Chapter 2: Strength
Today, Zhang started his day by strapping two weights to his leg and two weights to his arms each weighing roughly fifty kilograms. He also tied a weight of one hundred kilograms on his back.
Then Zhang would proceed with his daily routine of running from his home to the hill and back.
If someone were to watch him, they won’t think he was carrying so many extra weights, because Zhang was running so fast it looked like he was gliding a bit off the ground.
After one hundred laps, he tossed away the weights which made a heavy thump sound as they hit the ground.
"Time to get heavier weights", he sighed.
It had been six years since Zhang started training his body instead of his inner essence. His current strength could be considered monstrous for a sixteen years old, if one were to compare his strength with someone training inner essence he would be around a level five.
This would place him at the level of a regular full grown adult in their prime. Although he was still a little bit off from the ultimate limit of a regular person.
For the last six years he never bothered taking the essence exam again, mainly because there was really no exact way to measure his strength. If he were to sprinkle his blood on the reading crystal, it would still read an essence level of one.
Thus it was pointless to take the exam and being laughed at for his low level, so Zhang would rather spend that time training.
After weight training he would walk up to a cauldron filled to the brim with iron sand. Zhang was currently training his fingers to achieve a technique that would make his fingers hard as iron.
This technique required Zhang three years of grueling hard work to accomplish. Although he was already at the last level of the "Iron Fingers" technique, Zhang kept practicing hoping to even further strengthen his fingers.
He had long ago mastered the two sword forms his teacher had taught him. Now, the swords had become like extensions of his arms. Zhang preferred the dual swords technique the most. His father had found him a pair of swords made of "Blood Iron".
Blood iron was unbelievably hard, even harder than steel. This was due to how it was made. When a swordsmith was forging blood iron they would have to forge their blood into the iron in flames formed using their cultivation base. The blood would mix with the iron and add a part of the swordsmith’s essence and vitality into it. This made the weapons made out of blood iron a fourth tier weapon. Which would make them very good weapons. Since weapons were classed the same as the levels of cultivation.
Swords such as these were fairly rare and not many smiths were able to make them. So eventually the method to make them was lost.
As a stroke of luck Zhang's father had acquired them in a faraway village on one of his business trips. He spent a sizable sum of money before the previous owner was willing to part with them. But what was money to Blue Tear city's richest man.
The swords had a bloody red sheen in contrast with its black blade. A murderous aura was given off every time they were unsheathed. This showed that countless lives had been taken by these swords over the years.
As he was practicing his swordplay, Zhang noticed that someone was watching him.
Actually he knew who it was, it was Ling. Shortly after he has started training six years ago, Ling would come every day to watch him.
He, out of the corner of his eye, could see her sitting intently watching him.
She wore elegant white robes, that complimented her glossy long black hair. With cherry colored lips, flawless snow white skin, and beautiful hazel colored eyes.
Ling was currently hailed as Blue Tear City's genius, and it's most beautiful young maiden with many suitors trying to win her favour.
Her essence level was currently five, and a few months ago she received an invitation from the Royal Academy to join them when the new school year started.
This called for a huge celebration in the city. The Royal Academy is what all the youths wanted to attend, but only one in a thousand, youths with extraordinary talent, were selected.
In the long history of Blue Tear City, Ling was the first ever to be selected. This gave all the residents of Blue Tear City a sense of pride and joy.
As Zhang finished his daily routine, he turned towards Ling with a broad smile and asked her what she wanted for breakfast.
To this she replied, "Want to make a guess?"
Zhang smiled, the two of them had a deep understanding of each other. So of course he knew what she wanted.
But of course he had to tease her. So he replied, "Nope." He picked up some weights and started juggling them.
Ling retorted with a "guess I will just go eat alone hmph" and started walking off.
Zhang laughed, jumped up into a ten feet tall tree and grabbed a basket of food he had left there earlier.
He then jumped down and ran after her. She turned back and laughed. Of course she had noticed the smell coming from the basket long before Zhang had grabbed it from the tree.
The two of them were practically a married couple after being together for so many years.
Neither of them really understood love, but after so many years they've become irreplaceable person in each other's lives.
After eating breakfast, Zhang would continue his training and Ling had to go back home to meet her teacher.
Ling's teacher, a level eight Mage, who rarely accepted students. But after seeing her potential, he accepted her as a disciple and then began teaching her at the age of eleven.
