“Fellow disciple! Fellow disciple! There’s a snake on your shoulder! Watch out!”
Hearing the boy’s panicked yell, Cheng Hao had to think fast.
‘This guy… Is he a friend or an enemy? Karma thread… Snake… Hide… Snake… Danger… Snake… Dangerous Snake… A snake is dangerous!’
Cheng Hao sucked a breath in and… Suddenly turned around the snake flying with a palm “Eeeeeek, snake!”
Fury and bewilderment raged across Goldy’s face as it began to curse at Cheng Hao in his mind.
Of course he understood what the boy was trying to do, but he couldn’t help but frown at the palm full of killing intent that he had thrown at him.
The boy actually didn’t hold back in the least… ‘Damn Cheng Hao… I will screw you over once I have the chance! (Yes ISSTH references… Ah, I loved that parrot… Have faith in lord fifth!)’
Cheng Hao was panting, acting shocked and terrified, he turned and bowed to the young man in front of him.
“Cheng Hao thanks fellow Disciple for his aid, may I know Disciple’s name and what business he has with this humble Disciple?”
Although Cheng Hao’s face was full of gratitude he had already secretly grasped the golden hairpin in his hand, ready to strike at the minimum notice of any danger.
Shocked to see such courtesy from Cheng Hao, the young boy didn’t hesitate to bow and respond as humbly as possible “This disciple is called Xiao Li, First Master of the Xiao family!”
Cheng Hao suddenly felt a tingling pain in his head, as if he had forgotten something important but quickly disregarded it.
Xiao Li continued “I was assigned to hut 5742 from elder Lao, to live alongside brother Cheng Hao in his stay in the Sixth Ring!” Xiao Li bowed even more “Please treat me well!”
“To live… Together with me?” A thought suddenly flashed across his mind and he grabbed the young boy’s shoulder so firmly that the other almost let out a scream.
When the youth lifted his head though, Xiao Li saw that Cheng Hao had actually closed his eyes, a solemn expression that somehow didn’t look strange in the least even on his childish lineaments. The young Xiao Clan member hesitated at first but then decided to trust the boy and let him keep going.
Just as Cheng Hao closed his eyes, a strand of his consciousness separated from his body and flew towards the child’s. As soon as it touched him though, a huge amount of pressure appeared, as if a huge hammer had begun to hit his body nonstop.
Cheng Hao shuddered and spit out a mouthful of blood but he kept going: after getting past the first wave of attacks with his reborn soul, stronger than the norm, he couldn’t help but feel astonished as he saw what was lying in the child’s consciousness, hidden from prying eyes…
‘So that is why I had that sensation, this one might be a descendant of that Xiao Lan! Just like him, he has potential… With this, you are indeed worthy to travel alongside me as brothers…’
The boy smiled as he opened his eyes. He stared deeply into the other child’s pupils, searching for something to confirm his theory with.
After the space of a few breaths Cheng Hao let his hand go and instead held it in front of him.
“I am Cheng Hao, and here and now I propose you this. I shall call you brother and as a brother I will act. As a brother I won’t hesitate to walk over seas of fire to come to you. I won’t hesitate to block arrows with my body if it means that they won’t harm you. I won’t hesitate to give my life to save yours. I will call you brother and you shall also call me brother, from now on we will be brothers!”
Suddenly, Cheng Hao frowned as he noticed something. The young boy then winked to the other in front of him and smiled “But being brothers also means you must not use fake names, doesn’t it, brother? Or should I call you… Sister?”
‘Xiao Li’ staggered back a few steps astonished but didn’t bother to hide anymore.
Her dumb look turned into a sharp gaze as her airhead attitude disappeared.
She smiled and winked back “Of course. But you will help me. Oh, and tell your snake that it can come back, I don’t mind reptiles!”
Cheng Hao laughed “Hear that Goldy? We just found a new sister! Mm, although it doesn’t seem that clear, you might trust me if I say that you should call me big brother, as I am much, much older than you” Cheng Hao’s eyes turned into two black holes as they seemed to hold a lot more knowledge than a boy barely eight years old should.
“Ooo, shut up Stupid Hao! If anyone should be the big brother amongst anyone in here, that should be me!” The golden snake triumphantly jumped back on Cheng Hao’s shoulder and made sure to slap the child’s cheek with its tail.
A vein popped on the boy’s forehead. He turned his head and bit the tail. The snake cried from the pain and also tried to bite Cheng Hao. Unfortunately the boy had already run beside the girl and the snake fell on the ground.
“Ahahah” the pristine laugh sounded out and the feminine face turned even more into that of a beauty.
‘How could one even mistake her for a male? She’s so beautiful that they must have all been blind!’ Cheng Hao mused.
