”Ugh… ” A low sounding moan resounded followed by a soft yet forceful breathing. It originated from a male, a man that was incredibly thin, with a bushy black beard and moustache with signs of aging gray, and dressed in tattered clothes that barely kept his body contained or concealed.
The thin body frame wiggled slightly as their hands reached out to grab the floor, finding a faint warmth emitting from a wooden texture. When that comfortable feeling was felt, the eyes of the man opened to reveal his surroundings. The first thing he saw was the vast sky littered by celestial bodies, as if night had fallen.
”…What? ” He spat out, slowly lifting his upper-body to an upright position while his legs remained parallel to the floor. After a brief circumspection gaze, a wisp of panic erupted from his eyes. With haste and horror, the thin man touched his body all over, especially his most precious piece of flesh. When all was still intact, a deep sigh of unfathomably joyful relief was released.
With his body unharmed, he slowly stood up to inspect his current location. He noticed that he wasn ’t in that sealed cage any longer with others in similar circumstances, but freed. There were no shackles bounding his body restraining his Yang Growth Phase cultivation base.
Memories of what happened to him and his entire life thus far flashed in his mind.
Named Yao Houyi, he was born a farmer ’s child. His mother was a fantastic seamstress who was well loved by the neighboring town. She would often sew clothes for the younger children in the town, well-made and long-lasting. They weren ’t poor, but they weren ’t affluent either amongst others in their social circle. However, their lives were peaceful, happy even.
When he was a child, when a passing merchant left behind a recurve bow and a set of iron-tipped arrows as a gift for his mother ’s clothes and his father ’s crops, he had fallen in love with Archery. The jolly fellow was quite like a playful uncle. His intentions were good.
However, his father didn ’t want Yao Houyi to become an archer, reasoning that cultivation for them was meant to be used to support themselves, not get into conflicts. His words were: ”Cultivators who train to fight are always drawn into endless conflicts until their untimely, helpless deaths. What type of life is that? ”
He hid the recurve bow and set of arrows away, settling the matter there. But the matter was not settled. With the sneakiness of a mischievous and curious child, whenever his father would leave to deliver crops to the nearby towns, for two or three hours, he would steal this wooden tool and iron-tipped projectile.
He practiced it with gleeful joy, and even when he was caught by his mother, expecting to be given a tongue lashing, she had instead urged him to continue. Her thoughts were different from her husband, believing that learning a few skills to defend yourself wasn ’t too harmful, as long as he only used it to do just that—defend.
With this in mind, he kept his developing skills a secret and found his love for the bow to be increasing with every passing moment. His thoughts, his dreams, and even his everyday movements were filled with archery.
One day, when Yao Houyi was twenty years old, he had reached the External Flow Phase of the Qi Condensation, allowing him to take on more difficult tasks around the farm. He was kept busy and unable to practice freely. His father was getting older and unable to perform all these difficult jobs around the farm, even suffering harm from time to time.
Taking more important jobs, Yao Houyi had to lay down the bow once again for a period of time. Sadly, over the course of the next four years, his father gradually grew sick, his health slowly failing him. All the medicinal sages who arrived couldn ’t do much but ease his pain during his final years.
He was naturally unwilling to allow his father to die, believing those beings that could soar across the skies, fly beyond the sky, or create worlds with their power could save him. He wanted to bravely set off to find a solution, but his father outright refused. To his father, his life was a good one and he lived a peaceful, joy-filled life. He didn ’t want his last breaths to be unsure if his son was alive or dead, distraught by worries.
”All things come to an end. ”
Was what he said.
Unwilling yet respecting his wishes, Yao Houyi stayed by his father ’s side alongside his mother. When his father was at the end of his rope, his mother sat beside him and laid down as well. They were Dao Companions.
Yao Houyi didn ’t quite understand the importance of such a title and relationship until he watched the peaceful smiles of his parents holding hands, breathing their last breaths willingly together. They had only left him their smiling visage and hopeful words for him. Even at that moment, they were happy.
He was alone after a single moment.
But the words they left behind etched into his heart: ”Live the life you want to live. At the end of it, make sure you have no regrets. ”
And he did just that. He sold the farm soon after, got his recurve bow and quiver filled with arrows to seek out his own life. He traveled beyond his limited area of a few towns, seeing more of the world.
Exposed to the greater world, he cultivated over the course of the next thirty years, reaching the Fifth Stage of the Qi Condensation Realm, the Yang Growth Phase. Now over fifty, he held some ability with his bow in hand and arrow in his heart. He had become a hunter, a mercenary, a herbal gatherer, even took in a small disciple. His life was filled with adventures.
A life without regrets.
Unfortunately, throughout his life, he wasn ’t able to find a Dao Companion like his parents, willing to settle down after doing so to raise children of his own. He had, however, found a female companion when he became fifty-three. She was young, only in her mid-twenties, and her cultivation was at the Fourth Stage of the Qi Condensation Realm, Yin Form Phase.
