It was deep into the night, and Tao felt something strange biting into his stomach as he kept walking.

His throat was dry, and it was a strange feeling to him.

"What is happening?" he thought in his mind.

"Am I-" he thought, but it was too unbelievable to be let out.

His stomach was rumbling for the first time in a long while.

"Hunger... how can this be? Hunger and thirst?" he murmured.

It dawned on him that he was no longer an immortal. When he was at the Air Tower, the moment he ascended the transcendent realm, he no longer needed to feed or drink; his Qi found a way to nourish him. But now, he was human and had to face one of the challenges of life: hunger.

Without his Qi to nourish him, he'd starve to death if he didn't ask for food.

How was he going to ask when he couldn't even stand Chen? But hunger bit deeper into his stomach, and he broke.

"I need water," he asked politely.

"Okay, I'll give you water to drink," Chen said, and Tao was surprised by how easily Chen agreed.

Chen pulled out a water keg and a cup from a bag beside his camel. He hopped off the camel and walked up to Tao.

Tao already began to salivate, even though it was just water.

Chen poured some water into the cup from the keg, and he stretched out his hand towards Tao. But just as Tao was about to collect it, Chen retracted the cup and spat into the water.

A smile formed on his face as he saw the anger in Tao's face.

"That's just perfect for a slave; the water in its earlier state was too pure for you," Chen said.

Tao was boiling, but he knew he had no power, and he was tired of getting beaten; it was already too much for a day.

"Have it!" Chen yelled as Tao stared at the cup, refusing to take it from Chen.

"I can't believe you won't have it, and you wasted my time," Chen said, splashing the water on his face.

Tao stood drenched in the water with Chen's saliva in it, but he chose not to retaliate again. He swallowed and wiped the water off his face.

"If you try this next time, you'll have to drink your urine throughout your life here," Chen said as he hopped back on his horse.

The presence of the star was something that gave Tao hope. When an Ira revealed itself in the sky back in Air Tower, it showed that hope would rise at dawn.


After walking throughout the night, it was finally dawn. The grey sky was covered with clouds, and the world still seemed dark.

From afar, he could see the desert sands receding as they approached the master's quarters.

Unlike all the other parts of the desert, there was little trace of green plants here, because it was near the edge of the desert.

A few moments later, Chen pulled up at the mighty gate of the Master's quarters.

"Open the gate!"

"Identity!" The guard behind the gate demanded after Chen called for him to open the gate.

"Commander Chen," he declared, and the iron bars of the gate moved violently as it pulled open.

The guard nodded, acknowledging Chen, and Chen did the same as he rode into the gate.

"Who is that behind you?" The guard questioned, staring at Tao. Tao glared back at him, and he shoved Tao's head forward.

"You should be careful how you look at people around here," the guard said after shoving Tao's head for the second time.

Tao clenched his teeth and remained quiet.

"This here is the master's new servant; I found him at the border of the desert," Chen said, telling the guard about Tao.

Rage filled Tao's heart every single time they called him a servant or a slave.

"I see. But before you take him to the Master, remember to take him to the inking house; the master had made it clear that all servants must be inked before presentation," the guard said to Chen.

"What is the inking house?" Tao thought to himself as his heart raced.

"Yes, you are right! Thank you for reminding me of that," Chen said.

Chen got down from his camel and handed the camel to the guard. He then uncuffed Tao and began to drag him to the small hut near the gate.

"Where are you taking me?" Tao murmured as Chen walked behind him, pushing him from behind towards the entrance of the hut.

"All servants need to be branded; you will take the marking to make sure that you don't get mixed up with the other citizens of this place," Chen explained, pushing him closer to the hut.

Tao's mind processed it, and he struggled to turn back. He could not take tattoos or any form of marking on his skin; it will change his identity.

"No, no, no, I won't take the mark," Tao screamed, struggling at the entrance of the hut.

Chen called for others who were working at the inking house, and two of them came. They helped Chen in dragging Tao deeper into the hut.

Tao's leg was stiff against the floor of the hut as he struggled to maintain a firm standing, so they won't be able to move him, but they overpowered him.

As they pulled him towards it, he saw an open oven; the heat from the red coals in the oven reached him, and he gulped.

He saw an old man with white hair staring at him while he struggled. The old man was obviously a servant too, from all indications. He wore ragged clothes like Tao himself and he was sweeping the floor of the hut.

The old man raised his own sleeve, and Tao saw that he too had taken the marking a long time ago.

