Chapter 1 – The servant who sweeps
As new day began, Kai Yang woke up and started to tidy his bed. Taking the broom lying in the corner of the small room, he walked out while at the front door stretching a little. He looked up to see the touch of grey in highlighting dawn sky and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. He was enjoying this moment of peace, before he had to start his assigned work of sweeping the ground free of the dirt and leaves.
Dressed in black clothes that were simple and clean, the worn black colour seemed to highlighted the youth’s loneliness and years of isolation there. His spine was as straight as a javelin with a meticulous expression on his face. Even though he was completing the lowest ranked job, Kai Yang's actions were very well executed. Exerting little force on the broom and with only the rotation of his wrist, the broom moved effortlessly. When his body moved, the dust and trash on the ground seemed to magically accumulate in one place around him, just like they had grown a pair legs.
Kai Yang was the Sky Tower’s trial disciple as he had trained for three years, yet only reached the tempered body third stage. Other disciples who had entered at the same time as him, long surpassed this and reached higher stages. Thus, they were all able to enter into the main building, pay their respects and make steps towards their futures. He could only lament about his inadequacy in the outer grounds.
Reaching the tempered body third stage in three years could not be called bad or good, but really, really mediocre.
Helplessly, Kai Yang could only continue to sweep in the outer grounds, working hard to support himself and also in training.
Sky Tower school was a very unique school, as this uniqueness was through the ruthless competition between disciples. In the school, the strong are like kings, while the weak were eliminated. The strong eat the weak; the law of the jungle was actively followed by all.
In other schools you may be able to see friendly rivalries, brotherly bonds and people who worked together to achieve the same goal. But in the here, the only "bonds" were false, so they could use each other and rise in power; stepping over each other’s bodies was the only method.
Sky Tower’s strict system was well-known throughout the entire Han Dynasty. Although school itself was not that large, the brutal nature of their disciples, made their might second to none! That is because each disciple's skill was like a ferocious tiger and when they walked out, no one in all the rivers and lakes dared to provoke them.
(TLN: All the rivers and lakes is a martial term similar to the heavens and the earth, to convey how their might resounded through the land.)
Though, Sky Tower School had one rule; that was to accept disciples at fourteen year old and for the first three years of their acceptance, it was considered their testing period. In those three years, all of the disciples food, clothing, shelter were provided by the outer grounds, so the disciples only needed to focus on cultivating. But if, in these three years they could breakthrough the tempered body, they would be able to enter the inner court to pay respects to their elders and become their students. Of course you don’t necessarily needed a teacher and could you improve on your own, but the difference in learning by yourself and having a teacher was very large. In a way, the Sky Tower rules did have some room for flexibility and freedom.
In those three years if you don’t break through, then you are given two choices: leave the school or be demoted to a trial disciple.
Trial disciple is Kai Yang’s current status! He is also Sky Tower’s shame!
Compared to normal disciples, their treatment was very different. Trial disciples must provide for their food, shelter, clothing, as the outer grounds would no longer waste cultivating resources on these trashes. Once demoted to a trial disciples, you basically could never advance. Unless of course, you manage to increase your cultivation level quickly in a small amount of time. Only then would the school consider promoting you to true disciple.
The entire Sky Tower consists of three thousand disciples, while the experimental disciples? You can count them on your ten fingers! Kai Yang has faith that he can become a true disciple!
For trial disciples who wanted to survive in Sky Tower, this was like dreaming of reaching the heavens. Take Kai Yang for example, his current residence was a hut that he had built himself, one log at a time. He didn't even have the time to fix the holes on his small roof. When it rained, the water also couldn't exit properly and built up in the room. He also buys his own clothes and food; basically he is responsible for all his own needs.
Kai Yang’s small hut was in the school’s most remote and most uninhabited location.
Generally speaking, when subjected to such horrendous treatment, it was difficult to endure. That was the reason why the school only had a very small number of trial disciples. Most who couldn't meet the requirements chose to leave the school, but Kai Yang stayed.
This was equivalent to been kicked out, how was this is okay?
A few months prior, when he was made a trial disciple, Kai Yang also accepted a sweeping job to provide for himself.
Right now Kai Yang was both an trial disciple and a little sweeping servant; but just by sweeping, it was hard to maintain a living. There were many times when he was cold or hungry, but he had chosen this path. So he didn’t play the drums of retreat, because in this this life he had sworn an oath to continue down it. That was what men did.
In Kai Yang there was toughness, it was a even if you slam into the brick wall, don’t look back type of toughness!
(TLN: Chinese idiom, to continue on with your own decision/idea/plan)
Cleaning the trails, sweeping dust from the space the sky gradually began to light up from the rising sun.
Even though sweeping itself didn’t use a lot of energy, but without any food or drink since the morning and constant motion, Kai Yang was covered in sweat. This had nothing to do with strength, it was just his physique was very poor. Two out of three meals he went hungry, Anybody who lived like him, how could their physique be good?
As time went, more and more Sky Tower disciples had started to surround him. These disciples had woke up early, not to cultivate but to gwak at him. They had great interest in Kai Yang, gazing at him with avid gazes, like they were staring at a naked beauty or a sweet fragrance like juicy meat bins wafted out.
