Jiang Ying Yue stood behind her brother. She had always seen Jiang Bo as a stable constant in her life. Now, she could see him shaking where he stood. He held up a sword defiantly against the three cultivators who were facing them. Few people in this city could do the same without passing out from the sheer pressure.
The pair of them were on their way back from their countryside estate, where they had been training under their uncle. With the Xaoi sect’s admittance trials coming up in the city, they wanted to be ready to become disciples. Jiang Bo was twelve, whereas Jiang Ying Yue was almost eleven. In other words, she could have stayed behind. Jiang Ying Yue didn’t need to be here, but she didn’t want her brother to leave her behind, and now she was here with her life on the line beside him.
Worst of all, they were only about ten blocks away from the palace. Their admittance this year was a closely guarded secret, and they had entered the city incognito. Their father, the King, had many enemies, and neither he nor Uncle wanted the pair of them to get caught up in politics. Once they became part of the Xaoi sect, no one would be able to bully them. So, they had cultivated in secret under their uncle and came to the city without any fanfare.
Once they were in the palace, they’d be protected by hundreds of guards and safe until the day of the trials. Yet, the palace might as well have been a hundred miles away, as they couldn’t reach it with three cultivators assaulting them. Although there were spectators aware of this assault, they turned and looked the other way. Mortals didn’t bother in the affairs of cultivators. They were unaware that the prince and princess of their nation were about to be murdered in an ally like dogs. It was truly pitiful.
Jiang Ying Yue was shaking so hard that she was afraid she’d fall when her brother took a defiant step forward. She reached out for him, but then she let her hands fall. She knew that deep down, she’d only be impeding his movements. He had over a year on her and was a strong cultivator. Jiang Ying Yue wasn’t certain whether she’d make the trials, but she knew her brother would pass them with flying colors.
The man who was leading stared at the defiant Jiang Bo who put himself against them with disdain. He gave a snort and nodded to the man next to him.
“Take care of this runt!” he responded, shooting the boy a condescending look and crossing his arms arrogantly like he had all the time in the world.
“Stay back!” Her brother gave her a strict order.
She was a cultivator just like her brother, and while she hadn’t progressed as far as he had, she also hadn’t been training as long as he had as well. She should have been able to fight at least. Yet, a level of cultivation did not equal fighting experience, and she was frozen entirely after seeing all of their eleite guard escort killed in such a brutal and easy manner. Furthermore, one man in the group had already reached the second realm. To anyone in the first realm, a 2nd realm might as well be an unscalable mountain. While her brother could build the courage to face them all, she could not.
The man the leader had indicated moved forward. He was a nondescript man, and if you couldn’t feel profound power emanating from him, he wouldn’t appear any different from mortals. To a loose cultivator, all of your monetary gains were dropped into your cultivation if you wanted any hope of progressing. Therefore, despite probably being rather successful men-for-hire, the clothing this man wore was of no notable wealth. The blade, a small short blade that wasn’t quite short enough to be called a dagger, but far from being called a sword, had nicks and cuts and was not of any particularly good quality.
It was unknown what fortuitous encounters or dark deeds he had to perform to make it so far in the profound way on his own, but he was now a 6th level in the mid-tier of the 1st realm. He was the weakest of the three, but he was strong enough to Jiang Ying Yue that his mere presence was enough that her knees shook and she felt like collapsing.
That could already be said to impressive. A mortal woman would have fainted already under the pressure delivered by that man. She was in the 3rd tier of the 1st realm, a low-tier cultivator. One could say only a low-tier cultivator, but she hoped to break through to the mid-tier before the day of the trials. Although by appearance, she might look closer to eleven or twelve thanks to her early cultivation, it couldn’t be stressed enough that she was only ten. Within the cultivation world, she didn’t lose to anyone from the Xaoi sect, and considering she came from a mortal family, one could say that she was a cultivating genius.
Yet, for all that potential, in front of these men twice her age, it was nothing. It was a world where the strong conquered and the weak were subjugated. In the end of the day, she just wasn’t strong enough.
The man leaped at her brother, and Jiang Ying Yue could only just keep from collapsing, completely unable to protect or help him in the slightest. It was a feeling of uselessness that she hated. Her brother might have been ecstatic that she had to lean on him, but she didn’t like to lean on anyone! While all the other girls played with dolls and spoke of boys, Jiang Ying Yue only had one thought in her mind. She had an insatiable desire to cultivate and become strong.
In the case of her brother, it was a requirement. Her father had pushed him on the path of cultivation to make their family proud. Some kings might have obsessed about having an heir, but when it came to having an heir for the throne or having a familiar member in the venerable Xaoi sect, anyone would choose to put their child in the sect! As for Jiang Ying Yue, she had to beg constantly, wearing her father down until he finally allowed her to try.
