OMF Extra: Missing Pieces

Author’s Note:
Here is the second extra for the 5th anniversary of Oh. My. Fate?! This one is a bit longer and feature a snippet of Leng Jin Yu’s past in the mortal realm. I hope you’ll like it!

A decade had passed since the Jian Yi Sect last opened its gates for the people to try and be admitted. Now, the disciples usually stationed at the gates had stepped aside and the majestic doors stood wide open, exposing the path in front.

Leng Jin Yu stood a few steps away, his gaze brushing over the sect grounds he could see from his position. In this year, he was fifteen years old. When it came to people starting on the path to cultivation, this age could be considered old. Most children would be admitted to a sect at the age of five or six, spending their whole life dedicating their time to attaining immortality. As for him, fate seemed to be playing pranks on him.

His family couldn’t be considered poor but they were commoners and times were trying. In the end, some children had to be abandoned. One was sent to a monastery, another one to the barracks, and he, the youngest of the bunch, was sent out to make his way to be admitted to a cultivation sect.

At first glance, it seemed like a good choice. The Jian Yi Sect wasn’t far away and who didn’t know about its splendor? If you became a disciple, you could also gain endless glory and live a good life. But all of that relied on being admitted in the first place.

Leng Jin Yu sighed, straightened up, and walked through the gates. That year, he hadn’t made it in time. A young child all alone, it was a wonder if they made it at all. In his case, he had gotten into trouble and despite arriving, he had missed the right time, the gates already having closed again. This time, things would be different.

Leng Jin Yu followed the path. In the distance, other people seeking a place in the sect could be seen. He didn’t hastily rush after them. In any case, the Jian Yi Sect was a premier sect and didn’t bother about playing games with the ones attempting to join them. No, doing that kind of thing was the mark of a second or maybe third-rank sect, those who loved to put on airs in front of the common people but were not considered to be all that much in the cultivation world.

He had asked around before coming here and the Jian Yi Sect’s admission wasn’t like that at all. They would check for your aptitude, then have a talk over a cup of tea. It really was an elegant way of admitting disciples. No wonder their reputation outside was stellar, no matter whether you asked common people or cultivators.

Behind him on the path, people were making a ruckus. Leng Jin Yu lightly glanced over his shoulder but it was just a bunch of children rushing ahead as if afraid to not make it in time.

Leng Jin Yu smiled lightly and stepped aside, waiting to let them pass. Anyway, he wasn’t in a hurry. After you came in, the Jian Yi Sect wouldn’t throw you out. Not until they hadn’t ascertained whether you were allowed to become a disciple or not. Since he knew and those children clearly didn’t, he didn’t mind letting them go first so they could put their worries to rest. As for him, he’d patiently wait his turn.

By the time Leng Jin Yu reached the square at the end of the path, those children had long been seated in the pavilions surrounding the square one by one. He stood to the side, his gaze drifting about.

On his way through the sect, he had looked around as well. What he had heard about the sect during his years on the road was true: It was a place of splendor indeed. But at the same time, it was also a quiet place.

Over the years, he had seen some of those smaller sects who were good at putting on an act but bad at keeping order to the matters inside. Their disciples would quarrel all day, whether that was among themselves or with the disciples of a neighboring sect. Witnessing this, he sometimes felt the need to ask whether they were indeed members of a cultivation sect. Looking at them, they sure didn’t seem that way.

The Jian Yi Sect was different though. He didn’t know if it was because the gates were currently open and they didn’t want to throw their face away, but right now, everything was peaceful. The disciples seemed to be getting along. Even if they didn’t, they should be more subtle about what they did to each other. All in all, this place didn’t seem too bad.

When that thought crossed his mind, he couldn’t help but smile wryly to himself. ‘Not too bad’. He was probably the only one who dared to think about one of the premier sects of the cultivation world like this.

To be honest, he also didn’t know what gave him the guts. Clearly, he came from nothing, he didn’t know his aptitude either. He should be humble and hope they would even spare him a glance. And yet, here he stood, such arrogance contained in his thoughts. He could count himself lucky that he didn’t have the habit of blurting out what he thought or he would have gotten himself killed a hundred times over in the last decade.

