Chapter 1: Befuddled by Love
Energy is the essence of all life.
Energy arts are the means by which to cultivate the essence of life.
Reaching the peak of cultivation brings a host of fantastic and amazing abilities.
Energy arts experts could break walls with their hands, hear sounds as quiet as the footsteps of an ant, walk on water, breathe fire, become impervious to all sorts of weapons, fuse their energy with the clouds, sustain themselves by absorbing energy instead of eating food, and even track enemies by locking down onto their souls….
Rich-Lush Continent. Yanhaven. 
It was a populous and affluent place; despite it being nighttime, streams of horses and carriages could be seen on the streets, and the city was bathed with bright lamplight.
It was midsummer, and dark clouds filled the night sky. The muffled rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance, and from the dense humidity in the air, it seemed rain would begin to fall soon.
In a relatively remote corner of the city, the ground suddenly shuddered, and then a hole exploded into being.
A young man leapt out of the hole, as agile as a cat. He appeared to be about seventeen or eighteen years of age, was dressed head to toe in black clothing, and was carrying an exquisitely crafted box.
This young man was Yang Qi who, like many others, cultivated energy arts.  
He was a young master from the Yang Clan, an aristocratic clan from Yanhaven. He was also relatively famous within the city as a powerful master of energy arts. He wasn’t very old and wasn’t necessarily tall and well-built. But from his every move and action, it was obvious the mysterious energy flowing through him was ready to erupt out at any moment.
As he stood there at the edge of the hole, he circulated his energy, and intense rumbling sounds could be heard, shocking to the extreme.
« I guess it won’t be long before I reach the fifth phase of energy arts, the Energy Eruption level. Then I’ll be able to cast my true energy outside of my body. That will make me a real expert! My progress will be incredible! » 
He glanced back at the towering city wall, looking very pleased at having circumvented it the way he did. Then he blurred into motion, disappearing like a black panther into the dark forest surrounding the city.
Yang Qi had long since cultivated his energy arts to the fourth phase, the Energy Refinement level.
On the Rich-Lush Continent, experts who cultivated energy arts divided them into nine phases.
First was Energy Growth, in which one built up energy in the body.
Second was Energy Circulation, in which one sent vital energy flowing through one’s meridian channels.
Third was Energy Convergence when the vital energy was gathered in a central location, the sea of energy.
Fourth was Energy Refinement, in which the gathered vital energy was refined and purified.
Fifth was Energy Eruption. In that phase, one could use energy arts externally to harm enemies.
The first four phases —Absorption, Circulation, Convergence, and Refinement— were all internal, and although they could be used to strengthen one’s body, did little else. Upon reaching the fifth phase, Energy Eruption, one’s body was completely transformed, making it possible to unleash energy arts in combat.
Only upon reaching the Energy Eruption level, could one be considered to be a truly powerful expert.
Thus, the fifth phase was considered a major watershed point in the cultivation of energy arts.
In that level, it was possible to unleash the Hundred Paces Divine Fist, a technique that could inflict damage a hundred paces away, even to the point of shattering trees. Such battle prowess was so extraordinary that one person who wielded it could defeat a hundred who could not.
The sixth phase was called the Energy Weapon level, in which one could use energy to form corporeal weapons.
The seventh level was the Energy Manifestation level. In that phase, energy arts could be used to summon ferocious beasts or wings that could send one flying through the sky.
The eighth phase, Energy Incarnation, led to an ability called Mind Incarnation, in which the practitioner could create a defensive energy barrier of nearly impenetrable strength.
The ninth phase was called the Master of Energy level. Unfortunately, Yang Qi was very unlikely to ever become such a grandmaster of energy arts.
According to the rumors, experts in the Master of Energy level could eventually seize life from the heavens and thus reach the Lifeseizing level. Lifeseizers essentially experienced a rebirth and would acquire a lifespan multiple times longer than ordinary energy arts practitioners. Yang Qi had never even seen a person like that.
After running through the forest for a short time, Yang Qi caught sight of a young woman in an azure garment, standing there proudly, her back to him.
« Lan’er! » he called out. « I got the Latent Dragon Pill! It wasn’t easy, but thanks to my connections in the city, I managed to get into the city magistrate’s mansion, break into his treasure-house, and steal the pill! »
Looking excitedly at the young woman, he held out the crafted box he had been carrying this entire time.
The young woman turned, revealing a spectacularly beautiful face.
« So, Yang Qi, you finally succeeded. » Reaching out with fingers as beautiful as ivory, she said, « Hand it over so I can take a look. »
« Alright. » Without the slightest hesitation, Yang Qi handed the box to the young woman.
