Here is it guys; the April's Fool crossover collaboration!

I wrote this special, Xianxia parody chapter alongside a few other authors; in my case, this is a farewell to Vainqueur on Royal Road and Patreon, as it has now hit Kindle Unlimited. I hope you will enjoy this special chapter.

The Cast:Sifu-Sensei Vainquer Knightsbane, AKA Vainquer the Dragon

Story link: https://com/amazon/B081VRFXBM Author link: https://com/profile/107213

Fairy Thread Seeker, AKA Ariane the VampireStory link: https://com/fiction/26675/a-journey-of-black-and-red

Author link: https://com/profile/105290

Lady Quartermaster, AKA Catherine ‘Stray Cat’ LeblancStory link: https://com/fiction/33600/stray-cat-strut-stubbing-never-lol Author link: https://com/profile/147338


Fairy Elaine, AKA ElaineStory link: https://com/amazon/B08NWJMXXV

Voidy's Part

Yuren Jie stood before the temple’s gates with a heart full of pride.

At long last, he had made it to the top of Beast Mountain. The great jade gates of the entrance stood with the majesty of the heavens themselves. A great stairway of stone awaited him beyond it, alongside great buildings as old as time itself.

This. This was where Yuren would complete his formation and ascend to greatness.

Yuren Jie wasn’t special among would-be cultivators. He was simply young, handsome, incredibly talented, phenomenally lucky–hard work was for those who weren’t born winners, after all–and most importantly of all, about as modest as a peacock on a strut. He was a magnet for beautiful women, though of course, he remained above the influence. Girls led to romance, romance led drama, and drama led to work.


And real work was beneath Yuren, like the earth crawled beneath the sky.

No other sect was worthy of being graced with his immense talent. The Golden Order Sect had produced the greatest and most powerful cultivators in all of the Thousand Story Realms. He would soon put them all to shame.

And so, it was with great pride that he stepped inside the temple. He immediately sensed a warm power flow over him like water on a smooth rock; an energy filling his body with serenity and energy. It was as if all his exhaustion and doubts vanished in an instant.

He found himself entering a courtyard of well-tended grass and lotus flower ponds. A haven of peace… were it not for its occupants.

A bunch of disheveled men crawled on the ground with the grace of maggots.

“She just won’t stop firing at us…” a man rasped, his clothes full of holes and his eyes beset with fear. “Every day…”

“I can’t…” Another replied, while clearly in a fugue state of some kind. “Get back here, minion… get back here…”

Losers, Yuren thought. He knew cultivation wasn’t for everyone. Few possessed the willpower to claim their rightful place at the world’s apex. He didn’t look down on these failures, not really. They were just beneath his notice.

Thankfully, Yuren soon noticed an elder meditating near a pond; a great and powerful cultivator with a long white beard, plain silk robes, and wizened skin. The man turned his head at Yuren with eyes full of wisdom.

“Who are you?” he asked, his words carrying the weight of a mountain.

“I am Yuren Jie, aspiring master under the heavens,” Yuren introduced himself. “I have come to join the Golden Order Sect, greatest in the Thousand Story Realms.”

“You are in the wrong place,” the sage replied before returning to his meditation. “Get lost.”

The casual, sudden dismissal filled Yuren’s heart with anger and incomprehension. “Isn’t this Beast Mountain?” he protested in disbelief. “Then you should be in the Golden Order Sect!”

“No, we are the Golden Hoarder Sect now. With an H and an A. We used to be the Golden Order, but Dragon Sifu-Sensei insisted on the name change.” The sage shuddered. “Arguing with Dragon Sifu-Sensei leads us further away from enlightenment and closer to ignorance, so we accepted his wisdom with pain and humility.”

“Your sect’s name does not matter to me, only its power,” Yuren declared. How dare that old geezer not recognize his limitless potential? “I have to come to train and take my rightful place among the Immortals.”

“To join our Sect is to experience great suffering,” the elder replied without looking at Yuren. “You know not what one must endure to ascend.”

“I’m not afraid of anything, old man,” Yuren insisted. “I will pass any test I must.”

This time, the elder deigned to look at him again. But his eyes… His eyes were devoid of anger and pride. Instead they radiated compassion. A deep sense of pity, the kind one reserved to cancer patients or the most miserable of all creatures.

It took Yuren completely aback. “W-why do you look at me with such pitiful eyes?”

The elder shook his head with a deep sigh and a quiet look of resignation. He rose to his feet and then agreed to Yuren’s request. “Very well,” he said. “Dragon Sifu-Sensei will see to your initiation and put you through the Test of the Mind.”

A dragon? So the rumors were true, the Golden Ord–Hoarder Sect included a true dragon among its elders.

Yuren nodded sharply, and then followed the elder deeper into the temple. The noise of explosions coming from nearby courtyards rocked the structure, but Yuren paid more attention to the strange energy pervading the air. Was that a spell of some kind?

“You are now under the influence of Fairy Elaine’s healing power,” the Elder explained upon noticing his curiosity. “It shall heal your wounds, even the searing flames of Dragon Sifu-Sensei’s divine breath.”

Yuren had been begging to ask something. “Sifu-Sensei? Aren’t they the same thing?”

“You are not to question Dragon Sifu-Sensei’s logic,” the elder replied with the wisdom of the eon-old turtle. “You will hurt yourself and your wounded spirit will crawl away from enlightenment.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“There is no answer, only acceptance.”

That made no sense, but Yuren didn’t have time to wonder for long. The elder soon led him down great stairs wide enough for an army to climb and before great closed gates of gold dug into the very heart of the mountain. It would take two giants to open them.

“Dragon Sifu-Sensei awaits beyond these doors,” said the elder. “I must warn you that only the strongest of will can endure what awaits you.”

