Seren just as usual was strolling around the mountains surrounding his village, looking forward to his future.
In 4 more months he could finally go hunting after a year of preparation, only to wait again for the next time... But he wasn't depressed as he knew what getting out to hunt represented... Power! And since he had none of that, he could only go with the arranged groups. The village organized such events for the young ones to gain experience.
He treasured every single chance he got because he knew how dangerous these mountains would be without protection from adults. And since he knew, he had to prepare himself for the coming of age ceremony.
The better he did, the easier his life would be later on.
However well he did though, he didn't have any grand aspirations like getting to an immortal sect and becoming powerful and so on... What would he do with more power anyways, cut woods? Or order others to do his chores?
'Power can only get you so far after that comes the trouble... Why would I need such things if my only goal is to eat sleep work and die?' Seren thought inwardly failing to understand why others pursued power at any cost.
'Most people should just stop right before the trouble part comes crashing down.' He thought again, sighing deeply.
Days passed, and he lived normally. Every day he went out with his friends to play and conversate.
No dreams, no soul, no nothing is what one of his friends described him when he learned of his thoughts.
Soon after the whole village started calling him soulless, just to piss him off.
He just ignored them, but
After a while of not getting bothered by it, he got angry and started thinking... thinking deeply as to what he wanted in life... His outcome? To live freely till the end of his life.
It wasn't the first time he had pondered upon such a thing, however as he was growing up and started thinking more deeply about that matter he began to wonder if that's all that he wanted in his life.
After a while, he thought that since everyone has this 'dream' or instinct if he were to call it more appropriately, it shouldn't count as his dream... He had to grow his aspirations a bit.
Man up! Or how they called it.
'How about ruling over the whole world!... Or am I limiting myself too much by only saying this world?' he thought.
And so his dreams became bigger than anything anyone could ever imagine. He wasn't an ignorant kid, nor were most people in his village. The world he was living in was full of mysteries and ungodly beasts, and even beings that could decimate planets... or at least that's what the legends his books told him about the world.
And he believed them. After all, he had seen examples in the hunting 'trips'.
No matter if it was only a kids dream, or however impossible it might be, he wanted to achieve it.
And so grew his desire for power. Every single day he would stroll around the perimeter of his village, sometimes even entering the dangerous hunting fields.
Being careful not to be found out and get into trouble, the rumors about him didn't change. But he knew he had changed because of them. They were the catalyst.
It was silly, but he accepted it. He liked this change, he found out about a part of himself he didn't even know he had.
His actions were getting bolder and riskier by the day, reaching to the point where he almost lost his life 3 times.
He wanted to prepare, he wanted to study, to experience the outside world.
He couldn't pass like anyone else, He couldn't be normal of he wanted to achieve greatness!
1 month remained till he went to the hunting trip.
Continuing to stroll absentmindedly near the dangerous hunting zones as it had ended up being his daily routine, suddenly he shivered and faced up the sky, only to see nothing...
Which was weird considering how lively the forest was.
It was an eerily weird silence... Not that there weren't previous occasions of this, but this time it was different. As if his instincts screamed at him 'something is terribly wrong!'. And in reality, it was these instincts that allowed him to survive those 3 times, and even evade a lot of other close calls.
However, he racked up his brain though, a mortal's power is limited.
It was at this moment he heard the voices of two distant figures. ''Stop with that killing intent. You've already upset the entire forest.'' said the figure on the left. To which the other figure murmured "But I hate bugs..."
As they got closer to him, their figures became clearer, and he was able to examine them more carefully. A gentle woman wearing green robes embroidered with golden dragons with beauty he had never before seen in his life, and an imposing valiant man wearing red like blood robes, them too embroidered with golden dragons.
To learn that the man who seemed so imposing couldn't stand mere bugs was funny in its own way, but his instincts screamed 'Danger' at the mere sight of these two figures.
"Oh look, an insect." The man said looking at Seren, making him almost piss himself.
"Oh, you just can't you get serious for a moment..." The beautiful woman reprimanded him. "I'm sorry, but do you know where the Eldervale village is? We kinda lost our way." She said with a kind smile on her face.
Seren speechless and having blanked out couldn't answer immediately leaving a short awkward silence. Most people in his situation would have fainted, which says leagues about his mental fortitude. After a moment he quickly regained his composure and pointed towards his village, his limbs having stopped shaking by now.
"Oy kid! What's your name?" The imposing man asked out of nowhere before they started moving towards the village.
"I'm Seren." He replied with a forced calm voice.
