On the outskirts of Fire Hill Village, two young boys were sparring with wooden swords. The two almost appeared to be dancing together, weaving their swords through the air.
This was a rather common sight at Fire Hill Village, as the two boys sparred every day. At times, some passing villagers or travelers would pause their daily routines and watch. However, they would always leave before long, sighing to themselves. For unfortunately, although the two boys seemed to be reasonably skilled, it was apparent that they were both either slaves or destitute, and were unlikely to obtain access to any pills or techniques to properly train in the way of the Song. In fact, the boys were fortunate to even have wooden swords to train with. Many young slaves were only able to play with wooden sticks they found on the ground.
After another ten minutes of sparring, the two boys abruptly stopped. One boy’s sword was in the middle of a swing, while the sword of the older looking boy was at the first boy’s neck. This signified that the older boy had won, as well as the end of the sparring match.
“Jia Yuan, you’re almost getting to the point where you can beat me!”
“Dou Di big brother, it is only because you do your best to teach me and push me to improve every day. Or perhaps, you’re just getting worse. Hahaha.”
“To insult me after I praise you! Want be to box your ears?? Hmph, as for teaching you, it is all I can
do. Unfortunately, as slaves, the only chance we have to move up in the world is to become soldiers. Even without pills or techniques, with enough practice, we can progress to the first level of Absorption. I think, at that point, our master would be willing to sell us to the Army for sizable sum of money. Hell, if we’re lucky, maybe the Army will even provide us with a Song to train with.”
“Dou Di big brother is right! One day we’ll leave this world behind!”
Jia Yuan was 8 years old, while Dou Di was 10. When they were first purchased by their master two years ago, they had quickly become allies of a sort.
After a few months, they began sparring together and called each other brothers. Over time, the bond between the two was not any less than that of blood brothers.
The two brothers continued to practice into the night. However, they made sure to not overexert themselves, as they knew that their master would have work for them in the morning. As Dou Di predicted, the only reason the master let them practice in the night, was so that he could sell the two boys to the Army in the future.
As one of the four nations on the Continent of the Five Elements, the Fire Kingdom desperately needed a constant influx of soldiers defend against invasions and man invasions of their own. After all, every nation wants to be able to expand its borders, and the Fire Kingdom was no exception.
Every year, the Army would send some low ranking officers through the kingdom in search for young martial talent. Many of these recruits would be former slaves. In fact, some slave owners would purchase slaves for the sole purpose of training them to sell them to the Army for a large sum of money. A typical child at the age of 4-6 cost about 50 small fire shards, while a 12 year old with reasonable martial skill could be sold to the Army for over 500 small fire shards.
If the slaves were made to work and train in a way that did not lose their master money, then the owner would receive a straight profit of 450 small fire shards. To put this into perspective, a family could live off of a single small fire shard for a month. With just 6 to 8 years of effort, a talented slave owner could virtually set themselves for life. Of course, it was usually impossible to train a slave to the army’s higher standard.
12 years of age was the requirement for the national army. Furthermore, the recruit had to have passable talent with a weapon as well as good body strength. However, the extremely talented who had reached the Absorption level by the age of 12 could bypass the life of a simple infantryman, and become a knight or a candidate for the Burning Legion, the prized fighting force of the Fire Kingdom. For slaves who had reached this level, the Army would be willing to pay 5 thousand small fire shards, or its higher equivalent, 500 medium fire shards.
This shows just how highly the Kingdom valued these talents.
And such was the dream of Jia Yuan and Dou Di, to become one of these highly respected Burning Legion soldiers.
Their training finished, Jia Yuan and Dou Di both returned to the small shack at the edge of Fire Hill Village, where they noticed that their master had already gone to sleep, but had left two bowls of congee on the table in the middle of the room.
Jia Yuan and Dou Di were both rather fortunate. Their master was rather kind hearted, and treated the two rather well. At the very least, he was willing to provide them with basic necessities, such as clothes and food. Although, the food was only ever congee or vegetable congee, or flour buns… and congee.
They quickly ate, and slept on the floor. They would continue training in this manner until the fateful day in 2 years, when Dou Di would be recruited by the Army…