“Then I’m overqualified,” Yuren replied.

Once again, the elder sent him a gaze full of pity and compassion.

It started to wear on Yuren’s nerves. “Are you looking down on me, old man?”

The elder shook his head. With no more time to waste on this senile old fool, Yuren approached the golden doors and waited for them to open. They didn’t. He stood in place for five minutes, waiting for the gates to bow before his majesty, before noticing a smaller backdoor dug into the stone. He grumbled as he walked through it.

What awaited him on the other side nearly left him blinded.

Never before had he seen such a wealth of treasures gathered in a single place. A vault larger than an entire town stretched far and wide before his eyes. An ocean of gold glittering like the sun filled each and every corner under the weight of marble pillars.

And atop its greatest hill stood a dragon.

A great and mighty beast with crimson ruby scales, jet black wings, and claws longer and sharper than any spear. The beast’s fangs alone matched all of Yuren in length. The creature raised its immense and wise head upon sensing his approach, then looked at his visitor with eyes of shining gold.

Yuren immediately realized that something was wrong.

This looked like a dragon, felt like a dragon, but it wasn’t a Long. It had no fur, no deer horns, no mustache. Was it a rare form Yuren had never heard of?

“Who dares interrupt my slumber?” asked the dragon, his voice stronger than a thunderstorm, his words heavy with the force of a hurricane.

“I do, oh great dragon sifu-sensei,” Yuren replied upon bending the knee. “I am–”

“Insignifiant!” the dragon interrupted him with a grunt. “Call me Dragon Sifu-Sensei, if you wish to live.”

“I…” Yuren frowned in utter confusion. Had he offended the dragon somehow? “I just did.”

“You will call me Dragon Sifu-Sensei, capitalized. I can tell the difference.” The great dragon narrowed his eyes at Yuren, his tail sending waves of coins falling down his throne of treasures. “Are you a thief? I hope so. I haven’t had breakfast yet.”

“Far from it, Dragon Sifu-Sensei.” How did he… The letters felt right, but he couldn’t explain why. “I have come to study with the Golden Hoarder Sect.”

“Ah, excellent.” The dragon suddenly sounded pleased. He raised his mighty head and swaggered, his chest full of pride. “Then know that I, Vainqueur Knightsbane, First under the Heavens, Great Buddha of this Age, Master of the Golden Hoarder Path, and King of Beast Mountain, shall gladly accept your fee!”

Yuren squinted in confusion. “The fee?”

The dragon’s happy mood suddenly deflated. Yuren felt his blood run cold as the immense beast looked at him with unbearable suspicions.

“Your entrance fee,” the great dragon asked, smoke coming out of his nostrils.

Yuren had the impression of standing on thin ice. Or in this case, kneeling in front of a very large beast with a gullet of swirling fire.

“F-For the sect?” For the first time in his short life, Yuren found himself suddenly beset with dread. “There is an entrance fee?”

“Of course there is one! Do you think this place is a home for homeless cultivators?” The dragon rubbed his claws together. “You must pay the low, low price of ten thousand gold to join my sect.”

The price was so outrageous that Yuren forgot to be afraid. “Ten thousand? You can buy half a kingdom with that!”

“I do not like your tone, miserly poor disciple.” The dragon snorted fumes and raised his head so high it nearly hit the ceiling. “Did you expect the secrets of the universe to come cheap? That I, the greatest immortal under the heavens, would teach you the way of the Dragon Dao for free?”


“I am a dragon,” Vainqueur interrupted him sharply. “Your kind named its best techniques after me. Which one sounds better, Immortal Dragon Fist or Puny Ape Slap?”

Yuren opened his mouth to answer, but what could he say before such ironclad logic? The weight of his insignificance suddenly dawned upon him when faced with a creature large enough to swallow him in one bite.

“Come to think of it, I should charge you for cultural appropriation too,” Vainqueur muttered to himself. “Your species’ debt towards me keeps increasing.”

“I, uh…” Yuren gulped. The realization of his own poverty suffocated him. “I do not have… ten thousand gold…”

The dragon looked at him as if were lesser than a cockroach. It reminded Yuren of how he used to look on others, but magnified ten thousand times over. Like a noble king glaring at a pile of horse shit waiting to be squashed.

“Are these clothes all that you have?” he asked with a dangerous edge to his voice.

Yuren gulped and then nodded.

“Give me your shirt,” the dragon said. “Give it to me. Give it to me now.”

Yuren was too intimidated, too ashamed, to resist. He threw his shirt at the dragon’s hoard, keeping only his pants.

“Your debt has decreased to nine-thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand gold and nine silver,” the dragon declared with ludicrous precision. “To reward your dedication and humility, I shall accept you as an Emergency Food Disciple.”

Yuren didn’t like that title at all. “Why emergency?”

“Because everyone outside the sect is just food,” the dragon replied kindly. Yuren wisely didn’t push the subject further. “Emergency Food Disciple is the lowest rank in my Golden Hoarder sect. Then you have Minion Disciple, Minion Master, Princess, Virgin Princess, Catering Gourmet, and then Chief of Staff. And then there is me, Dragon Sifu-Sensei. Do you understand your place?”

Yuren opened his mouth to argue, when he suddenly noticed piles of ashes in a corner of the vault. Somehow, he had the intuition that they didn’t start out as firewood.

“I… I do, Dragon Sifu-Sensei.”

“Good,” Vainqueur replied. “Henceforth, you shall work for this sect for free until you repay your entrance fee. It should only take you five hundred years or so, factoring in the interests and the first class lodging accommodations.”

“Five hundred years?” Yuren choked. “But I won’t live that long!”

The dragon looked at Yuren with condescension. The young disciple suddenly remembered the entire reason why he even came to this place; and why it suddenly didn’t appear like a good thing anymore.