The man seeing this said "You ain't half bad. If you manage to come to the Heavenly Dragon sect ask for Su Sin. My name worths mountains of gold and I can help you evade a lot of trouble."
"Oh so now you've taken a liking to him." She commented with a sweet smile.
"Uh, why must you be so annoying...?" Su Sin grunted.
"This sister's name is Nuan Ro, but you can just call me Rune." she said with a happy face.
"Get a nest you darn love birds... We still have a lot of work left to do." Said Sin with a smirk on his face as he prepared to leave.
Before Rune could reply, Seren suddenly spoke "Wait! Could I go with you? Eldervale is my village, and walking back there alone is pretty boring." He didn't want to miss a chance to better know two immortals, and after hearing them for a while, he decided to bet his chances.
"Sure." Sin said with a smirk, suddenly grabbing him by the arm and flying up in the air without even waiting for Rune.
Rune grunting waved her hand and a giant floating compass appeared out of nowhere. Stepping on it, her speed exploded as she soared in the skies.
Soon enough the whole situation evolved into a race. And maybe to what was considered normal to them, but to Seren, it was something akin to a torture. As the air pressure hit his face like a thousand needles and his arm almost broken, if not dislocated from Sin grabbing him like that, it was hard for him to call it an enjoyable experience.
A few seconds after the race stopped, and the group was close to the village "Sin, you did not just do that!" Rune said angrily.
"Do what?" Sin grunted thinking it was another of her silly behaviors.
"The poor kid, you didn't protect him from the air pressure. Look at him!" She said angrily looking at Sin.
"Oh, he's just fine... right?" He said with a smile that was not quite a smile looking at Seren.
"I'm still alive if that's what you ask.." Seren answered, not quite realizing what he said.
"You see, you own him an apology!" She yelled for his 'injustice'.
"Why couldn't you have said a simple "I'm fine thanks for worrying."?" He grimaced as he heard him, but saying this he put his arm in in his robes and took out a pill "It's my fault. So please accept this as an apology." he said, shoving the precious looking pill in Seren's arms, making the woman gasp, evidencing how precious the pill he gave him was.
Seren, of course, could see where this whole situation was headed, but still decided to play it innocent "I couldn't possibly take such a precious thing for such a minor event." He said modestly, while inwardly sighing... 'Youngster's love... so pure...'
After a small moment of silence,
Sin said "No, no, this is the least I could do for what I've put you through. Please don't reject it." while at the same time making a magnanimous impression.
Sin didn't want to see her angry, so after he understood his fault, he quickly found the best way to mend the situation while at the same time maybe even improving his relationship with Rune.
Rune, of course, was surprised at the value of his gift, but still rolled her eyes at the end.
'He didn't even mention what the pill does', she thought, but still keeping quiet 'It should be quite the surprise when he finds out about the pill. If we spoil it, it will ruin the fun. It is quite the famous pill too, so he should find it out after a little digging on his own. That's what he must have been thinking as well.'
And after a moment of walking like normal human beings "Here we are, this is my village." Seren said happily looking at the majestic view of a village integrated with the nature around it as if forgetting everything else.
He had to admit, the scenery was stunning even for him, not to mention someone who sees it for the first time. However, he didn't get the reaction he was hoping for from the immortals.
Sin and Rune having seen a lot in their travels, although surprised by the beauty of the scene, they weren't taken away by it, much to the surprise of Seren.
Though he wasn't with high expectations to see them stunned from the scenery, it didn't mean that he didn't want it really much.
Rune seeing his disappointed expression made an obvious fake face of amazement, laughing at him.
Finally, after a short while, Seren let a small laugh escape from him.
He rushed to move at the same pace as them, seeing the immortals leave him behind.
Inside the village,
"We greet you immortals. If I'm not mistaken, you're here for the juniors, right?" An elder at the village greeted Sin and Rune respectfully.
"Yes, we are here for the kids aspiring to get into our sect. Provided they prove worthy that is." Sin responded with a business smile on his face, something Seren had seen a lot of times during important trades between the adults of his village.
Always one month before the hunting trips, there is a test for kids of age wanting to learn in immortal sects, encouraging most kids to try being as successful as their predecessors... Or at least hoping to do that. Eldervale village had formed a small connection with one powerful immortal sect long ago because of its ancestors and many many more talented later generations, ending up with each year two envoys of the sect gifting them with their presence.
Seren each year looked at the successful kids apathetically, but this time it was different. His future plans had... Changed.
