Smoke and dust rose from the arena made out of stones. It was outside the territory of the sect, a few miles away from the castle.
On the stony plateau, more than five hundred bodies laid on the ground. They were full of bruises, cuts, and both light and heavy injuries, some were even on the borders of life and death! Countless moans and cries of pain could be heard coming from the many bodies laying on the ground.
They were a few hundred people wearing white robes, Inner and Core Elders of the Mysterious Light-Shadow Sect.
In the middle of such chaos, a single person stood: he was a young child, about eight years old, almost nine. Unlike everybody else, he was standing still and instead of injuries he only had some dust and dirt on his clothes.
He looked almost relaxed as he watched the people crying and screaming from the pain surrounding him “Ahhhh, nothing is as good as good old-fashioned beat-them-up! It really tempers the body!”
Suddenly his cheerful expression grew angry “Ehy, you lot! Did I say you could rest? Hurry up and get back to running and fighting!” He stomped on the ground and released a powerful shockwave, blowing the unlucky people lying close to him up a few meters in the air before falling back down. Falling back down hard.
A person crawled his way up to the body of a man pretending to have fainted: he wore a white robe with three black lines going from his shoulder to his ankle. He was an Inner Elder.
As for the man laying on the ground, he was none other than the Core Elder, Tai Fu! “Senior Fu, wasn’t Master Hao a human with no cultivation? How is he able to hurt us as such?”
Tai Fu only slightly moved his lips, scared that the distant Cheng Hao would notice that he wasn’t unconscious anymore “Don’t ask me questions that nobody can answer. That guy is a monster! Look around you, all these bodies laying in the dust and crying tears of blood, would you be able to do something like that?”
Tai Fu looked in Cheng Hao’s directions. “If you want my opinion, that guy is the Devil himse-” He saw the boy looking straight at him and stopped talking altogether as he shuddered.
“Tai Fu! You seem to have recovered, good! Come here so I can verify the fruit of your training up until now!” Cheng Hao smiled and crushed the longsword he was holding in his hand into splinters.
Tai Fu gritted his teeth and punched the ground. He lowered his voice and cursed “Go****it! See what I mean! How can that thing possibly be a human?”
Cheng Hao smiled and waved his harms “Everybody, Core Elder Tai Fu says that this amount of training is nowhere near enough and I should increase the difficulty a bit! Alright, a thousand squats-push ups and palms sets for ten times! The last person to complete them shall repeat the sequence another five times, so hurry up!”
Hundreds of groans and cries could be heard at the same time as the whole crowd of injured people turned to look at Tai Fu, bursting with rage.
“Brother, you idiot, don’t you know that Bastard Devil can hear you no matter where you are! That little brat is not one you should joke around with!” A bloody Tai Zu crawled over and smacked Tai Fu with a stick.
“Still not enough I see… I guess you shall do all that without using your hands, use your teeth instead!” Cheng Hao’s voice reached them and they almost coughed blood when they heard the words.
Everybody couldn’t help but groan after hearing that “You idiotic Tai Brothers, did your dog parents ever teach you how and when to FRIGGING SHUT THE F*** UP!!!”
A couple composed by a middle aged man and slightly younger woman panted and then the mother protested “Ehy, we are here, you know! Don’t casually curse us when we are right here!”
The father also looked angry but then nodded his head in approval “But you guys are right, those two are idiots…”
“Wow, you guys are so energetic! Ok! We will do everything I told you earlier… At the same time, I will also try long ranged attacks, so act like good targets!” Cheng Hao took out a short sword, on it were carved the Rune “Long”.
He began to slash the air but the blade acted strangely so that sharp air currents followed the strikes, going on for hundreds of meters before disappearing.
Everybody immediately shut up and began training like madmen, not daring to anger the Demon Brat any longer. They would do the inhuman sets, eventually dodging the occasional sword strike, but nobody dared to voice any kind of complaint as they knew that would only worsen the situation. Running away wasn’t an option either as there was Bi Liang patrolling outside.
“Wait a second… Why is Bi Liang stopping us from running away?” Somebody stopped and asked. Seeing that, Cheng Hao smiled and slashed again in his direction.
The man paled seeing that and dodged Cheng Hao’s strike before immediately going back to train.
Another person turned and asked “What do you mean, Ho XiaoLi? Of course he would stop us, otherwise we would all run away”
The person referred to as Ho XiaoLi gritted his teeth and spoke again “That ain’t what I mean you idiot Ran Gu! What I mean is, why isn’t that Devil there making him do all this like u- Ugh!” The man barely evaded a sword strike and fell hard on his face.
