Shock spread across Bingwens face as he saw disciples leading the royal families up the steps into the palace gates. Yuming and Wing Shen came up to Bingwen and watched as everyone entered. All the disciples looked different from 10 years ago. Then, Bingwen saw him. The man who was once a boy just as Bingwen was. It was Jinghua. Jinghua had a smile on his face. How could Jinghua smile when he has lost so much? Then it happened. A quick glance between the two, shocked like a lightning strike to their hearts. Jinghua seemed to not recognize Bingwen. Or did he? Horns sounded within the palace, alerting everyone to report to the main hall. The three ran in with the rest of the other clan disciples. Wing Shen hurried over to his clan area while Yuming and Bingwen hurried to theirs. Disciples from each clan lined up in groups as their clan leaders walked down the middle of the main hall up to a platform with tea tables for each emperor and empress. Although the Ning clan table only had one seat taken. An announcer disciple from the Yusheng clan stepped up before the groups of clans, a scroll in his hand.

”Welcome to this years first ever coming-of-age ceremony, held by the Yusheng clan, ” He read. ”I shall now address the following clans leaders, ” Behind the announcer, all leaders at the five tea tables upon the platform stood up. ”Yusheng Fu, leader of the Yusheng clan and empress, Madam Yusheng Min. And their youngest daughter, young mistress, Yusheng Li. ” Yusheng disciples and warriors in the group cheered. The announcer continued. ”Wing Chao, leader of the Wing clan and empress, Madam Wing Yan. Mei Wen, leader of the Mei clan and empress, Madam Mei Hua. Ning Lin, leader and emperor of the hybrid Ning clan, ” Bingwen stared at the Ning clan leader. Seeing Ning Lin up there without his wife by his side was sad. But Ning Lin had a stern and angry face. The announcer continued again. ”And finally, Hung Wu, leader of the hybrid Hung clan and empress, Madam Hung Jing. ” Chanting came from the Hung disciple group. ”Long rule Hung, long rule Hung, long rule Hung, long rule Hung! ” Yusheng Fu walked up to the front of the platform next to the announcer. ”Silence please! ” Yusheng Fu announced. ”If the kin disciples of each clan please come forward to the bottom of the platform. ” All the kin disciples made their way to the bottom, each wearing their clan symbols on their clothes. Each of them had a weapon for the competitive games. Yuming stood close to Bingwen, who was still thoughtless. For Yuming had a bad feeling in her gut about the Hung clan. She knew that her brother was assigned to marry the eldest daughter of the Hung clan. The announcer adjusted his scroll. ”Please welcome the kin disciples of each clan and their coming of age. Each of the young master disciples will be given a courtesy name in honor of coming of age. Each leader will read off their kin as their adult names. ” All of the rest of the emperors came up. ”Yusheng clan! ” He announced. Bingwens father cleared his throat. ”Yusheng Bojing, I now announce you as an adult, Yusheng Jin. ” Bingwen bowed to his father. The Yusheng disciples chanted Bingwens courtesy name. The anncoer spoke again. ”Wing clan! ” ”Wing Jinhai, I announce you as an adult, Wing Shen. ” Ning Shens father said. ”Mei Clan! ” Yelled the announcer. ”Mei YingJie, I announce you as an adult, Mei Ming. ” Announced the leader of the Mei clan, Mei An. ”Hung clan! ” ”My eldest son, Hung Rong, I now announce you as an adult, Hung Liang. And my youngest son, Hung Ling, I announce you as an adult, Hung Bingyin. ” Said the leader of the Hung clan, in a calm yet stern way. The announcer announced the last clan. ”Ning Clan! ” In an almost angry tone of voice, the Ning clan leader, Ning Lin, spoke. ”Ning Longwei, I now announce you as an adult, Ning Cheng. ” The leaders and disciples bowed to the kin disciples. The announcer had one last announcement. ”And lastly the young mistresses of the clans. Yusheng clan, Yusheng Mei! Mei clan, Mei Bao! And the Hung clan, Hung Meifeng! ” Yuming couldn stop staring at mistress, Hung Meifeng. She was really beautiful for someone in her twenties. ”After a meal, the competitive hunt shall begin! ” Announced Bingwens father. Yuming looked at her brother, who seemed nervous. She remembered that he never liked big crowds. She tugged his sleeve before everyone sat down for their meals. ”Bojing, are you alright? You look pale ”, Asked Yuming. Bingwen stuttered and tripped over his words but managed to get out what he wanted to say. ”Y-Yeah, Im fine..I think. Just..J-Just need some fresh air. Ill be outside the main hall. You go and eat. ” Yuming watched as he left the main hall. Outside the main hall was a courtyard with a pong and stepping stones. Lanterns and statues filled the area. It was quiet, a perfect place without people. Behind a plum tree, Bingwen leaned against the bark, putting his hand on his head and clenching Baiyu. Whats wrong with me? He thought. This is silly, I should go back there. What was it that was on his mind? What was keeping him stressed. ” it him? ” He muttered. ”Is it who? ”

