The sky was dark as dusk began to fade into the darkness of night-time. Torrents of snow fell towards the land creating an endless stretch of white that blanketed as far as the eye could see. However, despite this gloomy looking cold that would typically give the world a silent and desolate flair, there was an exception.
At the remote edges of the Bright Flame Kingdom stood in one region whose current liveliness outshined even the activities of the capital.
Surrounded by an arrangement of hills and mountains was a town that was situated on a broad plain. It was a small town that was about 2 to 3 square kilometers, enclosed by 8 meters high walls with a spacious entrance. From a distance, bright lights gleamed from individual sections of the town walls, including its entrance. Looking a bit further, lights were also hung high up on top of various buildings giving the town a colorful taste on the onset of night.
A sea of people was traveling back and forth, leaving many footprints on the clustered snowy pathway leading towards the town. Many of these footprints belonged to martial practitioners as evident from their wares. Large carriages would also pass by now and then, carrying individuals of varying status. Some being that of luxurious designs pulled by mighty fierce beasts with the rest being ordinary.
As soon as these people entered the town, they would either head towards the pubs or inns filling them up straight to the brim. The others who were more fighting-crazed headed towards the various martial arenas scattered about the town to test their skills and warm up for the nearing selection.
“Step right up and Claim your copy of the latest [Flame-Dragon-List]!” a peddler shouted.
“Small Foundation Pill perfect for those looking to consolidate their cultivation base quickly!” another dressed in alchemist robes said.
“Taking bets!! Who will be the Champion of the Arena? Bet now and earn big!!” said a muscular guy seated in front of the betting platform near a battle arena.
“I’ll take one small foundation pill!” a young man said as he quickly made his way over to the alchemist.
“Give me a copy of that listing!” A random traveler said as he stood before the peddler.
As the liveliness of town was in full swing, a vague silhouette was slowly making its way along the path trailing towards Machen Town. It was the figure of a man with a bright red hair dressed in tattered robes with a black sword on his back. Very quickly after a bit of traveling, he soon appeared at the entrance of the town where he paused for a moment, briefly looking around at the lively and crowded atmosphere in surprise.
Step-Step-Step! “It seems that the Sky Splitting Sword School’s Talent Selection is going to be even livelier than I’d previously assumed. Heh, the more, the merrier. I must have a look to see how many Dragons and Tigers are hidden amongst the locals.” Feng Yu said as he looked over the crowd with a curious vision, while in his mind he thought back to the mysterious youth from the tavern.
“Hmm, that fellow and his companions were no joke; I have a feeling that this Talent Selection could be more than it appears. Oh well, no point pondering over the unknown. I should get myself a drink before I head back to the clan.” Closing his thoughts, Feng Yu started to make his way through the crowd towards the nearest pub.
As Feng Yu made his way through the crowded street, a few figures hidden in the alleyways were closely observing his character. Soon, however, they vanished traveling towards a different direction.
Eastern District of Machen Town, Inside of the Xiang Family Manor.
Within a large courtyard, the figures of two middle-aged men were sitting around a small table playing a round of chess. These two men were Huan Mang, patriarch of the Huan Clan, and Xiang Tian, patriarch of the Xiang Clan. Kneeling before them was a skinny looking youth who was none-other than Xiang Shu. As the two men continued to play chess, Xiang Tian soon knitted his brows as he looked towards the courtyard’s entrance followed by Huan Mang and Xiang Shu.
Swish! A figure dressed in black appeared promptly cupping his hands and bowing politely towards them.
“Patriarch, a few of our servants have just informed us about the latest movements on the side of the Feng Clan. It appears that all of the core family elders are still in seclusion. After inquiring about the details through the use of our ‘eyes,’ there was no significant information gained. Only that over a month ago all core elders and descendants of the family were called back to the clan leaving all of their private estates and businesses to be managed by clan affiliates.”
Hearing his reply Xiang Tian frowned, as his face took on a contemplative look.
“The Feng Clan has been acting strange, and I don’t like the fact that they’re up to something and we don’t have any useful information. Tell the ‘eyes’ to use any means necessary. I must have more information about what Feng Yunlong is planning!” Xiang Tian said as he glanced towards the subordinate with a sharp look in his eyes.
“As you command!” the figure said as he vanished.
“Brother Xiang, this Feng Clan is too strange. Suddenly appearing roughly about 100 years later. Even the name of their clan leader remains the same after such a long time. In fact, back in younger years, the previous patriarch of my clan warned us to never provoke the Feng Clan as their origins are too mysterious.” Huan Mang said as he looked towards Xiang Tian with a severe look.
“Brother Huan, are you worried about such nonsense? It does not matter how mysterious their origins are. All I care about are the secrets they’ve kept hidden away from us. I do not believe that they can keep hiding forever. Once we destroy their clan, making ourselves the number one clan in Machen Town will no longer be a dream. It’s only a pity, Xiang Fang changed as he left the family to do his matters for so many years now, as we would have already dug them up!!”
Hearing this, Huan Mang shook his head silently as he stared at Xiang Tian. When he was about to reply, there was a disturbance.
Another subordinate dressed in hooded clothing appeared in the courtyard. He promptly kneeled to the ground and stated.
“Patriarch! Our subordinates overlooking the town entrance just caught onto an individual whom they believe to be the young master of the Feng Clan. “
Bang! A fist smashed the ground creating a small crater, Xiang Shu then abruptly stood up in shock as he roared towards the guard, “How?! What Bullsh—-” But, before he could finish, he was interrupted…
“Silence!” Xiang Tian looked at Xiang Shu with anger and disappointment in his eyes. Soon he moved his gaze towards Huan Mang to see the latter with a dark expression on his face.