In one of the pavilions, a disciple in a white robe nodded and motioned for the child sitting opposite him to get up and follow one of the paths leading away from the square. He didn’t say anything and merely got up, motioning to Leng Jin Yu while he stood at the edge of the pavilion.

Leng Jin Yu might have been thinking to himself, but he was still paying some attention to his surroundings. Noticing the movement, he turned his gaze over there, and then walked toward the disciple, cupping his fists and bowing.

The disciple merely inclined his head and motioned at the table inside the pavilion. “Please.”

Leng Jin Yu took a seat and then glanced at the pot of tea and the two cups. One had clearly been exchanged but the other one should be the one the disciple had just used. Actually, come to think of it, sharing one cup with each of the candidates also wasn’t a small matter. By the end of the day, could the disciples still stand the smell of this tea?

The disciple noticed his gaze and poured a cup, giving him a faint smile. “You’re a little older than our usual applicants.”

Leng Jin Yu didn’t pick up the cup and instead looked up at the disciple who didn’t look much older than him. He had been traveling around enough to know this or that about cultivation.

If somebody reached the third level, they would stop aging. In a sect like the Jian Yi Sect, reaching the third level wasn’t difficult. The aptitude of the disciples was high, the conditions on the sect grounds some of the best this world had to offer. In fact, if not for the sect cultivating them deliberately slowly, most of them would be stuck in the bodies of twelve or thirteen-year-olds without exception. Even the disciple in front of him hardly looked older than him.

“I missed the admission the last time around.” He felt no pressure admitting to this. Many people came from far away to try their luck. On the road, a lot of things could happen. To be delayed until it was too late was nothing new.

Many would just go to another sect but it also wasn’t unheard of that somebody would try their luck again a decade later. Anyway, if you had been young enough the first time, you still wouldn’t be too old, even if you had inadvertently given yourself a handicap.

The disciple of the Jian Yi Sect merely nodded. “Well, those things happen. I hope that you didn’t run into any trouble this time around?”

Leng Jin Yu inclined his head. “No trouble, no.” Although, to be honest, somebody had tried to make trouble for him. He just happened to not be hot-headed. If there was a chance to solve matters peacefully, he would do so. If not … well, he also knew how to defend himself. Ten years on the road did that to a person.

The disciple nodded with satisfaction. The Jian Yi Sect usually kept to itself but they also felt that they had a responsibility to the people. If they heard from their applicants that somebody outside was making trouble, they would go and take care of it soon. To hear that nothing like that was the case was naturally a reason to be happy.

Having made sure of this point, the disciple focused on the candidate in front of him. “Coming twice to the same sect, you seem to have your heart set on the Jian Yi Sect.”

Leng Jin Yu kept quiet, his thoughts wandering back to the first time he had come here. Sinking into his memories for a moment, he finally sighed. “Originally, it was my parents who sent me here. It was not explicitly said but my options were to become a disciple of the Jian Yi Sect or find a way through life on my own.

“I missed the time so I found another way. It is not that I didn’t look at other sects but, in the end, it never seemed suitable. Now, ten years have passed. I was headed in this direction when I heard that the gates had been opened again so I figured it might be fate and came to try my luck.”

The disciple watched him and nodded. This kind of fate was something many children suffered. It couldn’t be changed. Still, it was good he had managed to survive. “Ten years outside all on your own, it must have been hard.”

“It was not easy. Especially at first. But as a child, even I could sell meng.” He smiled faintly, thinking back to that time. He had always preferred being able to live life honestly but when there were no tasks a five-year-old could do, then no, he wouldn’t feel a psychological shadow from blinking his eyes at a passing woman for some food.

Nowadays, he was too old for that. He hadn’t grown up to be a cute youth. He could be considered somewhat handsome with sword brows and thin lips but that was nothing outstanding. Cultivation refined the body so usually, cultivators had a good appearance. In a sect like the Jian Yi Sect, he would be nothing. In the outside world, he might still be worth a second glance but the older he got, the more difficult it was to just beg for help. He also had his pride, after all.

