First Step (1/?)
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'It's finally happening.'

Awestruck Mana stood at the entrance of the most prestigious sect of S-City. His toes curled within his sneakers as his grasp over the strap hanging his bag through his right shoulder tightened. 

Serene Heart Sect. 

The letters on the large, metallic gate mounted to the far-reaching wall tracing the sheer size of the sect, proclaimed. Mana could feel it, the pride behind the words, and the emotions carried out from the founding of the sect to the present. This sect was unlike any other. Instead of providing outer and inner courses like the other's, this establishment only taught core level subjects. The fact that Mana earned a discipleship in such a prestigious sect voided the necessary fees. 

'As long as my results are satisfactory.' He reminded himself. 

The guardsman, a mustached middle-aged man with khaki uniform over his pudgy body, greeted the students and checked everyone's I.D. before letting them enter. A shotgun, probably fuelled with qi, at least, that's what Mana believed as he glanced towards the pattern on the handle, belted over the man's shoulder that swayed every time he moved. The dipped hat on top of his head could only give the man a limited professional look if he doesn't stop ogling the female disciples entering the gate. They are beautiful. No doubt, the wide hips stretching the tight dresses and denim attracted Mana, but his focus couldn't be broken by covered asses. At least, if it isn't covered by a pencil skirt. 

'Okay, cool down. They are hot, oh boy, need to control the rise of the bone hero.' Mana muttered. 

It was a good thing that Mana wasn't blocking the entrance. He didn't wish to look like a country bumpkin. He wasn't a country bumpkin. But Serene Heart Sect is reputable even from the location of his origin. 

Tracing the I.D. card in his left pocket, Mana eased his breathing and strode towards the gate. His steps were... casual. He tried. His gaze caught a few pairs of asses of interest but none in a tight skirt yet.  

'Well, that's what teachers are for.' Assuring himself, Mana displayed his identity card and pocketed it quickly like the majority of students. 'I'll be damned if the cameras improved enough to snap a good one for Id cards. I look like a white dick... with hair on the tip. Seriously, those passionate Inscriptionists with a thing for wildlife photography can snap better pics than the so-called professionals.'

Mana made his way through the petal-like cobblestoned pathway. The path was split by a circular garden with the sculpture of an old, hunched figure carved out of luminous steel erected in the middle of the garden. Few kids, like Mana, studied the figure. Surprisingly, some disciples, older and cooler, flipped off the statue.  

Ron Cobble.  

123 BD - 3 AD 

Cultivation - Dao Seed. 

A beloved father, husband, and master.  

'Wait, so this guy became a father before a husband? It must've been great. Back then.'

Mana raised an eyebrow before walking around the path. The majority of students filled the notice board outside the main building and Mana followed. He needed to know the hall where he would spend his first semester. Well, the majority of his semester. Practical classes changed in avenues quite frequently, or so he had heard. Teens clustered around the board and continued to search for their names. It was a quick process but the number of students seemed to be never-ending. Finding his name on the Inscriptionist group, Mana retreated from the crowd and nailed down a bearded student.

"Hello, um, can you help me find the Inscriptionist Wing?" 

Mana greeted politely, offering his hand as the man shook it casually and adjusted his glasses. He was slightly fat, and unlike Mana who only wore a half-sleeved t-shirt, the man sported a combination of an open shirt over his t-shirt.

'Damn, I should try this style'. Mana noted. 

"First-year?" 

The man inquired with a hint of amusement swimming in his beady eyes. 

"Uh, yea. And you are?" 

"Third." The man grinned. 

"I'll take you to your wing, don't worry."

Kindly smiling, the man snapped his finger and all the newbies covering the board felt their bodies out of their controls. Mana felt strange as his hands were tilted unnaturally. He had just taken his hand back after all. 

"Brij, you'll bring the remaining ones. I am taking away the first group." 

The man called out to an ordinary-looking man, who gave a playful salute as the round-man turned on his heels and strangely, all the students, including Mana, followed him.