He had been over the moon to find such a young woman, hopefully wife, but his thoughts were overturned by the harshness of reality. All her sweet words and playful demeanor was merely a false display to lower his guard, and he was brought into a trap that contained hundreds of loose male cultivators at the Yang Growth Phase like himself.
A specialized group of women were standing with her as they stared at the men within metal cages who shouted out confused voices and bargaining pleas. Even declaring their love for some of these women, trying to appeal to their better nature. Yet all they received were contemptuous sneers and disdainful eyes.
They were all being sold.
Fallen for the honey trap, Yao Houyi was left distraught. When the woman he had nearly fallen for arrived by his cage, he merely stared at her.
She asked, with a smirk, ”No sweet-sounding words? No telling me how much you love me? Have you given up? ”
Her facial expression and those eyes were etched into his mind and heart, but he wasn ’t goaded into a hostile response. Instead, he merely smiled and responded, refusing to give her any satisfaction: ”I ’ve lived the way I wanted to live; I have no regrets nor will I beg for this life of mine. ”
As he said those words, his life flashed before his eyes, including his love for his bow and arrows when he was just a child. When he shot those arrows at the wooden trees near their farm, he recalled when he was at his happiest.
His mother had just brought him a cup of water and some snacks to ensure he didn ’t overwork himself or suffer from hunger. They sat down as his smile refused to go down, eating the snacks in a rambunctious manner. He wanted to get back to practicing so bad that his mother had to remind him to slow down, the trees aren ’t begging to be filled with more holes.
Her laughter was like music to one ’s ears. He never realized it until he recalled these memories.
The young Yao Houyi responded with an embarrassed swallow and ate slower, prompting her laughter. To her, he was her overly active child that she loved with all her heart. When he finished, he rose and the solar stars slightly scorched their skin. He hadn ’t realized that it was hot, needing to take this break.
Looking up, he saw nine stars, be it close or far. He hadn ’t realized that this moment was a rare sequence of orbit that allowed all nine Solar Stars to be seen at once, but only from a very limited area, and they were settled right at that area. Instinctively, he lifted his bow and nocked an arrow at the biggest Solar Star in his view.
He shot it at the Solar Star!
”Ah! ” He exclaimed frightfully as the arrow fell a few feet from him, blinded by the solar stars in its descent.
His mother rushed over and after learning that Yao Houyi was unharmed, she sighed. With a faint look at the arrow, she couldn ’t help but smilingly ask: ”Were you trying to shoot the stars out of the sky? ”
Yao Houyi remembered himself blushing so hard that his face became hotter than the scorching rays of the nine Solar Stars. He pouted and said: ”One day. ”
Taken aback by her son ’s declaration, she revealed a brilliant smile. She caressed his youthful, twelve-year old face lovingly. When Yao Houyi returned to practicing, unbeknownst to him, the mother left and heard a faint rustling. She found her husband looking a little to the side, a faint blush on his face after being seen.
The two exchanged knowing glances and then smiled, returning home in each other ’s embrace.
Returning to his cage, a voice sounded out a little frustrated. ”No regrets? I don ’t believe it. ”
But Yao Houyi ’s eyes flashed, and then he sighed. ”You ’re right. I do have one regret in my life. ”
Curious, the woman asked: ”What is it? ” It was as if she was hoping he would say her or something relating to her, probably to feed her ego and deal with some deep-seated insecurity.
Yao Houyi smiled, ”I wasn ’t able to shoot a star out of the sky. ” When he said those words, his eyes emitted a faint radiance that contained a certain will.
At this moment, a young-looking male cultivator arrived and saw this scene. He noticed the signs of Intent, but it was from a measly Yang Growth Phase cultivator, so he dismissed it. Yet what he saw was a little more than just an Intent awakening.
After being imprisoned, Yao Houyi was brought to the facility and had his yang energies extracted slowly. Unlike a woman ’s yin energies, those at the Yang Growth Phase could replenish their yang energies endlessly as long as their Yang Source remained undamaged. Of course, continuous extraction led to eventual collapse of one ’s Yang Source unless they possessed a Yang Renewal Physique.
They all had expiration dates.
He had been subjected to extraction for the last two years…
Now, Yao Houyi had awakened away from the damp cell to a spacious area that resembled those boats that soared across the skies.
”You ’re finally up, good. ” A voice snatched Yao Houyi ’s attention, finding a silver-eyed, unearthly handsome male walking towards him. He felt a strange feeling in his mind that caused him to question his own sexuality for a moment…
”You mind showing me? ” The silver-eyed man said as he stopped a few meters away from him, wearing an interested expression.
”…Showing you what? ” He couldn ’t help but reply, much to his surprise.
The silver-eyed man smiled, causing that strange feeling to arise once again, and answered: ”Your World Heart Intent. ”
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