8 A Lesson
Zhen Shi shook his head with a genuine curiosity to find out the answer.
As if he had been expecting this, Zhen Wei began to speak almost immediately, \"A Sovereign is a cultivator that has reached the very peak of cultivation capable within this realm!
Within the Central Plains, they are exalted and powerful beings, perhaps second in power only to those mysterious divine apostles...
But, their numbers are a testament to how difficult it is to reach the level of a Sovereign. In fact, from the countless cultivators and geniuses in the Central Plains, there should only be around twenty peerless cultivators who have reached the power of true Sovereigns.
The Strongest Kingdoms, the most powerful Clans, and the most formidable Sects wield such a level of power simply due to the presence of Sovereigns or those that are close to that level of power!\"
Zhen Shi unable to handle his curiosity, finally cracked as he asked, \"Father, then since Grandfather Zhen Wudi is the patriarch of our Zhen Clan, is he also a powerful Sovereign?\"
Zhen Wei nodded without reprimanding him and answered curtly, \"Of course, the Clan Head is one of the few genuine Sovereigns.\"
At the same time, Zhen Wei flicked his hand causing a strand of pure qi to appear floating above his hand; one half of it was formed of fiery orange qi and the other of airy green qi.
He pointed at the qi strand and said, \"But becoming a sovereign is no easy feat. To reach such a level one has to surpass the three primary stages of cultivation.\"
At the same time, the strand of orange and green qi coagulated to form a single drop of orange and green liquid. But this drop gradually multiplied to form a mystical floating lake of fire and air. But the lake of qi did not remain still, as it quickly expanded as well...
In fact, within just a few moments, the lake became a sea, cleanly divided in the middle; one part consisting of small floating flames and the other of a raging wind.
His father continued calmly, \"The first primary stage consisting of three stages, the Mortal Primary Stage!\"
Suddenly, the sea of fire and air coagulated once again to form a single speck of solid orange and green dust. But this speck also multiplied to form a globe of solidified air and fire qi which was radiating immense power.
While Zhen Shi stared in awe, his father suddenly clapped his hands making that mystical globe of aerial fire disappear.
But as Zhen Wei slowly opened his hands, it was revealed that the globe remained completely unaffected. In fact, it seemed to have undergone a qualitative change, almost as if it had gained sentience...
Slowly, the globe of aerial fire grew transparent revealing a blurry apparition that was seated in a meditative position within. Strangely, this figure was rather similar to Zhen Shi's father, Zhen Wei in appearance...
Observing the strange figure within the globe, Zhen Shi could only assume that this was some manner of spiritual manifestation.
As he watched, this small ghost-like figure rapidly absorbed aether from the surroundings while meditating and slowly grew more and more realistic.
But the moment this ghost achieved a level of similarity that was on par with the real Zhen Wei, a crack suddenly appeared across its body. The cracks quickly spread forming a web until the ghost finally shattered and split apart into three main parts; a long-sword, a gust of strong wind that was physically visible, and a spark of blazing flame.
As if nothing extraordinary had happened, his father continued calmly, \"The second primary stage consisting of four stages...\"
While his voice trailed off, the long-sword, the gust of wind and the flame slowly floated closer and began to merge with each other, forming a mixed lump of white, green and yellow qi. The mixture remained within the globe but began to struggle as if it was on the verge of a transformation... and suddenly it did!
The unassuming lump of qi began to rearrange itself... slowly forming a single ethereal long-sword with intricate engravings, that put the previous one to shame. Its blade was cloaked in blazing divine flames and upon its hilt were miniature tornado-like gusts of wind, which altogether created a tremendous sight.
And at that same moment, his father finally finished the previous sentence, \"...the Soul Primary Stage!\"
Instantly, he raised his hands and slammed down on to the magnificent sword of fire and wind placed within the globe.
A strong gale of wind blew throughout the courtyard as the long-sword was shattered and destroyed into minute specks under the powerful clap.
But Zhen Wei slowly pulled his hands apart, revealing once again that the globe of aerial fire was undamaged. But the ethereal long-sword with the divine flames and raging tornadoes had definitely been annihilated...
However, almost immediately, the scattered specks of qi began to reform within the globe of aerial fire. The specks of energy slowly formed into a single but unusual word, Sword!