“Why do you think,” Vainqueur asked, “We dragons taught you humans how to become immortal?”

Yuren’s heart skipped a beat in his chest, his soul suddenly assaulted by the primal terror of the modern man. The ultimate technique which had brought countless aspiring masters low.

The Student Loan Debt Trap.

“We taught you immortality so you can work longer hours and make us richer. Time is money, and right now, you are wasting mine.” Vainqueur dismissively waved a claw at Yuren. “Return rich or not at all.”

Yuren found himself walking back to the exit before he realized what was happening. His mind, his pride, screamed at him to make a stand, but whenever he tried to straighten his spine, it crumbled back under the weight of his defeat.

“Loafer,” he heard the dragon complaining behind his back. “Another one who lives in his mother’s cave.”

Yuren closed the backdoor behind him, and found the Elder waiting for him.

He looked surprised to see the disciple alive at all.

“What just happened?” Yuren muttered to himself, his brain scrambled. He tried to find an explanation for this meeting and found none. None of this made sense.

“Dragon Sifu-Sensei was brought in as a treasurer, to better protect the sect’s funds from thieves,” the Elder explained. “Dragon Sifu-Sensei is so good at his job that he keeps the gold safe from us too. He only lends us one-one tenth of what we ask for.”

“One one tenth?” Yuren Jie did a quick calculation in his head. “Like a tenth of a tenth?”

“Hence why we ask for ten times of what we need each time.”

“But that’s still a tenth!” Yuren protested.

“Dragon Sifu-Sensei is bad at math, but you?” The elder looked into his eyes. “You will be worse.”

A terrible pain raced through Yuren’s skull, raw and sharp. Blood dripped down his nose and inside his lips. Then he sensed Fairy Elaine’s magic healing his head from whatever wound he suffered through.

“What is this?” Yuren asked upon touching his blood. “What is this?”

“You went through a brain aneurysm,” the elder explained. “By surviving a meeting with Dragon Sifu-Sensei, you have taken your first step towards enlightenment. Next is the Test of the Body.”

A chill traveled down Yuren’s spine.

Ascending to the heavens might prove a little harder than expected.

Mecanimus' Part

Yuren Jie walked the many peaks of the Golden Hoarder monastery, wondering what in all realms he had gotten himself into.

There were many manners of sects under heaven, from righteous to demonic, but none with a foreign dragon extorting new prospects. And that was but the first in a long series of surprises. Elders who ought to be overseeing mortal affairs, nodding gravely over cups of tea, ran around in a frenzy to pursue strange and outlandish philosophies.

“The fist of utilitarianism must be wielded for the happiness of the many, not the great happiness of the one!”

“That is not the nature of a cultivator!”

Masters and disciples wore uniforms in a wide variety of styles and colors. Students fought on the streets, exchanging insults and yet, none of them ever spat blood! It was as if some strange aura prevented them from being hurt internally and externally. In this place, one could lose nothing but their face. It was baffling. It was chaos.

The architecture as well defied the imagination. Most pavilions showed the harmony and beauty of the Thousand Story Realms, yet here and there, foreign contraptions ruined the effect like zits on the face of a jade-like beauty.

The test of the Body was to take place in the next peak, and when his eyes rested upon its massive flanks, Yuren Jie’s stomach dropped. Chimneys belched black smoke to the skies while the din of metal on metal strained the ears. As he walked across a long bridge, he was joined by other prospective students. He knew they were like him because the men were shirtless, the women sleeveless, and all of them looked as if their birth village had been burned down by a callous young master they would spend seventy-three chapters tracking down.

They exchanged confused looks but not much else.

Their path led them to a wide, open platform facing the maze of steel and heat that could only be the Armory, a great beast that breathed dark smoke and glared at them from its myriad of glass windows. Targets and strange, wood platforms filled with stacks of precious ores waited on one side. Racks of training equipment lined the other.

Now what?

A man exploded out of one of the windows in a shower of crystalline shards. He slammed into the ground with back-breaking strength before coming to a rest at the students’ feet, yet once again, he stood unharmed. A feminine voice rang through the air. It was very loud.

“A shield against arrows must be made of composite materials! I won’t give two pills about your fancy water enchantment unless it’s layered on a properly designed base! Have I taught you nothing?”

The fallen man jumped to his knee, face lit with the revelation of the Dao.

“Thank you for your guidance!” he cried, then more quietly, he needled Yuren Jie on.

“You had better come in while she is in a good mood, junior brother.”

Yuren Jie was not so sure, yet the presence of the other students meant he could not refuse or he would risk losing face. He had to show he was a dragon among men, but obviously of the proper variety this time.

He opened the gate using the strength of a hundred men. It was a heavy gate.

Golden morning light shone on a workshop, and on a woman wearing the strangest cultivator robe he had ever seen.


She cowered for a second, leaving Yuren Jie certain he was soon to meet his ancestors. Instead, she smoothed that impractical garment of hers.

“Sorry, habit. Ah, yes, I recognize in you the fish-eyed and shirtless appearance of…”

She sniffed the air. Her sky-blue eyes narrowed.

“Fresh blood. ‘Tis time again, it seems. Oh well. I will be with you shortly.”

As she turned to one of her assistants, Yuren Jie studied her appearance even more. She was certainly a laowai from faraway, with golden hair and that strange… dress… of hers. There was something uncanny about her. Her canines were too sharp. Her fingers ended in black talons, short yet sharp. Perhaps some beast blood ancestry.

“The alloy we want is nine part mountain steel and no less than one part vanadium, manganese, and copper. I don’t care if it is not ‘the way’. If you don’t follow my orders, I will not eat you, I will shove an incandescent bar up your buttocks the size of the average machine-translated Xianxia novel, and you know it will not kill you. Not here.”

