Chapter 79:

Arrival of Future Disciples

Mad God


The months went quickly, and when the Opening Ceremony neared one day, completely unannounced the whole region got dark. The Tear appeared above the sky for everyone to see, striking down multiple times in quick succession. It was clear to cultivators that someone was advancing into the Harmony Realm, yet when it finished, it just gathered another round, striking down once again, now with a deep red color. Inside the Sect, everyone was gathered around the focus point of the lightning bolts as Isha and Zern took their tribulation simultaneously. Luckily both of them advanced without fail.

"Hehe, advancing at the same time; you are something~" Ren chuckled, walking up to them and hugging both of her friends. "Congratulations! How does it feel?"

"Awesome!" Isha giggled, winking at Zern. "Now we are also Elders; if I remember correctly, there is a half-armed idiot to who we owe a beating?"

"Now that you mention it…." Zern scratched his cheeks.

"Ugh…" Poli flinched, trying to slowly get away while Emi beside him raised her eyebrows.

"What did you do?"

"N-nothing… they are just petty… that's all!" He answered with a wry smile before running, but they chased him all around the Sect for the next few hours.

"Let them have some fun; they just advanced; need to let off some steam!" Ren chuckled while Aerthus looked on with a smile. "Are the preparations ready?" turned Ren towards her Master.

"Everything. We are only waiting for the people to arrive; there will be around 1000 disciples joining if my estimation is correct."

"How many do you expect to join in as Inner Disciples?" Leinor raised the question.

"A dozen or so. But it could be less. I won't lower my expectations just because I want people to join. I'm more on the side of having a little but elite force than a bunch of mediocre meatshields. We need average cultivators, yes, but not at the start. I will pick out the best of the firstcomers and let the rest slowly develop from the rank of Outer Disciples. I get it there are late bloomers; those will shine eventually, but for now, I want to build up the backbone of the Sect as soon as possible."

"I am a bit excited about having disciples!" Anya chuckled, leaning on Xendars's shoulder.

"You will need to be careful~" her husband whispered, placing his hand on her growing stomach.

"Ahaha, don't worry, I am taking care of myself!"

"What do you feel, Mom? Is it a boy or a girl?" Ren hopped towards her.

"A boy." She smiled radiantly. "I am sure of it~."

"The first child born into the Sect, huh?" Aerthus scratched his chin. "Lucky one~ The air here will ensure he will reach great heights!"

"I just want him to be happy~."

"Don't worry, Mom, he will be; I'll make sure of it!" Ren clapped with a happy smile.

"Then can you make sure of my happiness too?" Shaman cut in suddenly, with a grumbling voice.

"Ugh… um… sorry, I have a husband already!" Ren turned towards him with an apologetic smile.

"He means your pet!" Rem giggled, landing on her head, wearing a mini uniform of the Sect with the badge of the Pill Hall, as she was now in charge of taking care of the garden. "You really need to help us out, Big Sis! Kyu causes a big mess every night!"

"Okay, okay. I'll do something about it!" She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Where is she now?"

"Still there, sleeping like a log. If she would just sleep in the garden, that wouldn't be a problem." even Rem moaned, who is usually friendly to everyone. "Her sleeping aura while digesting helps the growth of the plants, but when she eats, she does not leave behind anything! Not even the roots!"

"I got it; relax, I'll deal with her!" Ren grabbed the little fairy, patting her head.


….
…..

While in the Sect, everyone was getting ready for the Opening Ceremony. On the two sides of the Shert, people were gathering in both the Qun and Rorik kingdoms, especially in the latter, where the selected cultivators from the Empire were constantly arriving.

If Isvar didn't know about it, he could even think the Empire wanted to completely annex them, having this many cultivators stationed here. Even though most of them were somewhere between the 2nd and 5th stages of body refinement, it was a considerable force as most armies also possessed strength around this level. The Rorik's troops sadly even looked outmatched by the sheer number of people above the 3rd stage, coming from their giant neighbor.