Every day she would have to train by channeling and manipulating essence.
After Ling left, the garden became quiet, Zhang soon fell into his regular pace of training.
As he trained his mind fell into a state of emptiness. And soon images would begin to flash in his mind.
He learned how to enter a dream like state while being awake. This allowed him to see the visions or shall we call them dreams that he would usually have.
From these dreams he would learn a great deal about various things, although many of the things he saw were strange and couldn't be applied to everyday life, others proved to be beneficial in his training.
He developed a great understanding of the human body thanks to these dreams. They allowed him to train to the limit without hurting himself. His knowledge about the body would put a seasoned doctor to shame.
Although the dreams were very beneficial to him, he did not dive too deep into them. Because once he had pushed himself into the dream state for far too long, he began sensing a murderous entity appeared within his mind and began to spread across his entire consciousness and shook his soul as if wanting to take over his mind, but oddly enough a strange black spark would appear and pushed it back, cleansing his mind.
After training he would soak in a bath of medical herbs that helped to increase his strength and restore the energy in his body.
As the medical bath energized him, Zhang fell asleep.
He woke up hours later, rubbed his eyes and looked out the window to see the sun setting.
"%!?%^*% it's time for dinner!", he yelled. Hurriedly, he got dressed and ran to the dining room.
And so a regular day for Zhang ended.
Little did he know these days would soon come to an abrupt end.
A few miles away from Blue Tear city outside of the border of the Heilong Kingdom, storms were brewing.
A mass of soldiers, clad in red armor laced with gold thread, stood in formation. Holding up red flags with a golden lion head in the center.
Anyone would know that this was the flag of the Siwang Empire. The Wulin continent’s second largest empire that neighbored the western border of the Heilong Kingdom.
It is roughly twenty times bigger than the Heilong Kingdom and its borders ran along many kingdoms.
The soldiers were waiting for their commander to appear.
They were just one of the many battalions taking part in today's mission. There was a total of one million soldiers mobilized to the eastern border of the Siwang Empire.
A man walked in front of the rows of soldiers dressed in shiny golden armor with red lacing and began talking.
"Today we shall bring glory to the empire, and ensure that our empire lasts thousands of years.", he said.
The soldiers roared and cheered him on.
"All soldiers rest and prepare, for in a few hours we and the other battalions will march across the borders of those puny kingdoms and add them to our glorious empire." The commander roared.
The sight of soldiers hurriedly saddling their horses and sharpening their weapons soon followed.
Soon scouts were sent out and the soldiers got into formation and began their march.
They had to march in the dark only aided by the little moonlight that there was. They did not wish for the other side to know they were coming.
A few soldiers were conversing amongst themselves.
"Be careful there might be demonic beasts in this forest."
Demonic beasts were animals that had absorbed a large amount of essence from nature and gained intelligence.
Once an animal became a demonic beast their offspring that followed after would be a demonic beast as well.
Generally, demonic beasts only appear in forests with a high concentration of essence. And they usually live in packs. So if one was unlucky to run into one demonic beast they'd most likely soon run into a whole pack.
Most demonic beasts that lived in packs aren't too strong individually but when swarmed with hundreds of thousands of them, even mighty armies would disappear.
Even if one ran into a demonic beast that wasn't part of a pack, it could kill a regular human or two.
Or if one was really unlucky there was a chance of running into a divine demonic beast, which is a demonic beast that reached sainthood. These beasts were extremely intelligent and powerful and a single one can easily wipe out a whole city or two. And there was a rumor that they were even able to speak like humans.
The army was now in the border of the Heilong Kingdom, roughly ten miles away from Blue Tear City. A man dressed in green robes had ridden out of the city to greet them.
This man who greeted the army was the leader of the Liu clan, Liu Bei (yes _> lol). Liu Bei saluted the Siwang army’s general, after getting off from his horse.
"Liu Bei greets your lordship" he said as he kneeled on one knee.
The general dressed in golden armor then asked, "Have the preparations been complete?"
"Yes milord, everything is going smoothly. I have instructed my men to infiltrate the city guard. They will open the gates for us once I’ve given the signal." Liu Bei said,
"Good! Your Liu clan will be the new master of this city and the surrounding cities once we conquered them." The general said with a smile.
On the city wall, guards were keeping watch and chatting with each other.
