7 Da Lao
The carriage set off at a brisk pace, gliding smoothly over the dirt road as it left the town. Everything was quiet except for the synchronized clip-clop of the horses trotting. Da Lao was the first to break the silence.
"So, as you've both realized," he said, "I have a lot of power. I happen to be a general for the royal family of our section."
"Section?" Bai Qi asked.
"Well, you see, the town you were just at, Dai Cheng is under the Radiant Martial sect. There are different sects scattered around this area and they all have their own land. These sects meet and interact in cities, and are all considered provincial sects of larger sects. Going through all the power levels will only give you a headache, so I may as well just skip the names and give a general outline. The city we are going to, Huo Cheng, exists under a larger power, a branch under the royal sect. Cities, as well as land, can also belong to individuals, like members of royalty or those with titles like barons, lords, etc. Distinguished members of the army also get small amounts of land. The royal sect is controlled by the royal family and the king. There are 4 kingdoms near this kingdom and they all meet at the capital, which is under the rule of the Imperial Sect. The Imperial Sect is controlled by the imperial family, who overlook parts of the continent. There are different imperial powers and different empires scattered throughout the continent." Da Lao stopped speaking and looked over at Bai Qi to see if he remembered anything. "Do you understand everything so far?"
"Yes," Bai Qi said slowly. Zhong Xin was to the side since he was aware of all this and didn't need to participate in the conversation. "Where exactly are you in this system?"
"Me?" Da Lao laughed. "I'm not that important in the big picture, just a small general for the royal army."
Zhong Xin snorted. "Small general my ass."
"Hmm?" Bai Qi looked questioningly at Zhong Xin.
"He's the second general and has the power to overthrow the current king just by meeting with the emperor."
"Let's not get into that," Da Lao said while laughing. "I got lucky, the emperor just happened to notice me."
"Keep acting humble," Zhong Xin said while laughing. "You are a military genius that the emperor himself recognized, because of your ability to control the movements of your enemy. On top of that, you haven't lost a single war yet, even with the odds stacked heavily against you."
Da Lao laughed. "I got lucky with my troops. Loyalty is a strong factor in winning wars."
* 'That's interesting. How did you of all people manage to meet him? What are the odds. And here I thought you would have to suffer your way up, yet you managed to land yourself a golden ticket.' *
"Why'd you come down here to a small town then?" Bai Qi asked.
"Routine checkup. There's a barrack about 20 or so miles from where Dai Cheng is, alongside the border. I usually go once a year to make sure all the troops stay up to my expectations. I finished the checkup and took some of the trainees out to hunt monsters at the border lands. That's when I got the message that they found you. Since I was doing recruitment for my army as well, the city told me there was someone I may be interested in and I happened to pass by the area so I just stopped by."
"The city said that you may be interested in me? Why?"
Da Lao smiled. "I go around once a year to collect people of interest that I may be able to integrate in my army, and when I do come around, the city notifies me of any people with potential. I don't care about how wealthy someone's parents were, at the end of the day it's the amount of effort they put in that matters. The city got the message that you were within my age range and heard about your casting abilities, so they contacted me straight away."
"Now the problem is," Da Lao continued, "that I find your talent more than enough to join my army. However, your memory is where the problems begin."
"I don't remember anything."
"And that's the problem. I don't have the time to teach you. It's better for you to learn basic control under a mentor."
* 'Seems like he thinks very highly of you.' The thing smiled. 'You lucked out, someone besides me actually recognized your talent.' *
"So what will happen to me when I get to the Huo Cheng?"
"I'm gonna put in a word for you and Zhong Xin when you get to the city. They will train both of you in your respective paths and I'll probably be back sometime within the next 6 months, though I won't be recruiting again until next year. I mostly filled out on this year's batches. The other spots are reserved for some people that will be joining in the next 3 months."
With these words, Da Lao stood up. "I have some official business to take care of now. I'll be back before you reach the city. My horse has arrived."
As Da Lao said that, Bai Qi heard another pair of horses come up to the left side of the carriage. Da Lao swung open the door and climbed outside. Bai Qi watched as the door close and through the window, he saw him jump on the moving horse. The horse slowed down, perfectly mirroring Da Lao's trajectory and Bai Qi couldn't help but marvel at how smoothly this happened.
"How did you know so much about him?" Bai Qi asked Zhong Xin.
"You have no idea how famous he is do you?" he replied. "I nearly had a seizure when he showed up. He is one of the best generals in the history of this kingdom so far, and the only reason he's the second general is because the first general is a pampered prince."
"His nickname is the humble fiend and it's all because of his personality. If you ask any of his army members, he is the most feared person, yet the most respected as well. There's a reason why he's never lost a battle yet and even managed to draw in the attention of the emperor. "
* 'Oh, this guy sounds fun. You need to actually focus now, one year is too long, we need to impress him by the time he comes back after 6 months.' *
Zhong Xin looked out the window and sighed. "I wanted to work my way up and take any opportunity that presented itself, and I have to say you are probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. I feel bad though, I'm tailgating on your rise. I have a feeling you're gonna be someone important one day, but Da Lao coming because of you was my golden ticket."
"It's fine," replied Bai Qi. "You had a hard life, you needed a chance and you were brave enough to take it."
Zhong Xin sighed again. He looked out the window and leaned against the windowsill. "I didn't want to take my chance this way."
The rest of the trip went by in silence. The silent rhythmatic galloping of the horses slowly lulled Bai Qi into darkness.
He woke up in that dark space again. The thing was in front of him. It grinned.
"Where am I?" Bai Qi asked.
* 'In a dreamspace.' *
"Why did you bring me here?"
* 'Why, to train you of course.' *
* 'The devil always stands at the top of the mountain and looks down at the weaker. You are weak. Both in body and soul.' *
"How do I get stronger?"
* 'By letting the devil reign free.' *
:)) Been a while huh? Haven't been able to post because of you know, the real world. To make it up, I'm going to bust my ass and try to get you guys another 3 chapters by this Monday. No promises though.
Shout out to Silverbro, who has been with me since chapter 3. Sorry it's been so late, I'm gonna make it up.
If anybody thinks they know what's gonna happen with chapter 2, start a discussion.
If people rage at how Bai Qi is seemingly getting a free pass into the upper ranks, you haven't seen anything yet. Start a discussion :) should be interesting.
For new readers :) I am notoriously lazy, but if I promise something there is a 80% chance I'll deliver.
Vote with power stones :)
Leave a review. If i can somehow get 100 power stones next week, I'll try to do a mass release. :)
I say try because I'm going to procrastinate, but I will deliver most of it. So if I promise like 5 additional chapters, expect 4 :)
There will be an auxiliary volume on the different power structures, cities, towns, etc. I will also have a characters list, though it will continually be updated as the novel goes on, in order to not give any spoilers.
I may create a diary of all the memories that Bai Qi has, in order to put everything in one place. That's going to be a bit far though, maybe after the 3'rd/4'th memory shard, once I finish establishing a general timeline.