Blue and sunny sky hung above the Yellow valley sect as dutiful disciples furthered their cultivation. Some patiently read through scriptures that described the complicated ways of manipulating qi, some locked themselves away in long cultivation sessions determined not to leave until they managed to break through their bottlenecks, while others gathered together to test their skills against one another. One such pair was Han Bei and a junior brother of his.

An open palm blocked a fist surrounded by yellow qi and with a single pulse of power, it canceled out the impact of the incoming attack. " Again," Han Bei demanded with a stern voice. The yellow-robed junior didn't answer but determination filled his eyes as he got in a fighting stance.

Han Bei received another attack. This time quicker than beforehand and this one pushed him half a step backward. He honestly praised, " You're getting better junior brother. " The other youth modestly shook his head, " I have ways to go until I reach your level senior brother Han. " Han Bei smiled, " Well, you might need a few decades. I wouldn't mind looking after you from time to time until then." His junior brother also laughed, " Then why did you let us die?" With the same innocent and cheerful voice he repeated, " Why did you let us die Han Bei?" Han Bei's smile faltered and the sudden question left him flabbergasted. Han Bei wanted to scream, " I did not, could not let you die. " But before he managed to answer the world turned black while a single question haunted Han Bei's mind, " Why did you let us die, brother? "

Light broke through his eyelids as the dream ended. Han Bei opened his eyes and couldn't help but feel disappointed. Dense mist covered the upper part of the ravine and completely blocked out the starry sky. As if the heavens choose to take away one of the few little things he had come to appreciate on this never-dead world. Han Bei felt that it was a sour awakening, to say the least.

Han Bei's gaze was drawn to the source of light as it stood out among the surrounding scenery. It wasn't the gloomy green light commonly found among the plants that commonly populated Myris, but a bright red light given life by flame. It was a campfire. An elderly voice called out to him, " How long are you going to sleep there? " At first Han Bei couldn't find the old monk as his line of sight was broken up by the fire. He had to squint to see the old thing through the flame and the fire gave the old monk a sort of otherworldly golden look, but as soon as Han Bei stood up all he saw was an old man who sat beside a comfy campfire.

The old monk spoke up again, " Come sit, little corpse. I thought of celebrating your ascension to the rank of cultivators and while it isn't a feast I still brought something you might appreciate. " Han Bei's mood did improve as the old monk pulled out a gourd of wine and 2 cups which he placed on a smooth rocky surface. Normally he might have chastised the old man for making a fire that could draw the attention of potential enemies, but now he wouldn't mind a little distraction. He also noticed that the kindling for the fire suspiciously looked like the limb like wood of the wailing forest.

Corpse joined the old monk by the fire and with a rock that acted as a table between them, the pair had a modest celebration. Han Bei took a sip from the cup and closed his eyes as he enjoyed the feeling of heat going down his throat. He didn't hurry and savored every drop as drinking was something he rarely indulged in even at the best of times. The old monk, however, was less restrained with his share of blood-red wine and drank the thing like water. With rosy cheeks, the elderly man was in a talkative mood. " So little corpse, now that you have gained a measure of power, what are your plans for the future. "

Han Bei slowly swirled the wine in his cup and hesitated how to answer. In the end, he chose the safest option. " Lay low and cultivate. " The old monk sighed in disappointment, " After your charge on the cursed stage I hoped something more exciting from you. " Han Bei's eyebrow twitched in annoyance, " I'm not so stupid as to challenge a whole organization on my own." His mood inevitably soured again as he remembered the almost white maiden and her passing. He honestly didn't know what to think of the group behind it. " Were they insane, stupid, or arrogant? Perhaps a combination of all 3 or none of them at all. "

A question unwillingly escaped his lips, " What's the deal with the skeleton manor? " The old monk grinned, " So you are curious after all. I thought you'd never ask. " Han Bei was annoyed by the drunk, old, bald man, but he took a single deep breath and managed to calm himself. "Just answer the question. "

The old monk silently grinned for a few more seconds before he answered. " They are the so-called rulers of the scavenger plains, the strongest organization among these wide shining plains, and this status is mostly thanks to a single person. Bao Lung, the lord of bones. He's a known name in these planes for a century or so, but 30 years ago he suddenly powered up enough to wreck the completion and gain control over these bountiful lands. " Yet Han Bei felt that something was missing from the explanation, " It might be wrong of me to doubt the fine people of Myris, but I struggle to believe that taking over these damn plains was enough of a power trip to make a single man arrogant enough to defy death itself. "

All buzz was gone from the old monk's voice and he returned to his usual manner of speech, " Oh heavens no! It's only very recently that he lost his marbles, perhaps a backlash from improper cultivation, but personally believe that this world finally got to him, if you know what I mean. " Han Bei continued the thought, " I don't imagine the other members of the organization were too keen about their leader going batshit insane? " The old monk nodded, " Several groups splintered away from the Skeleton manor and established organizations of their own. You can probably hear them whenever a new gift falls from the heavens above and they compete for the things other cultivators would rather see forgotten, but most are content with waiting until the Lord of bones does something stupid and finally bites it. So it's questionable if the manor is a threat to you at all. "

Han Bei fell into deep thought. " I'd rather not wager my fate on the whims of others. " As the old monk watched in dismay Han Bei directly grabbed the gourd and emptied its content in a single gulp. He excitedly declared, " It's finally time to see what this physique of mine can do, " while the old monk disappointedly muttered, " I wanted some more of that as well."


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