Bingwen jumped away from the tree, almost tripping into the pond. But a hand caught him from around his waist, a hand grabbing his hand. Once Bingwen caught his balance, the hands let him go. In front of Bingwen was him. Jinghua. Jinghua chuckled, one hand on his sword, which was imprinted with the name Jin Si. It translates to golden death. All Bingwen could do was stare. Stare right into those maroon stained eyes. Staring at those pointed ears and the red mark on Jinhuas head. His smile. ”Aren you going to say anything? Its been ten years, Gege Bingwen! ” Bingwens face turned bright red. Why was Jinghua teasing him? They weren children! ”D-Don be silly.. ” Bingwen said, stuttering and turning his strawberry face away from Jinghua. ”What are you doing out here all alone? Why aren you inside with everyone else? ” Asked Jinhua. Bingwen replied, ”I could ask you the same, Ning Cheng. Speaking of, Im going back now. ” Bingwen turned to go back to the main hall. As Bingwen left, Jinghua looked at his hand that held Bingwens waist. Jinghua smiled and then went back inside too.

Bingwen made his way to the Yusheng kin disciple table, where Yuming was. Once he got the table, he put Baiyu next to him, tossed out his robe, and sat down. Yuming poured Bingwen tea into his cup. ”Are you feeling better? ” She asked, her sweet smile appearing once again. ”Yes. ” Bingwen replied. Yuming saw Jinhua re-enter the main hall again. She then guessed what happened. ”Did you and Ning Cheng talk? ” Yuming asked. Bingwen immediately turned red. The Ning disciple table was across from the Yusheng table. Jinghua, with his elbow on the table and his hand holding up his chin, stared at Bingwen, smiling. Bingwen had nowhere to look. What was going on with Jinghua?

An hour passed by as all clans finished their meals. Disciples and disciple kin from each clan lined up in their groups in front of the gates of the Yusheng forest between the Yusheng mountain peaks. Yusheng Min walked in front of the lines of disciples. ”We will now start the competition. Each kin disciple will use their given weapon to hunt down as many Dire animal spirits. A disadvantage are the mountain peaks. Be mindful of falling rocks. You will also have to collect 15 hidden flags with each clan symbol. There are 120 flags hidden within the forest. Disciples, you are to also hunt with your given weapon of choice and as well as collect the flags. Once you have killed and trapped a Dire spirit, release your fireworks. You will be scored with your flags at the end. ” She announced. She then stepped out of the way as the gates to the forest opened. Bingwen clenched Baiyu tightly. He stared into the dark, misty forest. The sound of horns blew as each and every disciple rushed inside. Bingwen and Yuming threw their swords in the air and hopped on them, soaring through the trees as did the rest of the Yusheng disciples. It was Yumings first time riding on a sword. But she balanced pretty well. Deeper into the forest, the Yusheng disciples split up. Only a couple seconds in the competition and the first firework went off. It was the symbol of the Wing clan. Yuming, Bingwen, and a few other disciples found themselves in the center of the mountain peak. To Bingwens surprise, there was a Dire spirit roaming the peaks grounds. ”Baiyu! ” He commanded, Baiyu flying up into the air and racing towards the spirit. But before Baiyu could strike, an arrow went straight through the spirit. One second later another firework went off, displaying the Hung clan symbol. Bingwen was flabbergasted. He looked up to a ledge of the left peak to see a young disciple with a bow and arrow. It was Hung Bingyin, the youngest kin of the Hung clan. Behind him, with a cocky smile, was Hung Bingyins eldest brother, Hung Liang. The two hopped off the ledge and approached Bingwen and Yuming. ”Well, if it isn lady Yusheng! ” Hung Liang said in a perverted way. Yuming crossed her arms as Hung Liang walked up to her. In her mind she could tell that Hung Liang was a douchebag! His younger brother on the other hand was sweet and shy. ”What do you want, Hung Liang? ” Hung Liang attempted to reach for her hand but she shuffled away from him. Hung Bingyin stood, clenching his bow. ”Gege, t-this is no time to play around! ” Hung Bingyin said. Hung Liang turned around to his brother who flinched. ”Oh, be quiet! You
e such a child! ” Hung Liang yelled. A broad figure glided down. She wore the same Symbols as the Hung clan on her dress. It was the eldest daughter of the Hung clan. Yuming backed away behind Bingwen. Hung Meifeng was indeed intimidating. ”Enough bickering. We
e better off losers if this is what its going to be! And Rong! Stop harassing Lady Yusheng! ” Hung Meifeng grabbed her older brother by his ear. Other fireworks around the disciples went off. Bingwen and Yuming, as well as the other Yusheng disciples following them, ran off to find flags and Dire spirits. ”We can get caught in bicking problems like those! We have to keep going! ” Bingwen said. ”Then how about we split up? ” Yuming suggested. Everyone agreed except Bingwen and before he knew it, he was left on his own. The oldest son of the clan, the future Yusheng leader, left all alone. Even if he was alone, Bingwen kept going. Spirit, after spirit, flag after flag, firework after firework. He hid each flag he found in his sleeves. Maybe he could get more than 15?

