As a grey dawn appeared on the horizon, a solitary figure was shedding sweat on a training ground…
This place was Heavenly Peak City, the main residence of the Ling Clan.
A clear and sharp shout tore through the dawn’s silence, revealing a toiling youngster.
No more than 13 or 14 years old, he was slightly taller and thinner than average although his gaunt skin suggested he was rather malnourished. However, his appearance was heroic, and despite not being handsome, he had the grandeur a warrior should have.
Even though it was dawn, the roosters in the courtyard had yet to crow, not to mention other people. In this large training ground, he alone practiced martial arts, already dripping with sweat before the sun’s rays could truly illuminate the city.
“Grandpa always said, ‘clumsy birds have to start flying early.’ Although I am not as good as others, I can work ten times, no, a hundred times harder than them! I don’t believe that I can’t breakthrough to Rank Two Martial Vein! Those people laugh at me today; I will shock them tomorrow!”
The youngster’s name was Ling Xiao, but he was actually not related to the Ling Clan in any way.
About a year ago, Heavenly Peak City’s Ling Clan had sent invitations throughout their domain to expand their clan. As long as one was surnamed Ling, one could participate in the clan’s examination, and those with outstanding results would be formally recruited into the Ling Clan.
At that time, he had passed the examination and entered the Ling Clan. From a young age, he had begged on the streets with his grandfather. Along the way, he had unexpectedly opened a martial vein with an incomplete merit law he had scavenged, becoming a Rank One Martial Vein martial artist. He could be regarded as a genius, even the official from the Ling Clan responsible for his examination had praised him.
Nevertheless, Ling Xiao was clear in his heart, as his grandfather had said: “Martial artists dominate the world. If you become a martial artist, we will never have to resort to begging.”
Since that moment, he had cultivated day and night. Even whilst begging, he would cultivate with his head bowed. As a result, he had achieved his rapid progress.
Other people thought him a genius, but he was nothing more than a desperate cultivator.
After becoming a Ling clansman, Ling Xiao and his grandfather had moved into a fine house prepared by the Ling Clan. Back then, Ling Xiao had been full of expectations for his future.
A girl named Ling Yu also lived in this city.
Although she too didn’t originate from Heavenly Peak City’s Ling Clan, her family’s financial situation was extremely good.
In the past whenever Ling Xiao had begged at their door, this unruly young lady would secretly run out after him after refusing him. She would then knock his rice bowl to the ground and ruthlessly stomp on his legs with her little leather boots made of high-grade materials.
She would curse, “Even if I had to let dogs eat, I wouldn’t let you!”
However, after Ling Xiao had entered the Ling Clan, Ling Yu had viewed him in a new, more favorable light. She had even taken the initiative to befriend him. This had made him determined to walk further in the martial path and become outstanding in the Ling Clan.
Nevertheless, although his dreams were beautiful, reality was cruel.
A trifling martial artist with a Rank One Martial Vein was only a single hair out of nine ox hides in the powerful Ling Clan.
There were over ten thousand Ling clansmen of Heavenly Peak City. With the addition of external clansmen, they numbered over twenty or thirty thousand. The clan was the absolute overlord of Heavenly Peak City.
How could such a large clan attach any importance to a Rank One Martial Vein martial artist?
Any servant they casually picked would be at least a Rank One Martial Vein martial artist!
As for other similarly aged young boys and girls within the Ling Clan, all had extraordinary foundations and at least Rank Two Martial Vein martial artists. Some had even reached Rank Three Martial Veins! As for the realm of having a Rank Four Martial Vein and above, all were existences Ling Xiao could only look up to.
Naturally, if he could breakthrough to Rank Two Martial Vein within the year, he could also walk with pride.
However, some things couldn’t be demanded. Because that incomplete merit law he had picked up long ago clashed with the basic Ling cultivation merit law, he had had to start cultivating from scratch.
Gradually, many people in his cohort had surpassed him.
Ling Yu had already reverted to that arrogant and unruly young lady again. Not only had she broken through to Rank Two Martial Vein, but she had also become a genius disciple of the Ling Clan.
Ling Xiao, despite seeing his perilous circumstances, didn’t collapse from this setback. On the contrary, he hadn’t forgotten how he had come to the Ling Clan; he cultivated even more diligently. He vowed to never be expelled from the Ling Clan; otherwise, he and his grandfather would suffer hardships once more.
The Ling Clan stipulated that all outer disciples who couldn’t breakthrough to Rank Two Martial Vein within a year would either be expelled or become servants.
Now, only a month was left before Ling Xiao’s one-year time limit.
Full of fighting spirit, the youngster fiercely swung his arms, giving rise to a vigorous wind.
Ling Xiao knew full well what his results would be, but he refused to give up. Since he had reached Rank One Martial Vein once more even after shattering his cultivation, he believed that he could reach the Rank Two Martial Vein level.
Currently, Ling Xiao was cultivating the basic martial art of Ling Clan, “Barbarian Bull Strength.”
