Great significance was given to martial arts cultivation in the Lothlann Continent. It was, thus, natural that the higher a person's innate talent in martial arts, the more respect they earned.
According to one's talent for martial arts, people could be graded at the Heaven Degree, the Earth Degree, the Black Degree, and the Yellow Degree. In each of these degrees, people were ranked from level one to level nine based on their aptitude level. It was said that if someone reached the Heaven Degree, centuries of cultivation would turn him or her into the lord of martial arts, the legendary being.
But the fact was that ninety-nine percent of people in this continent only had the talent of the Ordinary Degree, which was inferior to level one of the Yellow Degree.
In Valmar, Doriath.
"Have you heard the news? The chief of Chu Clan has been killed. It's shocking!"
"Yeah! It's fucking unbelievable! I guess there is still an unknown strong presence in the world. I heard that it took only one attack from a blade to kill the chief. Can you believe this? He's a cultivator of the Spirit Realm! Millions of cultivators practice desperately to reach his level, and yet, he died so easily."
"The chief is gone now, but his property and rare books on martial arts didn't go with him. The Chu Clan must be in chaos."
"Please! Please don't kill me!"
Darren Chu cried out as he woke from his dream. When he looked around, Darren Chu saw that he was in a woodshed. His nightmare had left him soaked to the skin in sweat.
Darren Chu was the seventh son of Gavin Chu, the chief of the Chu Clan. The Chu Clan was ranked topmost among the martial arts clans in Valmar.
A masked man in black had killed Gavin Chu, the legendary cultivator, three days ago. The whole country had been shocked by the news of Gavin Chu's death.
Three days later, infighting began and the Chu Clan was in mayhem and disorder.
Darren Chu, the son of the chief, had only the Ordinary Degree. Everyone thought of him as a loser. That was why he became the first target for the members of the Chu Clan. In such a big clan, it was easier to target the weakest member.
Although Darren promised his abductors that he would give up his right of inheritance several times, they didn't release him.
"Am I still alive?"
Darren remembered that his brother, the sixth son of Gavin, tried to provoke him with any excuse he could find. No matter how tolerant Darren was towards his brother's insults, his brother had never stopped. Instead, he kept pushing Darren into a corner.
In the end, he fabricated an excuse to kill Darren. He accused Darren of neglecting his filial duties because of his mediocre talent for martial arts.
At the critical moment, a fireball fell from the sky and hit Darren on the head.
His brother assumed that the fireball had killed Darren, and so, he stopped attacking. What he didn't know was that Darren had narrowly escaped because of the fireball.
Darren threw a hard fist on the ground as he thought of everything that had transpired between him and his brother.
Despite his anger, Darren remembered the pain he felt when the fireball struck his head. Shortly after, the world had turned dark as Darren lost consciousness. 'Why am I still alive?' Darren wondered.
When Darren stroked his forehead, he felt the scab from the injury after being hit by the fireball. He was surprised when he didn't feel any pain.
"That's so strange! Why doesn't it hurt? And the fireball, what's that?"
As Darren was racking his brains for a plausible explanation, he heard barking outside the door. In the next instant, he heard people speaking.
"Oh, it's Miss Belle! I knew it. You must be here to guard the loser's corpse."
"Miss Belle, the loser and you must have accumulated lots of treasures over the years, right? Mr. Evan has ordered us to reclaim all the property you own. You'd better hand them to us quickly. Otherwise, your brother's body will be fed to the dogs. These bad guys have been hungry for many days. Be quick! Do you want your brother's corpse to turn into chops?"
Belle Chu, who was only thirteen years old, paled when she saw the vicious dogs. She had been made to stand outside the woodshed, where her brother's body had been stored. She was terrified as she knew that these dogs had evolved from a kind of ferocious beast. Darren's death had struck Belle Chu a significant blow. And now, she had to accept the possibility that she would lose her brother's corpse.
"My brother is dead! Why don't you leave him be? Why?" Tears poured down her cheeks. Belle Chu felt nothing but desperation. Greed had led to a terrible fight for power in her family after the death of her father. Now, with Darren gone, she felt as though she was all alone. "Please! Please! Let him be! We have nothing of value. Please believe me! I'm telling the truth," Belle sobbed.
Belle Chu was Darren's only little sister. Their mother had passed away after she gave birth to Belle. Since then, Darren and Belle had been bullied by the rest of the Chu Clan.
No matter how much injustice they suffered, both Darren and Belle refused to tell their father about it because they knew that if their father helped them, it would only earn them more torment from their siblings.