The disciple stared at his face in a daze. He had been manning this position for several years whenever the gates opened but this was the first time he had this kind of candidate in front of him. Admitting to something like this, was that the right way to a position in the sect? Wasn’t he afraid of being ridiculed?

Leng Jin Yu faintly tilted his head. “Please, don’t look at me like this. It was a decade ago and I had no skills to speak of. Rather than starving in the streets, it is better to take advantage of whatever you can. Since then, things have also changed. I am able to feed myself through my own hard work.”

The disciple slowly nodded. That was also true. What could a child that age do with nobody to take care of them? Many went on a crooked path, stealing to survive or getting involved with some unsavory figures, running errands, passing messages, spying, and finally becoming muscle for them when they were old enough. Begging for food by relying on your looks was hardly worse. No, instead, it could also be counted as being smart but having a bottom line. Actually, it wasn’t bad.

The disciple rubbed his forehead, wondering how they had arrived at this point. “Anyway, being older than the others, your starting point is lower. It might be difficult for you to adjust.”

Leng Jin Yu inclined his head. “I am willing to do my best. Also, I believe that an older age can be of advantage as well. Some things these children can’t do, I might have an easier time with.”

The disciple nodded again. At the very least, this youth should be tenacious. That could indeed be an advantage. “Well, your disposition seems suitable. Becoming a cultivator still relies on aptitude though. There is a simple way to test. Would you like to give it a try now?”

Leng Jin Yu nodded and stretched out his hand. At the disciple’s puzzled gaze, he motioned over to one of the other pavilions.

The disciple turned around and saw one of the others hand the child opposite him a crystal. Watching this scene, he wanted to face-palm. Turning back to the youth opposite him, he cleared his throat. “Right, you were waiting for a while.”

Leng Jin Yu smiled and inclined his head. Actually, he had known beforehand but it didn’t seem kind to say that so he kept quiet.

The disciple also took out a spiritual crystal. Even though this candidate had already known the general procedure, he still had to explain the specifics, right? Thinking of that, he felt better. “This is a spiritual crystal or rather an orb made from them. Usually, spiritual crystals are harvested from places that are high in spiritual energy — that is, the elements our world consists of — and they will contain the energy of the place they stem from.

“There is a technique to combine several of them into one, resulting in an orb such as this. As long as it is touched by a trace of spiritual energy, it will light up in the colors corresponding to that energy. Thus, by holding this orb, we can see what type of spirit veins you have.”

Leng Jin Yu nodded again and carefully took the crystal from the disciple, holding it in his palm.

This kind of object was quite convenient. Immediately after touching, lights began to swirl inside.

Leng Jin Yu had a rough understanding of cultivation, even though he hadn’t managed to do it himself yet. The fewer elements you could use, the better because that would advance your speed to reach the top. Especially in the beginning stages of cultivation, that was important because only when you finally stopped aging did you have a chance to reach immortality.

Looking at the orb, he quietly counted. One, two, three, four, five, six … His lips couldn’t help but twist into a wry smile. It seemed his luck wasn’t good. Out of the six possible spirit veins necessary to control the elements, he had all of them.

The disciple saw his expression and sighed. “It seems you know already.”

Leng Jin Yu gave a hum and handed the crystal orb back. “It seems I was not meant to become a cultivator here after all.” Still, even though he said this, he was reluctant to give up. He had waited ten years to finally come here. It was nice to know his aptitude but it wouldn’t get him any further.

Cultivating wasn’t easy. You needed some kind of guidance to make it far. Even taking in spiritual energy wasn’t something you could casually do just because you found out it existed and had the corresponding spirit veins. No, if he wanted to become a cultivator, he needed more than that.

Looking at the disciple, Leng Jin Yu put his smile away and turned solemn. “I assume the Jian Yi Sect doesn’t take disciples with this kind of aptitude?”

