9 years ago.
At the base of the Eastern Mountain which separated the human territories from the Beast territories, a small but thriving town could be seen. The town was rather damp as it was almost always covered by clouds which not only obstructed the sun but also constantly poured down rainfall almost every day like floodgates which would periodically open and shut.
A short distance away from the town, a small stream flowed down from the mountain and right beside it, an ordinary hut could be seen.
A young boy came running out of the hut, gripping a small dagger in his hands.
“Father, hurry or we’ll miss them.” shouted the young boy as he paced around anxiously.
A sweet calming voice sounded out from within the hut,
“Don’t rush your father Zilan, he needs to prepare before going out. Not everyone can do what you do.”
Zilan took this as a compliment rather than a scolding, thinking to himself,
“Sigh~ Sometimes I forget just how much of a genius I am.”
Just as he was in the middle of praising himself, a muscular man stepped out of the hut. He was dressed in light leather armor, fully geared with knives, a bow and two quivers filled with hand-crafted arrows. He looked more like a soldier than a hunter about to search for his prey.
Noticing that his father had finished preparing, Zilan quickly turned around and sprinted into the forest.
“Wait!” shouted the man.
Zilan didn’t listen and instead continued running. The man sighed, asking himself where this child got all this stubbornness from.
He bade farewell to his wife inside the hut and quickly gave chase as the forest was not a place to let a child roam alone.
Not long passed and the father-son pair were now walking together side by side. Zilan seemed rather upset as he periodically rubbed his bottom. His father, on the other hand, was too focused on his surroundings to bother with Zilan.
“You didn’t have to hit so h…mp..mhpf_….”
Before Zilan could finish lamenting, his father put his hand over his mouth.
“They’re about to come out, keep it down!” he whispered.
Zilan nodded and only then did his father remove his hand. He then signaled Zilan to crouch down on the ground as slowly as possible.
“How many stars are you capable of removing now?”
Zilan confidently raised two fingers up, smirking as he did so. This immediately shocked his father, who if not for where they were, would most likely shout out in excitement.
“Sh…Show me!” he said as he attentively stared into Zilan’s eyes.
Zilan closed his eyes for a few seconds and when he opened them, three stars could be seen within his pupils. Just as his father was about to say something, the ground began shaking and about fifteen meters ahead of them, small holes began to pop out from the ground.
“The moles are here!” exclaimed Zilan.
The moles he was referring to were the mountain shredder moles. These creatures lived in underground caverns usually located in hilly and mountainous areas. The majority of them living in herds that could stretch up to the hundreds and fed on almost anything thus, the name shredder moles.
One mole popped out of a hole in the ground and then another and another until fifteen moles were above ground. They all appeared the same at a height of about sixteen centimeters, covered in a thick blackish-brown coat of fur, large scaled feet, a long tail and it’s most distinctive feature, a circle of twenty-two razor sharp tentacles at the end of its snout.
Four stars suddenly appeared in Zilan’s father’s eyes.
“Father is what you see different from what I see?” asked Zilan.
“Why don’t you tell me what you see and I’ll let you know if it differs from me?”
Zilan nodded and with an unexpectedly serious expression stared at the relaxing beasts,
“I see their composition, their bones, their core and all of their meridians. I can see the falling spiritual power go out of its way to avoid the beasts.”
His father nodded after hearing up to this point thinking to himself,
“That is already above and beyond me.”
However, what he heard next sent him reeling,
“I can also see a barrier in the sky, but it has small holes punched into it. Through those holes, an unfamiliar force is falling down and the beasts are absorbing it. Father, do you know what’s going on?”
Zilan’s father remained silent for a long time before finally patting Zilan on the head and handing him his bow,
“There are some things that even Father doesn’t know so, for now, why don’t we shift our concentration to lunch before they run away.”
Seeing the expression on his father’s face, Zilan took the bow and quiver from him. He then slowly backed away, making as little sound as possible until he reached the moles’ blind spot.
He then stood up and got in a “T” stance perpendicular to his prey, took an arrow from his quiver and nocked it. He then took a short breath before drawing the bow in one perfect fluid motion and aiming at his target.
He calculated using the information from his eyes the best way to fire and after considering them all, injected some spiritual power into them before relaxing his fingers, letting the arrow fly.
*Puchi, Puchi, Puchi*
The arrow flew in a “)” curve and used a timely gust of wind to increase its speed and maneuverability, piercing three moles before it finally landed on the ground.
This happened so fast that the moles had no time to react and by the time they came to their senses trying to flee, another arrow was fired.
This time it flew in a straight line,
Two more moles lost their lives.
Zilan watched as the moles scattered about, jumping into their holes and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“There’s no need to kill anymore, we’re through!” said his father who approached carrying seven dead moles, two of which had large blade cuts on them.
Zilan nodded and the two left the hunting ground, satisfied with their hunt.
“Your skills are getting better!” praised his father.
Zilan smirked with an arrogant expression plastered on his face. He then asked,
“Father, where did you learn to shoot and hunt?”
“Me…Well, that’s in the past. Who taught me doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you have to learn them. All men must have the skills to fill their own stomach, anything more is just unnecessary! Speaking of which, did you managed to have a breakthrough?” He replied.
Zilan frowned when asked this. He had been blessed with the gift of sight but yet when it came to cultivation no matter how hard he tried, his progress remained slow.
“I’m still at the 8th level.” he whimpered. “But just you wait, I’m definitely going to reach the tenth level by the en…What’s wrong Father?”