The misty autumn air up in the peaks mixed with the blowing breeze in the forest. Yes, it was dark, but it was like going into the dark without a light when you entered the Yusheng forest. Bingwen had been roaming around in the dark for who knows how long. He was scared and obviously couldn see anything. He was blindlessly holding out his arm to sense where he was going. He could hear faint yells and slashing of swords around him but they were too far away to be near him. As he reached out into the darkness, something grabbed his arm. He exclaimed in fear, ”H-Hey! W-Whos there! ” Before he could command Baiyu to attack, a torch lit. It was Jinghua. Jinghua put his fingers to his lips as a sign to be silent. He then pointed to the glowing Dire animal spirits behind them. Jinhua didn let go of Bingwen. He tried pulling away but there was no use. Jinghuas hybrid grip was too strong. All Bingwen could do was command Baiyu to get the spirits. ”Baiyu! ” He whispered. Jinghua did the same. ”Jin Si, attack! ” While the swords were taking care of the spirits, Jinghua let go of Bingwens arm but in an aggressive manner. Was he angry? Did I do something wrong? ” Bingwen thought. Jinghua crossed his arms. But before he could say anything, the Yusheng horns went off. And they weren the The competition has come to an end horns. Bingwens body went stiff. No, these horns were warning horns. Meaning bandit hybrids had entered the perimeter. Humans had no chance against them unless their given weapons were really powerful. Baiyu and Jin Si returned to Bingwen and Jinghua after finishing off the spirits. They didn have time to release their fireworks.

Back at the Yusheng palace, disciples guarded the gates. Yusheng Min was infuriated. ”Madam Yusheng, everything is under control. ” A Yusheng guard told Yusheng Min. ”Under control?! ” She exclaimed. ”My children and my disciples are out there with who knows what! They could get killed! ”

Madam hung, with a painted fan in her hands, approached Yusheng Min. ”Not just your children, Shaiming. But all of ours. ” Yusheng Min turned around aggressively. ”Shi Yun! ” All the disciples were waiting for a fight to break out. But it never did. Leader Ning huffed, a cup of tea in his hand. Did he know why the peaks were being attacked? Madam Hung flapped out her fan, waving it against her chest whilst walking back and forth. ”The best thing to do is find and send reinforcements into the forest. Depending on what the problem is out there. Im sure the children and disciples can handle it just fine. ” A Yusheng disciple from the gate ran inside and bowed in front of Yusheng Min. ”Madam Yusheng, reports from the forest say that hybrid bandits have entered the peaks. We don know how many. ” Yusheng Min knew that hybrids were stronger than humans, stronger than her, stronger than Bingwen. But was that true?

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