The disciple shook his head. “I’m afraid not. You’d need to have three spirit veins at most. I’m sorry. I’m afraid your time with our sect will have to end here.” He gave him an apologetic look.

Usually, they tested aptitude first to prevent exactly this kind of situation from occurring. But he had figured that with a candidate this old, it would be best to first get a grasp of his personality. After all, they still wouldn’t take him in if there was a problem on that front. And if the disciple in question knew that the aptitude was there but they were thrown out just based on the impression they had left the other person with, they were prone to making trouble.

He had wanted to ensure that that wouldn’t happen. Now, he had caused unnecessary pain with that decision. He really felt sorry about it.

Leng Jin Yu had pulled back his hand and kept quiet for a moment before looking back up at the disciple. “I can not become a cultivator but if I remember correctly, your Jian Yi Sect also takes in practitioners. I know my way around the sword a little. Maybe you would be willing to have a look?”

Anyway, he had waited ten years for this day. Maybe he was needlessly stubborn but he felt that he couldn’t go back without trying everything. If he still couldn’t be accepted even after that, then he would give up and just follow his own path.

The disciple looked at him, not sure what to do. They indeed took in practitioners but that path wasn’t any easier than becoming a cultivator. Many regarded it as their second choice and it seemed it was the same for the youth in front of him. He was afraid that even if he sent him over there to give it a go, he wouldn’t make it.

Leng Jin Yu saw his gaze and realized that he was right. He smiled and picked up the cup, raising it. “I am making things difficult for you. I’ll drink a cup in punishment.”

The disciple wanted to stop him but it was already too late. In the end, he could only sigh. He picked up his own cup and shook his head. “It’s my own fault for not making things clear from the beginning.

“Either way, if you insist on trying, I won’t say no. Just keep in mind that the number of people that are actually accepted to become disciples on the side of the practitioners is even fewer than the cultivators. I can’t tell you everything about that side but there is also aptitude involved in that. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they will take you just because you’ve held a sword before.”

Leng Jin Yu nodded with a smile. “I did not expect them to.” If they did, he would wonder if he had read the plaque next to the gate wrong.

The disciple sighed in relief that his expectations didn’t seem to be as high as the sky and motioned to a path leading deeper into the sect. “Well, it’s good that you know. You can go and follow that path over there. It leads to the Yi square deeper in the sect. That is the place where the practitioners are admitted.” He watched as Leng Jin Yu stood up and got to his feet as well. “Good luck.”

Leng Jin Yu inclined his head and then cupped his fists. “May we see each other again.” Then, he stepped out of the pavilion without another look and strode down the path to the Yi square, ready to face the next hurdle.

This time, he didn’t walk down the path as leisurely as before. He still had no time limit, yes, but it wasn’t like news didn’t travel inside a sect.

Even though he had never been a disciple, he had stopped at different sects for a day or two several times throughout the years. He might not have had the opportunity to observe them closely but it had been enough time to grasp some things. This was one of them: Nothing stayed hidden in a cultivation sect for long. If something happened on one side, then soon enough, the other side of the sect would be aware as well.

If this was true for the smaller sects, the Jian Yi Sect should be even more like that. After all, accurate information was vital. That was why the better sects tried to suppress rumors and would take the time to investigate any problems that occurred thoroughly.

Somebody who was older than the regular candidate wanting to become a practitioner because he had low aptitude as a cultivator was the kind of thing that would surely be passed on. Especially so since not many people would come to apply as a practitioner.

Maybe there weren’t even disciples to check at the Yi square and they would only be called over when somebody asked to go there. That would explain why it was a square further inside the sect instead of another one closer to the gate. Either way, he didn’t want to arrive there only to be met with somebody who had heard a rather unfavorable story about him so it would do him well not to tarry.

Soon enough, Leng Jin Yu could see the details of the Yi square. It looked different from the one he had just left, without a single pavilion in sight. Instead, this could at most be called a paved circle at the intersection of three paths. As for why he would be sent there … he had a rough guess.

