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The golden orb’s rays were scorching hot, hotter than at any other time of the day. The floor was as hot as if it was ablaze. As if the violent sun burnt everything, there were no clouds in sight. Owing the extreme heat, nobody in the town wanted to be moving about. Even men trying to earn their bread had to take shelter in a teahouse. Meanwhile, in the east of Greenstone Town, sounds of a blacksmith at work were audible.
A quaint building located farthest east in the small town competed with the magnificent buildings in the nearby vicinity. Its wide doors were shut tight, and there were no guards. Above the doors of the building that occupied over three hundred square metres was a plaque with the text “Dragon Star Martial Arts Academy”.
A boy, shirt off in the courtyard of the academy, panted as he slowly brought the big and dark iron hammer down weighing over forty-five kilograms onto the anvil. Clang! Clang! One could see his arm muscles contracting eccentrically and concentrically as he swung the hammer. Training his calm and collected gaze on the sword that was almost complete, the boy wiped his sweat on his face and muttered instinctively, “It should be done soon.”
Nearly-sixteen-years old Yang Tian, a dashing boy with refined features and a healthy tan, possessed a strong spirit unlike those in his age bracket.
“Tian, why are you forging iron again? We aren’t short on money. Go and cultivate already,” urged Lin Yuan, in a voice starkly contrasting the muscular arms exposed through his grey-short-sleeved shirt. Lin Yuan, owner of Dragon Star Martial Arts Academy, became Yang Tian’s foster father when discovered the child in his courtyard eight years age.
“Father, I can handle it. You should go and rest. This is cultivation, too.” Yang Tian pushed Lin Yuan away by the arm whilst scratching his head then spun around and resumed his work with the iron hammer.
The dozens of crystal-clear crimson blood pearls in Yang Tian’s qihai began to boil. qi and blood attained through his rigorous training passed through his hand, thereby augmenting his strength further beyond.
Humans invented a cultivation method that made unique energy accessible to them. Mastery of the method allowed one to absorb the aforementioned energy into their body, which filled one’s qi and blood. In the cultivation world, the process was referred to as Blood Refinement, which was broken down into nine layers number from one to nine. The energy was referred to as heaven and earth vital essence.
Why was it named Blood Refinement? That was because absorbing heaven and earth vital energy served to nurtured one’s qi and blood. Maximised qi and blood allowed one to manifest their physical body’s potential. Cleansing one’s flesh granted them with tremendous might and a body capable of the inconceivable!
Witnessing Yang Tian’s stubbornness, Lin Yuan, who had always treated Yang Tian as his biological son ever since adopting him, smiled. They led destitute lives, Lin Yuan didn’t ask for more. Yang Tian was surprisingly sensible and mature, often tinkering with swords and broadsword to then sell to help cover living expenses.
Sizzle! Yang Tian dipped the complete sword into a barrel of water. Mist rose, accompanying the sizzling sounds of the sword in boiling water. A brief moment later, Yang Tian wiped his sweat on his face and examined the poor sword he forged.
“I wonder when I’ll be able to forge a Blood Weapon. The clan’s classics are too fragmented,” remarked Yang Tian, shaking his head at the hopeless circumstance. He then slowly turned to face Lin Yuan. “Father, there are three more months until the Martial Arts Academies Grand Tournament, correct?”
Those who made it into the top ten at the Martial Arts Academies Grand Tournament held once every three years were rewarded handsomely.
“Hehe, yeah. I wonder if I’ll be able to place,” replied Lin Yuan, scratching his head with a hint of anticipation in his eyes.
“Father, you have reached the Seventh Layer of Blood Refinement now. You should be able to do it. You need not worry, Father. I am here, am I not?”
“True that. Young Tian is the best.” Lin Yuan scrubbed Yang Tian’s head and laughed. Despite saying that, Lin Yuan was still bothered for hadn’t paid the rent for half a year at this stage, and the deadline was coming up. If he couldn’t win the prize money, Dragon Star Martial Arts Academy would need to be repossessed to repay the debt. As for Yang Tian, though he possessed unfathomable talent, three months was far from enough time.