As Zhen Shi observed this word with great interest, he could sense a sort of indomitable will that contained the intent to slash the world apart if necessary!
In a few moments, the word Sword melted to form a stream of colorless liquid that floated around inside the aerial fire globe. The faint shadows of moving swords could be barely glimpsed within this floating river...
His father spoke calmly once more, \"The third primary stage consisting of three stages, the Law Primary Stage!\"
Instantly, the colorless sword liquid slowly infused itself into the aerial fire globe and disappeared within, leaving only the faint traces of that unbeatable sword.
But at the same time, Zhen Shi could sense that the power of that sword, even though hidden, was even more profound and immense than before...
Another strong gust of wind blew out as Zhen Wei clapped the globe with both hands. But this time, it finally cracked and shattered into specks of dust that floated away... leaving nothing...
But, suddenly, a faint hint of a unique aura that seemed to blend in with nature appeared at that very same place.
Even though he could vaguely sense it, Zhen Shi wasn't sure if it was really there or if it was a figment of his imagination.
However, at the same time, his father's face paled greatly, and that aura vanished...
Zhen Wei brushed his forehead lightly as he turned to Zhen Shi, who was currently gawking in amazement while ruminating on what he had seen.
With a slight smile, his father spoke, \"To gain the title of a sovereign one has to surpass these three primary stages. But of course, merely cultivating without paying attention to the classes and laws that you choose will be sheer foolery as well. Thus, reaching such a level will not be an easy task... In fact, some might call it impossible!\"
Zhen Shi nodded while carefully contemplating these words.
His father continued seriously, \"But while cultivating to the peak is not easy, it does become that much easier when you have a reason.
If something difficult to do, or difficult to achieve, can be your goal, that single thought could make all the difference!
In my opinion, cultivators should target the highest levels possible... Thus not even Sovereign is a sufficient goal. They say that there are far more powerful, monstrous cultivators in the Northern Ice Lands and Southern Desert Lands, who could destroy even Sovereigns without breaking a sweat. Perhaps they'd make a better goal?
But, of course, everything is up to you... What do YOU think your goal should be?\"
Zhen Shi paused thoughtfully, but almost immediately his eyes brightened as he answered, \"Doesn't the entire clan including Grand Father worship gods and their divine organizations? They say that these gods can destroy our realm with a single sigh.
I think even those monstrous cultivators in the North and South are nothing compared to them...
So, I'll become a Go-- No... I'll become even stronger than the gods!\"
Zhen Wei's eyes widened as he stared at his son in surprise. But a few moments later, he began to laugh heartily while ruffling Zhen Shi's hair and said, \"That's my son, well said!\"
Zhen Wei spoke seriously with a glint of distress in his eyes, \"Shi'er, it's time...\"
While Zhen Shi stared at his father in confusion, Zhen Wei grabbed on to Zhen Shi's shoulder and took a single step forward.
A light breeze carrying a few leaves blew past, as their figures suddenly disappeared.
Zhen Shi's eyes widened as he tried to comprehend what was happening. He could see that he was blazing past towering trees, the majestic buildings of the clan, even some familiar and unfamiliar fellow clan-members... but before he could even think further he realized that he was gradually ascending into the sky!
Having reached a height that was a few dozen meters above the highest peak, he could see the majestic buildings sprawled across a picturesque mountain range covered by an expansive forest and cloaked by a mysterious mist. In fact, he could even vaguely see some areas around the mountains that were mystically shimmering, providing a rather mysterious charm...
There were thousands of small figures dashing about and even flying around within the visible clan grounds, but all of them were below their current height.
Suddenly realizing that he was actually flying at a terrifying height that no one else was in, Zhen Shi turned to his father. Despite being slightly afraid, seeing that his father was holding tightly onto him while casually taking large strides through the air, he couldn't help but calm down.
Now that he had calmed down while observing his father's movements Zhen Shi vaguely sensed something familiar in his motion... His eyes widened even further when he realized that Zhen Wei was using [Draconic Wind Steps]!
As such, Zhen Shi made full use of this opportunity by observing and memorizing Zhen Wei's movements, that is whenever he wasn't being distracted by the mesmerizing bird's eye view...
As such time passed and within a few moments, they had blazed past a few dozen kilometers and reached a fairly unpopulated area with only a few buildings littered around a lofty tower that reached towards the sky.
