A young girl sat atop the wall surrounding the city, which sat in the valley. It was closed off by the mountain ranges called Mt. Ancestral Ranges. The girl with pitch-black hair, dark blue eyes, and symmetrical features enhanced the beauty of her young self.
She breathed in the fresh air of the upcoming summer and the touches of departing winter. The snow was melting, and the snow stayed at its peak. It was like music, even if you included the roars of the demonic beasts. She closed her eyes to enjoy the moment she was getting.
Long ago, she lived another life, in another world, and she thought she’d be forever there. But then, it changed; they were called to another world one day. She wasn’t alone; there was someone else, the man that was her big brother in the last world, but in this, her lover.
“Onii-sama,” The young girl gently opened her eyes, gazing at the blue skies, before brightly smiling to look over her shoulder. The boy wasn’t big, about thirteen years old, and so was she. For thirteen years, she had been here.
The boy was stripped of his emotions in the last world, feared for his power, and now lived a free life. After his rebirth, he had his emotions, but he wasn’t any different, funnily enough.
“Miyuki, we should go. Grandfather has been waiting for us.”
Miyuki raised her palm, wordlessly asking the boy, the man she loved to take her hand, and he held hers. He let out a smile, interlocking his fingers with hers, patting her back, gazing out with her.
“And dangerous,” Tatsuya held her palm, kissing her head, while his eyes fixed at the peaks, “I know you want to go outside, but maybe wait a little longer?”
“I will be happy as long as Tatsuya Onii-sama is with me….”
“Really? Leaving me out so soon? You are going to break my heart.”
Miyuki chuckled, and Tatsuya let out a smile, knowing whose sarcastic voice it was. She glanced over to the side, seeing the young boy with rust-colored hair and deep red eyes, enough to pull anyone in.
When they left their world, they were in a void, being pulled by a gravity irresistible, but even at that speed, they came across a body, or it looked like one with all the injuries. Her big brother from the other world realized it with his sight; the person trapped in the void was alive.
He pulled the boy in, in hopes to know what mess they were in, but when they were reborn, they remembered, while the other had forgotten. Even though it didn’t fulfill the purpose, the boy had become their family over the years.
He was sarcastic for the time, but every action he took showed his true feelings. Feelings so pure that even they couldn’t resist. She patted his head, chuckling, “Even you, Jun.”
Even though she was kind, he knocked on her forehead, correcting her, “I was born second. So, you should call me Onii-sama too.”
“Mm?” She covered her head, pouting cutely, when a tall man with a long beard walked over, laughing softly.
“Come on, you two. Don’t fight and create trouble for your big brother? You three have to attend the Institute from tomorrow.”
“Big brother!! Big sister!”
But the older man’s words barely ended when the purple-haired little girl ran towards them. She was about to trip and fall when Jun held her, picking her up in his arm, “Ziyun. How many times have I told you not to run? You’ll hurt yourself.”
The little girl grinned, her eyes meeting with Miyuki’s before she stuck out her tongue, “Only about a few hundred times….”
Tatsuya softly smiled, patting her head, “You. Miyuki has spoiled you.”
“I did not,” Miyuki turned around, acting offended, taking the little one in her arms, “I didn’t spoil you, right, Ziyun?”
“Mm, mm,” Ziyun nodded, happily grinning, “Big Brother Jun spoiled me.”
“Picking on me, huh? You brat,” Jun pulled her cheek, watching her fake her cry.
“All right, all right,” Ye Mo, their adopted father, laughed out loud, walking away, “Let’s go back home. You three have much to prepare.”
“Right, coming,” Miyuki happily jumped off the ledge, walking with them, holding Ziyun’s hand. While the two followed at the back.
“Institute, huh?” Jun put his arms at the back of his head, looking up as he walked, “Nii-san, is there even a purpose to going to a place like that?”
Tatsuya let out a breath, glancing toward the boy without denying it. They were born, and when they came to, they were already in Glory City, walking on the streets, living a simple life. As the oldest one, he cared for most of their needs, and it wasn’t hard. But then, Ye Mo came across the three, and he took them in; maybe he saw something that others didn’t.