The little Xiao master, looked at the young boy in front of him “Alright, big brother. From now on we are brother and sister! But if you are the big brother, doesn’t that mean you must protect your little sister… Do you have the ability?”
Goldy sighed as he looked towards Cheng Hao “Against my will, I must admit that he is the most qualified person to protect anyone amongst anyone I know. If not now, in the future for sure! At least, you will get a demonstration tonight”
As the small snake spoke, Cheng Hao looked with surprise at the usually cursing small mouth spit out praises nonstop. His heart warmed a bit, a layer of his frost slowly began to melt and he allowed himself a heartwarming smile to appear on his face. That smile made him become infinitely more handsome.
‘This snake… I might actually start to treat him better. After all he did help me countless times and has always been by my side when nobody else was…’
As the warm smile appeared, a slight breeze began to blow, sending the child’s hair fluttering. The absolutely heart-warming scene was so beautiful that, if a painter were to be asked to paint it, he would refuse, claiming that he would be unable to draw such a masterpiece!
Finally, as Cheng Hao turned and smiled, the snake continued “But he is an annoying cunt like no other and he bullies me! Please sister, help this poor snake!”
The beautiful image was ruined and before anyone could say anything, the snake was no longer on Cheng Hao’s shoulder but he was under his stomping foot. The slight breeze surrounding the youth turned into killing intent and fearful chilliness, even his beautiful face turned into a demon’s ugly grin as he stomped down as fiercely as he could.
When Goldy’s screams couldn’t be heard anymore, Cheng Hao stopped and panted for a while before recovering.
After a few moments, Cheng Hao looked up, a warm smile on his face… That same face that had looked like some demonic creature from the fiery depths up until moments ago…
The young boy’s smile widened as he extended his hand again “My name is Cheng Hao, please treat me well!”
Holding her laugh in the girl took his hand “My name is Xiao Wu, please treat me well!”
The two smiled and embraced each other as tears of joy slowly poured out from their eyes. They broke from their embrace, grabbed each other’s shoulder, looked at each other’s eyes as warmth surfaced in both of their pupils: in the loneliness of an unfamiliar place that is a sect, they had found someone to rely on.
“Cheng Hao, don’t fall for it! She’s only 8!”
“Don’t spoil this moment of brotherly love, you frigging Bastard Snake!”
The two children had just arrived in the hut. After entering, they found out that hut 5742 was actually not that bad at all. It was spacious, had plenty of pieces of furniture as well as a big toilet and two separated rooms with one big bed each.
It was dark at the time, but the big windows hinted that during the day the small house would be pretty bright. The big table in the middle of the dining room had a single book on it, titled Basics to Martial Cultivation.
After taking care of their physiological needs and once Xiao Wu had removed her special make-up, probably meant to make her look more masculine (fortunately without success), the two finally began to talk about martial cultivation.
“First of all you must NOT listen to what this book says” saying that, Cheng Hao threw the copy of Basics To Martial Cultivation out of the window “From now on, you just need to rely on your big brother! In exchange of course, you will cook for everyone!”
Xiao Wu sweat dropped and quietly contemplated ‘Are you sure you just don’t want someone to cook for you? I wouldn’t have minded you just saying so, but why would you throw that boom out of the window? Did it harm anyone? He was simply there, basking into the sunlight during the day and bathing in moonlight during the night…’
“Now, to begin on the road to martial cultivation there are multiple steps: to sense the Qi, the source of cultivation, to draw in the Qi, to form and shape the Qi into the Qi Sea and to condense that Qi Sea into the Pseudo-Core”
Xiao Wu frowned as she heard those words. They were different from what the elders of her clan usually told her.
“Brother Cheng? Weren’t the steps just Sensing and Absorption? Also, are you sure you didn’t mistake the Qi Sea for the Qi River? I mean, isn’t forming the Qi River the requirements to enter the second stage of martial cultivation, the Basic stage? And isn’t forming the Core the way to enter the third stage, the advanced stage?”
Cheng Hao smiled and said “Pick something to write with, because this will be long and it will be full of important stuff to note down.” Cheng Hao took a long sip from the tea Xiao Wu had prepared him.
Xiao Wu did as she was told and picked a strange pen and a few sheets of paper from her own Heaven&Heart Pouch: she decided to put her faith in this new brother of hers. She trusted him and it wouldn’t harm to just listen anyways
“Experts have divided cultivation stages in Inferior, Basic, Advanced, etcetera, in accordance with the requirements needed to enter the corresponding stage. Inferior is Qi Sensing, Qi River is for the Basic stage, Core is for the Advanced stage and so on. That is not wrong, but it is not right either. Think about it: what is it that really changes with each stage? It is the purity of one’s Qi”
At that even Xiao Wu’s eyes glinted as she started speculating. Cheng Hao sat down in a chair and took another sip.