Just as Leng Jin Yu had expected, there was no disciple to take a test. Somebody was walking toward the square from another direction though, the white robe flowing with each step. Looking at this figure, Leng Jin Yu really wanted to sigh.

Cultivators and practitioners, no matter how you looked at them, they sure were different from people like him and other common folk. They had this air of sophistication about them. At the very least, the good ones had. He had also had the unfortunate bad luck to meet the other kind but he really didn’t want to think about that while at the Jian Yi Sect.

By the time Leng Jin Yu arrived at the Yi square, the other person was long standing in the middle.

It turned out to be a man who looked to be in his early thirties with somewhat rough features and fierce eyes. He really couldn’t be compared with that gentle and refined disciple at the pavilion but he did fit the image of a practitioner.

Leng Jin Yu stopped at the edge of the square, once again cupped his fists, and bowed. “My name is Leng Jin Yu. I was told to come here if I wanted to try my luck at learning to become a practitioner at the Jian Yi Sect.”

The man looked at him while he gave a low hum. “Why do you want to become a practitioner? Missing the aptitude to try cultivation?”

Leng Jin Yu looked right back, wondering if news really traveled this fast or if that had just been a blind guess. After a moment, he gave a hum as well and then nodded. “Indeed.”

The man stared blankly, then opened his lips to say something but no words came out. In the end, he huffed. “What is making you say that?! Aren’t you afraid I will kick you out immediately?”

Leng Jin Yu lowered his hands, not feeling worried. “I presume that wouldn’t fit the image of the Jian Yi Sect so even if I am told to leave, it will only be done with words. As for why I would say that, it is simply because it is the truth. I went to have my aptitude checked before. I could become a cultivator but my aptitude is too low to do so at the Jian Yi Sect. If you go and ask, you will certainly be told. What use is there in lying?”

Listening to his words, the man finally gave him a longer look as if pondering something.

Leng Jin Yu let him. In any case, he had nothing to hide. Yes, he had come to ask to be tested as a cultivator but he didn’t see any fault in that. Why would one not explore all possibilities?

The man hummed again. “You are not wrong with what you said. Still, you do realize that it makes you look bad to not have come here immediately? Why would I want to take somebody in who doesn’t have his heart set on the sword arts?” He paused for a moment, his brows furrowing. “You are looking to learn sword arts, aren’t you?”

Anyway, practitioners could also learn all kinds of things. He had assumed he wanted to learn the sword because he had been asked to come here to have a look but then again, who knew if it hadn’t been a misunderstanding?

Leng Jin Yu nodded though. “That is indeed what I want to do.” He lowered his gaze, thinking for a moment. Of course, his first impression here wasn’t the best. But not all was lost yet. He could make it. He just had to give it his best shot. “As for why you should want to take me in … I can’t say.”

The man raised his brows, not quite believing his ears. “You don’t know?”

“Everyone has their own aspirations and convictions. I don’t know what you would expect of a person you’d be willing to take in. I only know that I am pursuing strength to protect what is important to me. Whether I do that by cultivating or practicing sword arts matters little to me. Both can lead to a similar result and neither is worse than the other.

“The Jian Yi Sect is the best place to pursue strength and it offers these two options. One is a dead-end to me but the other might still be viable so I am here to ask for a chance. Nothing more, nothing less. I have held a sword before and I have learned a few things, even though they likely mean nothing in the eyes of somebody from the Jian Yi Sect. Still, you lose nothing by just having me demonstrate once. You might as well just drink a cup of tea and bask in the sun while watching casually.”

The man gave a longer hum this time. “You’re not wrong. And I do like the conviction you speak with. Protecting what is important to you … that isn’t bad either. Very well, since you insist, then I’ll let you demonstrate once. Don’t bore me though! Give it your best shot.”

Leng Jin Yu nodded and unsheathed the sword he was carrying with him at all times. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. What he had learned … it likely could not be considered much in such a sect but he’d like to think it was still more than others knew who had never been formally educated in this regard. Anyway, he had tried hard and he would continue to do so.