Ran Gu thought for a bit before his eyes lit up “It might be… That even Master Hao is not able to force him to do this! After all, he has a peak Sung stage cultivation! Everybody, if you get to the peak Sung stage you will be able to escape this madness!”
“What?” “Is that true?” “Make way, two months? One will be enough!” “Hellish training here I come!” “Oh, I want so smack that boy’s face so badly, I shall get to the peak Sung stage before anybody else!” Cheng Hao simply smiled at the crowd of people surrounding him.
In the meanwhile, Bi Liang was patrolling around the group of people engaged in the hellish training. He was concentrating hard on his job and thus didn’t hear what the people were yelling.
“If I let anybody through I will join the training with the bunch of them…” Bi Liang gulped and trembled terrified “But why did brother Cheng Hao allow me to rest while everybody else is working their asses off?”
In the middle of the chaos of people yelling and moving around, Cheng Hao simply smiled ‘The carrot and the stick, good old trick, what’s more, it always works! Now… What technique should I practice?’
Cheng Hao’s eyes gleamed as he stepped forward. Nobody saw the motion, but at some time during that step, Cheng Hao had slashed. Yet, Sung cultivators, powerful Martial Artists that had been training for decades couldn’t figure out the secret of the move as Cheng Hao simply walked around to slash the air surrounding him.
‘Sword Intent!’ Cheng Hao smiled ‘To slash the air without using a blade! Or at least, that is what the user’d like other people to think!’
He stepped forward and he slashed the air once again as he hid the weapon from the eyes of the people looking at him. It was a really difficult technique that required extremely good control and knowledge of the body, as it would need the user to manipulate the shadows and twist the body in a way that would hide the blade from prying eyes, thus making it look like the air was slashed apart just by moving around!
It was also a perfect skill for assassinations and ambushes and powerful against big groups!
Also, now that the he strikes would linger on, it was even more deadly! The blades of wind formed by the powerful slashes would travel for hundreds of meters before fading. Although it wouldn’t be enough to kill those powerful cultivators, it would still injure them to some extent.
A crazy child with an edged weapon, what’s more, an incredibly powerful crazy child with a weapon that can cut through the air itself and form wind blades… Who would dare disobey him?
Everyone on the stony plateau silently did the exercises they had been ordered to do by the Devil Brat of the Golden Tiger Faction.
Cheng Hao finally stopped after two whole hours, allowing the group to rest, and looked up ‘It’s been a week… Sisters, Brothers… Xiao Wu, Fu Yin, Fan Lai… How are you doing right now?’
Tai Fu gaped as he stared wide-eyed at the boy “Did that Devil’s expression just turn into belonging and nostalgia?”
Before he could investigate any further, he was forced to roll to the side to evade a wind blade full of killing intent. He lifted himself up and shook his head ‘Nope… Definitely the same ol’ Devil Brat Cheng Hao…’
Xiao Wu squinted her eyes and dodged to the right: a sword slashed the same spot she had been standing on up until a moment ago and swiftly hurried up to chase after her.
Xiao Wu gritted her teeth and moved her left hand in front of her: the Aura Shield moved and the incredibly thin yet durable shield of Aura appeared right in time to block the blow.
A man wearing loose clothes and missing an eye frowned as he saw his attack being blocked. This was an attack in which he poured most of his power in, yet the shield didn’t even budge, let alone crack!
He was about to back away when the girl spun on herself hitting his blade with her Fake White Shield. She squatted and sweeped her legs horizontally, making him lose his footing. He lost his balance and a black gleam flashed by as the girl landed behind him, her right arm still thrusting in front of her.
The man’s eyes widened to look at his chest: a black, incredibly thin sword was hovering just a hair’s breadth away from his left chest.
He gulped and then lifted his hands “I surrender!” Xiao Wu waved her hands and the Aura Sword and Aura Shield seemed to break into countless bright shards as it dissolved into gaseous Qi and flowed back into her body.
She bowed to the man and said “Thanks for Senior’s guidance! I have learnt a lot from my battle today!”
The man looked around forty years old, had long curly black hair and dark skin. He sheathed his sword and also bowed “I am also grateful for Junior’s kindness. It seems like I still have a lot to work on!”
He reluctantly tossed her some kind of badge which she caught in midair. He sighed and looked for someone to fight to win back a badge for himself.
