Early Dawn. The blackness of night had barely begun to recede and the Sun like a lethargic old man was rising up in the eastern horizon in an agonizingly slow manner .Mists pervaded throughout the valley with a chill that seemed to seep deep into the marrow. The valley was silent almost eerily so gone was the incessant chirping of birds , the noise of the cicadas and the calls of the animals that seemed to be almost a part of the land itself for they were that ubiquitous yet they were unheard , now for their makers huddled in their shelters desperately keeping themselves warm and free from the overpowering cold
Quite Surprisingly in this ominous weather a long stream of young men could be seen walking in single file across a narrow , jagged path along the sides of a mountain .They were dressed in robes which seemed so flimsy that it seemed as if they could barely stand the freezing wind and indeed this was the case with quite a few students chattering their teeth and hugging their arms across their chests in their attempts to get some much needed warmth .Yet they trudged on without any voice of complaint , nay without any voice whatsoever the weather dissuaded any attempts to strike a conversation besides they were well aware that any complaint would be of the least significance where they were going
Eventually the path opened onto a wide clearing close to the peak unadorned save for a plain seat of rock right in the center. The seat seemed unassuming enough yet none dared approach it and they quietly sat themselves down in front of the rock in neat rows on the thin grass , speckled with dew .
The frightful cold seemed to alleviate a bit and with the rays of daylight finally reaching the clearing some began to strike a feeble attempt to converse but any chattering that had started died out spontaneously as they saw the arrival of a figure
It was a man , an old man perhaps in his sixties , who seemed unassuming at a first glance however an in depth scrutiny would reveal the vicissitudes present in his eyes, the passage of time , of having seen endless ages , His deep black eyes like marble were like whirlpools from which there was no escape.He carried himself with a quiet dignity and a mystical aura seemed to be present in every fiber of his being giving him a sense of mystery
The man sat down on the rock and surveyed the crowd before him .His thoughts unknown to all but himself.The students meanwhile got up and bowed as per the etiquette and sat down at their places barely daring to breathe ,although it was not their first time yet every time of contact with a figure at the level of the man in front quickened their hearts and made them really nervous especially the aura that seemed to be coming from him naturally that left them pressed in obeisance
"As expected of a foundation establishment cultivator ! He is at a completely different level of existence from us !" One boy said with a sigh to his neighbor"Indeed",his neighbor replied "I think it is pretty good already that the sect can arrange such an esteemed person to guide us on the path of cultivation!" Many similar discussions were going on albeit in whispers which abruptly ended when the man began to discourse in a sonorous voice
While almost all students were paying rapt attention and hanging on to every word of his ,there was one student towards the back who was uncharacteristically staring into the purple dawn sky .He was good looking not overly so ,seemed neat enough but that was it .There was hardly anything to distinguish him from the vast multitude of his kind except perhaps the fact that they were at least listening to the discourse
"Mediocre" Tang Yuan mused inwardly As a deacon at the stage of Foundation Establishment he had been discharged by the sect with completing the duty of the weekly sermon , as a side task he was also supposed to watch over the progress of the entry level students and report to the sect regarding any outstanding seed that could be cultivated by the sect .However unfortunately this time as well he failed to find any student to his satisfaction .The students hardly seemed to be following what he said, some appearing to give in to their distractions already specially the student towards the back who was spacing out .He knew about him well enough after hardly any progress in the last three months he still had the gall to ignore his discourse! However this wasn't a mortal world school after all , the sect usually rarely if ever interfered in the activities of their students however they still had quite an efficient mechanism to weed out freeloaders "Wonder if you would last till then " he though to himself , shook of all distracting thoughts and continued with the task at hand
Xiao Chen meanwhile had come to from his mental wanderings . He shook himself a bit to remove the last bit of grogginess that assailed him and listened on the sermon for a bit "Cultivation is like wading across a river in full spate , a single wrong step and you would end up with a miserable fate with no possibility of a rescue ! It is therefore necessary of knowing at the very least of a path that you could follow akin to handholds and footholds at rocks in different depths If I were to continue my analogy of wading . Therefore the ancients according to legend divided the path to heaven into nine domains with each domain having nine steps in them . Such a classification has been debated hotly in the modern era with all cultivators being existence of only the first Mortal domain however the truth regarding this debate is too far from both you and me right now .In the entire Eastern Profound Continent the highest cultivation level is still that of the Nascent Soul stage which could be according to this classification only be considered as the fifth step in the Mortal Domain ! As for higher levels neither do I know of them nor am I or you capable of doing so right now ! "