All the resources up to that point had been placed into her brother. If Jiang Ying Yue hadn’t shown the extreme aptitude that she had, a level that even put her brother to shame, then she definitely never would have been able to make it to this point. All of that effort seemed for nothing, as all she could do was watch as her brother fought to the death.
Yet, the fight between the two turned out to not be a simple thing. The killing blow that the assassin had expected to land didn’t come. Jiang Bo’s sword, a new, expensive sword that shined silver, got the greedy eye of all the men accosting them. They clearly were eager to take it from him. Thankfully, it had been sufficient to keep the assassin from landing a killing blow. That wasn’t to say that Jiang Bo wasn’t being pushed back with every swing, but he was surprisingly holding his own.
“Y-you’re a 6th level!” The assassin cursed as his eyes widened in shock.
“Th-that’s right!” He tried to look causal, but his haggard breathing and sweaty face gave away how pressed he was. “You can’t bully us so easily!”
Her brother, Jiang Bo, was on the same level as the assassin. That’s why he wasn’t able to kill the boy immediately. However, Jiang Bo was just a child, and all of his sparring practice had no real-world application. Compared to a blood-thirsty loose cultivator who likely killed countless people to survive, the pampered prince just didn’t have the ability. His previous words were all bravado hoping to catch the other man off guard, but even that was only at the level of a child.
“Then, please… try to receive my attack… fellow cultivator.” The way he said those words were clearly mocking, eliciting chuckles from the men behind him.
In truth, the man was furious for not being able to take down the child already. With the other men watching, his inability to defeat the kid had already caused him to lose all face. If he didn’t kill the kid immediately, he wouldn’t even be allowed to remain with the two stronger cultivators, even though one of them was his cousin. Jiang Bo was unlucky enough to face the brunt of his fury, which came from inadequacy.
“Heavenly Slash!” He cried out, going all out and performing a technique.
The technique didn’t contain any profound energy. At the first realm, such a thing was impossible. However, it was a technique, albeit one that was so simple that Tigra wouldn’t even admit it was a technique. To the two children, it looked magnificent at also fear-inducing. Jiang Bo had been locked down by the technique, and couldn’t even raise his sword as the technique struck him head on.
“Bo!” Jiang Ying Yue called out tearfully.
There was a cracking noise, and just the shadow of a formation appeared in the air in front of Jiang Bo before he was tossed back, hitting the side of the carriage. The blow caused him to cough out a mouthful of blood, but he was miraculously still alive. With a shakey hand, he pulled out a talisman that was hanging around his neck. It was now ripped in half, completely unusable.
“A protection talisman? Damn, these rich kids are pissing me off!” The mid-tier cursed.
His attack had been completely blocked by a powerful talisman. Each kid likely had one. You could call it their lucky charm, or a second chance. Jiang Bo would have certainly died, or at least had been severely crippled, if he hadn’t had the talisman to protect himself.
However, still being alive didn’t make him feel any better. He had completely froze and had broken an expensive talisman his father had spent a great deal of money on to protect him. Anger at being bullied by these men started to flood through him.
“You little shit! Time to die!”
Although the mid-tier assassin had an excuse of the talisman, it didn’t make him feel any more vindicated. He had given his best attack, and still the kid was standing with only mild injuries from slamming into the cart. Originally, he was just going to kill the kid. Now, he was really going to kill the kid!
At the same time, he was running at Jiang Bo, Jiang Bo also felt a sudden surge of energy and strength. He raised his sword and attacked. This time, he used his own skill, which his uncle had taught him.
“Falcon Slice!” He called out, as his sword struck the man.
This time, his power was much greater than the mid-tier expected. The mid-tier was tossed back, despite being twice the child’s size. He slammed into a brick wall, losing a tooth and coughing up two mouthfuls of blood. The kid was knocked back too. As he stumbled back and fell to one knee, a foul odor started emitting from his body, and grime started to appear on the surface of his skin.
The mid-tier shot the kid a look of shock, then looked over at the leader. The leader gave a sneer.
“You idiot. He’s started to evolve into the 7th tier.”
“S-seriously? This kid?”
Ignoring the smell and appearance, Jiang Ying Yue glanced at her brother in wide-eyed wonder with just a hint of envy. The 7th tier meant that he was entered the high-tier levels of the 1st realm. A progression from 5th to 6th would be impressive, but a progression from 6th to 7th was overcoming a fairly hefty bottleneck and meant that Jiang Bo was truly becoming powerful.
She wasn’t the only one looking at Jiang Bo with envy. The man was twice Jiang Bo’s age, but was still a sixth tier. It had to be embarrassing to see a 12-year-old out perform you. In fact, it had been this assassin who had brought that potential out in the boy. Only by face his death-causing attack and surviving, as well as being pushed to the emotional limit, that he was able to overcome his bottleneck and advance.