After Sin and the elder spoke a few words to each other, the participating kids gathered in a beautiful looking building at the outer part of the village, normally remaining sealed for these special occasions. Sin gathered their attention and spoke
"First of all, participants form a line, and I will test your talent for cultivation. Should your talent be enough, you will then be tested on your willpower and preservation. Distinguishing yourself in these tests is both easy and hard. And with that said, I wish you luck." He said with a firm voice, matching his appearance greatly.
It was a short monologue, but it needed no more. All of this was just redundant since they all knew the tests after so many times, and the amount of preparation those kids did was not a laughing matter either.
So to say, there was simply no way for a kid to not know what the tests were.
For a large village such as Eldervale, there were naturally many kids of age. However of all of them, only 21 were participating and while some of them didn't want to participate, most of them failed with their preparations making the elders not allow them to participate, as if fearing they would damage the reputation they had built up and embarrass them, further attesting to the idiotic nature of humans, as well as to the difficulty of passing the test.
However it had to be mentioned that 9 out of 10 kids of the village would pass the tests at all times, and most of them would be geniuses amongst their peers.
Sin pointed randomly at one of the kids, beckoning him to come "Sit down, and try to relax."
The kid that went up was a dear friend of Seren, Kymil, and was also quite popular amongst his peers. He didn't seem to be overly excited, or anxious about the results, but it took him about 10 minutes to calm down properly.
After Kymil sat down in a comfortable position, Sin placed his hand on the kid's forehead, and soon a warm light yellow light spread across the room.
The process took only a few minutes, and from light Yellow the light went into a deeper shade of it, to light orange, growing darker, to light green before stopping at a strong vibrant green.
The results stunned Rune and Sin, as everyone knew how great that talent was.
Yellow is a commoner whose talent makes him unsuitable for cultivation, and most likely will never to step on the door of cultivation without outside help.
Orange is the bare minimum required for cultivation, needing at least 3 years of hard work to enter the realm of cultivators, while green light means that someone would need about a year of hard work, and would generally accomplish greater things than those with lesser talents.
Above it is the realm of true geniuses treasured by sects, Red light needing 5 to 6 months of hard work, and even further is Blue light, meaning a normal human would only take 1 month to step in the cultivator's world. There have even been mentions of a legendary Purple Emperor realm, but those were only just legends as far as they were concerned.
The kids shared the same enthusiasm, while Rune and Sin amazement.
The whole process only took about a minute, after which Kymil stood up calmly "Your talent is excellent, and a bright future is open to you. Stand on my right, you have passed the first test." and hearing Sin speak he stood on his right.
Having met such a bright talent expectations were high for the next kids..
The next kid had a light Green talent, while the kid after him was Orange talented. Such results obviously stunned the immortals, and they continued to get stunned by the kid's talent.
Soon after everyone was done, the results were every bit amazing to Rune and Sin, as to possibly every normal immortals who would have witnessed it, with only one kid having a Yellow lighted talent, and most of the kids having Green lighted talent, while 7 kids had Orange lighted talent.
Suddenly Sin "Aren't you gonna test your talent kiddo?" said to Seren with a smile.
"I'm not of age, so, unfortunately, I can't.." Seren answering with respect, declining, albeit curious about the results.
"Well, that being said. Kids gather in the center of the house for the last test." Sin said, pointing at a large square in the center of the building. "I will now show you the pressure of a true immortal. Being able to remain standing for 1 minute is a pass, 2 minutes is good, 3 minutes is excellent, and 5 minutes is true strength! As for those that last more than 5 minutes, the sect will arrange special conditions for them."
As he stopped speaking, a terrifying pressure fell upon the 21 kids, who despite their efforts to look as if they were at ease, couldn't help but grimace.
After 30 seconds had passed everyone was still standing, and the pressure rose up a notch, forcing the Orange talented kids, and many green ones to bend their knees.
At 50 seconds suddenly a wave of pain fell onto the kids.
With not even 5 seconds remaining, a kid finally couldn't hold on anymore, collapsing under the pain. That kid was Kymil, a Green talented kid, surprising the immortals, as usually the weaker talented wouldn't be able to hold on first, and although that didn't hold true for all of the cases, it still did for the vast majority.
After a second passed, another kid couldn't hold on anymore and collapsed unconscious. This time it was an Orange talented kid, and the immortals just kept watching, leaving the kid there and not moving him, but strangely the pressure also didn't affect him, relieving many kids with weaker wills, that at the 59th second fell. Bringing the number of kids still standing to 17 after the time reached one minute.