Tatsuya turned his gaze towards the tall man, whose age might be in the 60s to 80s; he wasn’t sure. He had a long beard and long white hair, but his age was still a mystery.
They cultivated Soul Energy and grew more vital in this world, but that same energy increased their life. Even with ancient medical facilities, they lived long lives. He wondered that with good medical facilities and knowledge, they could easily live till 150, and Ye Mo could even cross 200 easily.
He was the most influential man in this city, the last bastion of humanity.
Ever since they were young, they were taught much, and it was easy for him and Miyuki, but even Jun managed to keep up. Well, in ways saying managing to keep up was an insult to the boy’s talent and mind since he never even tried. It was easy for him to learn whatever he wanted, but he never made an effort to reach for something. As long as he crossed the fine line, he stopped putting effort into a problem they never could solve.
Still, they knew what would be taught at the Academy, but it was already something they had already done, and as someone who disliked making an effort, he was sure that the boy didn’t want to enter.
“Yes. For you. It would do you some good,” Tatsuya sighed, smiling.
Jun stopped, turning to face the wall before climbing over the ledge, raising his hand, “Ahhh~!!!!!!! I want to stay at home and waste my life away!!!!!”
Miyuki is walking in front, burst out in a laugh, watching the faces of her grandfather and lover change at the shout.
“You brat! Come down here right now! What are you shouting?!”
Even the calm Ye Mo couldn’t help be angry, looking at the boy shouting to waste away his talent. It didn’t take long before he pulled the boy by his hair, nagging.
Ye Ziyun looked over Miyuki’s shoulder, watching her grandfather nagging and big brother Tatsuya helping him, “Oof, Big Brother Jun always manages to annoy them.”
Miyuki chuckled, kissing the young girl’s cheek, “Yes, he seems to have a talent for ruffling the wrong feathers.”
It was a long way home, but with Glory City’s Legend Rank Demon Spiritualist taking them soon, they were there. The moment they arrive, their eyes landed on the woman waiting, with purple hair, and purple eyes, making Ziyun look like her younger copy.
“Mama!” Ziyun rushed into her arms, with the other three following right after her, and the woman, Xue Ru, their mother, welcomed them with open arms.
“Finally, you are back home! Did you like it? Going for sightseeing on the wall?”
“It was beautiful,” Miyuki gently smiled, hugging the woman she called her mother.
“What about you two,” Xue Ru hugged the two girls, watching the two boys of her standing a few steps away.
“I would have enjoyed it if I didn’t have to go to the Institute tomorrow….”
Ye Mo was covered in a blazing aura, staring at the boy’s back, making Xue Ru laugh. She looked over to Tatsuya, gently asking the boy who had too much responsibility, “And what about you?”
Tatsuya calmly, gently smiled, “Hm, I enjoyed it for most parts.”
“I am glad you did,” Xue Ru kissed her daughter’s head before kissing Miyuki’s, “Come on. I have prepared a feast for you four; let’s eat.”
“You know how to cook? Since when?”
Xue Ru shot a dangerous look at the boy with a sarcastic smile on his lips, “I’ll tell you, young man. Your mom knows how to cook.”
“Ah, I believe you,” The boy said with an earnest, believing look.
“I do! Really,” Xue Ru felt her dignity as the mother being attacked seeing his face.
“Mom, don’t worry about what he says,” Miyuki pulled Xue Ru forward, whispering when others couldn’t see, “Is it edible?”
“Not you too! I do know how to cook!” Xue Ru whined, making her little daughter laugh and smile, let alone the others.
Tatsuya walked into the house, reminiscent of the house they had in their last world, the one they rebuilt here, to remember. There were three rooms in the house, one for him, the other for Miyuki, and the last one for Jun. The one he had was near the entrance, while the other two rooms were on the opposite side, sharing a bathroom in between.
The room he walked into was Miyuki, finding her standing in front of the mirror, gazing at her reflection, “Onii-sama, you haven’t slept?”
Tatsuya gazed at the girl; even though she was thirteen, because of the soul energy, her body went through an early growth spurt, like his, making them look like their 15 or 16-year-old self. He walked over to her, hugging her from behind, making her smile as she raised her hand to touch his cheek, “Onii-sama?”