One of the guards spotted something in the corner of his eye. He saw a speck of light illuminating the forest. He squinted his eyes and was able to make out a vague figure in the darkness. Soon he gasped at the sight he saw, rows and rows of figures made their way out of the forest.
And to add to his surprise the city gates began to creak and slowly opened. The guard realized what was happening, but before he could even utter a word, a hand covered his mouth and in a flash a knife ran across his throat.
He fell on the ground and the last thing saw was the other guards were also being dispatched in the same way.
Not so long after the soldiers of the Siwang Empire rushed in through the city gates, they began to systematically occupy the city walls.
Liu Bei and the general clad in golden armor walked to the top of the walls and looked down into the city.
The general told Liu Bei to kneel so he can bestow Liu Bei a gift.
Liu Bei was filled with joy, soon his family would control this city and the surrounding ones. So he excitedly got on his knees.
He then heard the unsheathing of a sword and looked up, horrified to see the general swing his sword at Liu Bei and before he could say a word his head rolled onto the floor .
The general laughed and pulled out a piece of red crystal shaped like a heart. This was called a "Soul Stone" and had the power to absorb essence. He hovered the stone over the corpse and a bluish light came out and flew into the crystal turning a small part of it purple.
This was Liu Bei's soul, theoretically speaking, a soul was made up of pure essence. The stronger a soul was the more essence it contained.
Tonight each and every soldier of the Siwang Empire was given a soul stone. Their mission was to slaughter every person within the city and to collect their souls.
These soul stones would be sent back to the empire for the emperor to use and increase his power.
Soon, the city was filled anguished screams.
Zhang was awoken in the middle of the night due to the screams and ran out of his room seeing his family’s servants hurriedly packing things.
His father came running holding his mother’s hand. "Zhang pack lightly we are leaving, soldiers from the Siwang Empire have invaded and they are indiscriminately slaughtering people. We are going to escape from the city with the Wu Clan through our clan’s underground tunnels."
The Zhou and Wu clan had jointly built a system of underground tunnels that leads out of the city and were connected to safe houses throughout the city. The tunnels’ existence was only known by certain members of each of the respective clans.
Soldiers were attempting to knock down the gates to the Zhou Clan.
Loud bangs could be heard as the gate was being struck. Eventually, although the gate was really solid it broke from the hinges and slammed to the ground.
After the gates fell, soldiers rushed into the mansion. Where they were met with the Zhou clan's private army.
Composed of three hundred elite soldiers the clan had trained for many years, the Siwang Empire’s foot soldiers met a quick end.
The same thing happened at the Wu residence, but instead of three hundred soldiers there were one thousand two hundred soldiers. Both clans were a force to be reckoned with in Blue Tear City.
The Wu clan was able to quickly gather their belongings, ran into the tunnels and sealed the entrance.
Whereas the Zhou clan wasn't as fortunate, after defeating the first wave of soldiers, cavalry soldiers from the Siwang Empire rushed in and quickly dispersed throughout the mansion.
Zhang's parents were in the process of unlocking the entrance to the tunnel when horsemen charged into the courtyard.
Zhang jumped at one of them and silently slit the man's throat through the opening in his armor.
He screamed, "Mother, Father!! Go!! I'll keep them here, I'll catch up to you soon."
His father knew the seriousness of the situation, but he had faith in his son's abilities so he took his wife's hand and dashed into the tunnel.
Zhang unsheathed his swords and was ready to dispatch of anyone who would try to go into the tunnel.
There were at least twenty cavalry soldiers facing Zhang. He gracefully dashed at them. He threw one of his swords with a deadly precision. The sword soared through the air and pierced a soldier’s neck. The sword was thrown with such force that it also knocked the man off his horse.
The other soldiers were utterly stunned.
What they failed to realize was that when Zhang had thrown his sword, he did not stop and kept running while slashing the legs of their horses.
Without them knowing what had happened, their horses began to, one by one, slump on the ground, making some of the soldiers lose balance and fall towards the ground.
Once they had fallen to the ground Zhang took advantage of them and quickly dispatched them to afterlife.
It did not take him long to kill all the twenty soldiers.
One would think that Zhang would be scared because this was his first time killing anyone.
But actually, Zhang was used to death, he would often dreamed of the man killing him with a knife.
This was the same at that but he was the one who did the killing, a part of himself seemed to encourage this.
After killing all twenty soldiers, before Zhang could even catch his breath, many more rushed into the courtyard.