“Rest assured, Father. I will definitely do it. I will not allow anybody to take our ancestors’ land,” Yang Tian pledged to himself with his fists tightly clenched.
In the past, Dragon Star Martial Arts Academy prospered at Greenstone Town, but misfortune befell the Academy upon Yang Tian’s advent eight years ago on that rainy night. Lin Yuan was frightened when he saw the cold and intense desire to kill in the boy’s gaze despite his blood-soaked, nigh crippled state. Lin Yuan deduced that an eight-year-old boy must’ve lived through a catastrophe to be in such agony.
Lin Yuan’s family didn’t have a child. His wife met with misfortune at one point, and he never remarried. He had a fondness for the child who appeared out of nowhere. Moreover, he was getting on with age, so he adopted Yang Tian. Curing Yang Tian of his illness nearly left him bankrupt. Nevertheless, being as stubborn as he was, he swore to not give up on the boy. As a consequence of spending exorbitant sums of money on medicines for Yang Tian, Dragon Star Martial Arts Academy gradually fell from grace until the father and son were the only two remaining. Money aside, he invested seven years into nursing Yang Tian as opposed to expanding his academy.
Lin Yuan took care of Yang Tian in every facet possible; their relationship was essentially that of biological father and son. That said, Lin Yuan had yet to ask Yang Tian what happened back when he adopted the boy.
When he turned fifteen, Yang Tian broke through to the Third Layer of Blood Refinement within less than a year’s time. Beginners who could reach the Third Layer of Blood Refinement in two years were considered to have decent talent. Reaching the Third Layer of Blood Refinement in a year was a feat far beyond what prodigies could achieve, thereby putting him on par with disciples from prominent clans.
Creak! Yang Tian opened the door and went to sit quietly at the table at night. After a few silent breaths, he picked up a bamboo brush and dipped it in ink. Suddenly, rage and hatred surfaced in his eyes; his eyes looked bloodshot. He expressed his rage and resentment on the low-quality sheet of rice paper before him.
The writing activity was an activity Yang Tian had to do daily. Perhaps that was his way of reminding himself of the vengeful feelings dwelling within and the scene he witnessed eight years ago.
With his resentment gleaming in his eyes, he began to move his brush with vigorous strokes, flicking the flame on the candle side to side.
“Long,” was the first character he wrote – after which his murderous aura oozed from him. With just one character, his breathing had picked up. His brush cracked as a result of his tight grip. “Yang,” was the second character he wrote. After he finished the characters “Longyang”, the number of cracks in his brush increased.
Snap! A draft blew on Yang Tian’s face. Bang! He aggressively gripped the corner of the table as he looked at the two characters. His faint qi and blood woke from its slumber and began to surge forth, playing the war melody to go along with his melancholy. The resentment in his eyes suddenly began to increase in magnitude as he thumped his chest hard and loathed himself for being useless. With a hard thump, blood began to seep from his lip.
“Longyang, who exactly are you? My clan never offended you, nor did we have any grudges between us. Why did you kill my clan? Longyang, I’ll slaughter your entire family in time. I’ll let you experience the anguish of losing your family.”
Eight years ago, a group of people donning black robes assailed Yang Tian’s clan. Faced with an inescapable plight, his parents tore open a dimension to send him into. He didn’t know what his parents’ fate was afterwards. He, however, suffered severe wounds as a result of lacking the physical attributes to withstand the pressure in the dimension. Fortunately, Lin Yuan saved him.
At the time, all Yang Tian heard was the group’s leader yell, “Overautarch Longyang,” a name he had never heard.
“Longyang, wipe that neck of yours clean, and wait for me. I’ll come collect your head sooner or later. If my parents met with mish-, no, they’ll be fine…”
Yang Tian pressed his eye lids together, taking a moment to calm himself and return to his usual self. He took out a ring he had hanging from his neck. When viewed under the candlelight, the jet-black dragon pattern appeared different to its usual form.
Qihai – Split into upper and lower. The upper sits on the lower sternum; the lower one is better known as the Dantian.