Chapter 6: Honghe City
As he made his way towards the city, Xu Min once more confirmed his belief that the city was truly far away. He kept walking for the first half of the day, not taking even one break, but no matter how high the sun stood in the sky nor how scorching hot it felt for someone who had lived in the deep shadows of the forests for two years, he didn’t reach the city.
The fur vest he had been wearing quickly ended up within his bag, leaving his upper body bare. The young man continued towards the city with steadfast steps. As he got closer, he suddenly found himself on a dusty road with other people who were also walking towards the city.
At first his entire body was rigid; however, as he walked further, Xu Min came to realize that these people did not even notice him. The majority of them rushed towards the city much like he himself was doing.
The barren land also changed slightly as he got closer and closer. The dry ground transformed into fields. Rice was growing from some of them and corn from others. Medicinal herbs and grain could also be spotted sometimes. There were many plots of land specialized in growing produce; in these fields, humans worked to remove the weeds or water the plants.
Watching these people, Xu Min rushed forward. His head stayed facing down to the ground while he was glancing to the sides and wondered what to do when he reached the city. He wanted to sell the many medicinal herbs that he had collected, but he would need to speak to do so, which was something that he had not done in two years. Just thinking about it caused the young boy to shudder slightly.
While he was wondering what to do, the young boy lifted his head and his eyes widened in surprise. Because he had gotten closer to the city, the horizon was no longer only land as far as the eye could see, which he was used to by now. Something blue spread out behind the city. It was something astonishing that Xu Min remembered his sister telling him about once.
“Listen closely little Min. Far away, even further than the ends of the forest, is a giant blue sea. It is similar to the lakes in the forest, but much bigger.” Xu Wu’s eyes glittered as she longingly thought about the sight she had seen many years earlier.
“How do you know this, sis?” Xu Min asked curiously, his eyes big and naïve, something that had not been seen in his eyes for years now.
“When we were small, we sailed on that sea on the way here . One day I want to return to the other side and find our family once more.”
“I don’t like them,” Xu Min pouted as he heard his beloved sister speak, “I just want to spend my life together with you. I don’t need anyone other than you.”
Tears were in his eyes as the young boy reminiscenced about the conversation he had had with his sister years ago. With an angry wipe of his arms, he removed the tears which pressed their way through his eyes.
Red-eyed and determined, Xu Min started to pick up speed as he moved towards the city. He was ready to find a way for him to work and strengthen his body at the same time. But before that, he decided that there was a place he had to see first. He had to see the sea that his sister had dreamt about.
The city walls were taller than anything he had ever seen before. The walls were far bigger than the largest tree he had seen within the forest, but unlike the wild untamed nature of those trees, these walls made of black bricks were the evident work of man.
At the top of the walls, guards were visible. All of them were Warriors, a sight that shocked Xu Min. In his home village, a Warrior was by far a force to be reckoned with; yet here, even before entering the city, the young boy saw more Warriors in one place than he had seen during his entire life until today.
By now, he was part of the steady stream of humans walking towards the city gates. Most people around him were commoners – people who had chosen to make their living by means other than becoming martial art experts. There were also guards, mercenaries, and soldiers; perhaps one of these people would carve their name into history.
Xu Min was trembling slightly as he looked down at the ground, since he had to peek at both sides, constantly on guard against the many people surrounding him. His worst fear was that someone from his hometown was mixed within this massive body of humans pushing their way towards the city gate to get inside just a moment before the others.
If he was noticed, he wouldn’t be too easy to deal with. His cultivation base was no longer that of a mere child who had just broken into the Student Warrior rank; instead, he was now at the peak of the Student Warrior rank. He was now ready to break into the rank of a real practitioner.
Although Xu Min only knew one martial art skill, it was a skill he had trained to perfection. Despite that his Qi was still somewhat lacking, he would be able to stand against the majority of the guards sent from the Zhong Family. But if it was a captain or even Overseer Tian who found him, then the young boy was quite unlikely to escape from his grasp.
Having trained alone for two years, no one understood their body as well as Xu Min understood his. He knew his limits along with the best use of his current strength. His knowledge not only extended to his Qi limits, but also the body’s condition. Having trained his body physically, he managed to become a person with lean strong muscles. Thinking back at the many guards that he had seen back at the Zhong Family Compound, he knew that his body alone was strong enough to deal with early Student Warriors without any sort of assistance.
When it came to using the Shattering Palm, no one in the entire Student Warrior rank was a match for the young man, which meant that he had confidence in his own ability to stay alive.
Having assured himself that the captains and Overseer Tian were unlikely to be at this city, Xu Min finally dared to lift his head up. As he did, he stopped in his tracks, his jaw falling down as he stared agape at the city gate in front of him.