The apprentice bowed.

The woman returned her attention to them.

“To the Test of the Body, and then we will give you your uniforms.”

She stepped outside, as did all of the other prospective students in various states of confusion.

“Right,” she said. “Let us clear things up. My name is Fairy Thread Seeker and the first thing that will come out of your filthy impurity pools will be ma’am. Do you silk worms understand that?”If you encounter this narrative on Amazon, note that it's taken without the author's consent. Report it.

Yuren Jie gasped.


“Ma’am, yes,” a few students replied with terror.

“I can’t hear you, sound off like you got a core!”

“Ma’am, yes!”

“That’s better. If you disgusting spawn survive my training, if you find your dao, you will be a shining and tasty example of mankind, leading the world forward with an understanding of war, crafts, ethics, and safe forklift operation. But until that day, you are nothing! You are lice crawling on the ass crack of destiny. Frogs at the bottom of the well. You are lower than the dirt. You are not even cultivators. You are amorphous accretions of baseless audacity. Because I do not give face, you will not like me, but the more you despise me, the higher you shall soar. I am difficult but fair. There is no discrimination on blood here. I don’t care if you are jade like beauties, body cultivators, toad cultivators, three ravens in a trench coat, or if your ancestor fucked a dragon once. You are all equally pathetic. And my goal is to turn your arrogant mediocrity into the exacting perfection of a Golden Hoarder member.”

The woman waited to see if anyone would object. Yuren Jie could not sense her cultivation, but she had to be at least at the navel-gazing realm to become a Peak Master. As a man gifted with the rare talent of common sense, he knew better than to challenge her. By some miracle, none of the students dared protest.

“No one to perform involuntary qigong this time? Amazing. First thing first then, in order to better understand who you are, you will be allowed to attack me so that I may taste your mettle.”

Someone raised a hand. The woman nodded.

“Ma’am, do you mean test our mettle?”

“I said what I said. Enough barking at the moon or whatever. Face me, get your uniforms, then your next stop will be the medical pavilion.”

Fear spread across the ranks.

“No, I will not maim you. You are going there to receive medicine and advice on how to practice safe sects. It is your duty to remain cautious, for the Thousand Story Realms are a dangerous and nonsensical place ruled by maniacs, as you all well know. What? What’s that look?”

“Ma’am, it’s nothing,” a disciple grumbled.

“I thought as much. Since you cannot school your expression, you’re the first to be schooled. Get up here and show me what you can do.”

The woman appeared on one of the elevated platforms. A flick of her fingers, and the nearby targets disappeared, leaving the space bare.

“Get on with it.”

Yuren Jie quickly realized that although his skill was supreme, he was not yet peerless. Students faced the woman one after the other and she somehow matched their skill and even style perfectly to push them to their limits without humiliating them. Her guidance left many disciples in awe.

“How about screaming the name of your technique after you’ve used it? Or even while you cast it, but not, maybe, before?”

“Please do not monologue at me. I am impervious to such low-level sass. Focus on the fight.”

“If you tell me that this pill will unleash your true power, I’m going to try to stop you from eating it, you know?”

Truly extraordinary revelations. After fighting the disciples and giving them advice, the woman would provide them with a matching uniform that would best match their budding dao.

“You smell of water and metal. This should serve you well.”

She handed one of the disciples a salmon-colored robe embroidered with the image of a mighty fish jumping up a waterfall. It was exquisitely made.

“Pink? You want me to wear pink?”

“You also smell like my lunch.”

“I am honored by your gift, esteemed elder.”

“That’s better.”

And soon, it was Yuren Jie’s turn.

As a genius that happened only once in a generation among an arbitrarily selected population number, Yuren Jie wanted to show that he was not to be underestimated, although he often was for some reason. Indeed, he may have been the child of a beautiful seamstress who died of unidentified wasting disease and a mysterious man who left him nothing but a ring bearing the sigil of the ruling bloodline of the phoenix empire, a demonly heavenly manual of techniques that only work with children of the imperial bloodline of the phoenix empire, and also a dagger that could only be wielded by the heir of the phoenix empire, and him for some reason, but he was certain he was destined for greatness. He couldn’t stumble across hidden inheritances every three chapters if fate didn’t recognize in him the seeds of a sage to equal the heavens.

He prepared his first technique, a forbidden special skill that killed most users after three attempts, except for him because he was just that talented.

He raised his fist. The rays of the sun gathered in an ethereal dance like fireflies upon —

“Another protagonist. Ugh, I hate protagonists,” the woman complained.

She extended her hand, then seemed to reconsider.

“Plot twist!” she roared.

Yuren Jie looked behind him, but there was nothing! Instead, he was punched from the front.

When Yuren Jie came back to his senses, he was standing at the edge of the platform again.

“Right, looks like it’s everyone. As I said before, your next step is the medical pavilion, over there.”

She pointed at a distant mountain.

“And since you are now properly dressed, you might as well get some practice out of it. Remember: there is an aura around here that heals you… which means…”

Yuren Jie turned to see the Fairy Thread Seeker wielding a long, metal weapon with a tube at the end.

“It means that even when I hurt you, you heal. So every minute from now on, I will shoot the slowest runner. Better start running now.”

Ravensdagger's Part

Yuren Jie was not hiding, for he was not a coward.

He had merely... tactically relocated himself to a location where the bloodthirsty mistress of the forge wouldn’t immediately see him. Yes, this was wise. Yuren Jie was certain that arriving at the Golden Hoarder Sect would teach him many lessons, and he was correct.

For example, he was learning the wisdom of discretion already. He was not so unwise as to not take this lesson to heart.

