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Wei Muchen wasn't done with the humiliation, he wanted to traumatize Yu Tao to stall his progress. "Stay down here you rat, because you will never catch up to me. Watch closely as I grow stronger and stronger while you struggle with your pitiful talent. You might have reached 2nd level of body strengthening with some elder's support, but relying on others won't get you anywhere, you parasite."

Of course, Wei Muchen's coat that helped him avoid the electricity had been imagined and designed by an elder as well.

'This confrontation could be the spark that leads to a fire engulfing all the 1st years in flame.' Han Lingyun thought to himself.

He also noticed that this conflict would have more consequences on the whole group of 1st years disciples.

Some disciples were starting to hate Wei Muchen's arrogance; others admired his domineering side. The ranking had only finished when some skirmishes created groups.

Wei Muchen's strongest loyal followers also decided to rob weaker disciples of their crystals. The Ps couldn't be extorted but the crystals could and even the last place had received one crystal as a reward.

 

In the days that followed, Yu Tao organized his own "Protector's militia." Which violently opposed any of Muchen's followers and beat down those they found isolated. They also offered protection to any disciple for half of the crystals they received this month. The lowest ranked disciples had to give their only crystal if they wanted protection.

Soon the ones extorting realized that they could threaten the disciples to buy crystals with their Ps or be beaten down every day.

The protectors also started to impose their protection fees on all disciples, willing or not. Disciples started to get desperate to make progress faster, it became more and more vital to grow stronger in that environment spinning out of control.

 

Han Lingyun observed this little society falling into violence. He hated every bit of it. It made him very uncomfortable that children were capable of such cruelty. The infirmary soon became the most visited building.

It also disturbed him that the elders were doing absolutely nothing to stop this mess. It was nearly as if…. As if they wanted that sort of conflict to happen in the first place.

There was probably one passive action made to limit the conflicts: bind everyone under the banner of the school. The classes had recently evolved into a full-on indoctrination to the sect, with the daily war cry and song intoned by the whole promotion at the end of class.

This was always quite thrilling for all the disciples who momentarily forgot about their hatreds. However, with no common enemy in sight, the unity didn't last until the next lesson.

This new ideal still echoed with many disciples though, and especially with those that have suffered in the last weeks or so. That zealous bunch found their calling with missions at the Punishment Hall. Very low paying missions but with a part of the elders' legitimacy.

Those that revolted against the punishment hall were harshly punished by elders. It often consisted of a weak long isolation with the daily beating to keep in check. The elders only job was to make sure uncooperative disciples quickly became cooperative. How the disciples-maintained order? It wasn't their concern.

The disciple hall only added oil to the fire. The extortion didn't stop but became slightly less visible. The disciples with police like missions abused their new power just as much as their previous aggressors. However, many of these disciples soon fell victim to revenge acts when isolated or in their sleep. To counter this, they also started to group together more. Another leader soon emerged in the now self-named "Collective of Order" but the other disciples referred to them as the COcks behind their backs.

Surprisingly, it was Liao Shao that took on the mantle of leader. Over the last week, he had become one of the sect idealists most zealous defenders. He hated Wei Muchen, Yu Tao, and their followers for taking advantage of weaker disciples and became a role model for the Collective of Order.

He also seemed to get stronger by the day and settled on dual wielding swords. What was remarkable was that he could take down dozens of uncoordinated disciples on his own. His great understanding of many weapons gave those weaker disciples the impression that he could predict every movement. In addition, he repeatedly caught groups extorting others in the act. That's how he soon got the nickname of the 'all-seeing Shao'.

 

As the disciple village turned into a battlefield. Many decided to move out into the forests around. This was still inside the sect so there was no danger of magical beasts lurking around but many had great difficulty adapting to living and sleeping in the wild. Simply not having fresh water, toilets and any form of convenience was very hard for those disciples. Most came back to the village to go to the lunchroom once every so often, where they would pack food, drinks and relieve themselves. The survival classes became their guidelines. In these classes, one would learn how to survive in the wild, and there was a lot of material to cover. From how to find a place to post oneself, how to move around, how to fulfill one's basic needs, plants one had to recognize, magic beasts and the traces they leave on their territory (signs, odors, cries…) and much more. The brightest ones realized that if there was one weekly class, they should pay attention to, it was this one.

 

Han Lingyun, Shen Lin and Yang Haoyu were part of that group and tried to distance themselves on the chaos to continue cultivating as fast as possible. They were lucky to find a nice cave a couple kilometers north of the village. The trio realized as they settled down that this cave seemed to have been occupied a couple months ago by other disciples. There were still some basic accommodations inside.

Perhaps such events happened every year?

The trio hid the cave entrance by displacing trees and bushes they found further away, and made it nearly impossible to come close to it.

 

The new distance made it slightly inconvenient to go to the mission and exchange halls but this constituted their new daily race. Han Lingyun also decided to stop going to class every day and would now only go if he saw an interesting topic, such as of course, survival lessons.

 

One day, a group of disciples were waiting for the trio at the entrance of the forest. One of the disciples took a step forward and smiled.

"Good afternoon my friends. In these troubled times, The Protector's militia is willing to ensure your safety. You only need to compensate with half of the crystals you received for your rankings."

 

'So these are Yu Tao's followers.' Han Lingyun was baffled. "You do know who I am right? I don't need any protection and don't want any conflict with any camp. Now let us through."