Yanda was walking around the now bustling city, watching the multiple groups of people arriving and excitedly traversing the streets as most of them were waiting for the day they could take the mysterious test they were told about.

"Yet every one of them looks so confident in themselves." He murmured under his breath as he stopped at one of the kiosks next to the market square, buying some snacks to munch on.

"Woah, Mister, that looks tasty; what is it?" came a young voice next to him suddenly, and as he looked down, a young boy was standing beside him, looking at the chocolate-covered snack bites in his hand with a sparkling eye.

"Excuse me, Mister." another man arrived, pulling the boy backward. "My little brother never traveled out from the Capital, and he is too excited! Don't trouble people you don't know, Frenir!" Saynur scolded lightly.

"Oh, no problem, he did not do anything wrong!" Yanda smiled, leaning forward, giving it to him. "Here, take it. It's truly delicious~."

"Woah! Thanks, you are the best!" He laughed, taking it away, starting to munch on it immediately.

"Thanks! How much was it?" Saynur asked, ready to pay for it.

"Don't worry about it!" Yanda laughed. "It's nothing expensive! Are you here to take part in the upcoming Ceremony?"

"No, not me, but my brother." Saynur held Frenir's shoulders, clearly proud of him.

"Him?" He asked, taken back, looking down at the young boy. "How old are you?"

"11!" He answered with a mouth full of chocolate.

"And already a cultivator?"

"No, not yet! But I will be!" Frenir grinned with smudges all over his face by now.

"We were invited." Saynur explained, "Lady Anya and her family invited my little brother to come and take part in it and if it doesn't work out, still be a guest for a few days."

"Oh?" As his eyes lit up suddenly, he said, "You know the esteemed elders in the Sect?"

“No… not really…” Saynur murmured, a bit embarrassed. "It's a long story…."

"Come, come. I know a nice place close to the river; let's go there, I invite you two to lunch, and you can tell me everything!" Yanda laughed, looking genuinely excited.

"Yey! Let's go, big brother! I want to eat more yummy things!"

"We…"

"I insist… please!" Yanda cupped his hands, and in the end, Saynur caved in. Not long after, they were inside a busy restaurant, sitting on the second level, next to a big window with a perfect sight of Teardrop Island.

"You shouldn't spend this much; we are just-"

"Relax, I can afford it. No worries here." Yanda laughed. "I also have a debt towards the Sect; if you know them, this is the least I can do."

"Debt?"

"They saved my life! Let me tell you about it briefly." He smiled softly, telling them what happened to him, leaving out small details only, like him being a hybrid or the son of Isvar. "That is my story! I was stupid and got myself into trouble. They pulled me out of it."

"So awesome! Lady Ren is stronger than before!" Frenir clapped happily.

"She is, but relax, Frenir, you are spilling your tea everywhere!" Saynur sighed, wiping his face. "Our story is much duller." He smiled back at Yanda, telling him their origin.

Listening to them, Yanda was filled with wonder, especially when Saynur produced a smaller, postcard-sized copy of the painting he did when Ren was marrying Leinor.

"Huh? She must have been in disguise." Yanda murmured to himself as he remembered her having red hair. "She is even more beautiful like this."

"Isn't she?" Frenir giggled.

"You are a lucky pair of brothers!" he gave it back with a sigh.

"I just hope my little brother will have a better aptitude than me! If… if you happen to be joining the Sect… and he also gets in… can you look after him? Please?"

"Ahaha, who knows, maybe he will be someone who takes care of me?" Yanda grinned, taking a sip from his own tea.

"No problem!" Frenir puffed out his chest proudly, making both of them laugh.

As they were having fun, on the other side of the river, in the Qun kingdom, in another restaurant, Lulu was sitting on a balcony, watching the port. People were coming and going endlessly as she sat there with a bottle of wine in her hands. In front of her, at the other side of the table, sat three young, skinny boys, between the ages of 14 and 17, in strange clothes that did not fit them at all. They all had black hair and brown-colored, almond-shaped eyes with determined gazes.

