Chapter 1 - Lin Ming
Within the Sky Fortune City, the capital of Sky Fortune Kingdom, the Seven Profound Martial House stands before the greater Zhou Mountains. The Seven Profound Martial House - it is the martial house set up by the Seven Profound Valley, a martial arts sect with over six hundred years of heritage. It was also the only martial house set up by them in the Sky Fortune Kingdom.
As largest martial house, the Seven Profound Martial House possessed a great number of legacy martial skills and martial arts masters as tutors. It was only natural that it would become a holy land for many young aspiring martial artists. Correspondingly, the entrance qualifications for new recruits in the Seven Profound Martial House was set at an exceedingly high threshold. It would not be an exaggeration to say that only one in a million were able to qualify.
Under the scorching heat of summer, a young boy stood within a forest of the great Zhou Mountains. Both his fists were wrapped up with strips of cloth as he stood bare chested before a rough looking big tree. He threw punch after punch, striking heavily against the tree trunk.
Heavy sounds echoed out around the forest. The layer of thick bark on the large tree that were struck had sunk downwards noticeably, exposing its grayish wooden texture. On its surface, traces of blood could be seen.
This young boy's name is Lin Ming. He possessed a third grade martial talent.
In the Sky Fortune Kingdom, half of its citizens have no martial talent to speak of and weren't suited to walk the road of martial arts. As for the other half, at least eighty percent of them have a first grade martial talent. Even if these people were to practice martial arts, they would not be able to reach anywhere. One in ten of the remaining people have a ninety per cent chance of having second grade martial talent. If these people were to be diligent in their practice of martial arts, they would have a chance to accomplish something in life. However, becoming a master of the martial arts would be near hopeless for them.
Lin Ming’s third grade martial talent could be considered as a high-class existence. If one were to be boastful, one could claim that he is the cream of the crop. However, even with his martial talent, it would still be difficult for him to enter the Seven Profound Martial House!
Lin Ming was well aware of this. Together with his childhood friend, the beautiful Lan Yunyue who also has a third grade martial talent, they had agreed to take the entrance examination for the Sky Fortune Martial House even though it was nowhere near as good as the Seven Profound Martial House.
The Sky Fortune Martial House was part of the Sky Fortune Kingdom. Since the day of its inception, it has only eighty years’ worth of martial skills, legacy and foundation, a limited number indeed. Legacy martial skills were something of great importance to martial artists. Without a good set of martial skills, the goal of completing the final Body Training realm, the Pulse Condensation realm, or higher would be near impossible.
The Pulse Condensation realm was a realm that most martial artists vied for and dreamed of. It was also the first turning point for cultivators of the martial path. Once the Pulse Condensation realm was successfully attained, a martial artist’s lifespan would be greatly increased. Additionally, they would also be granted the title of nobility, allowing them to live a life of prosperity, bringing a blessing to their descendants.
It was in this Pulse Condensation realm training that the Sky Fortune Martial House fell precipitously behind the Seven Profound Martial House.
Lin Ming’s heart pulsed for the sake of the road of martial arts. It was only natural that he too desired to enter the Seven Profound Martial House. If his talent was insufficient, then he could only rely on his own diligence and perseverance to impress the examiners. However, the prospect of him entering was very low. Moreover, once he failed, he would have to waste half a year’s time to wait for another opportunity. For martial artists, this amount of time is highly precious.
Placing all this into consideration, in addition to the fact that he had promised Lan Yunyue, Lin Ming decided instead to enter the Sky Fortune Martial House.
Lin Ming and Lan Yunyue had trained and played together for many years. Even though the both of them were still young and the topic of marriage never came up, those emotions have already begun budding. Lin Ming’s parents on the other hand, had shown their approval and love towards Lan Yunyue. They would always invite Lan Yunyue to their house for dinner.
A mutual feeling of goodwill existed between Lin Ming and Lan Yunyue, leaving only a thin piece of paper between the two. Once they grow just a bit older, this piece of paper would certainly be torn apart.
Lin Ming viewed the agreement between them both seriously. He had determined to charge towards the Pulse Condensation realm even if he could only train within the Sky Fortune Martial House!
However, on the day that Sky Fortune Martial House held its entrance assessment, Lan Yunyue failed to show up.