This test was in reality much harsher and cruel than it seemed, testing the willpower of one with many ways.
After the 1-minute mark passed many kids fell under the pressure, with relief on their faces, not even trying to bear it for even 1 more second, bringing shame on their elder's faces.
That relief was their downfall and a blockage from greatness and success.
At that time, only 7 kids still stood strong, gaining some face back to their elders.
At the second minute mark, the pressure doubled, and the pain tripled, making some of them almost kneel, but they still stood.
After half a minute more, they still stood, but the sweat ran like rain down their faces, as they withstood that immense pressure.
At the 3-minute mark, all 7 kids were still standing, but their faces were saying not for long.
Finally, after 10 more seconds, a kid fell unconscious, and 6 were left standing.
At half a minute remaining to complete the fourth, 5 kids fell, bringing the count to 1 kid remaining... The only kid with Yellow talent.
At the fourth minute mark that kid still stood strong, and then the pressure went up... dramatically. Pressure went up by more than five times, and pain by more than ten.
Not one second in, and the kid was at it's last breath.
Seconds passed slow and slower and slower for the kid.
Always being on his last legs, but still not seeming to fall.
Ten seconds in, half a minute, twenty seconds remaining, ten seconds remaining... 5 seconds remaining.
The pain the kid was experiencing was evident by the look on his face, but he still didn't give up, earning respect from his peers, the adults and elders of the village, and even the two immortals.
And when at long last the 5-minute mark passed, the pressure suddenly stopped "Anymore and you would have died... This was already quite impressive. Talent may give you an unfair head start, but strong willpower will enable you to overcome everything on your path. With enough resources, the talent problem can be fixed. I ask you from now, do you accept a position temporarily as a core disciple?" Sin said, leaving the elders with their mouths agape.
It had been a lot of time since they last got a core disciple in the immortal sect from their village. Some couldn't even contain their excitement, running forward to congratulate him, before stupidly remembering the remaining talented kids left unconscious on the stage. Most of the elders left, taking care of the future immortals.
"Well, that was an eye opener for me... Never knew a small village could hold such talents within." Sin said with obvious amazement in his eyes.
"Kiddo, wanna come with us? No need to take a test, just follow us there, and when the time comes, take the test and prove your worth." Rune suddenly spoke after retaining her silence for all the time.
Being taken by surprise "I can't... I still have things left to do in my village. And besides it's too sudden, and-" Seren continued talking, making excuses for missing one of the greatest chances in his life... Or that's what most people around him thought, and coupled with the rumors about him, even his friends looked at him weirdly.
In reality, Seren thought of the family and friends he would miss, but also of the dangerous environment here that would be more beneficial to him than an overly 'protective environment', or how he thought it would be there. He could see the great chance he was wasting, but in his mind, biting off more than you can chew isn't that great either. Instead of rushing the inevitable, everything had its time. Flawed indeed, but he still decided to go with it...
"Well, if that's so... You can accompany us on the way out if you want. I can tell you about the effects of that pill along the way." Sin offered, not thinking too much about his refusal.
"Hehe, well that... If your Excellency insists." Seren said jokingly, eliciting a laugh from Sin.
"Heh, kids these days don't know the immensity of heavens." Sin said with a laugh, enjoying the fun attitude of Seren.
And as the two immortals were leaving with the other kids, Seren joined them for probably the last time they would meet for many years to come.
Already leaving the outer perimeter of the village, Seren continued to walk with them, as he hadn't heard what the pill he gave him did. He looked expectantly at Sin, who was about to answer him when his face suddenly turned serious.
Sin glancing at the trees surrounding them "Rune, quickly protect the kids!" He said, going into a defensive stance, before the very next second, two attacks coming suddenly from nowhere hit towards him and Rune.
In the split second it took them to react, two incredibly fast figures rushed and grabbed all of the kids like a magnet attracted other metals, and quickly left.
Rune and Sin angered by what they saw, retaliated.
Rune waved her hands in a seemingly normal, yet paradoxical way, and a sudden wave of frost hit towards the two figures kidnapping the talented geniuses from their hands before two figures rushed to intercept the attack, unaware of the true terrifying power of that move and getting heavily injured in their place.
Injured as they were, they could still fight back, but the gap created by Rune wasn't a small one.
Seeing this chance, Sin rushed through the two blocking his path, towards those two figures.
They were fast, but not as fast as him. Catching up to them, he tried to take both of them down, before one of the figures on the right of the one who had the kids stopped. Facing towards Sin, he laughed maniacally before rushing towards him and exploding.