"To get back to the matter at hand..."Xiao Chen sighed and pulled himself up , Another routine lecture but then what did he expect ? Cultivation laws and esoterics were a closely guarded secret in any influence and none would be revealed to unless it was to someone qualified enough .Xiao Chen didn't need an introspection to know that he definitely did not belong to the chosen few however he was also painfully aware that without these he had almost no hope.His talent was mediocre , his diligence moderate , he possessed no skills to speak of and his background ? Once perhaps , now pretty much nonexistent .He was well aware that with the way things were going on ,He might pretty well fail the next inspection in three months time As it happened he had barely passed the last one , if he failed this He stood at a high chance of getting expelled perhaps for others expulsion was no big deal , with their skills becoming an expert in the mortal pugilistic world was no problem after all .Yet with him it was way more serious .Expulsion was synonymous to death in his regard
In the vast Eastern Profound Continent there were a multitude of sects each possessing a spirit vein of their own of varying grades which allowed for the practice of cultivation. The sect in which he was in , the Azure Profound Sect was a decent enough sect not so big enough to boss around but similarly was not so small as to be bossed around either.It had a good enough spirit vein and the presence of a Nascent Soul ancestor was enough of a deterrent to drive away any unscrupulous cultivators or forces .In fact the sect was the last barrier between him and almost certain death , although he had taken precautions there was no telling if his pursuers would catch up with him if he left the safety of the sect .No ,not if when.
He took a long sigh shaking off any thought of his imminent expulsion and fell into deep thought once more trying to think of a countermeasure "Chen Xiao ! Hey ,Chen Xiao! wake up ,dummy " a voice followed by a shove shook him awake the owner of the voice was a rather pudgy man of average height and looks.He seemed the kind of person randomly taken off the street an almost unnoticeable person , the kind who would be forgotten the next minute .
Ling Fan sighed to himself at the now familiar sight of his friend brooding .He was well aware of the fact that he was faced with expulsion but there wasn't much he could do either .His family wasn't exactly well off although they could reluctantly be considered a family in the cultivation world having produced cultivators before .The best he could do therefore was provide him with some pills and spirit stones out of his stache. However what he could do by himself was to try and cheer his friend up after all a person in an optimistic frame of mind stood at a better chance of thinking things through rather than a defeated man who would have given himself up to fate.
Xiao Chen for a moment was confused Who was this Chen Xiao ? before he came to his senses and realized that it was the name that had chosen in order to escape their deduction the name was pretty natural enough to him and it allowed to hide himself better. Although he felt safe enough in the sect there was no telling where their eyes and ears were after all.
Looking at his friend Ling Fan with his familiar smile plastered on his face albeit with a hint of worry .He forced himself to smile and replied "Don't worry I was just thinking some things .I might have found a way to pass the assessment "Really ?" Ling Fan looked suspiciously at him "Yeah,so don't worry about me OK? You are pretty far from the requirements as well you know , if you don't work hard you might end up failing instead !" Ling Fan nodded , his talent wasn't that far off from Xiao Chen's either just the fact that his family were able to give him a better starting line in terms of resources allowed him for the possibility of passing the inspection "Sigh" "at this rate when would reach Foundation Establishment and fly in the sky freely like a bird "Who knows?" Xiao Chen replied"We might even reach Nascent Soul someday "Ling Fan scoffed back at him "You better keep your daydreams to yourself Chen Xiao !"
Xiao Chen simply smiled back at him mysteriously. He was aware now that he had no recourse left he had attended today's sermon in an effort to find one last opportunity but it seems he won't get one unless ,He shook himself that was too dangerous there was no telling if he would succeed with his miserable talent but even if he did that was the reason his pursuers were after him anyway and hey would do anything to get that .He realized that he was trapped in between a cliff and an abyss with nowhere else to go. But even if I die after taking this road at least it would be on my terms not like a pig at the butcher's .It's what they would have wanted he thought tears suddenly filled his mind as faces flashed past his mind faces he had tried his best to forget by pushing them into the deepest recess of his mind .He wiped his tears off quickly unwilling to see anyone else see them , at the same time wiping off his hesitation as well for he had derided to take that path which although dangerous seemed to offer a slim hope of survival .He was filled with renewed determination as well as some dread for he was ware that whatever happens things would never be the same again.!