At first, Lin Ming assumed that Lan Yunyue was unable to arrive due to some matters. It was only later that he learnt of Lan Yunyue entering the Seven Profound Martial House. Additionally, the one who had ensured her success in becoming a disciple of Seven Profound Martial House was Zhu Yan, the genius Young Master of Green Mulberry City’s number one family.
Although Lin Ming was only fifteen years old, he had accompanied his parents outside the city before. Thus, he has a greater level of maturity compared to others. He understood the meaning behind Zhu Yan’s act of ensuring that the Seven Profound Martial House accepted Lan Yunyue.
For a great family such as the Zhu Family, their prerequisite in selecting future wives lied not in terms of appearances, but rather their martial talent. A highly talented wife would have a higher chance of giving birth to a martial genius. Although though Lan Yunyue’s family was only average, her third grade martial talent was very good considering her gender. In addition, Lan Yunyue herself was a beauty with an outstanding temperament. It was only natural that Zhu Yan would fall for her.
For Lan Yunyue, the difference between the Sky Fortune Martial House and Seven Profound Martial House was simply too great. The opportunities, honor, glory, and potential accomplishments that both could able to provide were simply incomparable. This was especially true regarding the extension of life that could be gained after one successfully reached the Pulse Condensation realm. Such a temptation was simply irresistible for girls.
Faced with such appealing prospects, most females would have chosen to go with Zhu Yan as well. After all, Zhu Yan himself possessed handsome features and his family background and future were both far better compared to Lin Ming’s.
Although he was able to understand this, to say that this matter did not greatly affect Lin Ming would be a lie. He shut himself within his room for three days. After that, he walked out and proceeded to eat, sleep and train. Moreover, the intensity of his training had become much higher than before.
Before Lan Yunyue had left him, Lin Ming had already made the decision to break through into the Pulse Condensation realm and pursue an even higher realm of martial cultivation. The current Lin Ming was no different. If he still had any doubts before, then Lan Yunyue’s act of leaving him had hardened his resolve towards the road of martial arts.
He made the decision to enter the entrance assessment for the Seven Profound Martial House, no matter how difficult the process would be.
The heavy sounds of fists striking against the tree trunk echoed continuously throughout the forest. The name of this tree was an ironwood tree. Not only does it possess an extremely tough layer of bark, it also had strong regenerative properties. Many beginners of the martial path would choose this ironbark tree to train themselves.
After throwing out who innumerable punches, Lin Ming finally exhausted himself. Leaning upon a tree trunk, he sat down on a piece of rock and removed some herbs from a backpack placed on the ground. He smeared them onto the surface of his fists and kneaded. For those who pursued martial arts, frequent usage of body treatment herbs were necessary. Not doing so would cause internal injuries to build up. Once these internal injuries accumulated, there was a possibility of becoming a cripple or even death.
This herb is called iron thread grass It was given this name because the green juice produced from squeezing iron thread grass could help heal wounds but would cause a terribly painful sensation akin to having iron threads brushing upon the wounds.
Lin Ming grit his teeth as he endured the pain. He retrieved a white cloth from within the backpack and rolled it around his fists, bandaging it.
Truth be told, there were many other herbs that are more effective compared to the iron thread grass. These herbs also has a milder side effect, but came at a much higher price. Lin Ming’s circumstances made it impossible for him to afford such herbs.
Lin Ming’s parents ran a restaurant within Green Mulberry City. However, this restaurant did not belong to them; it actually belonged to the Lin Family of Green Mulberry City.
Although Lin Ming’s surname is also Lin, his family line had been separated from the Lin Family by several generations. The Lin Family placed some off their less important assets into the hands of their distant relatives for management. Lin Ming’s parents livelihood were dependent on their management of this restaurant. Every year they would be given a fixed amount of income and some commission. This money was naturally enough for them to subsist on, however, it would be a stretch to use it to fund Lin Ming’s pursuit of martial arts.
Lin Ming’s parents had originally wanted Lin Ming to continue the family business and become a manager for the restaurant. However, seeing Lin Ming’s ardent devotion towards the martial path, they instead chose to take out all their savings for Lin Ming to purchase healing herbs.
Since then, Lin Ming’s family savings had decreased bit by bit. But Lin Ming on the other hand had remained at the first stage of Body Training.
The Body Training Stage was the first realm for those who pursued the road of martial arts. It involves the tempering of their bodies and was separated into six stages. The first stage was Strength Training, second was Flesh Training, third was Viscera Training, fourth was Altering Muscle, fifth was Bone Forging and sixth was Pulse Condensing. After that, one would be able to step into the Houtian realm.