 

The disciples didn't budge. "Hehe, I would ask you to reconsider disciple Lingyun. Now many have banded together in large groups and I fear you wouldn't last long with only two companions."

 

It was true that large groups could become a slight headache but this disorganized bunch seem to have kept the mentality of the mortal world, where a stronger foe would always be beaten by slightly more opponents. However, the difference of power for cultivations increased exponentially.

Han Lingyun's face started to heat up at those deliberately provocative words from this Yu Tai follower. Was this rabble looking down on him so much? Or did they not realize yet how the cultivation world worked? It could be time to teach them perhaps. He turned at to Shen Lin and Yang Haoyu.

"This last week really started to get on my nerves, how about we let out some steam?"

The trio chuckled. Shen Lin took out his new shield from his back and the other 2 unsheathed their swords.

 

The group of 30ish disciples laughed. Those 3 were trying to fight all of them? 1 against 10?

Han Lingyun didn't wait for them to focus and prepare for battle, he was unleashed, with his blackbird art in full use. A good show of force was needed to deter other nuisances.

He weaved with ease into the group disciples, hitting them in pressure points as he passed through. Shen Lin used his shield to smash down the disciples that remained conscious and Yang Haoyu also easily disarmed disciple after disciple. None managed to land an attack on Han Lingyun. Some disciples even heavily injured each other as they desperately tried to defend themselves. 3 wolves in the middle of a flock of sheep.

The remaining disciples tried to resist with their martial arts to no effect. In less than one minute, the whole group was down: unconscious or with pitiful cries of pain.

 

Now the trio was discussing a key issue. How could they avoid this unnecessary hassle? They didn't want to have to beat down a new group of disciples that came to them but they didn't want to antagonize one of the growing organizations among the disciples as well.

 

After some internal deliberation, Han Lingyun decided to take this issue into his own hands.

"Yang Haoyu, make sure no one dies on us. If one seems in a dangerous condition bring him to the infirmary.

Now that this is done, let's make an example out of those. Shen Lin, could you fetch a large bowl from the cave?"

The two didn't ask any questions. Shen Lin dashed away and Yang Haoyu quickly picked two disciples that had been critically injured by some of their own companions.

Han Lingyun had become the trio's leader with his greater combat abilities and capacity to think rationally in any circumstances.

He started to tear the disciple robes to bandage their bleeding wounds.

When Shen Lin came back, he presented his idea. "Let's collect their blood in this bowl. I know it sounds horrible, put it would be best if we pass as deranged people to avoid conflicts."

Shen Lin was taken aback. "That indeed sounds rather disturbing."

The two still executed this repulsive action and squeezed the blood-soaked robes into the bowl. The disciples wouldn't die from those cuts. Cultivators have a far greater survivability than normal humans. They still were careful to stop the blood losses.

 

Meanwhile up in the sky, an elder was watching the scene with amusement. In fact, several Elders were observing the 1st years at all time. For now, they wouldn't intervene except if an important disciple was in mortal danger.

"Interesting, I wonder what these two are planning."

 

After collecting the blood and making sure the remaining disciples wouldn't die or anything, Shen Lin knocked back down any disciple that had woken up. They then tied the group and attached their hand and feet to a rope.

When Yang Haoyu came back. The trio talked about their next course of actions. It was decided that in that disgusting promotion, they would have to be even more disgusting to be left alone. They had to make sure that they didn't anger Yu Tao though.

Han Lingyun left the forest to hunt some of Wei Muchen's followers while the other two stripped the captured disciples naked. For the next couple of hours, Han Lingyun would bring back one or two unconscious disciples every now and then. Some unbridled members of the collective of order he had spotted previously also suffered from the same fate.

When night fell, Yang Haoyu, Han Lingyun and Shen Lin picked up the rope, that had been solidified with long sturdy branches. They employed their new strength of more than 500 kg each to great use in order to raise the more than 50 disciples. It was still too heavy for them though, so they had to cut the rope in the middle and make short trips with each half.

They raised their hands trying to avoid the disciples rubbing the ground as they moved around.

The trio wanted to reach the plaza but it was a very tiring endeavor and they had to make frequent pauses. Finally, three hours after midnight, they managed to attach the ropes in the air between some pillars surrounding the plaza.

The trio untied the disciple hands from the main rope and left them unconscious, gagged, hands attached behind the back, naked, and hanging down.

The final touch came with the dark liquid that Shen Lin had to frequently move to keep it from becoming too viscous, the blood they had extracted.

Han Lingyun wrote with his hand on the ground with the blood of the disciples.

 

I DON'T CARE WHAT GROUP YOU ARE FROM, DON'T MESS WITH ME OR MY BROTHERS.

-HAN LINGYUN.

 

Han Lingyun briefly contemplated his creation with a slightly disturbed expression. 'Damn, even I think I went too far with this. Isn't this a bit too dark? But if there are still some trying to find trouble with us, I would be more than a little surprised!'

The trio quickly left after that, in the depth of the forest and away from any potential punishment. If the disciples on duty for the punishment hall didn't catch them in their act, they were good. This was a rule the punishment hall had to abide by. Even the signature left by Han Lingyun could very well be a set up from an enemy, right?

 

Unbeknownst to them, high up in the sky and above the clouds, 4 elders were laughing their heads off.

"It's been at least one decade since I've seen such an imaginative idea."

"Hahaha, I can't wait to see how the other disciples will react."

"These three have some good potential."

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