I thought to myself, "how do I fit a lot of stuffs in one chapter?" then I remembered that I was writing wuxia not LNs... soo, here ya go
Waking up while coughing blood, this has now been Xiao Zhu’s daily early morning routine whenever it was Bullet Ant’s turn to train him. Wiping the trail of blood that trailed from his lips to his chin with his sleeve, he looked around and saw that it was just about a while before dawn, which is around the time he would do his training in the physical world.
Slowly supporting himself up, he felt fatigue greatly overcome his body. He walked out of the house limply and started to stretch himself but avoiding straining his injuries. Looking at the various cuts and bruises, Xiao Zhu smiled as he remembered that one of the reasons that he had developed a habit of waking up early in the morning was to avoid Hong Er seeing his tattered body.
Slowly warming up before taking a look around, he prepped himself to begin the training regimen which he was imparted to by Master Thieving Rat.
Master Thieving Rat’s “Lineage of Shadow Theft” was the current manuscript that Xiao Zhu was learning and while he trained his mind inside his dreams, he would be unable to fully execute the power behind the technique if his physical body was in any way lacking. The manuscript skill was one that focuses on speed, dexterity and stealth, a technique coveted over by many assassins but the main principle for Lineage of Shadow Theft was that of movement, not assassination.
Doing his routine warm-ups given to him by Master Bullet Ant, he completed a few sets of cardiovascular exercises before standing in front of the entrance to the forest that separated the orphanage from the town. The current manuscript he earned from his feast yesterday evening was a skill that complemented Thieving Rat’s lineage skill, it was a body strengthening skill called “Amber Fortitude”.
Lowering his body, Xiao Zhu let his mind drift off and sense all the tissues in his body and slowly merging his consciousness with it. Feeling every single cell in his body slowly accumulating to form a single entity, he opened his eyes and dashed towards the forest with outstanding speed.
Lineage of Shadow Theft had the requirement of being able to control the very essence of one’s movements to refine them and switch out at any given moment, which is very taxing for the body. This is where Bullet Ant’s skill came in to work.
Taking tight turns from tree to tree, Xiao Zhu finished a lap across the forest in around fifteen minutes and stopped back at the starting area to recuperate. Noticing the flaws in his movements, while trying to calm his breathing, he enclosed his senses on the parts where he felt the most pressure and started to mend it. Moving his ankles, he studied the available movements available while he slowly used his internal energy to activate Amber Fortitude on it.
After resting for a minute, he then prepped himself towards his second round. This round was, unlike the first one, was a true test of movements. This test consisted of using every muscle in his body to be able to coordinate and complement each other.
Inhaling a strong breathe, he opened his eyes and started to maximise the effect of Amber Fortitude as he spread it all across his body as he started to madly dash into the forest. Unlike the previous run, he did not execute a tight turn as soon as he met the first tree, instead, he used his momentum to climb the tree.
Slowly losing his initial momentum, he added his hands into the mix and climbing faster than a monkey. Slowly twisting his way around the tree like a snake instead of heading straight up, Xiao Zhu did not lose his speed, instead, he seemed to have gotten faster as from every branch that he would coil his hands around would leave nothing but shadows.
Advancing his way towards the topmost branch, he grabbed it with his hands and he started to spin himself and summersaulted towards the next tree. Noticing the broken branch that was about to pierce into his skull, Xiao Zhu turned his body mid-air and only got his cheeks grazed. The stinging sensation on his cheeks made him lose focus as his foot slipped on a branch moist with dew and slightly sprained his ankle.
Clicking his tongue, he reached out his towards a branch and tossed himself upwards, slightly twisting his body, allowing him to spin in mid-air and avoid a few sharp branches.
Picking up the leaves as he landed from one branch towards another, they swirled in harmony with his movements as they created a stunning dance under the light of the breaking dawn glistening with sweat and dew. Xiao Zhu however was not satisfied with this magnificent showcase.
The principle of the Shadow Theft lineage was one that showcased its ability to leave no trace, not to flaunt its speed. In his mind, in order to reach perfection, he must be fast, but no leaves must follow him.
In order to accomplish this feat, one must endure a great toil and stress on the body, as Xiao Zhu began to feel a numbing pain coming from every single joint in his body.
Clenching his teeth in pain, he activated Amber Fortitude to strengthen his body and supress the pain, only then can he move forward, however, Amber Fortitude was one that is activated upon the expenditure of the mind as its basis.
Seeing the clearing towards the village, he used every last bit of his energy and pushed himself towards it while still undergoing the parkour-esque method of traveling. Upon coiling himself upward on the last tree before the village, he compressed his energy and the two skills he was practicing before taking a grand leap!
Flailing his arms in the middle of the air, he felt the pressure tearing at his skin and almost bit off his tongue from the whiplash. Seeing that he would not make it towards the rooftop of one of the houses, he grinded his teeth together, he used the lineage skill to propel himself even further. The force from the skill made his body spin uncontrollably mid-air causing his vision to twist as he felt an unshakable feeling of wanting to throw up.
