With a mind, full of wandering thoughts, Zhang continued to watch the countless workers contributing to the expansion of the Dragon’s Lair, following the rhythmic sound breaking rocks and churning soil, time passed by like a gentle breeze.
As the wheels of time spun the day quickly ended and night began, like this before anyone knew it three days went by.
Like the dozens of days prior, today had begun quite uneventfully. Like any other day, the sound of roosters had awoken Zhang’s workers. Climbing out of their makeshift beds before dressing themselves in dirty outfits crusted with dirt.
Normally one would freshen up with a cool splash of water, however considering the type of work they were doing, most of the workers have long forgone this morning ritual.
One after the other as they walked out from within their tents, all of Zhang’s workers began to congregate in front of a series of massive buildings scattered throughout the work camp.
Hung at the entrances of these scattered buildings were the words, Dining Hall, every morning all of the countless workers that were employed by Zhang would be given a piping hot meal to start out their day.
“I wonder what we are having today?” A man with a full beard and half a head of hair said as a vibrant smile was spread across his face.
“Hah, forgot what we are having for breakfast today, the question you should be asking is whether or not we will be able to catch a glimpse of one of the princesses again.” A man with half of one of his front teeth said with a grin.
“In your dreams, I doubt we'll ever get an opportunity like that again. How often do you think a princess would go into a kitchen and cook food for commoners like us?” The man with half a head of hair said, playfully punching his friend in the arm.
Walking side by side and entire game the dining hall, the two men quickly grabbed a pair of trays that had an assortment of different foods on them. Steamed rice, stir fried vegetables, grilled meat and refreshing soup, one could say that despite toiling in dirt and grime, all of Zhang’s workers were all well fed and taken care of. Compared to what regular people ate, the food Zhang was supplying his workers with could be considered delicacies.
Although there was no longer any war and an abundance of supplies being transported from one region of the Aurora Empire to the next, many people still lived very frugally and such plentiful meals are luxuries only the moderately well off can afford. Hence when paired with the amount of gold and silver Zhang was offering, many people found it too good to be true.
What they didn't realize was that their work could lead to not only the salvation of the Aurora Empire but also could open a path for Zhang to obtain absolute dominance over the Wulin continent.
When weighed against the possibility of obtaining an entire continent on top of gaining the ability to repel any foreign force that may come with ill intentions, Zhang would of course be willing to forgone some of his wealth.
After finishing their meals, the man with half a head of hair and his friend who was missing half a tooth, filed out of the dining hall and toward another large building, this one with a sign reading, supply warehouse.
Making way into the supply warehouse, the two men walked towards a counter, of many, where an elderly looking man could be seen.
“Old man, two shovels, two water skins and two pickaxes please.” The man with half a head of hair said in a familiar manner.
“You two better not damage these shovels like the last ones or else I'll report you to the higher ups and have them deduct your pay next time.” The elderly man said in a half joking manner as he retrieved a pair of shovels, pickaxes and water skins from underneath his counter and placed them in front of the two men.
“Hah, the only reason why they last shovels came back broken was because we had stumbled upon a vein of those crystals that his highness was looking for.” The man with half a head of hair said with a chuckle.
“And I heard you two were given quite a generous reward for your little discovery. Meanwhile an elderly man such as myself was scolded by the higher ups for a pair of broken shovels. To make things worse a bit of my pay was even deducted.” The elderly man said as a glint appeared in his eye.
“Old man, I know what you're thinking, no need to beat around the bush. Consider this a token of my appreciation and thanks for taking care of me and my friend all this time.” The man with half a head of hair said as he retrieved five gold coins from within his robe and passed them to the elderly man whose eyes began to sparkle.
“Let's get out of here before we miss the start of our shift.” The man with half a missing tooth said, nudging his friend with his elbow.
“Wait, before you go take these with you. I was told to tell you to keep these with you at all times when you're down there.” The elderly man said as he placed two talismans with letters written in red ink on the counter for the two men to take.
“Why did you give him those gold coins?” The man with half a missing tooth complained as he tucked the talisman with red letters into his robe.
“The old man is kind of weird and a bit greedy but you have to admit he has taken care of us and without his guidance we wouldn't have found those crystals in the first place.” The man with half a head of hair said with a laugh as he and his friend headed toward a large gate build at the entrance that all of the workers use to enter the Dragon’s Lair.
Like the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of other who were their counterparts, the two men steadily descended into the earth.
While the two men walked alongside many others like them, thousands of figures could be seen soaring through the air. Wearing matching uniforms and looks extremely dignified, all of these flying figures were a part of Aurora’s new and most powerful force, the Blood Scale Army.
“If only one of the two of us was able to use magic, then we would have a chance of joining the Blood Scale Army.” The man with half a missing tooth said as he gazed into the air with the eyes of a dreamer.
“Keep dreaming, if it was that easy to become a saint then I'm sure we would still be last in line.” The man with half a head of hair with a laugh.
Like this the two men carried on with their daily routine, walking with their shovels and pickaxes leaning against their shoulders, arriving in front of a large lift that would carry them down into the depths of the earth.