The gate itself was huge. It was at least twenty meters tall, and to a ten year old boy, this was an astonishing size, making him feel much smaller than usual. His heart started pounding hard from this sight as he was pushed forward by the endless stream of people entering the city.
The city walls were ten meters thick. As soon as he entered the city, he became even more astonished by the town houses and the many busy citizens bustling in the streets. Shops were everywhere, selling anything from shoes to services; anything that you wanted to buy was for sale.
All the sights in the city overwhelmed him as he was nudged further and further into the city. The stream of people led him past several different marketplaces where commoners hoped to sell their goods.
Arriving at one of these marketplaces, the streets that previously had been so busy and bustling were suddenly easier to move on. He also noticed that there were many carts parked with their owners calling out the prices and items they were selling.
Looking around the city, one thing that Xu Min noticed was that he was unable to find any shops that specialized in selling items related to martial arts nor were there any martial art schools in sight. After overcoming his hesitation to speak for the first time in two years, he decided to ask around. The answer he got, was that martial arts were something that only the noble families of the city had the luxury to enjoy. It was not for commoners such as themselves.
Hearing this, the young boy could not help but to feel downcast. Nevertheless, his eyes remained focused because he was certain that he could become strong enough on his own. All he needed was the strength to defeat the Zhong family leader. The young man was unsure of what he wanted for his future after his revenge.
Moving around casually within the city, Xu Min suddenly found himself at the harbor. His eyes widened with surprise as he saw blue water as far as his eyes could see. Ships sailed to and from the docks and large groups of men were loading and unloading cargo on the ships.
Having nothing to do except for adoring the scenery in front of his eyes, the young boy went down to the docks and looked around, wondering if he could be of any help.
He did not want to help because he was a kind person. No, as soon as he had been informed that there were no specific places within the city where they would teach martial arts, Xu Min decided to focus on training his body, sculpting it into the perfect tool.
Physical exercise would also help him to increase his cultivation base. He was, after all, a Student Warrior. Unfortunately, although it was a way to raise one’s strength, it was far inferior to absorbing the essence of the heavens and earth and then refining it into Qi.
What Xu Min had discovered during his time within the forest was that if one only trained in one aspect without the other, then it was far inferior to training both physically and mentally simultaneously.
Hearing that there were no schools in the area, the plan of the young boy was to find manual labor to do during the day, and then spend his nights cultivating Qi. That way, a balance would form and he would be able to train throughout the whole day, not wasting any time.
This schedule did not allow for any time to learn martial arts, but this was not a real problem because Xu Min had already perfected the Shattering Palm and he had no other martial art skills at his disposal to train.
Walking down to the harbor, Xu Min found a man who seemed to be an overseer and caught his attention by pulling at his shirt.
“What do you want, boy?” The older man asked with a grumpy voice, “Are you lost from your mummy and daddy? It’s dangerous here, you better run along and find some nice people to help you out!”
Hearing that, Xu Min could not help but feel slightly insulted, but none of his emotions showed on his face. Once more the young man overcame his fear of talking and his hoarse voice was heard, “Old man, I’m looking for a job. Do you need more manpower?”
Hearing the young boy ask such a question, the overseer stared at him with disbelief before a deafening laughter escaped from his lips.
“Oi kid, this is no joke. Children like you have nothing to do here! We don’t need people to sweep the floor, we need strong men who can lift these crates with one arm. You think you can lift this crate with one arm? I would like to see you try.”
Hearing the challenging voice with which the man spoke, a harrumph sounded from the young boy before he went towards one of the crates. With a leisurely expression, the child lifted the crate exactly with one arm and as he walked past the overseer, his eyes could not help but appear to be slightly mocking.
“Where do you want me to put it down?” He asked. This time the overseer looked at him with a wry smile as he scratched his forehead. “Why don’t you put it down over there with the other ones.” He no longer made fun of the youngster.
Xu Min was a peak Student Warrior. How could it be hard for him to lift such a crate? Although this city was far bigger than the one Xu Min came from and despite there being many more Warriors within this city, the men working at the harbor were far from being Warriors. Real Warriors could obviously find a much better paying job.
Placing the crate with the others, Xu Min went back to the overseer, and not even one drop of sweat was evident on his face. The overseer could do nothing but laugh bitterly at himself while wondering where such a monstrous young boy came from.
“Am I good enough to get the job?” Xu Min asked with bated breath. The job here at the harbor would be perfect for him, and happiness bubbled up inside of his chest as he saw the overseer nodding his head.
“You can start now. Move all those crates to the pile over here. You get paid at the end of each day and you better work damn hard, or I’ll fire you.”
Nodding his head, Xu Min was excited as he got his first job within Honghe City.