Pinesun City, Elliot Estate.
Gavin swaggered into his home. After passing the gate, he was greeted by his family guards.
"Take them to the guest house. I need to talk to my father." Pointing at Jake and co, he instructed the guards.
"Yes, young master." They replied. It was their honor to see the brilliant young master. In the manor, the young master was a celebrity due to his cultivation achievements. Blessed by his presence, the guards swiftly brought the group to their destination.
After they left, Gavin, with Frank behind him proceeded to their own destination.
The Elliot manor was huge, the land was about three acres wide and long, composed of several buildings belonging to various family members. Everyone that bore the Elliot name lived here.
Gavin's destination was at the center of the manor. Standing tall and majestic, was a huge manor made with beautiful materials. Staring at it, one would feel like they were in the presence of a king.
Gavin nodded at all the servants as he walked in. He was always humble to the servants. Most of them had known him since he was young. They were loyal to his family and he respected them.
Walking down the manor hall, Gavin arrived at the doorstep of a large room. He knocked on it.
"Who is it?" an aged voice shouted from the other side of the door.
"It is me, Albert. Is my father in there?"
"Yes, but he is busy."
With no time to waste, Gavin said, "Tell him I have urgent news. It concerns the zombie mine."
After a few murmurs, the door opened. It revealed a simple workspace. Sitting beside a desk was an old man with thick beards. He had a scar on his forehead.
"Come in, son," the man said with a deep tone to Gavin.
His voice sent shudders to Gavin. While he was always confident and calm, in front of his father, he would be intimidated.
Gavin walked into the room, while his attendant, Frank, stayed behind.
Gavin knelt down with one knee, greeting his father, "Father, I have completed your task and I must say the results are not good."
With a grim expression, his father asked, "What do you mean?"
"It is like this, father..."Gavin quickly explained every event that occurred in the forest.
Having heard the full story, his father took a deep breath, "That is quite serious. We haven't had a tear in six years. We should still have four years before the next tear. So what did this happen? It is most likely the barrier is getting old. I will report this to the capital."
The barrier was created a long time ago to sharpen the younger generation, to remind them of the terrors of the previous eras. It had existed before the Elliot family was founded. Every ten years, it would undergo maintenance. The capital would send delegates for maintenance. If they should skip maintenance, the zombie would leak out of the mine.
He asked Gavin, "and the teenage group you met?"
Gavin replied, "They are at the guest house. I wasn't sure if I should let them go. They were too suspicious."
His father said, "If they are as weak as you say, then they are not related to the tear." he thought and instructed, "Detain them in the guest house for a day. That will be the punishment for their crimes."
He glanced beside the door, at Albert, his bodyguard, "Albert, send someone to watch them, just in case. Also, send a letter to the Capital. They need to know about this."
He said to Gavin, "You have done well. Take a rest. Tomorrow, I will train you personally."
The next day.
Jake was in a big room in the guest house. It had been a day since he had arrived at the estate. He had slept in the bed in the room. The others were in the other rooms. The guest house had enough rooms for all of them.
He looked out of the window and saw guards positioned at every corner.
"It seems like we are still suspected."
Having taken a shower previously, Jake opened his door and went to the dining room. It was a huge space with nothing but a table and chair. Jake had seen the room yesterday, so he knew the direction.
"When is he going to come out?"
"I don't know. He is strange."
"Don't talk bad about him. He is just not used to people."
Getting to the dining room, Jake heard Nico and Lola bickering.
"You finally came. We were waiting for you," Nico welcomed him.
Sitting at the table were Nico, Lola, Jaya, and Gavin.
Jake was surprised by Gavins's appearance. He wondered what the young master was here for.
Noticing his stares, Gavin told him, "Don't be surprised. I am here to release you."
"What!" exclaimed Nico. After everything that happened yesterday, he didn't expect the young master to just let them go like that.
Gavin's word gained the focus of Lola and Jaya.
Jaya asked, "Young ma--Gavin, what of the crime we committed? Are we also free of that?"
"You have paid for your crimes-" replied Gavin, smiling.
"We have!" interrupted the loud Nico.
Clouding with frustration, Lola shouted, "For God's sake, Nico. Shut up!"
"It's okay," said the ever-smiling Gavin. He continued, "The crimes you committed were small. By staying here for a day, you have paid for it."
"Just for a day? Then why was it a crime?" this time it was Jaya's turn to be surprised.
"The rule was made to remind people of the danger of the zombie mine. That being said, I came to inform you that you are free to go," calmly explained Gavin.
It was his father that gave the orders to release them.