It included a merit law and some martial skills that could not only improve one’s cultivation realm but also be used for combat. It was one of the most popular basic martial arts for low-level martial artists.
Because Ling Xiao had practiced this “Barbarian Bull Strength” so many times, he experienced a kind of natural comfort when he used it, meaning that he was quite suitable for practicing martial arts.
Although this ordinary martial art was very common, it still had a grade classification, of which there were five: Basic, Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced, and Peak.
Among the five grades, “Barbarian Bull Strength” was merely basic.
This grade classification naturally had meaning. The higher the grade, the better the effects of the cultivation merit law and the greater the might of its accompanying martial skills.
Ling Xiao was just an outer disciple without any blood relations with the main Ling Clan. In addition, he didn’t display any outstanding talent. Therefore, he could only cultivate basic martial arts. He didn’t have the qualifications to come into contact with even elementary martial arts.
“It feels like I can breakthrough soon, but I always get stuck at the most critical place. Alas, it would be much better if I had a breakthrough pill,” he muttered.
After practicing for a long time, Ling Xiao paused to drink a gulp of water from his water bag while reflecting on his helpless situation.
After observing others for almost a year, he knew that he was not inferior to anyone else. In fact, because of his painstaking efforts, his cultivation should have progressed much faster.
The problem lay in his dearth of adequate merit laws or pills.
All of the Ling Clan’s clansmen and those wealthy outer disciples had either higher grade cultivation merit laws or the money for breakthrough pills.
Those Rank Two Martial Vein disciples had all used breakthrough pills.
Although this pill wasn’t very expensive and had few side effects, Ling Xiao couldn’t afford it. The Ling Clan providing him with food and drink was already benevolent; they would never provide him extra funds.
“Scram, you trash! I already told you that this is my exclusive spot. You are not qualified to practice here!”
When the sun fully rose above the skyline, Ling Xiao packed his things and prepared to leave to avoid conflict with those of the Ling Clan.
He was too late.
The one who had yelled was Ling Chong, a disciple of the Ling Clan.
While speaking, Ling Chong had jumped onto the platform and pushed him. Fortunately, Ling Xiao had been studiously cultivating. Although he had not broken through, his body was very sturdy. Don’t be fooled by his famished face, his emaciated body contained great strength.
Ling Chong was unable to push him. Ling Xiao was like an old tree rooted to the ground.
“Ling Chong, we have no enmity between us. Why do you always bully me?”
Ling Xiao was irritated since this was not the first time the other party had treated him like this.
“What a joke! Do you think this father truly likes to bully you trash? It’s just that your ears don’t work. I warned you before not to practice here. Don’t infect us with your trash qi!” Ling Chong scoffed at Ling Xiao.
Yes, this was intentional, but what about it? Among the outer disciples, this Ling Xiao dared to not heed his words. If Ling Chong didn’t seek trouble with him, who else could this mighty Rank Two Martial Vein blame?
The Ling Clan disciples all had an inherent arrogance. They felt that the outer disciples were servants in all but name who could be ordered about at will.
Therefore, almost all the outer disciples were bullied by the clan disciples. Most remained silent while some responded by obsequiously fawning. Ling Xiao, however, chose to be neither servile nor overbearing.
Ling Xiao didn’t want to invite trouble, but if he didn’t practice here, he would have to go far away to find a suitable training ground. Considering his grandfather, training far away was basically impossible.
“Ling Chong, you are truly useless! You can’t even push an outer disciple out of the martial platform. How did you muddle along?”
“That’s right! In any case, you are a Rank Two Martial Vein martial artist, and this kid has a Rank One Martial Vein. Are you not truly weaker than him?”
“Hurry up, Ling Chong! Drive this kid away; we have to train.”
The disciples with Ling Chong were either clan disciples or those outer disciples who had sought refuge with them. In any case, all were people who liked to watch entertainment.
After all, watching this excitement didn’t cost them anything.
“His mother! You all dare to look down on this father. I will send this kid flying with a palm and let him know what it means to be called a martial artist!”
Ling Chong was greatly stimulated by the others’ prodding and glared at Ling Xiao with contempt. He then suddenly thrust out a palm that landed on Ling Xiao’s chest.
“Is that all?”
Blood flowed from the corners of his mouth, but he didn’t fall down or take a single step back, only gritting his teeth.
He could have avoided being injured by letting the attack blow him away, but he had refused. Once a person shrank back and surrendered even once, it would give rise to mental weakness.
He was unwilling!
“This kid! You’re courting death!”
Ling Chong sent a flying kick towards Ling Xiao in anger.
Before it could land, Ling Xiao suddenly spat out a mouthful of blood. This disgusting glob scared Ling Chong so much that he hastily dodged, swerving his kick so that he flew off the martial platform.
Seeing Ling Chong land below the martial platform, a smile appeared on Ling Xiao’s face. He then swayed, fell to the ground, and fainted.