Chapter 1 – Mu Yu
“Mu Yu, hurry and get up. The sun’s risen.” The village head Lao Bu sat beside Mu Yu’s bed and shook him gently.
“Yeah.” Mu Yu opened his eyes. Bleary-eyed, he looked at the few stars that had yet to recede outside the window. The sun was nowhere close to being risen! Even the roosters had not begun crowing! He produced a tsk unhappily, before closing his eyes again.
“Mu Yu, don’t sleep in. Today’s unlike any other. As the second child who could become an immortal master from our Waterstream Village, you have to get up early, so you give those immortal masters a good impression,” the village head beamed.
“Yep,” Mu Yu pulled up his blankets and replied drowsily.
“Mu Yu, you have to do us proud! We’re made fun of by people from other villages every year, saying how our village is useless and we basically have no children who can become immortal masters. You have no idea how furious I am!” The village head refused to accept it.
“Alright.” Mu Yu scratched his belly. He sounded like he was dreamtalking.
“Our neighbouring Rascal Village had five children become immortal masters in the past ten years. That’s one every two years on average. That rate is far, far greater than ours. And Biggar Village is even more impressive. I heard they have two every year at the very least. Just look at them! Twenty in ten years, while we only have two! Isn’t that infuriating?” The village head grumbled. He had no idea whether Mu Yu had heard it all or not.
“Yeah,” Mu Yu tossed over to his other side and said blearily.
“Stop sleeping. Hurry up and get up. I gotta change you into another set of clothes and groom you well. You can’t be too much of a mess once you become an immortal master!” The village head looked at how lethargic Mu Yu was in exasperation. After so much difficulty, the child had become the second person who could cultivate in the past ten years, but he was always so indifferent. He never cared about what an immortal master represented.
“Alright.” Mu Yu tossed back over and stuck a foot out of the blankets, placing it onto the village head’s leg. He drooled a little. The braised fish he just dreamed of was so tasty. He could not stop his mouth from watering.
“Are you still not going to get up? I’ll beat you if you don’t get up.”
“I’ll get up.” Mu Yu’s eyes remained shut. The village head had never beaten him before.
“I’ve cooked your favorite braised fish. If you don’t want to eat it, I’ll just throw it all away then.”
“I’ll eat it!”
Mu Yu shot up out of reflex. His eyes shone as he wiped away the drool from the corner of his mouth. As the village head was left speechless, Mu Yu put on a pair of underpants and rushed into the kitchen.
“You glutton,” the village head shook his head helplessly. He picked up Mu Yu’s clothes from the seat and made his way into the kitchen.
The village head chuckled as he watched Mu Yu wolf down the food. He rubbed Mu Yu’s head and said, “Becoming an immortal master is something that will glorify your ancestors. You have to make us proud. Not anyone can become an immortal master. They can fly about and do anything, while we mortals can only kneel when we meet them! Once you become one and come back, your status will be completely different. Last year, when Lu Yiyi of Biggar Village returned from the Green Pine sect, their village specially hung up lanterns and decorations, setting off firecrackers in celebration. It sure made me jealous!”
“Oh! Yes, yes, yes. I remember that. Their granary caught on fire from the firecrackers. They suck at fire awareness.” Mu Yu continued to shovel rice into his mouth and he gulped down the village head’s braised fish. He loved this dish the most.
Everyone in the village knew Mu Yu was an orphan. Fifteen years ago, a woman arrived in the village, heavily pregnant, and gave birth to Mu Yu. When Mu Yu was two, she left without even bidding farewell. No one had thought Mu Yu’s mother would be so vicious, abandoning her two year old to leave all by herself. Fortunately, the village head adopted him. He was twelve now, old enough to go to the academy.
“Yeah! It means that standard fire awareness is very important. We have to hold a demonstration for fire prevention next time and explain to everyone the effective measures against fires… Oi, that’s not the point. The point is they had an immortal master! An immortal master, understand?” The village head realised Mu Yu had lead him astray, so he immediately smacked Mu Yu’s head, changing the topic back.
People would come to the village every year just to test the potential of children who had turned twelve. If they passed, they would be sent to the academy in town. The academy was where cultivation would happen. The world was not as simple as most had imagined it to be. Cultivation was the path to success. Those with great accomplishments could cut mountains in half with a wave of a hand. Even moving them and filling oceans would be a piece of cake. Everyone all yearned for the potential to cultivate. They all wished that they would become someone powerful, where they could pursue longevity and look down on the world.
Mu Yu stuck out his tongue and mumbled, “If that immortal master was so impressive, why didn’t he use some magic to put out the fire?”
The village head played around with his beard. He was rather lost as well. He said slowly, “Maybe… maybe the immortal master experienced a cooldown period before he could use magic again? Man, how would we know about how immortal masters work? Who knows, maybe it was just a bad day to use magic that day.”
“Heh,” Mu Yu sniggered dryly. Immortal masters even needed to look at the calendar before they could use magic? The old man sure was imaginative.
Mu Yu did not want to cultivate. Even though many people would throw their lives on the line for this opportunity, Mu Yu had his reasons.
No one in the village knew that Mu Yu would often had this strange dream. There would be this demonic figure in the dream, where the lives of people rested in his hands like ants. The figure massacred humans, making blood flow as rivers and inflicting suffering. In Mu Yu’s dream, the sky was a dark red, the moon was blood-red and the water was scarlet. Everything seemed to be slaughter. Whenever Mu Yu wanted to learn who this demonic figure was, he would always wake up covered in sweat.
‘Is that demon a so-called cultivator?’
That was how Mu Yu thought. As a result, he unknowingly became rather repulsed by cultivators. Even he himself had no idea why he had this dream or what the dream meant. He only felt that it was enough if he could remain peacefully in this quiet village with his beloved grandpa village head. He would not necessarily be better off once he became an immortal master.
That was how he thought, but that was not how the village head thought.
“I don’t hold any particular hopes for you. I just want you to join a better sect and do our village proud, so we can hold our heads up high in front of outsiders,” the village head rubbed his hands and told Mu Yu in hope.
“Alright.” Mu Yu picked up a piece of preserved meat. He felt something was off. Wasn’t this kind of meat reserved for special occasions? Today was not one. Mu Yu raised his head and asked in doubt, “Grandpa village head, how come you’re willing to cook this?”
“Once you leave, it’ll be a very long time before you’ll be able to enjoy my cooking. How can I be stingy?” The village head patted Mu Yu’s shoulder and smiled.
Mu Yu fell silent. He looked around. The village head had no children. He had always treated Mu Yu as his own grandson. He was a kind person and had worked hard for his entire life. His wish was very simple as well. Mu Yu smiled, “Don’t worry, grandpa. When I return, you’ll be able to flaunt everywhere.”
How could he reject the old man’s wish?
“Yeah. When you come back next time, I’ll lead you out and show you off to the people from other villages. I’ll show them that our village have impressive people as well and broaden their horizons,” the village head said with a wide smile.
Mu Yu blinked. Lead him out? Show him off? Wasn’t that what people did with mules? Since when did he become a mule?
“Grandpa, it’s flaunt. It’s flaunting,” Mu Yu reminded out of good intentions.
“Yeah, I’ll lead you out and flaunt you,” the village head said proudly.
Yeah, still a mule. Mu Yu rolled his eyes. A fish bone had become lodged in his throat.