“He is only starting to reach the 7th tier. He will need time to stabilize it.” The leader explained. “He won’t be able to execute his full strength yet, and besides, he’s already exhausted. If you defeat him, he may be able to help push you into the 7th tier as well. I recommend you use this child as a stepping stone toward greater gains. If you fail to do so, don’t bother showing your face at camp!”
The mid-tiers watched the leader with awe as he explained these things to him, but his face immediately darkened at the end. Loose cultivators could only survive by grouping together and finding powerful allies. If he failed to breakthrough, he’d be left behind. It was now a do or die time for him. Although the runt had gained a temporary advantage by pushing into the 7th tier, he wasn’t used to his own body and had yet to stabilize his climb. He was also an inexperienced child.
In short, even though the gap between the pair was immense with just that sudden breakthrough, the mid-tier had a chance of breaking through himself by pitting himself against this kid. Unlucky enough for Jiang Bo, he had just become someone else’s stepping stone. After he succeeded, it didn’t matter if he could defeat Jiang Bo himself, as the other two could easily take care of the kid. With greed and desire in his eyes, he attacked the young boy, and they entered a life and death battle while Jiang Ying Yue could only continue to watch.
However, the two higher tier men quickly grew bored with watching this, and their eyes fell on the girl. “Come on, let’s subdue her while we’re waiting.” He grinned darkly.
She instinctively took a step back. “S-stay back.”
Her light voice regrettably had no strength to it. She was simply too terrified to fight back, not that she could. Even her brother who was now four tiers higher was struggling to deal with their weakest opponent. What hope did she have?
“Don’t attack her. I bet she has one of those talismans too. I want to strip her and take it. That’s worth more than even the reward money!”
“Can I have her vital yin? I think I might be able to reach the 2nd realm if I can harvest it all.”
“Hehe… I hate sloppy seconds, but I guess I’ll just have to play with her after you’re done. We can each get one hundred strokes out of her before we kill her. Those paying us don’t care as long as she’s dead by the time we’re done with her.”
As they spoke so callously in front of her, her face turned white and she truly started to feel fear for the first time since she this all had begun.
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Jiang Bo cried out, but he was too busy fighting the other man, and despite his best efforts, he was only able to stay about even.
It was his superior strength against the other man’s experience, and at the moment, that kept them even.
“Strip.” The man ordered. “Or you will be stripped.”
Jiang Ying Yue’s knees gave out and she collapsed to the ground. All of her desire for strength, and in the end, she was going to be pushed around by a couple men twice her age, turned into their dual cultivation toy, and then killed. She wasn’t even able to let out a single cry of defiance. Tears ran down her cheeks, and she looked up at them pitifully and hopefully. However, that looked seemed to only excite them more as they put out their hands to grab her clothes and rip them off her body, exposing herself and taking whatever pride she had left in an instant.
Thump. A strange person casually landed between her and the two other men. She could see his strong back. When he looked back at her, her mouth fell open. He was a young boy, maybe a year or two older than her brother. He was tall, with a gentle grin on his face, and roguish features. He looked a bit mischievous, like he might cause some trouble, and he was also extremely handsome. Just looking at him cause Jiang Ying Yue’s heart to beat wildly. He gave her a wing before looking at the two men.
“I apologize, I waited and watched for so long. I could feel that guy was about to increase a tier and I wanted to give him a chance. I was just going to let the pair of you off with a beating, but you crossed the line at pedophilia. Little girls aren’t to be touched!” He declared this while pointing right at the nose of the 2nd realm.
It was such a ridiculous declaration, that no one knew whether to laugh or cry. In the minds of a cultivator, stealing someone’s vital yin had nothing to do with sexual gratification. Admittedly, it was an evil thing, but no one liked being called a pedophile. Even Jiang Ying Yue, while recognizing the other men as horrible, wouldn’t say they desired her for her body. Secondly, it was clear the kid wasn’t much stronger than the girl on the floor. They could tell he was a cultivator, but he was clearly in the 1st realm. To a second-realm assassin, his pronouncement was a joke.
The second-realm assassin finally decided to respond by sneering at the boy. “You came to help the wrong people. It’s time to die!”
He didn’t spare the young cultivator any mercy. He lunged forward, slashing out with his knife. He was planning to kill two other children, so what did it matter if there was one other. He didn’t even offer this one a chance to resist. After his previous bravado, it’d be all the more embarrassing when-
His knife never reached the destination. He just suddenly stopped. There was a blurring motion, but no one had clearly seen what had happened. The strange boy had his back to Jiang Ying Yue, and the high-tier was busy eying her while licking his lips to care about some weak newcomer. Which was why it came as an alarming shock to both of them when the 2nd realm assassin’s head suddenly fell from his shoulders? He died without even a noise.
“Alright… who’s next? Ah! I’m Bao Bi, by the way. Lian An says you should always give your name to the people you kill.”
Isn’t that supposed to be before you kill them?