"It won't hurt for long," the old man said voicelessly, moving only his lips.

Tao understood him, and with that, Tao braced himself for the hot metal that was pulled out of the oven and was about to be placed on his skin.

They held his arm firmly, and he kept struggling until the red hot metal met his skin and he promised himself not to scream and give Chen the pleasure.

Tao clenched his teeth, maintaining eye contact with the old man with white hair, who was standing afar, holding on to a broom.

"Who is this man? He looks at me strangely. I know he is a servant too, but there is something about him," Tao thought in his mind.

Chen was shocked to see that Tao didn't scream in pain. Meanwhile, Tao felt strange about not screaming too.

He felt the pain, but maintaining eye contact with that old man in the distance made him withstand the pain more easily.

"I can't explain it; how did I take in that much pain without screaming?" Tao thought as Chen dragged him away.

As Chen dragged him out of the hut, the old man maintained eye contact with him.

A few moments later, Chen pushed him into the largest hut, the one belonging to the Master.

"Commander Chen! I wasn't expecting you," the man in a black warrior garment spoke with a thunderous voice.

His face reminded Tao of an angry vulture. He had a really pointed nose and with the stern look on his face, he looked scary.

"My Lord! I had not planned to return now, but I come bearing a gift.." Chen said to the Master, bowing slightly.

"I see, and what is this gift?" the Master said, glancing at Tao as he spoke.

Tao clenched his teeth and moved his shoulder violently as Chen pushed him forward.

"I found him at the border, and I thought to bring him in to be your new servant!" Chen said, and the master scoffed.

"I told you I was no longer in need of new servants; besides, the ones I have here are giving me trouble already," the Master said.

"Master, I promise you haven't had any servant like this one. This one is a comedian; he says foolish things that will make you laugh," Chen said, and the Master stroked his chin, considering.

"Hmm.. tell me the funniest thing he had said since you've been with him," the Master said with an upward nod.

"He thinks he is an immortal! He said he used to live in towers built in the air," Commander Chen said, and the Master chuckled.

"Is this true?!" The Master asked Tao, stepping down from his throne and walking up to Tao who has refused to raise his head.

Tao was stiff; he didn't want to say a word to him. He was angry and bittered by the way they mocked him.

"Boy! Is it true you think you are an immortal?!" The Master asked, and Tao remained silent.

"Answer the Master!" Chen shouted, and Tao clenched his teeth.

He raised his head and looked into the master's eyes.

"I don't think. It is the truth; I am an immortal! I only lost my powers and found myself in the human world!" He murmured, and they both laughed at him.

"You are right, Commander Chen, this one is different. I can see that he is so foolish that he says foolish things with such boldness," the Master said.

"For that, his name will be Fool!" the Master declared, and Chen nodded.

"My name is not Fool; my name is Tao, and you don't have the right to change my name," Tao complained with a boldness that shocked the master.

"How dare you!" Chen hit him hard on the back of his neck, and he fell to his knees.

"The Master is in charge of naming all the servants; you will be addressed by whatever he calls you. If he says your name is Fool, then Fool you shall be called," Chen spoke through clenched teeth into his ear.

"I can see you have an element of pride in you, and I will bring you on knees; I shall humble you, and you will be treated lower than other servants," the Master said and nodded for Chen to take him out.

"Fool, it is time to meet the other servants; that is where you will sleep every night," Chen said, dragging him up and shoving him through the door.

- - - - - - -

"Get in! This is the servant's quarter; you will find other servants inside," Chen murmured.

A strong unpleasant smell of the gutters wafted across their noses, as he pulled the gate open, and Chen covered his nose quickly.

Commander Chen pushed him into a dark room and shut the thick iron gate behind Tao.

Tao walked deeper into the dark space, and then he could see some servants with the help of torches lit along the passages.

They all were looking at Tao and recognized he was new among them.

Tao was still in pain. The burn from the tattoo, the knife wound, and his broken body, but he was still walking.

"Why should some people be treated this way? Look how dirty this place is. If I get my powers back, I will help them out of here," Tao murmured as he kept walking.

Among the servants scattered along the room he had just entered, he saw the old man at the inking house again.

"I saw you back there," Tao murmured as he approached the old man gently.

He sat by the old man on the long bench where he sat, scraping his nails.

"Tao, warrior of the light," the old man said, and Tao trembled in shock.

"You know my name; how can you know my name?" Tao murmured.

"I know many things," the old man whispered. looking around to see if anyone was listening to them.

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