The explosion was strong, incredibly so and without someone protecting the kids, they would have died, but at the last second, a blue barrier appeared and saved them from that peril.
And Sin while not heavily injured, was pushed back, unable to give chase.
"They got us... Those fucking talent thieves got us!" He yelled, not being able to contain his anger anymore. "That's it, I'm reporting it to the sect!" He said, while at the same time taking a strange device from his robes, most likely used for communication.
"Drop it... This is an expensive item, and you know we can't keep wasting them. The sect won't do anything even if you inform them of the matter." Rune stopped him from using that item, bringing him back to his senses.
"But, that kid-" He retorted, before meeting a sharp reply from Rune, "They won't just kill him off... Though I do understand his chances of survival are slim, there is nothing we can do... Not unless you are prepared to risk your life that is. A simple kid we just met today isn't worth it, no matter how good his future prospects look."
And so, 22 kids vanished from the face of the earth.
In the forest, hundreds of kilometers away from where the battle took place, a figure with a pale face was carrying dozens of kids while running maniacally, frequently looking behind him.
After a minute or so, he stopped and 6 more figures went and met up with him.
"Where are the others?" A guy with an ugly face asked and although he knew, he still had hopes of "Dead..." And he lost those hopes.
"Darn it! I knew, I freaking knew that something was wrong when the sect assigned you that mission... Whom did you anger to have such a bad luck...?" The guy with the ugly face once again asked.
"Ahh, this fucking sect is keeping us like slaves ever since it started declining! I've been extremely careful not to anger anyone important, how could this have happened to us..." The only survivor of the 4 said, before suddenly pausing "Don't tell me, no... I remember that brat Hisan said he got in a nasty fight with someone 2 days prior to this mission... That fucking brat! At least he's dead... I only hope no more troubles will befall the rest of us." And as he finished speaking, his head rolled down, cut cleanly of his head.
A shadow appeared cutting the head of that guy and spoke "The one who actually angered someone important was you... Well, in next life be even more careful." And as he was preparing to leave, he stopped and turned towards the other 6 who were with their mouths open, quite visibly shaken by the whole event. "Take these kids to the sect. I count 22 here. If even one is missing, don't come back."
As soon as he finished speaking, Seren took a sharp twig, and with incredible speed, tried to cut his neck. Seeing this the other figures, although they knew deep inside that, that kid wouldn't actually commit suicide, they still moved to stop him out of sheer fear.
"Oh, so that works..." Seren commented with a smile, making veins bulge out of anger from the 6 figures tasked with bringing them back.
Looking at this with a smile, "I like you kid. What's your name." The shadowy figure spoke, his question sounding more like a demand.
Seren spoke calmly with a small grin on his face "Fairo", surprising all of the kids from his village, as they understood that those rumors had long since become just rumors, no longer reflecting even a piece of reality.
"So if one of us dies for any reason, those 6 will never see the light of day? Nice!" A petite girl suddenly said with a devious smile. She was one of the kids that had lasted till almost the 4rth minute mark.
As a response, the shadowy figure just smiled.
"Those fucking kids are monsters!" One of the 6 commented, before meeting a verbal agreement from another guy "I can somehow understand why they put such strong figures to bring them back to their sect... Too bad for them we stole them."
But what they didn't understand was that these actions had even stunned the other kids. After all, not everyone was a monster. Their expectations were raising, and the kids weren't sure if they could respond to it. But they knew, since their talent was enough to stun those 2 powerful immortals, they won't have any problems.
"Now get going, by tomorrow noon I want to see you back!" The shadowy figure said, yawning and disappearing into the shadows.
After that figure disappeared, one of the kids said with a low voice 'Think that was enough to get him interested, and maybe even get us a backing?' After all, he wasn't dumb and quickly understood the intentions of those two.
'Most likely not.' Seren answered with a low voice, making the kids sigh.
They were speaking low to not let those immortals hear them, but it was futile. Instead, they impressed them even more. After all in their situation, who would think of creating a backing, when at the slightest mistake they would end up dead.
The immortals took a strange small floating disc, that when it left their hands it grew to a large size, enough to fit 50 persons without much discomfort.
Most of the kids were amazed at the awe-inspiring apparatuses, Seren, however, was planning 'We can't run, can't hide, and will end up as slaves for the strong... Nope, screw them, I will escape!'
He certainly wasn't the only one having these thoughts, but for the time being, no one could do anything.