"It has taken me a month to finish Heavenly Principles. Its arguments are all very well, but, what I find most revolting are those four words, repaying cruelty with kindness," Zen Luo whispered as he stared at the bean-sized flame of the oil lamp. Melancholy was written all over his face. "Had my father not been so kind-hearted as to believe those four words, I, the direct descendant of my Clan, would not have ended up like this, and father would still be alive…"
The sudden noise of the cellar door being unlocked interrupted his flow of thoughts. Zen Luo replaced the melancholy he was feeling with a solemn expression. He promptly blew out the oil lamp and covered himself with the shabby cotton quilt.
The door of the cellar flew open and footsteps began drawing close. The man in charge stepped forward and stomped his foot on Zen Luo's bed before shrieking at him, "Still in bed? Dreaming about being the young master of the Luo Clan? Get the fuck up!"
The man was a steward in the Luo Clan. He looked rather wretched. He had a wart on his forehead that often invoked disgust from people.
Zen Luo sat up and rubbed his eyes. He pushed off the quilt, before turning and planting his feet on the ground. Silently, he slid on his clothing, socks, and shoes. Although his clothes were old, Zen Luo kept them neatly. He was very meticulous by nature.
The steward rolled his eyes, criticized Zen, and then waved his hand. Several men surrounded Zen and forcibly put a thick leather armor and shackles on him.
After they were done, Zen Luo followed the servants as they walked out of the cellar and toward Luo's Martial Arts Hall.
The Luo Clan owned hundreds of mines and millions of acres of fertile land. As a big and powerful Clan, they were well-known in C County.
However, the entire Eastern Region had thousands of county cities, including countless wealthy families and the Luo Clan was almost insignificant in the Eastern Region.
Zen Luo was escorted by some men as he climbed out of the gloomy cellar. This was a daily ritual with which Zen was quite familiar. The walk to the Martial Arts Hall meant navigating through numerous pavilions, bridges, and galleries.
The Martial Arts Hall was an open area. It was a place where the children of the Luo Clan would come for practice. The entrance was decorated with white marble sculptures of a male lion and a female lion. The ground was one large, black basalt slab. Standing at the entrance of the building, one could feel the power emanating from the Hall.
In the middle of the Martial Arts Hall, dozens of children from the Luo Clan practiced martial arts under the guidance of a teacher. They were all dressed alike, in gray robes.
They bawled and their boxes whirred again and again.
In order to win a position in the family, every child needed to study diligently and practice hard. These children looked like they were more than 10 years of age.
On this late autumn day, the wind began to howl around the training children. Nevertheless, sweat beaded on their foreheads. The contrasting heat and cold filled the Hall with steaming white mist.
On the other side of the Martial Arts Hall stood over a dozen men who were dressed like Zen Luo, in leather armor and shackles. These men were dejected, bleeding, and wounded all over their bodies.
Zen Luo was escorted into the Martial Arts Hall. The guard placed him amongst the injured men.
Since most of these men had been bought by the Luo Clan from local prisons, they were now the slaves of the Luo Clan. These slaves played the roles of live targets for the Luo Clan children for the purpose of training and testing their own strength. These children could assault these slaves arbitrarily. Several live targets were killed or disabled during such assaults. Over time, the number added up and it was difficult to gauge how many had lost their lives in the Hall.
Zen Luo was not a death row inmate and thus, was not bought by the family. He was the eldest child in the eldest branch of the Luo Clan. The rest of the Clan used to call him the young master. He was once noble, and his peers would bow and salute him with respect. Even the family elders were polite to him.
However, something disastrous happened in C County two years ago. Zen Luo's father, the head of the Luo Clan, had been poisoned by his brother. He died on the spot.
Immediately after, the eldest branch of the Luo Clan was set up by the other three branches. They framed a case against Zen Luo's father. According to their accusations, Zen's father was a rebel. The family didn't survive the allegations, and the eldest branch became no longer powerful.
Zen Luo, the former young master, was also labeled a rebel and became a slave of the Luo Clan. He became a tool, and was beaten up at the whim of the other children in the Luo Clan as part of their martial arts practice.
Zen Luo had lived like this for two years. He had lost count of how many fists and insults he had endured during this time.
"Today's boxing practice is over. You can select a slave for the next practice now! Hitting the human body allows you to fully understand actual combat skills, get familiar with the weaknesses of the human body, and the body structure!"
After the teacher had finished speaking, the children started selecting their slaves. Soon, the sounds of slaves begging and pleading for mercy could be heard in the Hall. The Luo children did not treat slaves as humans. They were trained to hit the flesh without mercy.
Many of them tried to find Zen Luo. The act of beating up a former young master with as much aggression as they could muster gave them a greater sense of accomplishment!
When being used as a sandbag, Zen Luo protected vital parts of his body with calmness. Since it had been two years, he was now quite used to it.
Before long, a few people came through the entrance of the Martial Arts Hall. A young man who was dressed finely led this group of newcomers.
"The young master is coming!"
"Young master, your practice has finally come to a halt. You seem to feel refreshed in spirit. You must have progressed greatly in your ability and power!"
"Our young master is intelligent. He is the talent of our Luo Clan. He must have grown stronger and has surely entered the higher level of bone refining."
The children who noticed the young master entering stopped their practice and began patronizing. Some even walked up to the young master as they generously threw praises his way. It was obvious that they all wanted to flatter the young master.
Zen Luo's eyes fell on the young man, and his imperceptible anger rose quietly. The young teenager being called the young master by the Luo children, was Perrin Luo. He was the oldest son in the second branch of the Luo Clan. He was the same age as Zen Luo.
Zen Luo was relegated to slavery and Perrin Luo replaced Zen as the young master of the Luo Clan.
Zen Luo had heard that Perrin Luo had been staying in a secluded place to practice some time ago. He had disappeared for a long time. It seemed as though he had improved a lot after the practice.
Perrin Luo was very sensitive and he turned to look at Zen Luo when he became aware of his cousin's hate-filled glare. He smirked as he walked straight toward Zen Luo and said," Zen Luo, I practiced for a long time. I didn't expect to see you alive when I returned."
"Thanks for caring about me. I'm fucking alive." Zen Luo answered in a muffled voice.
"How dare you! What kind of tone is that? How dare you speak this way to the young master?"
"You are just a slave here, kneel! Fall to the ground quickly and apologize to our young master or you will regret being alive."
Several children of the Luo Clan shouted as though Zen Luo had done something very unforgivable to them.
Zen Luo looked around indifferently. These people used to behave like little dogs in front of him in the past. They were too scared to even breathe in his presence when he was the young master. Once he lost power, their attitudes changed. It had been so sudden. Now, they were Perrin Luo's dogs.
Perrin Luo waved his hand to stop the excited Luo children from defending him. He spoke to Zen Luo with a triumphant smile," Zen Luo, do you know why I left for the practice?"
Zen Luo did not speak. He just looked at Perrin Luo expressionlessly.