Realization struck Mana as his throat dried at a great pace and he found himself excited, just like the round-man. 

"Is this... ragging?" 

He inquired as his speech wasn't locked away by the kind senior. 

"You got that right. Be sure to prepare an introduction for yourself, everyone. Oh," The man looked over his shoulder with a genuine smile, "Almost forgot. Welcome to the sect. Be sure to enjoy every experience... especially, this one." 

***

From what Mana had learned through the prospectus of the sect, he should have been able to find the Inscriptionist Wing on his own. 'But... I would have missed this.'

There are few events that can truly make a cultivator treasure his sect life. Ragging during the core stage of their studies is one of them. 

'Ah, It's the first time I am seeing a redhead. Is she natural? Oh, girls are allowed to wear shredded denim too? Look at that rack. Is she already a part of somebody's harem? I definitely have to strike quick. Good thing I stole a lot from that insufferable, toxic hag. Screw legacy, I just wanna suck on dem titties.'

Mana's eyes darted around, furtively glancing at the most beautiful girls present. He deflated slightly. After all, not a single demon-kin graced the stage. 'Or maybe, they are just hiding their traits.' 

Right now, the group of first-year disciples was brought to a barren corner of the sect. A large number of third and second-year core disciples surrounded them as two students stood ahead, acting as leaders. 

'I need to join the gym asap.' Mana muttered as he looked at the two students ahead of their group. One wore a turban and sported a t-shirt with a shredded biceps while the other one looked... well, rich. From his Wukong branded shoes to distortion wristwatch.  

'Man, I should have taken some Artefacts too.'  

Mana lamented as the round-man snapped his finger and broke the control over the first years.  

"Welcome! I am the Sect's President. You can call me Big Mac." 

'Need a cool Dao name too. Probably, Big Kok. Wait, too cheesy. Big Did? Big Dip is already taken, quite infamous at that.' 

Before the crowned president could continue, a youth pushed Mana away and roared, "I challenge Disciple Big Mac! I, Limp Tiger, want your title as the president, eeeee—" the youth's voice turned squeaky sharp. The youth's eyes widened as Big Mac smiled. He flexed his watch with a shake of his wrist. 

"Limp Tiger... peculiar name. Well, this is just a play on increasing the helium in the air." Even Big Mac's voice turned sharp as the surrounding disciples chuckled. Everyone's voice turned eerily 'quirky' but none took offense.

"No point in meaningless banters. Every one of you will step forward one by one, introduce yourself, and select the person you want to take the task from. Remember, this is your first step. Okay, you, hotshot. Let's start with you." 

"Well, I don't know about being a hotshot..." Mana stepped forward while rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. 'Yeah, I can kiss a harem goodbye. Never trained to be a speaker, after all.' 

"But... I would like her to give me a task." 

Mana pointed at the slightly controversial looking girl, with a modest figure, short black hair, and the most distinctive feature of hers that attracted Mana in the first place— emerald-like eyes. 'At least, she doesn't look that intimidating. Boobs are good but it takes a real pair to even speak up to the owner. Except for the hag.'  

***  

'Did he scoff at my figure?' 

A frown snuck past Lilia's features as she crossed her arm. The crowd around her stepped back slightly. She looked controversial. No doubt. A metal-blood top with a pierced navel and black denim sticking close to her slightly curvaceous hips that screams not innocent to anyone. 

Regarding the silly first-year youth, Lilia reconsidered. It may be a misunderstanding? It could be, right? Or else, why would a similarly green-eyed youth select her if not to request support at such a moment. 

'Should I give an easy task then? No, Big Mac and Big Fudge would make a scene. Hmmm... wait, why should I go easy while ragging? Sorry, my green-eyed junior.'

Lilia smiled, an action quite uncharacteristic in the eyes of other second-year students. Some of the tormented female disciples shuddered and averted their gazes.

"Sing for us," Lilia stated. Before Big Mac could interject, Lilia smiled with a mischievous glimmer on her expression, "on all fours."

"Noice." 