Going on with their day, they did what they always did, use their picks to break away at the hard ground beneath them and then had their shovels to move the debris into baskets that would then be carried to a collection post where a saint would be stationed. Once a considerable amount of dirt and stone was gathered, the saint stationed at the collection post would move it out of the Dragon’s Lair and to the surface where it would be transported elsewhere in the empire to be used in the making of dams or other construction projects.
Dropping off a large basket full of dirt and then walking back to their assigned area, the two men continued to do what they had down for the last dozen or so days, they continued to dig away at the earth. Unlike usual however, after the man with half a head of hair returned to his post and swung his pickaxe into the ground, something totally unexpected occurred.
There was no sound of breaking rocks, nor was there the sound of moving soil, strangely enough the sound of churning water seeped into the ears of the two men.
In but a fraction of a second, a glowing light blue colored liquid began to seep out from the ground, as this occurred the two men found the soles of their shoes to be soaking wet.
Occupied with the moist and uncomfortable sensation one usually got when one’s shoes were drenched in water was a burning feeling that made one feel as if their skin was being peeled away.
“Wha-what is this!?” The man with half a missing tooth cries out as the earth beneath him was hidden by a sea of glowing blue liquid. In the midst of his panic, the man with half a missing tooth failed to realize what was actually happening to him. What he did not realize was that the bluish colored liquid was an extremely condensed form of essence, and the painful sensation he was feelings was merely a result of his body being supercharged with essence.
While being supercharged with essence could result in one’s body exploding to bits and pieces, which is a bad thing, it could also be a good thing. If someone were to make use of the current situation and begin to channel as much essence as they could into their bodies and force themselves to break through, they could greatly increase their strength, they could possibly even become a saint in a short amount of time.
Just as the men were about to attempt to flee toward the surface, toward the lifts, the talismans they were given at the start of their work day began to glow.
The red colored letters on the talisman started to glow and come to life, moving off of the paper they were drawn on and scattering onto the bodies of the workers before enveloping them in a bloody colored veil of light.
As soon as the bloody colored veil of light came into existence, the painful sensations plaguing the workers who were knee deep in the glowing blue liquid were instantly erased.
“Everyone stay calm! Do not panic! As long as you are in possession of one of princess Yuying’s talismans then there is nothing to fear! Be sure to keep them on your body at all costs or else there will be no guarantees on your safety. We will have a protective barrier in place soon! In the meantime, everyone is to report to the lifts.” A team of men clad in red armor announced as they flew around the excavation area.
“Don't panic? Haha, how can I not panic when the water level is still rising.” The man with half a broken tooth said as he hastily headed toward the area where the lifts were located.
“Brother Di Li, watch your step! There are potholes everywhere around this area.” The man with half a head of hair yelled to his friend.
“Quit your dallying Brother Yuan Kang or else we might be trapped here!” Di Lu yelled just mere moments before he stumbled onto the ground due to not watching his step.
As his body crashed onto the ground and his clothes were soaked in the bluish liquid, the worse possible scenario began to play out. While trying to push himself up from the ground, to Di Li’s horror the talisman that was currently keeping him from harm’s way could be seen drifting away atop the water’s surface.
Frantically Di Li reached out his hands in an attempt to retrieve the talisman however before he could a piercing pain cause his entire body to shake and convulse.
“Brother Di Li!” Yuan Kang yelled as he quickly arrived beside his fallen friend, with a worried look spread across his face.
“I-it hurts…” Di Li said in a pitiful tone has his body ached.
Seeing his friend in pain, Kang Sho, without a second thought pulled out his own talisman and stuck it onto Di Li’s body. While relieving his friend’s agony, Yuan Kang felt an immeasurable amount of essence flood into his body.
“AHHHH!” A gut-wrenching shriek suddenly filled Kang Sho’s ears, looking toward the source of this blood-curdling sound, he saw a young man who looked no older than the age of twenty-five. From a single glance, Yuan Kang saw that the young man’s right arm had actually bulged to twice the twice the size of his left arm, indicating that something was seriously wrong. As a clear example of what would occur if one misplaced their talisman, the young man’s arm bursted into a bloody mist before the rest of his body soon joined it.
“Brother Yuan Kang, take back your talisman!” Di Li cried as he tried to shove the talisman just given to him back to its original owner.
“Keep it! Of the two of us, you're the only one with a family to take care of.” Yuan Kang said as he pushed Di Li away all the while a storm of thoughts began to race through his mind.
“I need to do something and fast or else I’ll end up like that guy…” Yuan Kang thought as he could feel his muscles swell and his vessels bulge. In a do or die situation, he began to try to refine the excess essence currently flooding into his system, figuring if he could prevent the essence from accumulating then his life would be saved.
Burning away as much essence as he could and using it to strengthen his body as much as he could, Yuan Kang entered a deep trance, losing track of everything else occurring around him. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes passed one after the other as Di Li stood watch over his friend, worried and afraid.
“Everyone just a little bit longer and a barrier will be erected!” The voices of many different individuals rang throughout the excavation site.
Ignoring everything and focusing solely on himself and his body, Yuan Kang steadily empowered himself. Thus, marked beginning of the birth of yet another saint under Zhang’s service and the start of what could become Aurora’s golden age.