--BECOME MY MASTER!
City of Sun, like many capital cities, was bordered by quarters, or Districts as they were called. There were five major ones which were then split further into smaller parts: Western, Northern, Eastern, Southern and Central. Unlike with most other cities, save for the Central one, every other district was shared by commoners and nobles alike.
Such was also the case in the Western District, where a swath of villas and mansions decorated with gems and gold were only divided by street from one-story buildings with drafty windows. At the very end of that street, where the river cut it off from the further military barracks and the wall, was the largest mansion on the street.
It was made of four distinct, individual buildings connected with glassed, arching bridges, with the shortest one being at least twenty meters tall. It was the official home of Northern Frontier Duke, though mostly his family resided there as he was almost always stationed at the border between the Empire and the Demonic Battlefield as the vanguard force.
Within the compound, sandwiched between the four massive structures, was a small garden with a fountain at the center spitting out glistening, emerald-colored water. Garden was exclusively made up of roses, of all sorts and colors, though they were planted with specific intention; innermost ring, surrounding the fountain itself, was made up of red roses, while the row behind was filled with white ones, further behind were pink, then orange, purple, and, at the very edge, were multi-colored roses.
At the very center, tending to the roses with scissors, was a youth seemingly around twenty years of age. He had a long, hazelnut hair tied with a string, while front bangs were skewered sideways to expose his forehead. His eyes were pure blue, and his features would suggest a handsome man... if it were not for a birthmark on his red cheek in shape of a bird.
He wore simple garment, almost akin to that of a commoner; however, he was not. He was the son of Duke Dongrauth, Felix Dongrauth, the Duke’s oldest son, future Family Head. Person of such status was currently humming a playful tune while watering the blood-red roses. He had a rather tranquil expression, his eyes exuding unprecedented joy.
He went round in circles and, after watering the first row, he went on the second, third and all the way to the last, after which he came back at the fountain and sat on one of the benches surrounding it. There was dirt all over his clothes and some on his face, yet he didn’t seem to care. Closing his eyes, he wanted to take a quick nap but was suddenly jolted as his keen Divine Sense picked up a figure standing right in front of him.
It was not the figure being there that surprised him as the garden was accessible to everyone in the Duke’s Compound, but that he only spotted the figure now, when it was in front of him. Felix quickly opened his eyes and got onto his feet, coming eye to eye with an unknown person. Well, it was better to say that he came eye to bangs, as the figure had bangs covering top of his face and thick, disheveled beard covering lower part. It was a man, though Felix was unable to determine his age as he looked both 20 and 60 at the same time. He wore shabby, tattered clothes and stank even from ten meters away. Right there, beside him, was a dog of husky breed currently curiously observing the roses.
Though the man in front of him appeared to be a complete beggar, Felix was on guard, believing wholeheartedly it was an expert in disguise; even when compared to his Father, Felix’s Divine Sense was keener. To avoid it meant that it was someone nearly as strong as his Father, if not even stronger.
“Who are you?!” Felix exclaimed, gathering Qi around him in preparation for battle.
“Are you notorious Felix Don-something. Sorry brother, that last name is a mouthful.” the beggar-looking expert asked him back.
“Eh? What’s that to you?”
“You don’t seem like creeper.”
“... I’m asking again, who are you?”
“I? Kneel mortal, for I am the great Hero of Justice, Women and Wine, the Immortal from lands beyond---alright, I went too far there,” the expert coughed a few times as though to cover up his embarrassment. “Anyway, I’m here because the great League of Women forewarned me of your intolerable behavior toward the Royal Princess what’s-her-name.”
“...” Experts sure do have eccentric behavior, Felix didn’t find the man’s behavior strange, but rather it made his conclusion even stronger. Father was right. The more eccentric one is, the stronger they are as they don’t care what people think about them! I need to be careful. “I don’t know what you mean, Senior. I am nothing short of respectful toward Royal Lady Evelyn.”
“... S-senior?” the man suddenly staggered as though he heard the most ludicrous thing ever. “I---do---do I look that--that old?! N-no!!”
“Uh, I... I meant--”
“Ah, forget it,” he shrugged it off yet again. Truly eccentric!! A true expert! I need to make him my Master! “Rumor is, though, you are trying to court her.”
“While I greatly respect Royal Lady Evelyn and admire her beauty,” Felix said straightforwardly. “And though I would never say this in public, I will say it to you Senior: she’s a manipulative vixen. Whoever marries her shall not have a day of peace. I’d have to lose my mind for me to even contemplate chasing her!”
“... what is it Senior?”