Big Fudge commented softly. He is a man with few words. But he never restricted praises to those deserving of it.

"All fours?"

The youth inquired softly. An awkward look on his face as Lilia nodded. "First, introduce yourself. Then, sing a song for all your seniors. On your fours, of course."

***  

That turned out way better than those poor bastards on the videos. Fuck, it's good that I am not going to sit on a poison porcupine. What song should I sing? Rava's Rap? Maybe a classic from the BD era? Nah, too cheesy. Metal and Blues are out of the question too. Adaption openings? Would that make me look like a geek? 

While considering his options, Mana's clutch over the strap of his bag turned firmer. "Mana Krien, pleased to make the acquaintance of all the seniors," looking over his shoulders, he addressed other kids too, "and my fellow first-year disciples." 

"That's it?" Big Mac jested, "Where's your spunk, junior? Man, you got to prove that you are different! It's your time to shine!" 

That's an awfully encouraging speech... for ragging. Noting Big Mac's enthusiasm, Mana thought seriously.  

"I can... juggle." Mana rubbed his hand earnestly as Lilia let out a stifled peal of giggle with her hand covering her mouth. 

So... elegant. 

"Juggle, he says," Big Mac sighed in disappointment as he waved his hand, "All right, just sing already." 

Nodding, Mana crouched low. His palms against the ground and his knees knelt and pushed against his chest. 

A kid's rhyme it is.

"A is for anarchy, this shit runs deep," Mana's first sentence instantly plunged the entire crowd to a stunning silence as he continued merrily, "B is for bonsai, that pretentious twerps keep♪" 

Big Fudge's lips twitched.

"C is for circumcision, ow, that isn't going to heal."

"D is for dog, a bitch I gotta fuc—" 

"Stop, stop, stop!" Big Mac yelled. Mana turned to look at him. 

"Junior, at least, sing the proper rhyme!" 

But this is what I am taught. Mana tilted his head. Circumcisions are painful, anarchy is complicated... 

"Here you are!"

A calm voice interrupted the session as Big Mac and Big Fudge paled. They instantly knelt down, alongside a few other disciples from their group as a sharply-dressed man— Blue shirt, toned black pants, Third Eye's spectacles, squeaky clean black python shoes— with equally sharp features glided down right in front of Mana. His green eyes swept past the disciples before focusing on the crouching Mana. 

"Is this a method of greeting your master that I am not aware of?" The green-eyed brethren inquired. 

"Woof!

Mana nodded with a smile before touching the tip of his nose. Rolling his eyes, the man gestured towards Mana to get up while turning to face Big Mac and Big Fudge.  

"You two... have some shame, will you? It's already been five whole years. Get a grip. Your parents are paying for your future, not mine!" 

"Ah, yes, Teacher Forest Heart. We should leave." 

"And you!" Green Heart turned to Lilia, "You just embarrassed your elder brother's personal disciple. I hope you're proud of yourself."

Lilia barely hid her scowl as she turned on her heels and sauntered away. 

"... Master?" Mana probed, "Master Green Heart... um... may I complete my rhyme?" 

Green Heart turned to his disciple with his head throbbing. Never miss the morning coffee. Never.

"No, you may not." 

Big Mac and Big Fudge were already sweating bullets. 

"And your rhyme is completely incorrect. The first thing you'll learn here is proper rhymes. But that's for later. Now, all of you, off you go to your classes." 

Green Heart flew away. Truly, he is the hero that all the first-year students didn't deserve but needed severely. 

"Seniors, I will be leaving. I hope that we can hang out again. I have much to learn." 

Mana smiled and waved his hand towards the duo. All his hesitation and nervousness had been cleared off due to his seniors. How could he not wish to get close to them? 

"Sure, sure!" 

Big Mac relaxed once Green Heart left. Personal sponsored disciples weren't all that rare. However, to become a disciple to teachers like Green Heart was quite uncommon. The man had only accepted four disciples ever with each of them leaving a mark over the sect. 

Literal mark. 

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