The medical pavilion still awaited, but it was atop a peak near the centre of the sect’s great holdings. The other new disciples had taken the straight path, across bridges and over ravines, the mad cackles... polite tittering of the forge mistress behind them.

Yuren Jie had chosen a less direct path. Perhaps it would be somewhat slower, but only if he didn’t move with great alacrity.

So he moved quickly... from statue to statue and from large stone to large stone, constantly on the lookout for a bloody, hungry smile from the shadows. He froze when he saw motion, but it was just a small cat who stared at him with about as much passion as one could expect from a cat. It seemed to sneer before sauntering off. He wondered if even the wildlife here was... peculiar.

After some distance was made, he felt a weight lift from his shoulders. it seemed as though he would make it in due time with no great risk to himself. This, too, was wisdom. Truly this sect was the greatest if it could impart such wisdom so easily and clearly.

“Why’re you sneaking around?”

Yuren Jie started and spun to find... no one. He looked left and right, then cast his senses both upwards and down, but he felt no presence. Had the stress upon his core caused a deviation in his mind?

Turning, he started again as he discovered a woman sitting upon a statue on the path ahead of him. She was clad in strange garments, clothes that were tight against her body, and a large flowing coat like a robe cut down the front. More interesting were her ears. The ears of a cat sat atop her head, perked forwards at attention even as the woman smiled cockily.

Truly, she lacked the aura of a jade beauty, and instead felt like a cocksure, cockless, young master.

“Who are you?” he asked, his guard rising. Was this an older disciple of the sect?

The girl grinned, displaying slightly crookedy teeth. “I’m just a stray,” she said. “What are you doing, sneaking around my neck of the woods?”

“This... is not a forest?” Yuren Jie said with a gesture to the area around them. This was one of the lower peaks, a flattened mount with several paths cut into its sides. There were archways here and there, and a few small garden pavilions with fantastic views of the ravines between the peaks. He could well imagine an elder cultivator sitting here and enjoying some ten billion year old ginseng.

The young woman blinked, then stared off into space. “You know, he’s right, this isn’t a woods, so that saying doesn’t make sense.”

She nodded. Then frowned.

“I guess it could be some language drift stuff,” she continued to speak. He was quite certain she wasn’t speaking to him, and was equally certain that she wasn’t quite sane.

“I will just be on my way, then,” he said.

“Hey now, no strutting off on my turf,” Stray said, her attention snapping back onto him. “Where are you heading off too, anyway?”

“If you must know, the medical pavilion.”

Her eyes widened a fraction, as did her smile. “Oh, you’re a newbie!” she gushed. “Fresh blood! A little baby cultivator!”

Yuren Jie tensed, then glared. “I am Yuren Jie, and I will reach the heavens, defy them, and surpass them to become even greater!”

The woman snorted. “You don’t look like you could handle a fight against a scarecrow,” she said. “You’re all thin, no muscles. No brains either. And where’s your gear? Are you gonna reach the heavens with those pretty-boy robes? Flash the entire realm while you’re up there?”

Yuren Jie stood straighter. “What is this juvenile taunting?”

“I’m not juvenile. You’re juvenile,” she said. Then she stuck her tongue out at him.

Yuren Jie spun on a heel and walked onwards. He was leaving this place and this discussion. He knew not where this woman had come from, but he wouldn’t have minded if she crawled back to that place.

As he came around a bend, he felt his heart constrict at the sight. There was another statue of a large cat, and atop it, the woman was lounging, one leg bouncing casually. She was eating grapes from a small bowl. “Okay, so I might have been somewhat immature,” she admitted. “Tell me this, uh... Yuren Jie? Weird name. Anyway, tell me this; if you want to be so strong, why don’t you let me take you on a little detour?”

“I will not follow you, strange woman,” he said. Was this a test? A punishment for deviating from the straight path to the medical pavilion?

“You’ll get treasures and new weapons and all sorts of neat rewards,” she said temptingly.

Yuren Jie stood taller. “Treasures?” he asked. “Who are you, exactly?”

The woman grinned the kind of smile he’d only seen on cats who discovered a saucerful of cream. “I’m the Golden Hoarder Sect’s quartermaster. You need a Heavenly Spear-Throwing Earth-Shattering Bursting Demonic Pillar Emitter to fuck up some local dragon and I hand you an ICBM.”

He didn’t know what either of those were, but the first sounded fearsome and powerful, the kind of legendary weapon oft associated with the Golden Hoard Sect. Was she truly the sect’s quartermaster? If so, it would do him well to make her acquaintance.

He eyed her for a moment. Her clothes were strange, but of fine make, and while he couldn’t discern the use of the items she carried, they seemed to be of exquisite craftsmanship. They also had small images carved onto them, of cats frolicking and staring and licking themselves.

On reflection, many of the stories of the sect’s greatest warriors often mentioned that their swords of Rending Earth and their Heavenly Iron Arrow Hurlers had cat-like symbols upon them. Perhaps this woman truly was the sect’s quartermaster.

He bowed. “What favours can I accomplish for you, Lady Quartermaster.”

The lady smiled. “A quest, then! Hmm... there’s a shop on the far end of the sect. It’s just past the western gate. There you will find a woman who makes sweetcakes and sells artisanal teas.”

Yuren Jie nodded along. Was this the fabled fetch-quest?

“I want you to go there, tip over her tea pots, and burn her cakes.”

“Pardon?” he asked.

“Sabotage,” she clarified. “Sabotage her shop. Don’t kill her or anything, you know, just ruin her afternoon.”

“Has this woman threatened the Golden Hoarder Sect?” he asked.

The lady quartermaster looked away, not meeting his eyes. “In a manner of speaking.”