She took it, then opened it to reveal a fiery-red medicinal pill. A medicinal aroma immediately filled the area, and the pill itself seemed to flicker as if with flames, casting red light onto the young woman’s face, making her look even more attractive than before.
« Okay, Lan’er, » Yang Qi said. « I got you the Latent Dragon Pill. Now we can run off together as you promised, right? Come on, let’s get going. »
« I’m sorry, Yang Qi, » she said, tucking the box away into her garment. Looking at him coldly, she continued, « I have an important matter to attend to, so I won’t be running off with you. In fact, don’t ever bring up the subject again. »
Her words struck him like a lightning bolt falling from blue skies.
Staggering backward a few paces, his face draining of blood, he said, « Lan’er, I put myself in great danger for you! I stole a Latent Dragon Pill from the city magistrate’s mansion, all because you said we would run off together. Now you’re changing your mind? Why? Why would you do something like this? »
Suddenly, a voice sounded out, « How about I explain? » A moment later, a figure emerged from the darkness of the forest. He was a handsome young man, tall and strapping, clad in a suit of armor. From the way he looked down his nose at Yang Qi, it was obvious how much of an arrogant and haughty person he was.
« Do you really think that Lan’er, a stunning princess of Yundale-by-the-Sea, would care about a little punk from the Yang Clan? Your clan might be important in Yanhaven, but let me tell you this: Not even the princes of Yanhaven would think of trying to pursue Lan’er. She used you! Understand, you naive fool? Do you know the saying about the ugly toad lusting after the swan? That’s you! » 
« Is all this true, Lan’er? » Yang Qi asked, his face ashen, but still holding onto whatever faint scraps of hope still existed in his heart.
However, the next thing Lan’er said crushed that hope out of existence.
Face incomparably cold, she said, « It’s true, Yang Qi. I used you to get the Latent Dragon Pill. That having been said, I don’t want to hurt you, so why don’t you just leave. »
« You…. » Yang Qi was trembling, and his hands and feet were already as cold as ice. « How could you be like this, Lan’er? Go? Where am I supposed to go to? I stole a Latent Dragon Pill! I can’t go back home, and the guards from Yanhaven are probably already chasing after me. How about you at least give the Latent Dragon Pill back to me, and we call it even? »
The young man in the armor laughed coldly. « Give it back to you? Quit dreaming, punk. Who in their right mind would spit their meat out after taking a bite? Beat it. If you even think about stirring up trouble, I’ll make you regret it…. »
« You…. » Without any warning, Yang Qi suddenly exploded into action. As powerful as a tiger, and as lithe as a snake, he lunged at the armored young man, his hands swinging through the air with axe-like viciousness.
« Corpse-Chomping White Tiger! » he shouted, immediately resorting to a deadly energy art move unique to the Yang Clan. At its highest level, this energy art could be used to summon an enormous white tiger, fiendish to the extreme and strong enough to reduce any enemy to nothing more than a corpse. Of course, Yang Qi was far from being able to use it in that way.
« Looking to die? » the armored young man said, his eyes flickering with scorn.
A transparent wave of energy shot out from his hand, slamming into Yang Qi. Before he could even fully execute his Corpse-Chomping White Tiger, he was slammed into the ground, where he vomited up a mouthful of blood.
Eyes shining with shock, he looked up and said, « You’re in the fifth phase of energy arts, the Energy Eruption level…. »
« That’s right, » the armored young man replied. « To me, you’re like nothing more than an ant. « Corpse-Chomping White Tiger is a deadly move, but when you use it, you look like a kid play-fighting with his friends. »
Yang Qi struggled to his feet. Eyes flickering with hatred, he said, « Who are you…? »
« I’m Song Haishan, Lan’er’s older cousin. Only a few days ago, she was accepted to be an advanced disciple in the number one organization in Rich-Lush Continent, the Demi-Immortal Institute. Do you know how important that makes her? Do you really think you have any hope of getting close to her? Wait… did you ask who I was because you think you’re going to come after me for revenge? Hm. As the saying goes, if you cut the grass but not the root, it will grow again when the spring breeze blows. I guess letting you go free isn’t really an option. » 
Even as the words were leaving his mouth, Song Haishan’s energy began to build up inside of him.
« So, » Yang Qi growled, « you’re the one they call the best of the best in Yundale-by-the-Sea. Well, I’m still going to kill you. And as for you, Yun Hailan, you lied to me, and I swear that one day, I’m going to pay you back for that. » 
« Seems leaving you alive is definitely the wrong thing to do…. » Song Haishan growled, preparing to take action.