Darren's other siblings were influential factions in the Chu Clan because of their mother's family background or their powerful sects. Darren, however, had no advantages in terms of both.
"Bastard!" Darren, who had been listening from inside the woodshed, screamed with fury when he heard their conversation.
Evan Chu, the sixth son of Gavin Chu, was Darren's half-blood brother. Evan's mother was the daughter of the Yue Clan in Valmar. Although the power of Evan's mother's family was inferior to Gavin's other wives, Evan's family background was superior to Darren's.
Evan Chu would be at a disadvantage if he went against the other siblings in the family strife. That was why Evan had chosen Darren as his target. The fewer the inheritors, the more property Evan would gain.
Darren wanted to rush out to kill the two bastards Evan had left as guards, but he restrained his anger. He knew that his enemies were not only Evan's subordinates but also from his faction. They could perhaps, even be all of his half-blood siblings. So Darren told himself that he could not take any actions without careful consideration.
"Miss Belle, have you decided yet? Are you going to follow Evan's orders or not?" One of the men screamed at Belle.
"I've told you before that we have nothing. I'm not lying!" Belle cried.
"Well! You have had your chance. Go now! Boys!"
The fierce dogs barked at Belle before rushing into the woodshed.
"Stop! You two assholes! Stop!" Belle covered her face with her hands as she wept. She wanted to rush into the room to protect her brother's body, but the two subordinates blocked her path. Belle fell to the ground and cried as helplessness coursed through her.
The dogs' green eyes fixed on Darren's body. As they neared their prey, smelly saliva escaped their mouths. Since the dogs had evolved from ferocious beasts, they were unusually aggressive.
"Shoop! Shoop! Shoop!"
The dogs pounced on Darren.
Darren had heard the conversation between Belle and the two subordinates. Prepared for the attack, he threw a hard fist at the closest dog.
The dog's head smashed into pieces. Darren had begun his cultivation when he had been three years old. Although his talent for martial arts was mediocre, it was easy for him to kill a fierce dog.
The remaining dogs stepped back after they saw the scene.
"Wait! What's that? Why is a ball of yellow light flying toward me?"
The yellow light moved so quickly that Darren failed to dodge it. The light flew into his head in the blink of an eye.
Darren was expecting to be injured by the light. On the contrary, he felt refreshed. He strode toward the rest of the dogs.
"Bang! Bang! Bang!"
Darren had moved so quickly that the dogs didn't even have time to whine before their death.
As before, a ball of yellow light appeared and flew into Darren's head after each dog died.
Darren had never experienced such a feeling before. The whole world was fresh and clear to him now. He could tell that he had gained significant improvement in his senses, including eyesight, hearing, and perception.
"I've read about this before. This feeling is similar to the description of the Yellow Degree. Did I get an upgrade?"
Darren was thrilled. He speculated that his upgrade was because of the fireball.
"I read that all the creatures in this world have a talent for martial arts. Did that fireball empower me with the ability to assimilate other creatures' talent?"
Since a yellow light had flown into his head after each dog had died, Darren knew that his theory had been correct. Now, he had acquired the Assimilation Skill.
What an incredible skill! As long as he had enough targets, Darren's talent for martial arts would gain endless upgrades. He might even reach level nine of the Heaven Degree!
Darren wondered what would happen after he surpassed the Heaven Degree through the Assimilation Skill.
Such a skill was an invaluable gift sent from heaven. When Darren thought of this, his eyes became moist.
"All of you will regret what you've done to me. Evan, you will see!"
Outside the woodshed.
"Hey! Jim! Why is it so quiet inside? Have they already eaten the loser's body? Ha-ha!"
"It's highly possible. Ha-ha!" Then Jim turned to the other subordinate and said to him, "Ted, look at Miss Belle! What a pretty girl! Look at her body! So attractive! Are you wondering what she feels like?"
"Jim! Are you out of your mind? She's the chief's daughter. Anyway, Mr. Evan didn't give us such permission. We'd better behave ourselves."
"You are such a wuss! Don't you want to try? We can explain that she killed herself because she couldn't take the loser's death. Come on! It's a rare chance for us to share such a beauty."
Belle broke down when she heard the two men speak about her in such a wicked way. She felt that everything around her was spinning.
"That makes sense. Even if the Elders Cabinet tries to find out who is to blame, we will have Mr. Evan as our support. Ha-ha! My little Belle! I'm coming for you!" Ted stared at Belle obscenely.
"No! Get away!" As they forced Belle into a corner, she shivered with fear. Helplessness filled her eyes.