“That is not as clear of an answer as I expected,” he said. Not that he minded too much. If the sect needed him to scythe through ten million innocent civilians to prove himself, then that would be a small price to pay. “Though I am curious as to her capabilities.” There had to be something more here.”

Stray Cat cleared her throat. “She gave my girlfriend a free sweetcake the other day.”


“That’s basically flirting, you know?” she said.

“You wish for me to punish a mortal because she has laid eyes upon your girl?” he asked.

“She didn’t just lay eyes. Laying eyes is fine. My girl is the prettiest girl under heaven, so I can’t blame either mortal or immortal for wanting to look. She gave my girl sweetcakes. That’s crossing a line! Only I’m allowed to give her cake!”

Yuren Jie looked at her and took a moment to process what he was hearing. It was petty. It was petty and jealous. But it was also a task. One that would surely test his skills. “I accept, lady quartermaster,” he said with a low bow of respect.

“Cool,” she said. He wasn’t sure what the weather had to do with anything, but he chose not to question her. “By the way, you’re Yuren Jie, right?”


“Oh, yeah, you’re supposed to be at the medical pavilion. Like, right now. I’m pretty sure if you don’t show up soon, Fairy Elaine’s gonna be pissed, and between her and a live nuke, I’d rather piss off the nuke, you know what I’m saying?”

Yuren Jie glanced down the path, then bowed quickly before darting along. He couldn’t afford to be late!

Once he was done with this medical examination, he would begin upon this quest. It would be one of the first steps towards gaining what he needed to defy the heavens!

Selkie’s part

Yuren hurried onto the Medical Pavilion. The sharp crack from Fairy Thread Seeker’s weapon as she fired upon the slowest members of the entrance class, along with the occasional hair-raising cackle let him know that, in spite of his side quest, he was not so utterly late to the lecture on safe sects.

Why they needed such a thing, Yuren didn’t know. And yet, was that not the point of attending the Golden Hoard Sect? To receive wisdom from his elders? Truly, it was the only way this once-in-a-generation genius would ascend past the heavens. He would remember his stepping stones fondly once he’d arrived.

For now, it was time for wisdom.

Yuren could not claim to be the first in the lecture hall, and yet, he did not have the ignominy of being the last. He managed to slip in past a few fellow disciplines, rubbing their buttocks and complaining about Fairy Thread Seeker’s methods.

He wanted to snort disdainfully at them.

Weak. A basic trial, and they were complaining about mere pain? He had seen the truth - Fairy Elaine’s powers healed all injuries as they occurred. What was a little bit of pain on the bitter path of cultivation?

Yuren entered the grand lecture hall, the inside distorted to thousands of miles large, likely by some fantasy author with no proper sense of scale, and where the words ‘structural integrity’ and ‘loadbearing’ were simple suggestions.

The seats at the front were all taken by the over-eager, as were the seats at the back by the lazy. Yuren rolled his eyes at the painfully transparent ploys, and sat in the middle.

A beautiful cultivator took to the stage, with hair the color of soft hazel and blue eyes that twinkled with stars deep inside. Yurne rubbed his eyes and looked again.

There really were stars deep inside the cultivator’s phoenix eyes, and he straightened up as the petite woman began to speak.

“I’m Fairy Elaine. As part of the orientation to the Golden Hoarder Sect, we will be discussing Safe Sects practices.”

There were titters around the room, and some of the men gazed lustfully at the jade beauties that were scattered throughout the room. Yuren wasn’t thinking too highly of his peers. While they chased the unobtainable flowers, he studied the blade. Seeking attachments was a distraction from cultivation and the Dao.

“First! Before two Sects do battle with each other, it is important that both Sects understand that they are going to do battle.”

Yuren’s eyebrows scrunched up as he tried to divine the wisdom inside. He struggled - didn’t that completely remove sneak attacks and thefts? Then again, the Golden Hoard Sect was considered one of the most noble, virtuous, upstanding, dignified, honorable, gallant, respectable, principled, esteemed, righteous, valiant, stalwart, and gracious sects around. Maybe this was just one of their rules.

“Second! Demonic cultivators can be hidden within the ranks of a sect. It is impossible to know where they are, and which sects have hidden members within their ranks, and which ones are clean. When doing battle, it is best to always protect one’s sect from demonic cultivators trying to infiltrate.”

Shouldn’t there be a lecture about how to identify demonic cultivators, and prevent infiltration? Perhaps that was a later, more advanced lecture.

“Third! Know I wanted this to be first, but was overruled. A sect should never ever, under any circumstances, do battle with a thousand year old vampire, or similar. Don’t do it. No.”

Would a vampire at a mere seven hundred years be acceptable? Or was that too similar? Yuren dutifully wrote down a note to ask later.

Fairy Elaine continued her lecture, dropping morsels of wisdom such as ‘don’t flash your sword carelessly’, ‘it’s perfectly acceptable to battle the Chrysanthemum sect with proper preparation’, and a long segment about ‘cultivation realm and level matters. Don’t do battle outside your realm, I might not be able to put you back together.’

Yuren scoffed at that. He was a genius whose battle prowess could cross realms! But why was she saying ‘battle’ so strangely, and why was half the lecture hall laughing and blushing?

“The last part of this lecture before we break out the bananas! It is well known that Sword and Spear sects enjoy battling Flower and Gourd sects. However! It is perfectly acceptable for a Sword Sect to battle a Spear Sect, just as it is acceptable for a Flower sect to battle a Gourd sect.”

Yuren was convinced by now the others in the lecture hall were idiots. The most basic of revelations - a Sword Sect battling another Sword Sect? How obvious! - was causing an uproar. A dozen disciplines spat blood in outrage. Three near Yuren suffered Qi deviation, their faces going purple as they clutched at their chest. Down near the front, such basic words had caused a revelation in a fellow disciple, the man instantly jumping three realms as the enlightenment raised his cultivation.