“But is it really, absolutely, certainly impossible to form a Qi River or the Core, even without such a pure Qi, while still not forcefully skipping stages?”
Cheng Hao grinned “Of course not. That is why we won’t enter the Basic or Advanced stage by creating a Qi River right now…. Because our Qi won’t be pure enough! That is why we will do something different. Instead of forming the Qi River we will form something else that is much easier and more stable to make and maintain with such a low-quality Qi. I will now ask you a question. In a cold and harsh winter, which is more likely to freeze first, a lake or a river? Mind that the water mass we’re interested in is the same…”
Xiao Wu’s expression flickered as she answered “Isn’t it the river? I mean, even though the water mass is the same, the river still isn’t as wide as the lake, it is instead smaller. The cold would be more focused and…”
Seeing Cheng Hao’s mocking smile, Xiao Wu suddenly stopped speculating embarrassed. She then bowed and asked “Please tell me the answer, brother Cheng!”
Cheng Hao said “Which is easier to freeze? Moving water… Or Still water?”
Xiao Wu’s eyes glinted as she came to the realization “The Lake will freeze first… Wait, so we are not making the Qi River because then we wouldn’t be able to condense it into the Core as we wouldn’t have much control over impure Qi… But if we make a Qi sea instead… It will already be much easier, because it will be easier to freeze, or in our case condense, still Qi instead of moving Qi!”
Cheng Hao nodded happily, seeing that Xiao Wu was so quick and smart “Now for the Core, why is it so difficult to form the Core?”
Xiao Wu quickly answered “Because the Qi is so dense that it is difficult to compress…”
Cheng Hao’s eyes glittered “Why is it dense?”
Xiao Wu smiled as she knew the answer “Because it is really pu…” Hearing her own words, the girl stopped and frowned “…re”
“Exactly. What then, if we tried to condense a sea, it would be easier to condense than a river, with impurities, thus, really light and rarer than it would have been had it been purer, Qi, thus making this Pseudo-Core much easier to make? I say Pseudo-Core because it wouldn’t be the real Core. No, it is fake and fake it will remain. But you need not worry, for in the future it will almost have as much of a big use as the real one if not even more!”
“We will still be able to create a real Qi Sea, not a Qi River for we already determined the Sea is a better choice compared to a River, and also a real Core. Actually, this experience will make it even easier for us to build the real thing later on, for we will already know the process.”
Cheng Hao drank the remaining tea and put the cup on the table “And we will profit a lot. Since it isn’t as pure as the real deal, it won’t last as much and it will be much more unstable, but the power will be about the same. With some help, Inferior stage will battle Advanced stage! Inferior stage will beat Advanced stage! Inferior stage will fly in the sky! Showing the might of the Advanced stage as an Inferior stage cultivator!”
Xiao Wu had long since been unable to speak, staring wide eyed, her jaw nearly touching the ground, the sound of her blood pumping pounding in her ears. Forget about taking notes! She branded every single word the young boy in front of her said in her mind, not forgetting a single word.
Finally she recovered and after a bit of pondering she muttered trembling “Brother… Could you actually… Be a genius?”
Cheng Hao grinned “And not only that. I will make you one too!”
With a bright flash, a golden tower appeared over the young boy’s hand. It had a total of fifteen levels, the first six levels had bronze gates, the middle five levels had silver gates and the last four levels had golden gates. All the gates were covered in chains and locks, as if they were keeping something sealed within.
Beautiful and domineering: if it were in its real size it would have been at least a few thousand meters tall, the gigantic gates, each bigger and sturdier than the previous level’s, would also be so big that a man would easily pass by the fissures below the door’s frame.
It was not possible to see what was behind the closed gates, as if some strange magic was impeding it and concealing the interior. It really made one wonder what those big golden doors held, what terrifying beasts would be sealed within and what fearful power it took to seal them.
“This is my Martial Way, the Immortal Ascension Tower. I have been working on it for two months and it is now finished. Today, I will step into the Inferior stage, and you will as well!”
Author’s Note: Up until now, this is the chapter I wanted to make the most, so I took longer to check and double check! Thanks to some weird bug in the system, our incredibly smart MC was able to show his wits to both the readers and other characters alike!
By the way, the one about the river and the sea was actually something I stumbled upon a few months back when I asked myself that same question (the question was wether a river or a lake would freeze first of course. This Qi Sea would actually have the same size as the Qi River would and it is called a Sea and not a Lake because it sounds cooler) and, remembering the answer, I decided to add it in! Neat!
Anyways, second longest chapter up til now, yet it took less time to write than the others (although it took twice as much time to edit) and I am on fire! This is the chapter I am most proud of until now and I hoped your blood got pumped up and your breathing became rugged just like Xiao Wu’s did.