After applying the iron thread grass juice onto his wounds, Lin Ming rested for one hour to allow his wounds to absorb the medicinal properties of the herb. He then straightened himself and was about to continue training his fists when a fat youth walked into view. This fat youth was carrying a long sword with him. Seeing Lin Ming, he grinned and spoke. “Brother Lin, today is the registration day for the entrance examination of the Seven Profound Martial House. Did you happen to forget about it? Why are you still training your fists here?”
This youth’s name was Lin Xiaodong, he was slightly younger than Lin Ming. Growing up together, the two of them had a very strong bond of brotherhood.
Lin Xiaodong was a direct descendant of the Lin Family. However, even for direct descendants, there existed a ranking system. As it happened, Lin Xiaodong was part of the lowest ranked one. As for Lin Xiaodong’s parents, they too were engaged in business and had a close relationship with Lin Ming’s parents.
After seeing Lin Xiaodong, Lin Ming turned his attention back to the tree trunk and said. “The beginning part of the registration will have too many people. The queue would take up 2-4 hours. Going there now would be a waste of time.”
“Damn it, you won’t even let go of this small amount of time. Do you really have to go that far?” Lin Xiaodong exaggeratedly said and walked up to the tree trunk. Looking at the hollows caused by the fists and the traces of blood that stained the wood, he turned to see Lin Ming’s bandaged fists. He then let out a sigh of disappointment. “You really are crazy, to be able to damage Iironbark wood to such an extent. However, with your current training methods, iron thread grass alone won’t be enough. If you keep this up, your hands will become crippled!”
Lin Ming didn't respond. The road of martial arts was a constant struggle against the heavens. Considering his third grade martial talent, reaching the sixth stage of Pulse Condensation would be incredibly dificult. If he did not give it his all while he was still young, then he would have no hope at achieving his goal. Once he had given his all, there would certainly be the possibility of him becoming a cripple due to the accumulation of internal injuries. However, there was also the possibility of him attaining success before that happened. And once he could successfully enter the Pulse Condensation realm, he could attain true primal tempering of the body and the internal injuries would vanish.
For Lin Ming, this was a battle with his back against the raging river
This was also a gamble with his life on the line.
Lin Xiaodong sighed and pulled out a bundle from his bosom. He unfurled the bundle layer by layer and said. “Brother Lin, take this.”
Lin Ming turned around and was shocked to find a bloody crimson colored ginseng lying upon the cloth bundle. Judging from its appearance, this strain of blood ginseng was at least a hundred years old. It was a high-grade medicine used for mending wounds and nourishing blood. A thin slice was enough for each use. In addition, the powerful healing properties of this blood ginseng were very gentle. This blood ginseng should be worth at least a hundred and fifty gold taels, the equivalent of Lin Ming’s family’s annual income.
Lin Ming froze and he shook his head. “I cannot accept this Blood Ginseng.”
Even though they were close brothers, this Blood Ginseng was simply too expensive. Lin Xiaodong’s position within the Lin Family was very low. Even though his family situation was much better when compared to Lin Ming’s it would still be far from comfortable if their income were used to supplement Lin Xiaodong’s martial training.
Lin Xiaodong forcibly pushed the Blood Ginseng into Lin Ming's hands and said. “I bought this Blood Ginseng for you. You know how I train; I fish every three days and dry the fishing nets every two days
"My body’s injuries are no more than a fart’s worth. Using this would be a waste. If you refuse then I would have bought this for nothing. I do not have much ambitions in life. I just want to continue holding on to my position as a direct descendant of the Lin Family. As long as I do not end up losing this position and my next generation could also successfully maintain their place in the Lin Family, that is enough for me.”
Lin Ming remained silent for a moment before receiving the Blood Ginseng. He then said. “Very well, I will accept this Blood Ginseng. For the sake of this ginseng, I willbreak through to the Pulse Condensation realm.”
“Haha, now that is more like it. Not only should you break through into the Pulse Condensation realm, you must also turn that son of a bitch Zhu Yan upside down. That bastard has been an eyesore for a long time!”