Yuren nodded to himself. Truly, he was a once-in-a-millennium genius.


Yuren hurried after Cat - Lady Quartermaster - unsure quite how he’d ended up following her, of all people. Perhaps it was the reasonable amount of martial might - Fairy Elaine didn’t seem to have any, Fairy Thread Seeker was too liberal in her application of violence, and sifu-sen- Sifu-Sensei, Yuren mentally corrected himself, suddenly paranoid that the dragon could read minds and the Lack of Capitalization inside of them - hurt his brain and caused nosebleeds every time he got near him.

Perhaps that was why the Catering Hall had the most powerful disciples.

Or maybe he followed the Lady Quartermaster simply because of the promise of treasures, new weapons, and neat rewards that had actually been delivered on. He wasn’t quite sure how a Gre Nade worked, but the impact it had in practice had been… satisfying.

Truly, the Golden Hoarder Sect had earned their reputation.

They skirted around the pigpen, then scooted down one of the Sect’s main roads.

“Hey! You!” A commanding voice arrested Yuren’s movements. He froze, like a mouse under the gaze of a hawk, slowly turning his head.

Yuren clasped his hands and bowed to Fairy Thread Seeker, who beckoned him over.

“Well? Are you just going to stand there all day?” She demanded. Yuren hurried over to see what she wanted, getting handed three jade slips.

Peerless cultivation manuals? Indomitable martial techniques? Repositories of forgotten treasures? Endless possibilities flashed through Yuren’s mind. His months of hard work were finally paying off! The heavens were smiling upon him!

“Please return these to Fairy Elaine, with my thanks.” Fairy Thread Seeker said. “And tell her I think she’ll enjoy the last one. What are you still doing here? Shoo!”

Yuren bobbed his head and shot out the door before Fairy Thread Seeker could think to use him for target practice once again.

On the empty trail to the Medical Pavilion, Yuren sneaked a look around. There was nobody around, and he couldn’t feel any spiritual presences looking at him. Fortunate favored the bold, and holding three high-level jade slips was a once in a lifetime opportunity. No mention had been made of a reward - perhaps the chance to glean wisdom from the jade slips was his reward, should he be able to comprehend the profound knowledge deep inside without exploding. The best would be a new cultivation technique that would let him get twice the results for half the effort.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Yuren plunged his consciousness into the jade slip, plundering its vast and unfathomable knowledge for himself.

His nose started to bleed at the deluge of information that slammed through his mind. Titillating moonlight rendezvous and ripped bodices, dark and mysterious men with plucky and bold women.

“Junior, you dare? Are you courting death?” A soft voice whispered from behind. Yuren jumped a foot in the air, spat blood, and immediately threw himself into a kowtow.

“Please forgive this impudent one’s transgressions!” He shouted out to Fairy Elaine. With a flick of her sleeves, she teleported the jade slips from his hands to her, and lifted an eyebrow at him. Yuren didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. “Fairy Thread Seeker wanted me to return these two to you, and thought you would enjoy the last one!”

Fairy Elaine’s face lit up, and she chuckled like a dirty old man. She waved Yuren off.

“Don’t go sneaking around. Be off with you, I hear Cat’s looking for you by the Treasure Pavilion.”

Yuren started to sweat again. The Treasure Pavilion was across the entire sect, and one of the loudest, most boisterous places. Fairy Elaine could hear that far?

Yuren found Cat again, and was engaged in the mundanities of the day, when, like thunder from a clear sky, the alarm bells began to ring.

The Lady Quartermaster perked up, throwing her paperwork into a corner.

“It’s a lobster attack!” She proclaimed, grabbing a key and unlocking the door to where the heavy Ordi Nance was kept.

“Lobster?” Yuren asked. Dinner was rebelling?

“It was supposed to be ‘monster’!” Cat yelled from the depths of the room. “Here, catch!”

Yuren caught a heavy, malleable block of unrecognisable substance. He poked it with his finger, seeing how it sank in.

“Except there was a typo, and autocorrect turned it into lobster!” Cat continued to explain, throwing more blocks to him. Yuren tried to catch them all, but two fists couldn’t block four hands.

Yuren had been learning wisdom, and one key component was to keep his mouth shut when heaven and earth were flipped on him.

“Let’s go!” Cat came out with a cart filled with more of the blocky plastics, clearly indicating that he should push. Yuren hurried after the Lady Quartermaster, quickly arriving at the field of battle.

The field of battle was all the walls of the sect. Against each one of them, monstrous lobsters the size of horses were attacking with terrible pincers, firing energy blasts from their claws. Nevermind the impossible vast distance between the Sect and the nearest body of water larger than a pond. Experts were as common as clouds, manning the walls and firing their own martial techniques back at the ravenous, never–ending hordes.

Hoard vs Horde.

Yuren flinched as an expert was blown apart, an energy blade destroying his entire chest. A moment later he was restored, whole once again, slapping his now-naked chest and cursing the lobsters.

Yuren’s mouth dropped open. He thought Fairy Elaine’s healing was for training, and didn’t have any true capabilities in combat. Truely, he had eyes, but couldn’t see Mt. Tai.

“Stop staring, we’ve got a job to do.” Cat said. “I’m going deep. I need you to…” She looked him up and down, appraising him. He got the sense she changed her mind halfway through.

“Stand on the wall. When I call, throw me a new set of C4.”


The Lady Quartermaster went invisible, a block vanishing off the top of the pile. Yuren kept his eyes sharp, but from where he stood on the wall, he had an unparalleled view of the battle.

It raged back and forth, grand techniques splashing against the hardened shells of the lobsters. Ghostly fists and sword intent flew across the field, grand fireballs exploding on shells while haunting music turned lobster against lobster.

