Chapter 3:

A Little Thief

Mad God


When the general’s guards showed up at the temple, people scrambled to steal a glimpse of their newborn child. When Xendar got out of the cart and helped his wife down, people were excitedly trying to look over each other's shoulders to take a peek.


It seems like the people very much so love Father… or is it, Mother? Well, she is an exotic beauty. Now that I look closely, I don't see anyone having the same hair and eyes. Probably she is not a native here.” Ren thought as she scanned the crowd from her mother’s embrace. Then her eyes were drawn to the giant temple, built entirely from white marble, reflecting the morning light like a sparkling gem. “The whole building is only smaller than the palace… still, I can't see anyone walking up those giant stairs. What a waste of space.


When Anya and Xendar started walking up the stairs, no soldier followed them, and the people also just stood at the bottom, looking at them until they disappeared into the entrance. Inside, the air was cool, and a light draft brought the aroma of fresh incense being burnt as they walked towards a statue at the end of the hallway. The walls were decorated with carvings of female silhouettes, all without a face, wearing a long, white gown, and at their feet, all had a plaque with only a name and lit incense.


Weird. She never bothered too much with faith. She had her virgin followers, but this was… never her style.” Before she could examine the place more, her parents knelt before the giant statue carved out from a massive piece of jade, standing almost 10 meters tall, looking like they were wearing a similar gown to the others, only in green. The statue’s face couldn’t be seen. Even if people tried to focus on her face, they couldn’t make it out, no matter how hard they tried. Anya started praying for her daughter’s well-being and safety; meanwhile, Xendar kept his head down, kneeling beside her.


Ren soon lost interest in the whole place and decided to close her eyes and go back to sleep. She almost drifted off to dreamland when a feeling struck her.


Somethings not right… There is an energy flow here. But… I had never felt something like this. It’s different from even the energy from beyond the Sky.” she looked up again at the statue, trying to see through her face but could not. Soon she felt her eyes stinging, so she closed them again, trying to ease the sudden nervousness that came over her. “What did you do…?” The question rang in her mind as her parents left the temple, but she knew the answer was still far from her reach.


“Let’s go home, Dear! Look at her! She has tears in her eyes, my poor baby! This was too much hassle for her to take in the right in the morning!” Anya said, almost on the verge of tears, repeatedly kissing Ren’s little head.


“Yes, yes, let's go! But she is as strong as me, not crying out and taking it in bravely!”


“Sssh, my love, everything is going to be okay!” Anya whispered.


It’s not like I'm crying. It's just I'm too weak. I lost everything, only keeping the core of my soul. Hmf… if not...” But her thoughts were perceived by her mother as sulking. She thought she was unhappy to be put through everything since morning. It made Anya angry about everything, to have this much procedure to go through just because she had a daughter.


When they arrived home, she stormed up to their bedroom, ordering her husband to cancel everything in the upcoming months as she would not appear even if the emperor summoned her! She is going to focus only on taking care of her daughter! If someone had a problem with it, they could stuff it where it never shines.


“And she's worried our daughter will learn the wrong things from me.” Xendar sighed with a slight smile on his face. “Anyway, make some changes, Hal; if it’s not about being invaded, I don't want to hear about it! It’s time for other officers to step up and not just wait until I wipe their asses!”


“Yes, my Lord, consider it done.”


….

…..


It was a calm and clear autumn morning, and Hal had just finished organizing the books in the mansion’s library when he heard a quick, swishing sound and only saw a small silhouette whizzing by.


It didn’t take long until Xendar pushed open the door, looking out of breath and scanning the half-circle-shaped room with the bookshelves but only saw Hal there.


“Is it her again, my Lord?”


“Where is she? Just let me catch her. I'll spank her so hard that she won’t be able to sit on the toilet for the day!”


“I think I saw her by the stables when I looked out the window.”


“Good, the little twerp won’t be able to escape again!” Xendar said, almost blowing smoke out of his nose while storming out of the library.


“Thanks, Uncle Hal!” A soft, angelic voice whispered after her dad left the room.


“You stole it again?” Hal asked as he turned towards one of the bookshelves, seeing a tiny, pudgy face sticking out from behind it. Her silver-colored hair was worn in bunches, and her eyes sparkled with a beautiful purple hue.


“Teehee, yup!” She giggled, holding up a small jade coin that radiated power, and if you looked closely, there were tiny sparks arching over it sometimes.


“Lady Ren, your father just fears it would affect you negatively. You are still just 5, and playing with something like this is dangerous.”


“Booo, it won’t be! I know how to handle it! Anyway, I'll give it back to him at lunch; it's just fun stealing it from under his nose!”


Hal didn’t know what to say and just let out a small sigh, shaking his head but smiling nonetheless as he was already used to Ren’s usual pranks by now. By the time Ren became a year old, she had already started speaking, surprising her parents, and her intellect amazed the General’s household. Of course, her mother forbade everyone witnessing it to ever talk about it to others.


Soon this list of what Anya considered forbidden to outsiders started to grow. By the age of 2, Ren could read, write, calculate and memorize most of the books she had access to. By the age of 3, she asked her parents how cultivation worked.


At first, they hesitated but thought it wouldn’t do any harm to learn the stories and surface-level theories behind cultivation, but they did not expect that by the age of 5, their daughter would take her first steps on the road of cultivation.