“C-could it be... that my information is incorrect?” the man mumbled to himself.
“I’m assuming the information was leaked by either her or her Elder Brother Annel,” Felix said. “They are part of Royal Family, and, if I may speak honestly--”
“--all of them are paranoid twats who think everyone and their mother is out to remove them from power and seize the throne. Though I have to show courtesy in their presence, for the love of God never again suggest I’m courting her.”
“... why do you frequent her place, then?” the man asked.
“They have a wonderful garden,” Felix said, his eyes suddenly glistening like gems in complete radiance. “It’s made up of rarest flowers on the continent such as Aura Jasmine, Black Roses, Skyscent Lilies, Terrarium Daisy---”
“Yeah, I get it, you like flowers. Dammit. Well, could you stop going there? I was promised money--khm, uber rare material if I can keep you out.”
“Of course, Senior.”
“--become my Master!” Felix suddenly knelt before the man, surprising both him and the dog who glanced in-between the two men, as though wondering what was this noble boy doing kneeling before the beggar filth.
“... are you nuts?”
“You expect me to become your Master for free?”
“Ah! Of course not, how uncouth from me. Please forgive me, Senior!”
“Ah, whatever, I don’t need anything,” the man shrugged his shoulders and turned around. “Worldly possessions are worthless.”
“Then what about that reward---”
“Worldly possessions are worthless.”
“Indeed they are, Senior.”
“Good, good disciple!” the man exclaimed, laughing. “Follow me.”
“Where are we going, Senior?” Felix asked, both somewhat anxious and excited over finally becoming a Disciple of a true master.
“We’re going to stir some shit up.”
“How do we progress as cultivators?” the man asked.
“It was rhetorical. Listen, this is lesson time. You just keep quiet and absorb.”
“Yes, Senior!” Felix exclaimed, perking his ears up, unwilling to miss a single word. “Naturally, we absorb Qi and understand Laws,” the man continued as the two began walking out of the garden. “But, those are the shallow things. You already know those. But, in the end, cultivation isn’t dependent on Qi, or Laws, or Cultivation Arts and Methods... it’s entirely dependent on mind!”
“Yes, Mind!” the man exclaimed. “Think about it! What commandeers Qi? What perceives the Laws and understands them?”
“Yes, the Mind! However, mind is not a static thing; it needs to be trained! As infants, we are dumber than bell! As kids, we’re even dumber! We still shit our pants, but can’t use the excuse of inability to walk! As teenagers, we’re even dumber!! We think we’re the smartest and understand everything, but we don’t understand jack! As adults, we’re the dumbest! It’s because we understood the world, so we give up! We grow embittered, cynical and brash. And, when we turn to crippled, old age... we are just as dumb as babies are. Except, now, there’s a mound of regrets bounding our hearts.”
“..:” Felix suddenly froze on spot, appearing somewhat dumbfounded; it was the first time he’d ever heard something like that, and it completely opened his mind.
“Don’t get lost in thoughts just yet, I’m not done!” the man warned.
“Y-yes, Master! Please, continue!”
“All those things happen because we underestimate the worth of our minds,” the man continued. “It’s same with both ordinary people and cultivators. As cultivators, we dedicate our daily lives to getting stronger... to bounding realms, to achieving new heights. It’s become the sole principle of cultivation. But, we’d forgotten the main root of cultivation itself: cultivating oneself! Becoming not stronger, but better! Have you ever wondered why old fear death more than young?”
“... because they have more to lose?” Felix proposed.
“Partly,” the man said. The two exited the garden and headed toward the exit of the compound itself. “But also because they’re stronger while being worse. They’ve abandoned their hearts in pursuit of higher realm. Isn’t point of cultivating to better your heart, mind and soul? I thought so, too. But, reality is... it’s not. It’s about who’s stronger. It’s sad, don’t you think? We’ve abandoned what made us unique in the first place for some arbitrary sense of power that will, without a doubt, turn into vapor one day in the future.”
“...” Felix suddenly wanted nothing but to lock himself up and contemplate on his Master’s words. But, as the latter didn’t say anything, he suppressed it and followed his strange, eccentric Master. “You said we were going out to train our minds, is that right, Master?”
“Yes, yes,” the man nodded. “And the best way to train one’s mind is to see another lose theirs.”
“Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s so much fun.”
“Ha ha, don’t worry, don’t worry. Look at how this damned dog is excited. You’ll see, you’ll see. Let’s go have fu--- I mean, let’s go and train our Minds!”
“...” I-is this really a good thing to do?! Master, oh, Dear Master, I’ve got reputation to uphold!!! ...