The lobsters were winning - should be winning - except the members of the Sect appeared to be invincible. No matter what attack they took, no matter what damage they suffered, they jumped back up a moment later in the picture of perfect health, leaving behind arms, legs, and clothing. When a lobster died, it stayed dead.

Cat briefly appeared on the field, and Yuren peerlessly threw two more blocks of C4 at her. She caught them and vanished again, a lobster’s claw snapping where she’d just been. Yuren narrowed his eyes, noting a small piece of the white substance appearing on a lobster’s head.

That much was enough to kill one of the tenacious beasts? Where fist and sword fell, that was a killing blow?


Yuren shook his head. He’d resolved not to say or think that word anymore.

The sky darkened behind him, and he turned to see what was happening next. An enormous flying ship had launched from the Sect, Fairy Thread Seeker standing on the prow with a tricorn hat, laughing maniacally.

“You will rue the day you have run afoul of the Dread Pirate Fairy Thread Seeker, Queen of the arbitrarily high number of seas! Prepare to be tenderized! Servants! Open fire!”

The cannons on the ship began to roar, smashing down at impossible speeds. Shell and pincers went flying, and Yuren dodged a large claw, only to get slapped in the face by an antenna.


Yuren took a deep breath. Down that path lay swift death, Fairy Elaine’s healing or not. Cat briefly appeared again, and Yuren tossed her some more explosives.

Dragon Sifu-Sensei took to the field next, his immense wingspan casting a great shadow on the world below. The dragon rained down a pyroclastic hell onto the lobsters; and those he didn’t burn, he poked with his mighty claw. His finger alone carried the strength of the heavens.

“Minions, get back here!” he roared. “The food has decided to die with honor: by feeding me! Cook them at once!”

The elite members of the Catering Hall flew over the wall on oversized spatulas, frying pans, knives, forks, woks, baking sheets, and whisks. Half of them were clicking tongs together menacingly. Eight of them were carrying an oversized cauldron of garlic butter between them. With deadly blows and lethal martial-cooking techniques, the members of the Catering Hall fought their way to Vainqueur, and began cooking. Half of them set up a perimeter, fighting the unending lobster legion, while the other half began slicing, dicing, and cooking.

Fried. Boiled. Steamed. Grilled. Baked. Sauteed. Broiled. Poached. Stewed. Smoked, barbecued, pan and deep-fried, acid-cooked and more. Every way there was to prepare food, the elite members of the Catering Hall provided. Dragon Sifu-Sensei, ever the wise and patient Elder, swallowed anything unlucky to be caught within arm’s reach.

Cat showed up again, and Yuren tossed her the last of the explosives. A few moments later, she was by his side, touching her throat. Her voice boomed as Yuren clasped his hands over his ears.

“FIRE IN THE HOLE!” She yelled, most of the members dropping behind the wall. Yuren might’ve been slow, but he wasn’t quite an idiot, and he threw himself below the ramparts.

A cataclysmic explosion ripped through the lobster hordes, launching themselves into the sky like a river dragon ripping itself from the ground. Then, like the winter rains, a bloody barrage of finger-sized pieces started to rain down on all of them. Tails and shells joined the five viscera and six bowels in a gory rain.

“UNLEASH THE PIGS!” Another voice yelled.

Dread Pirate Fairy Thread Seeker screamed back from her ship.


It was too late. The gates opened, and ten thousand flaming porcines took to the field, scything through the lobsters like a knife through melted garlic butter.

A delayed explosive launched a grapeshot of flaming bacon up into the sky. By the divine hand of providence and author fiat, they landed beautifully on the flying ship’s sails, setting them ablaze.

The ship started to go down in a torrent of profanities.

“Vainqueur! You lazy bastard! Do I have to do your job for you!?” A voice - was that Fairy Elaine’s? - screamed from Dread Pirate Fairy Thread Seeker’s sinking ship.

“I am your job!” Vainqueur roared back. “The purpose of life is to cater to dragons! Minions have jobs, and I have everything else!”

There was a pause, and Yuren swore he heard a soft sigh on the breeze.

Then the sky lit up as a dozen beams of pure, blinding Radiance launched from the ship, circling around the walls impossibly fast. Yuren was dozens of paces away from the beams occasionally sweeping over his head, and yet he was starting to sweat as the temperature soared.

“Lazy ass!” the voice shouted one last time. Yuren glanced over to Vainqueur, where a single one of his absolutely-totally-real whiskers had been cut in half, the other end slowly floating to the ground.

A hesitant cheer came up, then quickly increased in volume as the members of the Sect picked it up and welcomed their sudden and unexpected victory.

Maybe not too unexpected Yuren mentally amended.

Cat grinned and punched Yuren in the arm.

“Yeah! That’s how we do it here! Okay, I’m going to grab Lucy and the kittens, and we’re all going to have a nice little picnic. Your job is to get us some space, some lobster, and most importantly - some butter.”

Yuren nodded. He could do that.

As he secured part of the food, members of the Sect were organising a large lobster roast under the militant commands of the Catering Hall. A great amount of butter was brought out, but Yuren’s face fell as he realized it was only one-one tenth of the amount needed. Lady Quartermaster exited the Sect with her mortal wife, Lucy, in tow, and quickly fought off a few other members to grab a hunk for herself.

“The rest is for Dragon Sifu-Sensei.” She explained at his wordless question. “The catering budget is a black hole from which nothing escapes. If it runs out, the lower disciples are expected to… fill in. We make sure there is always funding for it.”

Yuren nodded, the statement making perfect sense to him. Dragon Sifu-Sensei obviously had a catering budget. For the rest of us, living–or rather, surviving–under the glory of Sifu-Sensei was enough.

Truly, he had been enlightened.