"Is it true what you said?" Lulu asked, twirling the wine, not looking at them but only towards the island in the middle of the river.

"Yes. If we had lied, you would have executed us anyway." the oldest of the trio snorted.

"Relax. I won't sell you off once again or kill you, nothing like that!" She said, taking a small sip "The rest of your group? Gone elsewhere?"

"Everyone went their own way. We are here because we have no home to return to."

"So you are trying to join, huh? I never got your names." Lulu turned towards them for the first time.

It was earlier, not so long ago, when she saw them on the streets, trying to blend in but their clothes were already so haphazardly chosen out they stood out like a sore thumb from everyone else around them. Her instincts immediately told her they must have been either escaped slaves, oblivious to how strange their looks were, or they were people arriving from the Empire's side. When she spoke with them a little and invited them over for a drink with the persuasion of her personal guards, it was clear it was the former.

It didn't take long for her to get the information she was looking for. They were part of the group rescued by Ren and her company. Being brothers, they always stuck together and used the money they got to get here as fast as they could, to not miss the Opening Ceremony, trying their best to join their rescuers.

"I am Botan." the oldest answered. "He is my second brother, Jiro. The smallest is Shin."

"Good to meet you; I am Lulu. I have the same goal as you, so you don't need to be on edge; I won't turn you over to nobody or anything like that!"

Her words somewhat eased the brothers, yet they were still cautious as the same kind of easy trust led them to be sold into slavery once when they lowered their guards.

"Relax and think about it! The Sect is something that originates from the Empire. Even if they say they are independent, the people there are native to the Empire. There will be a flood of people from their side but so little from here! We should work together to get in." Lulu leaned a bit forward.

"She is right…." Jiro whispered to his brother, "We don't even know what kind of trials we will receive."

"Your brother speaks well. We should work together whatever test they-" Lulu tried to speak, but suddenly everything started to shake, making them stand up, looking towards the river.


….
…..

"I think it's time." Aerthus smiled.

"So, what kind of test is it going to be?" Ren asked with a curious gaze, trying to discover what would happen.

"Ahaha, come!" Aerthus raised his hand as he rose up to the sky, bringing Ren with him.

High above, he sat down with crossed legs, and after he formed a seal with his fingers, the island itself lit up at different points. The air was thick with energy, emanating from below as transparent, glass-like bridges started to rise from the water, connecting both river banks. In the end, they numbered 20, 10 to each side as they slowly materialized yet still looked see-through, sparkling in otherworldly light as the water rumbled below them.

"Awesome…" Ren murmured, "They are made purely from your energies, Master… anyone who steps on them will reveal everything about themselves to you!"

"Oh, you can tell?" Aerthus chuckled, opening his eyes.

"I can feel it! No wonder you said only you can do this; others wouldn't be able to keep up with their vitality, maintaining this many bridges!"

"Sharp. Also, anyone who steps on it and is below me in cultivation will be affected by it. They will see a vision of their desires, and I can see what kind of people they are. Plus, I can draw out their potential if I see some interesting fellow!"

"Great~ Can I watch it too?"

"Sure. Just stand behind me and place your hand on my back, and you will be connected to it. Now… let's start; I am excited to see what kind of talent we will find!"

At the river banks, everyone was flabbergasted by the scene of giant bridges suddenly appearing, leading to Teardrop Island. Some people tried to step on it, but an invisible force rejected it. Soon Aerthus' colossal figure appeared in the sky, like a God from the tales, as his voice reverberated around the region.

"I am the Sect Head of the Immortal Wonders Sect. I welcome all who arrived to join my Sect! Please, youngsters, step on the bridge and travel to us! It will be a journey you will never forget!" he laughed before disappearing, and soon people rushed to be the first to step on the magical bridges leading to their new life.