Zhu Yan, huh… Lin Ming sighed lightly. Zhu Yan had already been admitted into the Seven Profound Martial House. In addition, Zhu Yan was currently one of the high ranked disciples within the inner Heavenly Abode, his strength having reached the pinnacle of the Third Stage of Body Training. Even so, Lin Ming had set defeating Zhu Yan as his objective. This decision was not due to Lan Yunyue but rather due to his pursuit of the martial path. This path required him breaking through one threshold after another; conquering one mountain after another. As for Zhu Yan, he had the honorable spot of being the first to be conquered.
At the base of the great Zhou Mountains lied a stretch of buildings extending up to twenty miles in length. This was the area of operations for the Seven Profound Martial House and today was the day of registration for those who wishes to take the Seven Profound Martial House’s entrance assessment. A crowd was gathered on the field before the Seven Profound Martial House.
Even though Lin Ming and Lin Xiaodong had deliberately chosen to arrive late, they came to realize that they had underestimated the number of applicants. The applicants were all lined up in three lines, with each line extending up to several meters in length. Judging by the current queue, one hour would be needed before registration could be completed.
“We will have to wait,” Lin Xiaodong gave a sigh and stood helplessly in line.
“Mm,” Lin Ming nodded his head.
“Hey, there are very few people there,” Lin Xiaodong pointed towards a small gate nearby. There were only a few people there. Furthermore, the ground was also paved with red carpet.
“That place is reserved for nobles…” Lin Ming noticed the writings on the sign.
Since the Seven Profound Martial House was built upon the grounds, buildings and resources of Sky Fortune Kingdom, it was only natural for them to give some face to the elite classes of the kingdom. In fact, many of the martial house’s affairs would be handed over to the elites to manage. One such example was today’s registration for entrance examination.
“Damn it,” Lin Xiaodong muttered in discontent. Nobility was something that only the Imperial Family could grant and could be inherited. Even though the Lin Family is a wealthy family, it was not a noble family.
Lin Xiaodong was cursing off at the nobles while consoling himself when the doors of the gate opened. Two young men strode out from the gate; one of them was wearing blue clothes with a long sword attached to his waist. His hair was tied up into a gold colored head piece and he had a handsome appearance.
Seeing the appearance of this man caused Lin Ming to frown. This was none other than Zhu Yan.
The Zhu Family’s daughter had married into the Imperial Family and had become the Emperors’s favored concubine. With this advantage in the royal family, the Zhu Family soared to become the number one family within Green Mulberry City. Moreover, they were also granted the rank of nobility, thus allowing Zhu Yan to ensure Lan Yunyue’s admittance into the Seven Profound Martial House.
“Damn, we end up meeting a detestable person,” Lin Xiaodong muttered unhappily.
Zhu Yan was walking side by side with the other young man. A few other nobles waiting outside then chose to follow the two of them. It would appear that Zhu Yan was bringing the other young man to register. The two of them continued walking forward. At this rate, it was inevitable that Lin Ming and Zhu Yan bump into one another.
With his current position and strength, it was possible that he would end up suffering badly if they were to bump into one another. But, Lin Ming chose not to run and instead looked forward in a calm manner as Zhu Yan approached.
Zhu Yan’s pace was disrupted after catching sight of Lin Ming and Lin Xiaodong. His first reaction was that of shock. After that, he frowned. Seeing Lin Ming made him feel uncomfortable. Although he had snatched away Lan Yunyue, she had refused to engage in any acts of intimacy before their wedding. Clearly, Lin Ming still existed within Lan Yunyue’s heart, not to mention her feelings of guilt. The only reason she had chosen Zhu Yan was due to the Seven Profound Martial House. As a man, Zhu Yan was unable to tolerate the fact that his future wife’s heart remained within the grasp of another man.
“You are called Lin Ming, am I right? How unexpected, you would actually follow us all the way here. You, with a mere cultivation level of First Stage in Physical Training want to take the test to enter the Seven Profound Martial House?”
The meaning behind Zhu Yan’s words was obvious. He would never allow Lin Ming to enter the Seven Profound Martial House. Even though Lin Ming’s strength was of no threat to him, Lin Ming’s existence within the Seven Profound Martial House would make it impossible for Lan Yunyue to forget Lin Ming.
“Whether or not I manage to pass the assessment is my own problem. I am not here as a result of following anyone. I am here due to my pursuit of the road of martial arts.”
