon shone he would train through the night.
Zhang would keep training day in and day out and gradually grew stronger by the day.