Having slowed down, Zhen Wei took a few short steps and began to descend down on to the ground.
Now that he was closer, Zhen Shi realized that while there were only a few dozen people, they were all clan-guards donning armor and helmets while radiating powerful auras. However, the moment they saw Zhen Wei's figure they immediately grew respectful and bowed down. A harmonious shout rang out as all the guards spoke out as one, \"Respectful Greetings to Elder Zhen Wei!\"
Zhen Shi turned to look at his father in surprise, but with a hint of pride as well. While he knew that his father was well-respected, he had no idea that it was to this extent.
Zhen Wei nodded in answer to the guards and called out, \"Bring out the criminal that I have prepared for my son's Duel of Justice.\"
Two of the guards bowed once more and walked away into a nearby building.
Turning to Zhen Shi, Zhen Wei heaved a desolate sigh and spoke with a slightly wavering voice, \"Shi'er, I'm sorry that you won't be able to live with the innocence of a child for longer. But, this is for your own good...\"
At the same moment, the two guards returned while dragging a thin man dressed in rags. His body and clothes were covered in dust and blood, evidence of the suffering that he had gone through. While his appearance made one feel that he could be defeated even by a single gust of wind, his blood-shot eyes were bubbling with a murderous inhuman rage. In fact, if he wasn't gagged it was certain that he would be screaming insults and obscenities...
That man was dragged a bit further and thrown sprawling on to the ground.
Zhen Wei glanced at the man with merciless eyes and continued in a serious commanding tone, \"This man before you is named Ubel Raven. He has been deemed guilty of multiple counts of unsolicited murder, pillaging and raping of the mortal villages and towns under the protection of our Zhen Clan. Once a cultivator of the Soul Transformation Stage, but now only a crippled mortal.
Zhen Shi, as a member of our prestigious Zhen Clan, you are hereby commanded to punish this remorseless criminal with death in a Duel of Justice. Do you accept it?\"
Zhen Shi was momentarily speechless. He had definitely not expected this sudden trip to end up with him having to kill a man. But remembering the impossible goal that he had set for himself a few minutes ago and under the gaze of his father's hopeful eyes, he spoke with determination, \"I accept!\"
Zhen Wei nodded calmly but his eyes betrayed a hint of surprise. Nevertheless, he signaled all the soldiers to move back. Instantly, every other person besides Zhen Shi and Ubel Raven retreated to a distance of a few dozen meters.
Zhen Shi stared warily at his opponent while shifting into an attacking position. He had only been training for a few days, but he had made rapid progress in his cultivation giving him a fairly good idea about the weak points of the human body. In addition, he had practiced all sorts of general martial skills in addition to that punching art. Thus while he was rather nervous, he wasn't particularly worried about battling a person who had already lost his cultivation.
But just when he was about to dash forwards in attack... Ubel hurriedly ripped off his gag and kneeled down on the ground while sobbing uncontrollably. He began to wail pitifully and screamed, \"Young master, please let me live! I, Ubel, was forced into doing all those crimes by a much more powerful cultivator. I had no intention of harming the innocents, but he used my family to threaten me!\"
Zhen Shi who had been planning on ending this matter as quickly as possible was overwhelmed by the words of the other party. Unaware of what to do he turned to his father...
But Zhen Wei remained impassive, with his stern face betraying nothing. All the soldiers remained still as well, with their faces covered by helmets revealing nothing.
As such, Zhen Shi who realized that he would be receiving no outside help, turned back towards the sobbing pathetic man.
But, at the same time, a single soldier who had a rather thin and lithe figure in comparison to the remaining soldiers, and was only wearing a hood unlike the helmets of the others, took a single step forwards... but almost immediately retreated back...
While Zhen Shi remained confused about what he should do, Ubel continued to sob pitifully as he slowly crawled forwards. He finally reached Zhen Shi and continued to wail while grabbing on to his trouser leg, \"Young master, please let me off! Please let me go and see if my family is safe. You're a young child, so you must have a family as well right? I have a daughter about your age... What do you think she would feel if I never went back home?\"
If Zhen Shi had been confused before, he completely lost any intention of killing this man in this instance. He couldn't even bear to imagine how his sister or even himself would take it if his father was killed...