Among those Tower disciples gathered around Kai Yang, there was also a tense atmosphere in the air. Looking at each other warily, all held an unfriendly look.
Someone in the crowd softly said: “So many people, it’s a bit excessive ah.”
It was that moment someone else said: “Do you think anybody can walk this path huh? Nobody wants you to stay.”
That statement made the person who spoke embarrassed. Everybody knew why they were gathered here, why they were all looking at Kai Yang, and they all wait for the next moment to come. The deadline was about to arrive, so wasn't leaving now not a pity? If you could grab the rewards, then today would be a harvest.
Kai Yang naturally knew the reason for the commotion next to him, though his expression never changed. They would parade themselves every five days, six times a month. He had already gotten used to it, and it was nothing to make a fuss out of. He also noticed the amount of people in front of him had increased, they probably had not all arrived yet.
(TL: Wow, these guys are really bothered to come there six times a month. Don’t they have better things to do?)
Although he was being discredited, Kai Yang turned a blind eye to the people next to him and began to sweep.
Following the passage of time, the people around Kai Yang gradually increased, by now there was roughly thirty-forty people present.
Kai Yang suddenly stopped and sat down in the middle of the road and slowly he breathed in the early morning air to restore his own physical stamina.
At that movement, the people gathered around him all went to surround him. A tense atmosphere filled the air, as if the air no longer flowed.
No one looked at each other, but all looked intensely at Kai Yang.
If people were to see this crowd, they would hold the misunderstanding that some expert was in the middle. Or else, how could so many people surround one person like that? In reality, Kai Yang was only a trial disciple with a cultivation at the tempered body third stage. Any of the people present, were stronger than him.
“Kai Yang, no need to bother. Why don’t you just obediently lie down on the ground so I can beat you and save some time?” Seeing him like that, they held much disdain.
How much energy can a tempered body third stage restore? You are going to lose anyway, so why linger?
“Hear, Hear. Kai Yang, please think about our fellow disciples feelings too. We're not like you, after this game we need to go practise and cultivate.”
This statement was to make Kai Yang quickly submit and let them beat him. The act of restoring his internal energy was similar to disrespecting to them, but he just turned a deaf ear, like Buddha Lao.
Time continued to pass by, suddenly the melodious Tower bells sounded. It reached the ears of all the disciples surrounding Kai Yang and himself, startling the disciples. The bells tolled nine times, and from the east the sun rose. It was a new day! Everyone calmed down their breathing, helplessly looking at Kai Yang as he slowly got up. He took up his broom and glanced at the people encircling him.
“Choose me Senior Yang!” Shouted a person. “I strike lightly and can guarantee you no pain!”
“Rubbish! Choose me, I will be merciful. I will end it in one fist, and I promise not to waste everyone’s time.”
It was very clamorous, just like a marketplace where vendors were trying to sell their produce, competing on whose produce was fresher.
“Kai Yang, you can choose your own opponent!” Someone reminded.
Kai Yang chuckled, readily he lifted his broom and threw it to the sky. The dozens of pairs of eyes looked up, full of expectation and waited for the broom to fall whilst praying: “Choose me, choose me!” Time seemed to slow down, the broom turned a few times in the air and fell on the ground with a loud boom, no longer moving.
The broom head pointed into the crowd to a burly teenager. A regretful sound echoed as the rest of the crowd's resentment and resignation came out. But that burly youngster laughed out loud and rushed out: “Fellow disciples, this brother won this battle today, but hope fellow disciples will not blame me.”
“Che, lucky bastard!” One jealously said.
“Why couldn’t it choose me. I had come every five days, for an entire month! Kai Yang you aren’t doing this on purpose are you?”
“Don’t mention it, I have already come for a full three months and not once was I chosen!”
“Brother, you are more miserable than me.”
“Not miserable, not miserable, watching is also a good, good show.” The two brothers looked at each other, smiling secretly in their hearts.
In the courtyard, the others had already dispersed, leaving only Kai Yang and the burly teenager to face each other.
“Trial disciple Kai Yang, tempered body third stage!” Yang Kai introduced to his opponent.
“Ordinary disciple Zhou Ding Jun, tempered body fifth stage!” The burly teenager introduced.
Sky Tower disciples were also ranked. From bottom to top are the trial disciples, ordinary disciples, lower base disciples, elite disciples, and core disciples; the five ranks. Zhou Ding Jun said that he was an ordinary disciple, that means he has yet to pay his respects and doesn’t have a mentor. If the breakthrough of the tempered body disciple had a mentor, then their status would be higher than those ordinary lower base disciples. And those elite disciple were selected from the best lower base disciples.
As for the core disciples, they were treated as the pillars for the next generation of Sky Tower School and thus were cultivated accordingly.
The awe-inspiring disciple hierarchy, though it seemed unreasonable it could stimulate the younger generations into a fierce sense of competition, which was the foundation of the brutal Tower regime. This was the main reason why Kai Yang fought countless people, another rule of Sky Tower, the Challenge Rule.