« Enough, cousin, » Yun Hailan said, reaching out to block his path. Then she looked in the direction of Yanhaven. « The guards are already on their way. There’s no reason to kill him. Come on, let’s go…. » With that, she vanished into the night, leaving behind a single sentence. « After I’m a disciple at the Demi-Immortal Institute, Yang Qi, I’ll make this up to you. »
Song Haishan looked at Yang Qi with a sneer. « Hmph. Looks like you get to live a bit longer, punk. Lan’er doesn’t want you dead because she doesn’t want your blood on her hands. Fine. But the city magistrate of Yanhaven isn’t going to let you off the hook. So you won’t be alive for much longer regardless. »
Chuckling in a sinister fashion, he turned to follow Yun Hailan.
« Yun Hailan…. » Yang Qi murmured. Spitting out some blood, he looked in the direction into which she and Song Haishan had just vanished, fully aware that they were far superior to him in terms of energy arts.
Suddenly, he thought back to everything that had led up to this point. In the course of helping with the clan business, he had encountered Yun Hailan, whom he had fallen for at first sight. She treated him with tenderness and compassion for a time, whereupon she asked for his help to get the Latent Dragon Pill. He had pondered the matter for some time before making his decision. And now, here he was.
As he stood there, he circulated his energy arts and tried to decide what to do. He knew that the city guards of Yanhaven were coming for him. He had brought humiliation to his clan, and would surely be severely punished if he were caught.
As he was trying to recover, he suddenly heard voices. And then, only a moment later, several figures appeared in front of him.
One of them was a man wearing a suit of cold-forged iron armor that weighed no less than a hundred pounds, making him look like a vicious beast. As soon as Yang Qi saw that armored man, his heart sank into despair.
He was Luo Hun, one of the special guards from the city magistrate’s mansion, a brutal and fierce man whose cultivation had long since surpassed the Energy Eruption level. 
« Hand over the Latent Dragon Pill you stole, Yang Qi. If you do, I’ll spare your life…. »
Luo Hun’s eyes glittered like an animal’s, not a human’s, and his cold-forged iron armor radiated a powerful killing aura. Not waiting for a response, he stepped forward and struck Yang Qi’s dantian region with a palm strike, aiming directly at his sea of energy.
Yet again, blood sprayed out of Yang Qi’s mouth as the energy arts he had cultivated from the age of five to eighteen were crippled.
« You… crippled my energy arts…? » A look of complete despair overtook his face. With the sea of energy in his dantian region destroyed, it would be impossible for him to converge energy. Henceforth, he would be doomed to be nothing more than an ordinary person.
« You had the audacity to steal a Latent Dragon Pill, » Luo Hun said coldly. « Crippling your energy arts is actually letting you off a bit lightly. Because you’re a young master of the Yang Clan, and also for the sake of your aunt, I won’t put you to death immediately. Men, tie him up against that tree. I’m going back to the city to report to the magistrate and get new orders. Stay here and preserve the scene of the crime. I’ll have some people from the Yang Clan come out to take a look at the situation. »
« Yes sir, » replied the other special guards. Without any hesitation, they tied Yang Qi up against a nearby tree and then began to patrol the area.
As for Luo Hun, it didn’t matter that he was wearing a suit of cold-forged iron armor that weighed over a hundred pounds. He sped into motion like a bird taking flight, heading directly back toward Yanhaven.
Around then, numerous bolts of lightning began to crackle in the dark sky above. The rain that had been brewing all this time seemed to have reached a boiling point, and began to fall, joined by the lightning, which looked like silver snakes lashing at the ground.
« This rain is really heavy, » said one of the guards, looking up nervously. « And what’s with all the lightning? »
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning smashed into a distant tree, causing it to burst into flame despite the heavy rain. The sight of so much lightning falling within the rain was truly a frightening sight.
Looking completely frightened, another guard said, « This lightning really seems strange. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve heard that not even people in the Master of Energy level can survive being struck by heavenly lightning like this. If we stay in this forest, we’re going to get killed! Let’s get out of here! »
« What about this little punk? »
« Don’t worry, his martial arts have been crippled. Besides, he’s all tied up. How could he possibly escape? Flying? »
Shivering in fear, the guards turned and fled.
However, even as they made their way out of the trees, a brilliantly shining bolt of lightning fell into the forest and smashed into the tree upon which Yang Qi had been bound.
Instantly, Yang Qi’s entire body filled with glittering electricity. Then, the smell of burning flesh filled the air.