“Miyuki…how much is your Soul Force?”
“Not much. Just about Bronze Peak, why?” Miyuki blinked, asking a random question. It was a simple one, and her big brother already knew the answer.
There were five realms in this city, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Black, Gold, and Legend.
Usually, the ones who started the Academy weren’t even Bronze, and you might not even have to reach Silver by the time you passed out, which would still be great. Let alone starting when you were about to reach Silver; that was already too much.
Tatsuya enjoyed the warmth of his lover, holding her in his arms, whispering, “It might be dangerous. It might be the last bastion, but it’s not united. There are threats everywhere, and going to Academy leaves us open.”
Miyuki breathed out, turning around with a gentle blush on her cheeks, hugging him sweetly, “Onii-sama, everything will be fine. Don’t worry too much.”
Tatsuya raised her chin, looking at her lips, and this little action was enough to make her heart pound, wondering if it would just come out. He leaned forward, but rather than her lips, he planted a kiss on her forehead, “You are right. Good night, Miyuki.”
“Mm,” Miyuki’s whole body started to give off heat, standing there until he left the room. She took tiny steps, and face first; she fell on the bed. Before she climbed in between, covering her blushing face with a pillow, it took a while. It was a small gesture, but enough to make her happy for days, maybe even longer.
Maybe it was the cloud of happiness that the night slipped away from her. She happily woke up in the morning for her first day at the Institute. By the time she got ready, there was food on the table, walking out of the room. She raised her eyebrows, peeking towards the kitchen, only to find the boy wearing the apron to be her brother Jun.
“Jun Onii-chan? It was my day of cooking today?”
“Oh, I know,” The pretty boy narrowed his deep eyes carrying the innocent smile, “I thought you two would be so busy with the Institute thing. The least I could do is cook for you?”
“Oof,” Miyuki chuckled, sitting down, “Don’t tell me you still think you might be able to get out of this? You know you haven’t even reached the Bronze Level yet, and that’s all because you never even bother to cultivate. There is no way Grandfather and Father will let you waste your potential like that?”
Jun put the toast in front of her, sitting down on the side, “Nii-san already ate and went out. You should go too, and maybe meet him on the way and take him to school? I will be right behind?”
Miyuki glanced at him from the side, watching him put butter on her bread, “This is a cheap bribe for such a big favor?”
Jun watched her sweetly, trying his best not to be himself, be sarcastic, or twist her words.
Miyuki thought, “Ok, give me one good reason you haven’t reached the Bronze Rank, and I will think about it.”
Jun played with the butter knife, rotating on his finger, watching her, hiding every emotion inside. He sighed, “Just promise me not to tell anyone?”
Miyuki blinked, “Depends.”
Jun puffed his cheeks, letting out a long breath, “It scares me….”
“Excuse me?” Miyuki blanked out, hearing the words she never expected him to hear.
“The Soul Realm thing…it’s scary. It eats away at everything…it’s like famine…turning everything barren in its path. So, I wouldn’t say I like it…I wouldn’t say I like it…and frankly, I am scared of it.”
“You never…said anything,” Miyuki pressed her lips, feeling the air around them become heavy.
He shot a look back at her, “I don’t need sympathy or pity. But if you told anyone, I will tell everyone how big a crush you have on Nii-san.”
“You!!” Miyuki’s pity and sympathy dried out the next moment, and she looked away, “Fine! Whatever.”
Before remembering something, she pretended to be angry, “That still doesn’t explain why not go to Institute?”
“Uh…I am worried I would get drawn in the atmosphere…and you know how I hate losing….”
“I don’t remember you ever losing?”
“Well…the idea of losing ticks me off, and I am worried that I will get drawn in and mess up. I should live an ordinary life. Which is best for everyone.”
Miyuki hesitated, glancing towards the door, feeling the presence stand outside it. She parted her lips to say something when Tatsuya walked in, having come back.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“What doesn’t matter?” Jun acted innocent.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s dangerous. It could be handled. The problem here is that you are weak, and the Dark Guild could easily target you. So please gain some strength to protect yourself.”
Jun parted his lips, puffing out a breath, staring at the table, “It’s a bad habit to eavesdrop….”
