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James found himself in front of a white ocean. He couldn't even remember how he got to here and since when was there an ocean in front of him. James just instinctively knew that he had to plunge into those strange murky waters, there was some kind of uncompromising attraction emanating from it.

He took a step forward, and gently dipped his right foot in the liquid. His foot felt slightly warm but he didn't feel as if he had touched anything. Then he took another step and embraced those waters as he started to sink and fall in this liquid. It became darker and darker as James fell into the abyss. A golden symbol faintly shimmered on his forehead as all light faded. Soon there was only darkness.

 

 

"Lingyuuuuuun, time for supper!" A motherly cry was heard in the forest above the town of Cemone, making a couple of birds fly up from the tree branches.

A distant childlike voice echoed back. "Comiiinnng!"

After hearing the response, the woman waited in front of her house, gaze fixed on the nearby peak, from which a little boy was coming down jumping from rock to rock with ease and familiarity.

As the boy came near, he spread his arms and jumped to his mother for a hug. She caught the little trouble maker with a quick pirouette and gently placed him back down with a smile, not even slightly flustered by his speed and weight.

Her smile suddenly froze as she remembered: "Han Lingyun you are covered in sweat!"

"Oops, sorry mother, I'll be careful next time" he cheekily replied.

"Humpf, you are all grown up now, tomorrow is your tenth birthday, it would be best if you started to fool around a bit less" she gently started to admonish again, with her typical posture: hands on her hips.

Sensing the danger of a prolonged speech from his mother, Han Lingyun quickly slipped by and made his way to the table.

A man was already seated. He had broad shoulders but wasn't that tall. His glasses could have given him a stern scholarly air but his gentle smile showed his easy-going attitude as he observed Han Lingyun hop on in front of him. When he saw his wife arriving too, the man promptly put in a good stern-sounding line. "Boy, even if you enjoy to climb to that peak you need to remember to come back on time for lunch." He shot a rapid glance to his wife to check if this delivery was to her taste. At this table, everyone knew that the boss of this home was her.

"Yes dad, but today was special! I think I saw immortals coming to town!" Han Lingyun couldn't sit still today.

"Oh really, I guess it isn't much of a surprise, they should be coming to watch the coming-of-age ceremony next week." The father remarked.

"Dad, do you know a lot about the immortals? And mum too, what do you know about them?" Han Lingyun asked, full of curiosity for these superhumans.

The man took a second to organize his thoughts "Hum not that much, we mortals and immortals might live in the same world but we rarely interact. What I can tell you is that immortals aren't truly immortals. What I mean is that they don't live forever. However, they improve their body and mind through training and can have a longer life. In that sense, they cultivate themselves, which is why they are also called cultivators."

"It is as your dad explained Ling'er. I have also heard that the emperor is in place with the benediction of the immortals."

"But dad why don't immortals and mortals interact often? And also, if immortals live longer, why doesn't everyone cultivate to be immortal?

"Why mortals and immortals don't interact much? To be fair I am not too sure why that is the case kido, but I think that isn't a bad thing. You see cultivators can be very powerful but they are still humans, not perfect gods. They also have desires and emotions and some should be bad people, like everywhere else. A powerful cultivator could fight against an army of thousands of soldiers and decimate them. Imagine what would happen if for some reason such an individual wanted to erase a nation?"

Han Lingyun suddenly shuddered.

"Which is why having such a divide isn't a bad thing for us normal people. I am not sure why immortals stick to this principle though. As for your second question, my boy, I can tell you if everyone could cultivate, there would be cultivators flying around Cemone all the time. But few are those who can, although I don't know of the specifics. The cultivators you saw should be coming to test those taking next week's coming of age ceremony." His father diligently explained.

"Ah yes, mother mentioned it too. Mum, dad, do you think I can be an immortal?" Han Lingyun's eyes sparkled as he imagined being able to move on a flying sword.

"Don't get your hopes up Ling'er, it is very rare. To us it doesn't matter, either way we would still love you." She gently smiled at her son.

However, Han Xue believed her son might have a true shot at being able to cultivate, her son has always been extraordinary. At 6 months old, her baby could already walk and speak, which surprised her and her husband, Han Feng. But this was only the beginning. When Han Feng tried to teach his son to read as a little experiment, and he took it immediately.

At 2 years old he could read normally. And then at 3 he stumbled on a book of mathematics. He was fascinated by the symbols and equations even though he couldn't understand them. His pleading led Han Feng to teach him how to count then to do arithmetic and then teach more and more complicated bricks of mathematical knowledge to the point where at the tender age of 8, he could understand this state-of-the-art mathematical book Han Feng himself used as a professor for the empire's elite.

Every time Han Feng and Han Xue thought about it, they were amazed: their child was an absolute genius. They didn't boast about it to their neighbors or colleagues though, it was just too extraordinary. However, like the stereotypical genius, Han Lingyun didn't mesh well with children his age. He enjoyed running around but preferred the solitude of the peak above the town than those same old games the other children just couldn't get bored of. To be fair, he didn't really have friends.

In fact, his family was a bit of an outcast too, living the furthest from the town's center avenue and being the highest on the slope of the mountain, which wasn't always practical. Han Feng was gone for the capital one trimester per year but he had a very nice salary, enabling him to laze around for the rest of the year. Han Xue could also afford to be lazy but she didn't like it, so she worked at the town hall, meaning that she had to climb up and down the slope to the house every day, which she apparently enjoyed very much and pestered her husband to do the same as exercise when he had nothing planned. Because they both originated from this town, they didn't want to migrate to the capital even after Han Feng got his job as a professor.

 

Those 10 years of peaceful life had passed in a flash for Han Lingyun. His only regret was to be forced to go to school at 8, which was often boring for him and meant less time with his parents. Luckily, those classes didn't have math content, but more on the general knowledge of the empire and its history, as told by the empire of course.

However, on this night, Han Lingyun was restless. He couldn't sleep as he thought of the mighty immortals.

'Can I become one? What would it be to fly around looking down on the world? Could someday, I fly so far up that I reach one of the two moons in the sky?'

He gradually drifted asleep with his new fantasies. But this was not his usual sleep. If someone was in Han Lingyun's room at midnight, they would have seen a faint golden symbol shimmering on his forehead.

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