Xiao Wu turned, headed towards the counter and announced the result of the mock battle, also handing in her badge. Apparently, with that victory she had leveled up from a Rank One fighter to a Rank Two fighter, not that she really cared about it…
After dealing with the formalities, she left the Fighter’s Haven. The building was five stories tall and more than a hundred meters wide. Inside it there were facilities for training, body building, dueling and even Seniors that gave guidance to disciples during their daily lectures.
Apparently, this kind of building existed in every Sect, School and Major City and one’s ranking could be shared.
Xiao Wu sighed and then spoke to the snake curled on her shoulders “Hey Goldy! How is it that now you are small again?”
The golden dragon opened his eyes and yawned “After reaching the Superior stage, us Heavenly Beasts can switch our body sizes, didn’t I already tell you, Stupid Hao?”
Xiao Wu shook her head and pouted “No you did not, you didn’t even tell me that you had already broken through! Also… Uhm… You do remember I am not Cheng Hao right? I am Xiao Wu…”
Goldy looked confused for a bit. He looked up and saw Xiao Wu’s face “Oh Xiao Wu! Of course I remembered, ahaha…” The girl glared and the snake looked down in shame “Alright I had forgotten, sorry… it’s just… I miss him.”
The girl sighed and looked up “I wonder… What is brother doing right now…”
Xiao Wu approached the wounded boy: the gaping hole where the stomach should have been looked really painful and she couldn’t help but want to cry. But she couldn’t, it would make the boy feel even worse!
She moved and tried to hug Cheng Hao but was met with a firm resistance by the boy. But she could tell, that he was not truly trying to push her away… Understanding that, she hugged him and kissed his forehead.
Cheng Hao closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and pushed Xiao Wu’s own forehead to keep her away. At the same time that the hand made contact with her forehead, a single, thin, string of Will left Cheng Hao’s fingers and entered her consciousness.
At first, the girl was confused: if Cheng Hao had no cultivation, such a thing should have been impossible! In the Will, there were instructions on what to do to become even stronger and… Seven words.
After she examined the content of the will, the girl smiled in understanding and hugged the boy even tighter. She now knew why the boy did what he did and she would not blame him. He was his brother, friend, master and savior: if he were to do something wrong, she would bear through it with him!
If he were to walk through a sea of flames, she would gladly use her body to shield him from the heat! If he were to get shot, she would gladly throw her body in the trajectory of the projectile and take the hit for him! Because she was his sister! She had told him that! A night more than a month ago, her life changed because of that person.
“I will be your sister from now on, so don’t worry about anything! I’ll stop the arrows aimed against you with my body, sacrifice my life to save yours and step over seas of flames to get to you!”
Those words, she had told them to him once and has not regretted them ever since. She would keep true to those words and not betray her one brother!
She turned and headed towards Fan Lai. He ignored his appreciating nod and completely disregarded what he told her, her eyes burned with anger and in her mind was only one thought: to avenge her brother against those that forced him to lie to his brothers and friends, to make himself look miserable and to bring him away from her!
“Sister, I am sorry. Please, trust me!” Xiao Wu recited the words that Cheng Hao had branded in her mind that time. She pondered for a bit as she walked back towards the Alliance’s main building. Finally, she lifted her head and her eyes burned with the flames of determination.
“Brother, I know that what you have said was the truth. Don’t worry, I will help you when you need it… Because, we are brothers! We are brothers in all but blood! This alliance with the same name will wait for you for your return, our phantom member, our brother, our leader!”
“You are perfectly right” somebody clamped her shoulder. (Fortunately, Goldy had already started to float around) She was startled and found a pair of blue lifeless eyes staring at her. Fu Yin smiled.
“Well… I had long ago thought this through. Actually, I have never thought that Cheng Hao had betrayed us in the first place! As for that spear blow, it was all but lethal and it helped make his performance more credible!” He laughed nervously.
Xiao Wu lifted one of her eyebrows and looked at him skeptically. The boy trembled and then sighed “Alright, I admit I exaggerated a bit as I wasn’t sure at that time, but I’m sure he will forgive me!”
The white haired boy stepped forward and looked upwards “If master comes back I will apologize to him, but first…” He grinned and offered his hand to Xiao Wu “I will have to get stronger, to soar higher! For our friend, for our master… Let’s go Sister!”
The girl grabbed and lightly squeezed the boy’s hand as she nodded.
She lifted her gaze and looked at the azure sky: “Yes, let’s. If not for ourselves, let it be for our brother in all but blood!”