But the moment he was distracted, Ubel pounced forwards like a tiger that had its prey within its sight. Having been at Zhen Shi's feet, he could strike within a very short time. To make matters worse, Ubel even brought out a small dagger from the depths of his tattered robe sleeve and slashed forwards with immense might. After all, even if he was crippled, his martial prowess still remained...
Zhen Shi only realized that he was about to be stabbed when the wind that was unsettled due to the knife strike hit his face. However, by then it was too late, and the knife was only a second away from his throat.
But at the same time, the strange hooded soldier that had stepped forward before dashed forth decisively. He took only a single step but he mystically slid across the earth as if it was frozen ice and immediately reached the sight of the battle.
And the moment he did, he selflessly grabbed on to the slashing knife with his bare hands.
The sound of metal ripping apart flesh hit Zhen Shi's ears. At the same time, the soldier winced in pain and let go of the knife letting it drop a few steps away from Zhen Shi's feet. Staring at the hands of the soldier that were now covered in dripping blood, Zhen Shi could barely see that a strange blackish-purple hue was rippling through his savior's skin. He had been poisoned!
With shame at having believed the lies of that criminal brewing in his heart, Zhen Shi raised his head to look at the soldier that had saved him.
By now the hood that was covering his face had fallen back and his face was visible for all to see.
But Zhen Shi's eyes widened when he realized who this person was. It wasn't a man... in fact, with that familiar black hair falling down her back, he instantly realized that this was his mother, Xie Li. Despite the fact that she was poisoned, she smiled at Zhen Shi as if to say he had nothing to worry about.
But regardless of her intentions, Zhen Shi's mind was a mess at this moment. While staring at the discrepancy between his mother's poisoned hands and the relaxed smile on her face, he was reminded of what she had said before...
'If you ever feel like stopping, simply call out to me. Even if your father disagrees, I'll make him let you be. And as long as I'm around, I won't allow even a hair on your head to be harmed!'
And just like she had said, she had protected him and saved his life...
Zhen Shi felt great shame at having caused his mother's injuries by believing the words of a heartless criminal.
Staring at the Ubel Raven's face that was now grinning in glee as if he had earned a heavenly treasure, Zhen Shi felt a monstrous rage building up within him. A simple, simple rage to bring hell upon the one who had dared poison his mother...
Instantly, he dashed towards the fallen poisoned knife and grabbed it. Not giving Ubel even a moment to react, Zhen Shi utilized the full power of the qi paths within his arms to strengthen the knife and stabbed forth.
A powerful wind blew about as Zhen Shi accidentally used up the entirety of his gathered energy on this single stab. As a result, while this strike lacked martial skill, it was much more powerful than Ubel's ordinary attack.
While the knife stabbed forth towards Ubel's heart, Zhen Shi stared at this criminal with eyes brimming with pure killing intent.
Staring at this child's eery eyes, Ubel couldn't help but shiver in fear, like a prey staring at a predator. But before he could free himself of this fear, or do anything else, the knife pierced his chest and burst through his mortal body.
The sound of a muffled explosion rang out as the majority of Ubel's internal organs exploded under the power of the excessive stream of qi in Zhen Shi's knife strike.
Zhen Shi let go of the knife and stood straight while calmly observing the sight of Ubel Raven's lifeless corpse collapsing on to the cold, hard earth.
Due to the sheer power of the attack, Ubel had died even before the poison had taken effect. But judging by the contorted look on his face, his death not been easy.
Zhen Shi continued to stare in satisfaction at Ubel's face that was contorted in immense pain; a huge change from his previous gleeful smile.
But at that same moment, Zhen Shi felt a great sense of weakness come over his body as if he had over-utilized his energy. As such, he weakly collapsed on to the ground.
But before his body could strike the hard earth, he felt a soft presence that cushioned his fall. From the position he was in and with his blurred vision, he couldn't clearly see who had caught him but he could vaguely sense that it was his mother.
At the same time, he heard his father's voice speaking curtly, \"While interference from external forces is not allowed, considering that the convicted wielded a poisoned knife, I conclude that the interference is pardonable in this event. The Duel of Justice is hereby deemed completed!\"
Before losing consciousness, the last thing Zhen Shi saw were two familiar hands reaching towards him; covered in blood, but free of poison...