The group found their release strange, but they didn't dare question it. They left the estate after their meal.
"Wow!" Nico marveled. Throughout their trip from the zombie mine to the estate, they were in a cart. They couldn't see the outside.
Beyond the walls of the estate, was the true Pinesun city. The city was filled with multiple buildings and yes, Pine trees. The city was busy with people. From that, one could see that it was flourishing. People of all colors and clothes roamed the street. The liveliness of the streets was the true beauty to Nico.
Still admiring the city, Nico's mind was brought back by his sister's voice, Huh, where is Jake?
Jaya said with crossed eyes, "He left...He left and we didn't notice."
"Now where should I go?" a young boy asked himself.
After ditching the trio, Jake had followed his mind. He had no idea of what he should do.
He thought, 'I need to know my priorities.'
'What are my priorities?' After minutes of pondering, he realized he had no priorities. All his life, he had been chasing a goal, and now that he achieved that, he had no idea what he should do next.
He kept pondering as his feet took him wherever the wind moved, 'What should I do now? Huh, I feel like I'm forgetting something. Hmmm, whatever.' He shrugged off his feelings.
Instantly he got an idea, 'Let's focus on what I need. I did not like the feeling of weakness I had in the zombie mine. I need Strength. Yes, if I had strength, I wouldn't be played around by the young master. I wouldn't be defenseless. Looking back at the zombie incident, I can tell that this world is full of danger. Therefore, I need strength to live my life.'
A sharp pain hit Jake's head as he remembered something important. He exclaimed, "M! That's right. M told me to reach the peak. He said I would meet him there. All I need to do is to cultivate, it would give me strength.Hehehe." Jake chuckled with no idea of his current location.
"Mama, what is wrong with him?" a child on the street pointed at Jake.
"Don't look at him. He is crazy," her mother replied to her.
The parent and child carefully maneuvered around Jake.
Listening to their conversation, a red hue creased Jake's cheeks. He swiftly adjusted his mindset, 'Now that I know I need cultivation. Where do I get it from?'
He was thinking deeply when a man bumped into him. The man shouted, "Sorry."
Jake was about to shout at the man when he saw similar people rushing like the man. They were headed in a particular direction.
Perhaps by instinct, Jake followed the flow of the crowd.
He found himself sandwiched in the crowd. The movement stopped at an open space, most likely, a park.
Jake could hear the crowd chattering.
"I can't believe master Luca can be so generous, " a person said
"Lord Luca is the best, " commented another person
"Master Luca, marry me" shouted a female
The bickering went on until a loud voice shouted, "Silence!!" To the crowd, the voice was akin to thunder, echoing forever in their ears.
'Amazing, he managed to control the crowd with just a shout,' remarked Jake at the sudden silence of the crowd.
At the center of the park was a tall podium. Standing there was a middle-aged man with a well-trimmed beard. He had brown hair and a leather top and pants. Despite his age, he still exuded a youthful aura.
"It seems like I have everyone's attention," the man confidently smiled.
He said, "I, master Luca, have come to pay homage to my birthplace. Many years ago, I left in pursuit of cultivation and now I return. As thanks to the city for bringing me up, I shall teach cultivation classes for five days in this park. Only those fifteen and below are allowed to attend."
His words caused an uproar. The qualified ones felt lucky, while the over-aged ones felt sad at their missed opportunity.
"Now, if you are not qualified. Scram, " said the man domineeringly.
He intimidated the unqualified ones as they left in shame.
The park became scanty when the adults left.
The man examined the remaining, "Good. Good. Good. I can see some sharp faces. Surely, I can mold a warrior out of you."
"After today's lecture, you will decide whether to join my classes or not."
The man took a deep breath and said slowly dispersing his voice to every corner of the park, "What is cultivation? Some people say cultivation is the process of getting stronger. Is that right? No, that is wrong!
Cultivation is a path. It is a Way. The way of escaping destiny, the way of usurpers. This world is full of many wonders and cultivation is the key to them. Anyone can cultivate, but not many reach the peak. For that, one would need talent, diligence, perseverance, hard work, comprehension, and many other qualities.
Roaming around the continent, I learned that cultivation is everything, it is the key to luxury, it is the path to transcendence, it is the door to harem!!
I have ten wives, and I take care of each of them. How? you ask. It is because of cultivation. I can provide for each of them due to cultivation. My wives are of a different nationality but they don't fight, due to cultivation. I can save damsels in distress and marry them due to cultivation!....."
The man continued his speech, but he left Jake wondering how harem was related to cultivation.