Opening his eyes again, he started to demonstrate the one set of sword arts he knew. He had picked those up from a book he had found on a market once, half a decade ago. He had sacrificed the little money he had accumulated for it, not knowing whether it would pay off.

By now, he could say for sure that those coins had been well-invested. Even if the Jian Yi Sect didn’t want him, he could at least protect his life from those base bandits in the countryside or make a living. It wasn’t what he wished to do with his life but it would be better than nothing.

Feeling that no matter how this ended, he wouldn’t be at the end of his rope, Leng Jin Yu demonstrated every move with a calmness that not many could show when trying to gain entry into the sect. By the time the last movement was finished, he simply sheathed his sword and turned back around, cupping his fists with a bow.

The other man once again gave a hum but the anger he had felt before seemed to have been extinguished. “Well, not too bad. Of course, you are right that this won’t be enough for our Jian Yi Sect. Who taught you?”

Leng Jin Yu relaxed further when he heard that question. It seemed that indeed not everything was lost. “I taught myself.” He pulled out the book from his lapel and handed it over. “I found this a few years ago. I don’t know where it originally came from but that was what I used.”

The man leafed through it and finally nodded. “Not bad indeed. Not everyone can teach themselves just by following some drawings. Alright then. I see you have the spirit and some aptitude. If you put your mind to it, we can probably make a decent practitioner out of you. Even if you can’t be among the best, in a sect like the Jian Yi Sect, being in the middle field is also nothing to scoff at.”

Leng Jin Yu inclined his head but inwardly, he couldn’t help but sigh. Actually … he really liked being the best. If his aptitude wasn’t enough to make it, maybe he should invest more time into his training. He surely didn’t want to lack behind.

The man reached out and patted his shoulder. “Well then, let’s go and find a place for you to stay. You can familiarize yourself with the surroundings first and tomorrow, we’ll start with your training right away at dawn.”

Leng Jin Yu nodded again. “Very well.” He had nothing against that. While he was eager to learn, it was also said that haste made waste. He shouldn’t blindly rush into matters. At a new place, there was a lot to learn and not just in terms of what he had come here to learn but also about the sect itself and the people being part of it. He should indeed find out more about those matters before he put his mind to other things.

The man gave a hum and then turned around, walking back the path he had originally come from. “You’ll manage to fit in, I think. If there are any problems with the others, well, everything will solve itself in time. Right, let’s go to my place first. You can make me a cup of tea.”

Leng Jin Yu gave the man a sideways glance. “A cup of tea?” He paused but then couldn’t help but clarify. “Is that a regular cup of tea or … the kind that I would use to ask you to acknowledge me as your disciple?” Blame him for not inquiring about this person’s status in the sect before. Whether it was cultivators or practitioners, you really couldn’t see their age. Now, it seemed that this person wasn’t just a regular disciple but one of the Elders instead. It really made him wonder if his manners had been lacking before.

The Elder gave a faint huff that almost sounded like a chuckle. “What? Do you not want me as your Master? I will let you know: I, Tao Wei Fen, am one of the best practitioners the Jian Yi Sect has to offer in my generation. In fact, if I was to say I am second, nobody would dare to claim to be first! That kind of person, you don’t want to acknowledge as your Master?”

Leng Jin Yu smiled faintly. “That kind of Master, how could I bear to reject him? Since you are willing, then it is my honor.” He paused in his steps, cupped his fists, and bowed once again. Then, he followed Elder Tao deeper into the sect grounds of the Jian Yi Sect.

He couldn’t help but quietly think to himself that this kind of awesome Master … had been gotten quite cheaply. Either this Elder was tooting his own horn or his display of his sword skills had been better than expected. He didn’t know which one it was but he sure hoped for his own sake that it was the latter.

Maybe then, even in the Jian Yi Sect, he could still make it far and gain the strength he was seeking. Even though … even though he didn’t know what for because as of now, there was nothing important enough for him to want to protect it. But he would not give up hope to find that which should be protected and when the day arrived, he would be prepared.

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