Tatsuya patted his head while walking back to his room, “Go get ready.”
Miyuki silently giggled, pulling his cheek, whispering, “You are so obedient.”
Jun slapped her hand away, upset, sulking, only for Miyuki to poke his cheek, only for him to slap her hand again.
The two of them had to pull Jun over to the Institute, even on the first day, but when they entered the class, special one, even he had to act better. There were quite a few familiar faces, Ye Han, their adopted brother, Shen Xiu from the Sacred Family, Chen Linjian from the Divine Family, Huyan Lanruo, and Hong Mey.
They had met before, but the room’s atmosphere became even heavier, so they sat down on the front bench on the right side, talking amongst themselves.
They wondered who their teacher would be and who would be chosen to handle this class since it won’t be easy.
There were a few whispers and more than a few looks on their back when someone standing before them made them raise their head.
Tatsuya looked at the boy, their half-brother, the child adopted by their Father in this world, and so he gently greeted him, “Ye Han.”
“Tatsuya!” Rather than greeting back, Ye Ha called out in a loud voice, loud enough to attract the attention of everyone in the class.
“Hm?” Tatsuya calmly looked at him, waiting for him to say something other than his name so he would know what he wanted.
“Let’s compete for grades! This time I am going to win!”
“Compete? You talk like you are good enough to even compete with Nii-san. Are you sure you don’t think this is a dream and saying absurd things?”
Jun lay forward, sprawled over the table, glancing up at Ye Han with a mocking smile on his face.
Miyuki felt a laugh escape her mouth, which she held back, but Ye Han glared at Jun, “Weak nobodies like you should keep your mouth shut.”
Jun narrowed his eyes, annoyed; this was why he didn’t want to come to this place. These idiots thought only strength was the measure of a person’s status, and without it, you didn’t even have the right to speak.
Ye Han looked towards Tatsuya again, nodding, “We’ll see who comes first this time.”
Tatsuya nodded uncaringly, looking at Miyuki, sitting between and patting Jun’s head. When he noticed Ye Han had already left, “That’s why I said to at least reach the Bronze Rank.”
Jun sighed, “That was a good comeback. I wasn’t expecting that from that idiot.”
“He’s not exactly an idiot,” Miyuki caressed Jun’s head, patting his back, noticing her hand touching him. It was a sudden reminder of things that had changed in 13 years. She disliked touching any man but Tatsuya, but since Jun was family, she wasn’t above it, especially when he sulked.
She felt she treated him more like their child than her brother, so it didn’t matter if she touched him. Other than that, there was also Ye Han, her supposed brother. But unlike Jun, he was competitive as hell amongst all the children. He wanted to stay in the first position, but there was little Ye Han could do about it since Tatsuya had taken that position.
This is probably why he didn’t even think of them as their siblings, but as rivals or maybe even enemies.
She was wondering when she heard the sound of heels, and when she looked up, a young woman, five or six years older than them, walked into the room. She had dark purple hair and honey-colored eyes, holding a few books in her hand. She didn’t seem nervous; even if she was, she didn’t show it one bit but confidently walked in.
The young woman stood at the front and center of the room, looking at every one of them, “I am Yang Xin, and I will be teaching you from today onwards. If you have any questions, then ask now.”
Shen Xiu leaned back on her chair, crossing her hand and leg, “Who are you? We have never heard of you before.”
Yang Xin gave a sidelong glance, putting her hands on the table, leaning forward, “I am from the Alchemy Association. As for why I am here? You don’t need to know. If there are any other questions, ask, or I will start my first class.”
It was strange that someone from Alchemy Association was coming to the Holy Orchid Institute to teach. It didn’t make sense for most parts unless they were here to recruit someone.
“Well, let’s start with Basics of Basics. Tell me the two ways of Cultivation.”
Yang Xin asked the question, but before anyone answered, she flicked a piece of chalk to the other end of the classroom, causing a tiny crack but visible enough to appear on the wall.
In the dreading eyes of most of the children, she picked up another chalk piece, smiling at them, “Don’t forget to raise your hand.”
Yang Xin looked around, seeing those who knew but weren’t confident of their answer and those who knew but were too prideful to raise their hands. She glanced towards the left side, seeing the beautiful young girl raising her hand, graceful as ever.