“Where is my son? Has he not appeared yet?” Huan Mang said as he looked towards the man.
“Reporting to Patriarch Huan, we have sent scouts to search for his whereabouts, but they have yet to return with any news.” The man said as he looked towards Huan Mang.
“You may leave! Tell the inspection squad to continue their search. Also, leave the young master of the Feng Clan alone. We don’t know if any experts are protecting him in secret.” Xiang Tian said.
“By your command!” The man said.
Swish! Huan Mang looked towards Xiang Shu with hatred, but soon his expression cooled down as he glanced towards Xiang Tian coldly.
“Brother Xiang, I hope that the Xiang Clan will strive their hardest to find my son as the one who insisted on taking direct action against the son of the Feng Clan was your child!” With that said he vanished leaving a remnant shade on his seat in the courtyard.
Xiang Tian sighed; he then looked towards Xiang Shu with a harsh expression.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” he said in a cold and emotionless tone.
“Father, I was just—” before he could finish his statement.
“Hmph!” Xiang Tian snorted.
With his snort, the form of Xiang Shu was flung into the air crashing into the courtyard’s walls spitting out a mouthful of blood.
“If you did not insist on trying to kill the child of the Feng Clan and had just focused on cultivating, would the son of the Huan Clan have disappeared? Why would you do something so stupid when the very first attempt you made was that of failure? Did you think we wouldn’t find out?” Xiang Tian said as he stared at Xiang Shu.
Wiping the blood stains from his mouth, Xiang Shu looked towards his father; his eyes were filled with grief.
“Father! I only wanted to prove myself to you. I wanted to let you see that I, Xiang Shu, am your one and only son and not that shit Xiang Fang!! He is not your son, and he is not my brother! I am the Talent!! I am the one deserving of your attention!” Xiang Shu said as he roared towards Xiang Tian.
“Silence! You are nothing more than a bastard child, the child of a dead concubine!! How dare your curse the main born!!! Xiang Fang is a genius; it’s only natural for him to have an odd personality. Which genius among this heaven and earth is not unique?” Xiang Tian said as he reached his hands out to assault Xiang Tian, but soon he calmed down and only looked towards him disappointedly.
“Father! You are wrong—-” Xiang Shu feeling pained began to explain once more but was cut off.
“Enough! You are dismissed. If you do not get into the top three positions of this selection, forget about calling me your father. You will no longer be a part of this clan. Now get out of my sight!” Xiang Tian said as he waved his hand dismissively.
After picking himself up, Xiang Shu left the courtyard and made his way out of the manor. Looking back at it, a dark look soon overcame his face. As his eyes filled with hatred, a figure came before his eyes dressed in luxurious clothing staring at the stars. The figure looked towards him with indifference and disdain as he opened his mouth and spoke some inaudible words with only the last words recognizable.
“The stars of fate are aligned since birth, as mediocre will always be, and its destiny cannot be realigned.”
Soon, Xiang Shu cleared his thoughts as he removed his gaze from the Manor walking towards the distant street.
“I will show you all! I Xiang Shu am not a bastard! I will make the world realize that I am the true genius, and, as for Xiang Fang, I will kill you…” Xiang Shu muttered inwardly as a firm look shone in his eyes.
Inside of a Pub.
Feng Yu sat in a quiet corner with a bottle of liquor in front of him drinking cups after cups, silently observing and listening to the commotion around him. The pub was loaded with all the tables currently occupied by all sorts of people talking about the selections. One particular table was in the heat of the discussion not too far away from him.
“What do you guys think about this time’s selection? Why would they hold it in this small town compared to the previous ones that were held in the major cities?” a fat man said.
“No idea, I only heard a strange rumor from a friend living close in the capital.” said another.
“Eh? What kind of rumor?” The fat man said.
“Um, well it’s like this, there was this strange guy who came to our kingdom, and it was said that he came with a strange prophecy, one that caused all the great sects to jump into a large commotion. After deliberating for a bit, it was decided that the Sky Splitting School belonging directly to the King’s own family would hold its selection here.” the guy said.
“What Prophecy? Ha! Do you believe this kind of rubbish? I bet they mad this nonsense up to distract our focus from their real objectives.” the fat guy said.
“Maybe so, but it doesn’t seem that odd to me.” the guy said as he ate the meat in his hand.
Feng Yu hearing this pondered, “Hmm… an odd prophecy, eh? Interesting…” soon he focused his vision on another table that was as loud.
“Who do you think will make it to the top three in this time’s selection?” a somewhat beautiful woman said.
“Tang Wu, of course, he’s the genius of Tang City. After all, with a cultivation of 9 Tier Body Training realm at only age 20.”
“You know nothing, haven’t you seen the flame dragon list? Xin Qing is the number one female in the kingdom’s listing. Hailing from the Xin Clan of the imperial city. I heard she would be attending this selection.” A man said with an affectionate gleam in his eyes.
“Hmph! She’s only recently been promoted to the 9 Tier, she’s only 19 years old, I do not believe that she can beat Tang Wu.” the woman said sharply.
“The Xiang Clan’s second young master isn’t too bad either I heard he successfully broke through to peak 8th Tier not too long ago! He’s only 22 years old.” a local girl said seated around the table.
The man and woman looked at her with unhindered scorn.
“A pumpkin will always be a pumpkin and cannot see the vastness of the heavens when existing in a small well.” the woman said, no longer looking at the girl.
Feng Yu smiled and pondered, “Breaking through to the peak of 8 Tier. He must have put in quite a bit of effort. Tang Wu, Xin Qing… interesting, I should head home and finish consolidating my realm now that I’ve gathered some basic information.”
Putting away the wine, he made his way out of the pub disappearing into the night.