As Zilan was explaining his situation, he noticed that his father had stopped paying attention.
“Zilan, look in the direction of the town and tell me if you see any patches of spiritual power.”
Puzzled by the sudden change of attitude, Zilan wanted to ask what was going on. However, before he could open his mouth his father shouted out,
“Hurry and do it!”
Now frightened, Zilan activated the three stars in his eyes and looked towards the town’s direction.
Upon hearing this, Zilan’s father patted him on the shoulder and handed him their captured prey,
“Go to the training house up the mountain and under no circumstances should you come down. I will fetch your mother, so wait there. Do you understand?”
Zilan immediately nodded, mostly out of fear of being scolded.
“Good!” said his father before bolting down the mountain, moving in a straight line towards their hut.
Zilan remained at that spot unmoving for a good amount of time as he stared at the sky above the town, completely captivated by the cloud of green energy he was seeing. Sometimes it would ripple, shudder and then vanish altogether before reappearing much stronger than before.
Suddenly another cloud of energy popped up above the sky. This cloud, however, differed significantly from the green one as it lacked its calm beauty. The cloud was fiery red, much larger than the green one and astonishingly it seemed to expand, quickly moving towards Zilan’s home.
“Should I warn father?” wondered Zilan as something within him told him to stay as far away from the town as possible.
Zilan hesitantly turned around and ran up the mountain. He had made his decision.
However, before he could even cover five meters, a series of loud explosions sounded out. Zilan instinctively turned to look and above the town, trails of smoke could be seen spiraling.
“I have to go…Something’s not right.” was the first thought that came to mind.
Before when it was only the strange energy, Zilan could listen to his inner fears and do as he was instructed, as he had neither an inkling to what it was nor if it posed any danger, but now it was obvious from the explosions and the smoke that something bad was going on in the town.
Zilan carefully and hastily began moving down the mountain, following the same path his father took.
As he ran, the surroundings became quiet and the only sound he could hear was that of his own heartbeat, fiercely pounding.
The sudden sound of groaning alerted Zilan who instantly drew his dagger and crouched down, cautiously moving forward.
The closer he got, the louder and much more clearly could he hear.
“That..bloody monster took my arm!” lamented the voice which sounded gruff and raspy.
Zilan was now only a single large stride away from the owner of the voice when he caught a glimpse of him, immediately causing him to jump up in fright and alerting the owner of the voice.
“Who’s there?” he barked as he struggled to stand up.
The owner of the voice was a rather skinny man, dressed in a torn up long black robe that had the symbol of a green spear on its chest. A plethora of cuts and bruises could be seen on the man’s body, the most gruesome of which was his left shoulder which was now independent, connected to nothing but air.
Surprisingly though, there wasn’t that much blood leaking from the wound.
“Yo…You’re hurt!” replied Zilan pointing towards the gap where the man’s arm used to be.
Although Zilan was no stranger to the sight of blood, there stood a big difference from seeing it flow from animals and from humans. A sight he had not seen before.
“Where did you come from?” asked the man in a softer yet still hoarse tone, clearly he had lowered his guard at the sight of the child before him.
Zilan pointed towards the direction he came from saying,
“I was hunting with my father!……Mister, are you going to be ok?”
The man froze as soon as he heard Zilan’s words if what he was thinking was true then the loss of his arm was worth it.
“Your father? Did he give you that dagger you’re holding?” he asked while staring at the dagger unblinkingly.
Zilan looked at his dagger and wondered why the man was asking him such a question. It was indeed his father who gave him the dagger but what did that have to do with anything.
Zilan was no fool and soon he questioned the man’s situation, no longer flustered by the gruesome wound.
First of all, there were no powerful beasts this close to the town so how did the man get so heavily injured?
Also, there was the strange clothing that seemed more like a uniform, one which Zilan had never seen before.
“Who are you?” inquired Zilan as he slowly backed away.
“Hmm…You’re not as stupid as you look, boy!” stated the armless man grinning from ear to ear. “As for who I am, all you need to know is that this is destiny. You can either come with me pea-….”
Before the man could finish, Zilan threw the dagger at the man’s legs and without looking back, ran in the opposite direction, jumping from side to side as he did so.
The man easily grabbed the dagger from the air and shouted,
“F*ck!” cursed the man.
Just then, he had intended to use his left arm to attack, forgetting that he no longer had such a thing and due to his other severe injuries it was virtually impossible for him to give chase especially after seeing how fast Zilan was traveling thus the armless man decided to give up.
Surprisingly though, he had a smile on his face,
“No matter, no matter. Although my reward will be less, I’ll just let the captain handle all of them!” thought the man as he pulled out a small jade tablet.
Zilan ran with all his might and without realizing it he was now close enough to the town to see it in the distance.
His pace decreased as he got closer to the town until finally, he came to a complete stop, unable to believe what he was seeing.
Almost all the buildings and houses had collapsed, completely destroyed. Flames that seemed to have originated from hell were everywhere to the point that the ground itself appeared to be burning. There were dozens upon dozens of bloody charred bodies, some which were incomplete scattered everywhere. Zilan recognized some of those whose faces were still intact.
His stomach tightened and he began to feel something rise up until finally, it burst out from his mouth. A mixture of vomit and blood poured out, seemingly unending.
“Wha…Wha…What’s going on?” coughed Zilan as his gaze erratically shifted from body to body.
“Father! Father!” he shouted, yet no response came.