“How did you take it now? Your Father placed it in a box, protected by a seal.”


“It was hard, Uncle! It took me four days to figure out the trick! But thanks to that, I learned a lot about how formation locks work! I hope next time that Dad places a stronger one on it!”


“You… My Lady, I'm just worried one time this will backfire on you.”


“Mmm, if it will, there will be You, Dad, and Mom to help me, no?” she asked, her eyes blinking like an abandoned puppy’s, looking up at Hal. She was wearing her little white dress that had black smudges around, just like her face, as she was scurrying around the mansion while Xendar was chasing her.


To her words, Hal couldn’t help himself and smiled warmly while patting her little head, taking the coin from her, and pocketing it.


“Go, find your Mother; I'll take this back to the Lord.”


“Yeeeees~” Ren giggled while running out from the library, humming a small song along the way.


“She is halfway there to refine her legs.” Xendar appeared like a specter next to Hal, watching the spot where Ren stood a second ago.


“Yes, and it seems she is already solidifying her fundamentals to get ready to cultivate her arms next.”


“No wonder her sticky fingers are stealing everything not nailed down in my office.”


“My Lord, you and the Lady bore a genius. Congratulations.”


“Heh, more like a devil if you ask me!” Xendar laughed softly. “But I’m a little worried. I don’t want my daughter to be deformed. No records tell us what happens to the body if someone infuses it with energy being this young. I would never forgive myself for that.”


“She would do it anyway. If you can’t stop her, you need to guide her.”


“I could still seal her spirit and forbid her to train until she aged more.” the lord of the mansion crossed his arms.


“You wouldn’t, my Lord.” Hal said, Looking into Xendar’s eyes. “She is doing what others who are called geniuses do at the age of 12… and she does it at a speed that never fails to amaze me.”


“You are right. I couldn’t bring myself to put a seal on her. It's just….”


“It's just being a parent, My Lord. You would worry for her even when she has already been married off.”


“Don’t even bring that up!” Xendar moaned loudly as a longer-than-ever sigh came out of his mouth. “Soon, the prince will turn 8… and now that she is almost 6, I can't turn down the invitation to the prince’s birthday party anymore. I’m out of excuses.”


“I’m more worried about the prince, to be frank, my Lord.” Hal smiled as he gave back the little coin to Xendar.


“Maybe!” he said as he shook his head, then clicked his tongue loudly. “This little devil! She absorbed a small amount of energy off of it again!”


“It seems she has the same element of affinity as you, my Lord.”


“Maybe. We are still far away from knowing. She needs to go through the coming of age ceremony to know what her element will be.”


“Maybe we should do it in advance.”


“Then the whole world will know about it.”


“Not if we do it in secret.”


“Then what? We will be found out when we have to do it again officially! It only works once.”


“We just fake it. Plain and simple, My Lord.”


“Fake it, but how-” he then looked down at the coin itself and had a new idea. “Mmm, I’ll speak about it with Anya.”


“That would be the best, My Lord.”


….

…..


“Sit still, Ren; you look like a little monkey that crawled through the bushes to steal some fruits.”


“Moooom, I’m not a monkey, and even if I were, I would be the God of Monkeys! Hmph!”


“Well, you are halfway there, that's for sure!” Anya laughed while she bathed her daughter in her room, watching her with eyes filled with deep and never-ending love. “Which level are you at?”


“Still just at the beginning of the first.”


“Ren.”


“Ooookay, almost at the second. Maybe a month or two, and I'll be able to break through and finish the fundamental strengthening of my legs.”


“Tell me the basic levels. Let me see if you didn’t skip any steps, or you can forget to cultivate even for a minute until you have your coming-of-age ceremony!”


“Haaah… oookaaaay~ The first realm is the Body Strengthening Realm. The cultivator must draw in energy, circulating it through her body, letting it wash through and through and strengthen it.” she explained, telling back the exact words her mother had taught her. “The cultivator chooses the order, but everyone has to do the same. Legs. Arms. Torso. Head. After all four are washed clean with energy, the body has been strengthened, and it also has energy stored inside.” she took a deep breath before continuing,” After that, you can step into the Harmony Realm. You need to synchronize your spirit with your own body and withstand the Trial from the Heavens. After you survive, your spirit will sync with your new body, and you can start practicing spells and store more and more energy within you.”


“So your aim is to be in the Harmony realm before you come of age, hm?”


“Yes, but also no!” she answered immediately and firmly, looking into her mother’s eyes. “Both you and Father told me those who wish to step into the Harmony Realm after only one refinement are suicidal individuals! Father washed his body nine times, and you also did it eight times! I’ll do that too! Go to the limit and only then attempt it! If I can do it before that ceremony… teehee~.”


“You little imp!” Anya laughed, smacking playfully on her daughter's head, then kissed her on the cheek. “Dream on, do you think it’s that easy? You are still young and naive~ Come, let’s go! Your father probably calmed down by now!”


“Teehee, okaaaay, I want chicken for breakfast!”


“Mmm, that sounds good~” Anya giggled, and mother and daughter walked out of the room with the same type of clothes, moving the same way as if little Ren were her mother's own small reflection.

J.P.B
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