Reaching out his tiny hands, he carefully placed them on the rooftop and used his spin to decrease the built up backlash of the crash. Slowly tumbling about, he finally slowed down right at the edge of the building.
Feeling that his skills have run empty, he heaved a big sigh of relief as he stared at the ground.
Turning his body back on to the tiled rooftops, he stared aimlessly at the sky while breathing heavily. This was the most tiring training he had ever been through ever since he started having those weird dreams. Rather it was not that it was the most difficult, it’s that it is always difficult every time but the difficulty keeps increasing at a substantial pace.
Slowly closing his eyelids, he began to calm himself while slowly rotating the inner energy in his body to heal his fatigued body.
Loosing track of time, he felt the prickling sensation of sunlight stinging his cheeks. Struggling to open his eyes, he felt a strange energy slowly flowing in his body that jolted him awake.
Staring aimlessly at the bright sky, he pondered about the energy flowing inside him.
“Huh, so doing training to the point of exhaustion can help one regulate and improve their inner energy?” Xiao Zhu thought about the strange tingling feeling in his body, “I guess this is the same as with one’s stamina or strength huh?”
The flow of the energy was not at all uncomfortable like what he thought it would be, but it was like a great comforting warmth that slowly regulated inside his body. Just like how one feels when reaching the end of a long journey to be greeted with a great oasis, he felt that same joy permeating his very being.
Sitting up from his position, he looked around and noticed that the village below him were too caught up with something that there was no one able to notice him, and even if someone had, they would have not minded.
“I wonder what’s gotten into them,” Xiao Zhu thought to himself as he place his hand on his chin.
Scanning the crowd, he immediately found the middle aged guard which he always used to play tag with and waved to him. The guard just so happened to turn his head towards a certain direction and managed to catch a glimpse of an orange haired young man waving his hand at him with a face full of smiles.
The guard instantly paled at the scene and grimaced, “friken hell kiddo, you really do like to make my life harder than it’s supposed to be!!” he screamed in his mind as his face started to twitch.
He quickly looked left to right and realised that no one had noticed this young man and sighed in relief. He turned his head back to Xiao Zhu and gestured for him to hide himself.
Xiao Zhu smiled in reply and quickly vanished, only then did the guard finally heaved out his worries with a heavy sigh. He started to returned towards his original route while caressing the bridge of his nose, “damn it, that kid always likes to give me trouble. He should be grateful that it was me instead of any other guards!” he said under his breath.
Reaching his destination, the middle aged guard realised that what was supposed to be there was not there, he then quickly panicked and turned towards a young guard and grabbed him.
“Hey, where did the noble go?” he frantically asked.
The young guard was at first surprised but seeing the middle aged guard he relaxed, “hmm, if I remember correctly, he said he had something to do,” he then closed his eyes to remember what the noble had said to him, “I think it has something to do with picking up a red laced flower or something, I don’t think it’s a big deal,”
The middle aged man’s grip loosened and his arms fell limp towards his side. The young guard shrugged and walked off to continue his patrol, but the mind of the middle aged guard was filled with chaos.
“Red laced flower!? The ****, the only person that matches that description is the young caretaker! OH NO!” his head was in disarray as he hysterically pulled on his hair with a grim look, “****ing nobles! I must stop them before things get out of hand!”
That day, the middle aged guard swore more than he had ever done in his life.
He quickly straightened himself and grabbed a few guards with him and headed off to the outskirts of the village as fast as they could.
Windy Village Slums
Swaggering his way across the forest with speed disproportionate to his size, Xiao Zhu landed at the outskirts of the village with a face full of satisfaction.
Feeling the improvements in his body along with the satisfaction of annoying the village guards, he felt as if his achievements this morning was greater than most of his days.
Walking towards the orphanage, he felt something off. After his training with Master Thieving Rat, he is naturally sensitive towards the change in atmosphere, and now, the air surrounding the perimeters of the building was one filled with negative emotions.
Rushing his feet, he saw the rusty wooden door broken and hanging on its hinges, and when he finally got inside, the furniture were scattered all over the place while a group of little children were huddled up in the corner shivering in fear with tearstains sprayed on their faces.
Seeing the familiar silhouette, the children started to tear up again as they rushed towards Xiao Zhu crying loudly.
“It’s okay now, I’m here,” Xiao Zhu tried to comfort them by pulling them into a group hug and caressing their heads.
“Xiao Zhu… they…” the oldest one of the children managed to pushed out a few words in between his sobs as he held tightly onto the sleeve of Xiao Zhu’s clothes, “they just came in ..*sob*.. we tried to stop them ..*sob*.. but they took… *sob*… they took…” he was unable to finished his sentence.
Understanding the underlying message from this young child, he passed his eyes throughout the room; he looked down at the children again and asked, a sliver of anger was laced with his words as it instantly silenced the entire room “where is Hong Er?”