On the outskirts of Fire Hill Village, two young boys were sparring with wooden swords. The two almost appeared to be dancing together, weaving their swords through the air. Only the sound of the swords clashing together betrayed the intensity of their spar.
This was a rather common sight at Fire Hill Village, as the two boys went to spar every day. At times some passing villagers or travelers would stop in their daily routines and watch. However, they would always leave before long, sighing to themselves. For unfortunately, although the two boys seemed to have a reasonable amount of skill, they were both slaves, and were unlikely to obtain access to any pills or techniques to properly train in the way of the Song. In fact, the boys were fortunate to even have wooden swords to train with. Many young slaves were only able to play with wooden sticks they found on the ground.
Reasonably speaking, it was likely that the two boys would be sold to the Army as ordinary foot-soldiers. At least they'd be able to earn a living.
After another ten minutes of sparring, the two boys abruptly stopped. One boy’s sword was in the middle of a swing, while the sword of the older looking boy was at the first boy’s neck. This signified that the older boy had won, as well as the end of the sparring match.
“Jia Yuan, you’re almost getting to the point where you can beat me!”
Jia Yuan replied in an innocent voice. “Dou Di big brother, it is only because you do your best to teach me and push me to improve every day. Or perhaps, you’re just getting worse. Hahaha.”
“Oh, shut up you idiot. As for teaching you, it is all I can do. Unfortunately, as slaves, the only chance we have to move up in the world is to become soldiers. Even without pills or techniques, with enough practice, we can move to the first level of Absorption. I think, at that point, our master would be willing to sell us to the army for sizable sum of money. Hell, if we’re lucky, maybe the Army will even provide us with a Song to train with.”
“Dou Di big brother is right! One day we’ll leave this world behind!”
Currently, Jia Yuan is 8 years old, and Dou Di is 10. When they were first purchased two years ago, they had quickly become allies of a sort. They helped each other with chores and After a few months, they began sparring together and called each other brothers. Over time, the bond between the two was not any less than that of blood brothers.
The two brothers continued practicing into the night. However, they made sure to not overexert themselves, as they knew that their master would have work for them in the morning. As Dou Di predicted, the only reason the master let them practice in the night, was so that he could sell the two boys to the Army in the future.
As one of the five nations on the Continent of the Five Elements, the Fire Kingdom desperately needed a constant influx of soldiers to defend their cities against bandits and the occasional rebellion. Even more soldiers were needed to intimidate the other Kingdoms so that the Fire Kingdom wouldn't be invaded. If possible the Fire Kingdom would like to be able to acquire enough soldiers to fight the other Kingdoms for land. After all, every nation wants to be able to expand its borders, and the Fire Kingdom was no exception.
As such, sometimes the Army would send low ranking officers through the kingdom in search for young martial talent, or just anyone who was willing to become a soldier. Many of those recruits would be former slaves. In fact, some slave owners purchased slaves for the sole purpose of selling them to the Army later for a large sum of money. A typical child at the age of 4-6 cost about 50 small fire shards, while a 12 year old with reasonable martial skill could be sold to the Army for over 500 small fire shards. If the slaves were made to provide for themselves, then the owner would receive a straight profit of 450 small fire shards. To put this into perspective, a family could live off of a single small fire shard for a month. With just 6 to 8 years of effort, a talented slave owner could virtually set themselves for life. Of course. the slave also had to have a certain level of natural talent.
12 years of age was the requirement for the national army. Furthermore, the recruit had to have passable talent with a weapon as well as good body strength. However, the extremely talented who had reached the Absorption level by the age of 12 could bypass the life of a simply infantry, and become a knight or a member of the Burning Legion, the special unit of the Fire Kingdom. For slaves who had reached this level, the Army would be willing to pay 5 thousand small fire shards, or its higher equivalent, 500 medium fire shards. This shows just how highly the Kingdom valued these talents.
And such was the dream of Jia Yuan and Dou Di, to become one of these highly respected Burning Legion soldiers.
Jia Yuan and Dou Di both returned to the small shack on the edge of Fire Hill Village, where they noticed that their master had already gone to sleep, but had left two bowls of congee on the table in the middle of the room.
Jia Yuan and Dou Di were both rather fortunate. Their master was rather kind hearted, and treated the two rather well. At the very least, he was willing to provide them with basic necessities, such as clothes and food. (Although the food was only ever congee or vegetable congee)
The quickly ate, and slept on the floor. They would continue training in this manner until the fateful day in 2 years, when Dou Di would be recruited by the Army...