There was no end to the soldiers coming into the courtyard and soon there wasn't enough space for more come in.
Facing such a large group of enemies, most people would be scared out of their wits, but Zhang wasn’t like most people.
Rather, he was mapping out how to best face this group of enemies.
He knew if he even let one soldier pass, his family would be in danger. So he punched his arm into the wall collapsing it into the tunnel.
The soldiers lifted their shields and went into formation, boxing Zhang in from three sides.
Zhang jumped into the sky and as he landed he did a horizontal slash and cut one of the soldiers into two.
And as soon as his feet touched the ground he started to sprint while slashing wildly at the soldiers.
Some soldiers lost their limbs due to the sharpness of Zhang's sword, others lost their lives. None of them were left unharmed as Zhang ran past them.
The soldiers soon realized they were no match for this youth and began falling back and rearranging their formation. Archers started coming in behind them and shoot countless arrows at Zhang.
Zhang was able to dodge and parry some of the arrows but against a large number such as this it was impossible for someone at his level to come out unscathed.
An arrow landed and stuck itself into Zhang's shoulder, then another into his leg, and another and another. Soon he became riddled in them.
The soldiers couldn't believe that Zhang was still standing with so many arrows pierced in him. They winced imaging the amount of pain he was in, but actually Zhang could not feel a thing.
He was born not being able to feel pain luckily.
But he felt tired, fighting hundreds of opponents alone was easier said than done. Nonetheless, he stood his ground and continued fighting.
The soldiers had reported back to the golden general and he was on his way to where Zhang was.
What the golden general saw when he arrived was horrifying.
Zhang's body was covered in arrows and a few spears were stabbed into his back while sitting on a small hill of corpses.
The general knew he had to kill Zhang and quickly. He gathered essence in his palm which ignited into a flame. He is in fact a Mage and one at the 8th level that specializes in fire magic.
A massive fireball flew across the courtyard and smashed into Zhang throwing him off the hill of corpses and smashing him into a wall knocking him unconscious.
Believing Zhang to be dead, the commander ordered another squad of soldiers to come in and collect the bodies of the dead soldiers.
Some of the bodies were cut into mush, none of them were left intact. The most horrifying thing was some of them weren't dead just cleaved into two at the hip.
The general walked up to Zhang, ignited another fire ball and was about turn Zhang into ashes. When he suddenly heard a voice.
The voice sounded ancient, at first he wasn't able to make out where or what the voice was saying. Just random words in no particular order.
After a while he was able to make out what it was saying.
"Guess I will help you this time, for awakening me from my death-like sleep." The voice said.
And instantly Zhang's body ignited and was covered by pitch black fire.
The general jumped back and launched his fire ball at Zhang, which seemed to be swallowed by the black fire.
Zhang's body began to rise as if some unknown force was lifting him up or as if a puppeteer was manning his puppet.
He flew toward the general at high speed and swung his sword. The general parried his strike but the pure power behind it numbed the general’s arms.
Zhang continued his onslaught of slashes that seemed to follow no style or technique.
The general's armor was covered in cut marks, some pieces were even falling off.
The general used fire magic and infused it with his sword, igniting the sword. He was barely able to fight evenly with Zhang even though he could not sense any essence in Zhang's sword strikes, just pure physical strength.
He knew that if he dragged the fight on he would be no match for Zhang so he quickly ordered all of his soldiers to charge.
The general knew that he was not a match for Zhang one on one, but when it was ten on one or a hundred on one he definitely would be at an advantage..
But as soon as they surrounded Zhang the devilish black fire began lashing out like whips. Whoever was touched by it slumped over and fall lifeless onto the ground.
This terrified the general. Suddenly Zhang's speed increased, it looked as if he was teleporting and before long ended up in front of the general and slashed off his arm.
He knew he couldn't beat Zhang at that point so instead he stood still. Zhang had appeared in front of him once more and lunged the sword into his heart.
He, then, used all his might to pull Zhang closer to him and pulled out a soul stone from his pocket and smashed it with his remaining hand.
"Haha if I'm going to die I’ll take you with me." He screamed.
The soul stone emitted a massive explosion that rocked the whole city.
Normally this would not happen, but the general was a level 8 Mage and used all the essence he had left to ignite countless souls that was in the soul stone.
The whole Zhou mansion and a good part of the city was gone. Only a massive crater was left.