Miyuki held her skirt, elegantly raising her body, answering with a charming smile on her lips, “Yes, there are two types. Fighters who train their bodies, and Demon Spiritualists who forge a Soul Realm in their Dantian, use Soul Force to cultivate. Both follow the same Ranking System, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Black Gold, Legend.”
“Good, a brilliant answer. Have a seat.”
Miyuki sat down, and Yang Xin continued, “Most of you are Fighters and haven’t even reached Bronze Rank. So for a few months, you’d be with me, and I will train you. Then after the vacations, there will be a test to sort you out between Fighter and Demon Spiritualists.”
Jun groaned ever so slightly, closing his eyes and whispering, “So sleepy.”
Jun opened his eyes, glancing towards the broken wall, turning his eyes towards Yang Xin, who threw chalk, “You said something?”
Miyuki pulled Jun’s cheek before completing that sentence, annoying their trigger-happy teacher even more, “He said I am sorry!”
“I wid not!”
“I sure did! That is what he said,” Miyuki lied with complete confidence, nodding, pulling his cheek even harder.
Tatsuya leaned back, giving Jun a rugged look, making him behave properly before apologizing to Yang Xin, “Sorry for disturbing your class.”
“Hm, no need to apologize,” Yang Xin picked up another chalk, restating the class.
Once the class was over, they soon left, like most of the others, and so a few days passed, and then a few weeks.
City Lord Mansion, Yotsuba Block,
“You are more stubborn than I thought.”
“Mm? Talking to me?” Jun innocently raised his head from the novel Miyuki wrote. He loved the novels she wrote since they were so different from this world and told the story.
“Yes. It has been a few weeks, and you didn’t even bother to try and raise your strength or cultivate. Do you want to let Ye Han beat you? He’s aiming for you.”
“Mm,” Jun lay on the couch, resting the book on his lips, glancing towards Tatsuya, “I did train in one department.”
Jun hastily nodded, grinning, “Yes, I can run fast now.”
“You,” Tatsuya let out a sigh, knocking on his head, “Can you be serious for one second? It’s your big mouth that invites trouble; worst of all, you don’t even have the strength to protect yourself.”
“Gee, Nii-san, don’t worry. I have a feeling everything will be ok. Anyway, where is Miyuki.”
“She went to see mother. I will pick her up, so stay at the house.”
“Yes,” Jun elongated his voice, hearing him leave, before turning to his side to see. He lay on his stomach, letting out a breath; his deep red eyes gazed at the tiles below before turning over in frustration.
“Ahh~~! It’s so annoying….” Jun pressed his lips, gazing at the roof, “It’s not like I want to stay weak…but the one I want to compete for is Miyuki.”
Jun sat up, putting his elbows on his knees, holding his head. Ever since he was young, he loved Miyuki, but then she and Tatsuya started being lovey-dovey, and he realized even that was possible, so those pure feelings changed into something else entirely.
That didn’t mean he loved Tatsuya any less, but it didn't seem worth it if fighting for her meant losing his family. Let alone; he didn’t think there was enough place in Miyuki’s heart. So at the end of the day, it was a losing battle, and in the end, the one who’d lose everything would be him.
So he didn’t want to grow stronger, to feel that it might be possible, that there was hope. He let out a mocking smile, “Heh, in this case…I am no different from Ye Han.”
He lay back down on the couch, “That’s just disgusting…if only there were a way around it…so we could still be a family.”
He slowly fell asleep, feeling his body become heavy, but deep inside, in his Dantian, there was turbulence like never before. It was the nature of his existence, connecting with this world itself. For one moment, a language appeared on the wall of this world, from the ground to the sky and the unseeable depths, reaching even dimensions connected to this place.
Near Xue Ru’s Quarters,
Tatsuya was about to knock on the door when his palm stopped. He was the possessor of Elemental Sight, allowing him to see the world’s data, and he was probably the only one who saw it. The world changed; it was as if someone took a particular data, taking it away from the world, forcing it to adjust.
“Who would…and why….” Tatsuya worriedly furrowed his brows, letting out a sigh, “This world is more dangerous than before.”