“The road of martial arts? A mere above average talent like you dared to utter the words of pursuing the martial path? Insolence!” Having said that, Zhu Yan’s finger released a light sound; after that, his long sword shot out from its sheath! Zhu Yan grasped onto the sword and slashed the air, releasing an intense sword energy, which created an air splitting sound. A barely visible wave flew outwards, directly cutting down half the canopy of a nearby tree.
The sounds of “pususu” could be heard as a large number of branches and leaves fell to the ground. The people around all stared with bulging eyes. Most of them were of roughly the same age as Zhu Yan and were not that much younger. However, Zhu Yan’s accomplishment in the Martial Way had already left them far behind.
The reason Zhu Yan unleashed this sword slash was to give Lin Ming a mental blow, and show him the disparity between the two of them. “I am a fourth grade martial talent. I began training in martial arts since I was twelve, consuming countless medicinal pills in the process and have now entered the Heavenly Abode’s Sword Sect within the Seven Profound Martial House. I am currently at the pinnacle of the Third Stage of Body Training. Even so, I am barely at the start of the road of martial arts. And yet, someone like you with a mere First Stage in Physical Training dared to talk about the road of martial arts?”
Zhu Yan’s manner of speech was so arrogant, it caused Lin Xiaodong to become enraged. “Surnamed Zhu! You are simply someone born two years earlier than us! What are you boasting about? If our age were reversed, this senior would use just one hand to toss you away!”
Zhu Yan frowned and turned to look at Lin Xiaodong. He took a step forward, the primal energies within his body exploded outwards as he asked. “Who are you?”
“I…” Due to the oppressive pressure sent out by Zhu Yan, Lin Xiaodong’s words were stuck in his throat. He took a step backwards, swallowed his own saliva and patted his chest before speaking. “This Young Master is called Lin Xiaodong, you better remember it!”
“Lin Xiaodong? Heng, those from the Lin Family that has the qualifications to talk with me can be counted with one hand. What makes you think that a clown like you have the qualifications to speak to me? That includes even you, Lin Ming! If not for Lan Yunyue, you have no qualifications to talk to me at all! I will give you this advice, a man must know his own limits. Someone like Lan Yunyue is not someone that you could match up to.”
A female with Grade Three Martial Talent with good looks and bearing is rare within Green Mulberry City. Most of them would only appear in great families. However, considering the conflicts of interest between the great families, they would never allow their talented females to be married off into other families, leading to the strengthening of their rivals’ bloodline. Thus, most great families would request that the male side marry into their family. This was the reason why Zhu Yan had said that.
“A thousand gold taels! From today onwards, I do not want to see you face again!” Zhu Yan said as he pulled out a stack of gold bills from his sleeves.
The people around were rendered speechless. A thousand gold liangs was a very high sum of money, enough for a martial artist in the Physical Training Stage to buy up necessary high-grade herbs for training usage for up to three years.
“A thousand gold taels? Do you take us for beggars?” Lin Xiaodong pushed back the stack of gold bills. Truth be told, he was simply putting on a brave façade. Even for him, a thousand gold taels was a huge sum of wealth.
Zhu Yan flicked his hands and a powerful repelling force knocked Lin Xiaodong away. Zhu Yan coldly stared at Lin Ming, awaiting his answer.
Lin Ming took a deep breath before speaking out in a slow yet powerful tone. “Zhu Yan, I am not your match in terms of talent, I am even less so in terms of family background. However, the cultivation of martial arts does not depend only on talent and financial support; there is an even more important factor… the heart of a martial artist!”
“Your cultivation of martial arts is done for the sake of wealth, status and vanity. However, my cultivation of martial arts is done for the sake of pursuing the road of martial arts. The road of martial arts does not exist for those with talent, it does not exist for those with authority and it does not exist for those with money. It exists for those whose heart beats for the sake of martial arts! There will come a day when I will surpass you!” As he reached the end of his sentence, Lin Ming spoke out each word with emphasis and in a clear voice. Everyone who were standing nearby could clearly make out what he had said.
A third grade martial talent wanted to chase after a fourth grade martial talent. In addition, there was an enormous gap in terms of background between them both. This brat had gone mad!
Hearing Lin Ming’s words, Zhu Yan became momentarily stunned before laughing out. “Good! Very good indeed! I will be waiting for you!” After saying that, Zhu Yan kept the stack of gold bills. With a “weng” sound, the long sword returned to its sheath. Zhu Yan then gave Lin Ming a long look before turning away.