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A note from Mullayo

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If Jian Cheng could have heard the conversation between the two experts below, he would have probably fled straight home.


Splayed out on the ledge like a sacrificial lamb on an altar, the severely injured teen expert crunched another batch of recovery pills - knowing full well they'd never have time to produce results... His time on this plane appeared to have run out. Though maybe he could at least win the argument they were having...


"Kong Wang, the infamous failure of your Thundering Tortoise Clan, prepare to die." the older man smirked.

"I’m not a failure. I’m seventeen and on the same tier as you - and you’ must be a hundred!"

“I’m forty six! You insolent brat.”

“Same difference... Forty six is a lot closer to a hundred than it is to seventeen.”

“What?! Wow! I'd heard you were a stupid inbred, but this takes the cake.”

“Who said I'm stupid? Tell me now - and what cake?”

“It would be a lot quicker to name those who don't say you’re stupid!”

“Oh, in the interests of saving time I suppose…”

 

“I’m not going to stand here and spout off a whole list of names - I’m going to kill you.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because my Shining Phoenix Sect is mortal enemies with your--”

“No, I know that obviously. Everyone knows that, but why are you refusing to name names? Are you frightened I will wreak a terrible vengeance upon them?”

“No lackwit, not at all." The elder's voice began rising in volume. "I’m about to kill you, the only reeking you’ll be doing is stinking of death!”

 

“What? You’ve lost me…”

“Imbecile! Desist with your futile attempts to drag me down to your level. Besides there’s no use prolonging this fiasco. I’ve already searched the area with spiritual sense and there is no-one within cooee who can save you.”

“Oh...Watch out behind you!”

 

“Ke-ke. You think I, your father, would fall for a child’s trick?”

“No, seriously, you could get hurt… seriously…”

“Cease your nonsense. It’s not even logical. You’re my sworn enemy so why would you go out of your way to save me?”

“Oh, that’s true.” A faint understanding dawned in the dim eyes of the injured expert. “Disregard what I said before. Carry on as you were… Just ignore any rumbling you may hear.”

 

“Rumbling? Wait what? The skinny man took two steps back then spun around. His sallow complexion instantly became stark white. Avalanche!

Kong Wang rolled backwards across the ledge, wedging himself into a crevice as a hundred thousand catty torrent of dusty scree thundered past.

His opponent was not so fortunate. Using the last vestiges of his still recovering qi, he sought to soar into the air, but was clipped from behind by a bouncing boulder and fell to the ground. In the blink of an eye the Shining Phoenix star was snuffed out, buried under dusty shades of grey rock...


Oh-oh, Jiang Cheng had overdone it... Overcooked the rice! ... Ahh, an avalanche wasn't easy to arrange, let alone control. The apprehensive boy dug his heels in then slid down the wall of scree he'd unleashed. He arrived at the bottom in a cloud of dust, then sprinted towards the hillock where he'd last seen the teenage expert. The landslide he'd started had gone too well and he'd probably killed the both of them. But before he could even begin his search, he heard a familiar refrain...


“Dammit! I’ve lost my ring again.”


A mound of dusty rock and dirt unfurled from within like a flower opening. A slate-grey, corpse-like jiangshi figure arose shakily out of the flotsam and jetsam debris.

“It’s on your other hand.”

“Ahh, so it is.” Kong Wang beamed gratefully, if somewhat greyly. He waved his hand to retrieve a glowing pill, which he promptly popped into his mouth. “Thanks young stranger, you’re a life saver.”

“No need for thanks. I’m just glad that senior managed to avoid the avalanche I caused.”

“You caused that avalanche?” Komg Wang seemed surprised. He paused dusting himself down for a moment, but then just shrugged.

 

“That was pretty irresponsible of you. Fortunately there was no harm done this time. It actually came in quite handy... But in future you need to watch where you walk. I hear keeping quiet helps too – both before and after... For hours after apparently. Bizarre but that’s what I was told…”

“Um, I started it on purpose.”

“Oh, I see.”

But he didn’t. “I have a younger cousin who likes to light fires, maybe--”

“To attack senior’s enemy. I started an avalanche to ambush senior’s opponent.”

 

“Oh.” Kong Wang digested this latest tidbit. And found it was apparently to his taste. “Well, it worked bloody well, cause you killed him. I can’t sense his qi at all. Done and dusted. Good job and good riddance to bad rubbish."

"I'm just grateful that esteemed senior survived..."

 

"Thanks to you young friend. Forget this senior nonsense call me Kong Wang from now on. - what's your name by the way?"

"This little one is named Jian Cheng and humbly greets esteemed senior Kong Wang."

"Just Kong Wang, we're friends now after all. Well little friend Cheng, I suppose congratulations are in order, you've killed a yuanying powerhouse - how many does that make it?"

"Uh, one." He replied, inwardly rolling his eyes. "Though they say a single spark can start a forest fire."

"So true." Kong Wang nodded sagely. "So now you’re thinking you should have started a fire instead? ... I don't know if there was time? Besides the avalanche worked out fairly well anyway..."

 

Jian Cheng sighed and sat down crossing his legs, letting the uncomfortable conversation lapse into a comfortable silence. For the next half hour the pair sat side by side, feet dangling off the ledge just recuperating. But nothing good or very bad ever lasts for very long...


“Young friend Cheng your cultivation is truly profound - I can’t sense your level of attainment at all.”

“Uh, that’s probably because I don’t have one.”

“Ahh, the mysterious Absence is a Form of Presence cultivation method."

“Ahh., not quite. Unfortunately my eight primary meridians have some blockages."

This expert meant well but everything he uttered made Jian Cheng ’s spirits sink.

 

“Why don’t you get them fixed?”

“Fixed?” Instantly Jian Cheng ’s chin lifted.

“How?” He demanded.

“Couldn’t be simpler,” Luckily the esteemed senior seemed oblivious to Jiang Cheng's previously rude tone. “Ask any expert to force them open with their qi… Would only take two minutes for anyone over emperor stage…”

Jian Cheng didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Whereas Kong Wang didn’t know when to stop.

“My father could do it, easy… Most of my uncles could… Even I could at a pinch… Although control isn’t my strong suit… Most likely kill you... Boom! There’d be bits everywhere...”

 

Jiang Cheng didn't hear anything about any explosion, he only heard Kong Wang could fix him! This was it. His one and only lucky chance! A potential turning point in his little life. The decisive now or never moment. Jian Cheng's entire future was at stake... He began to beg.

 

"Honourable senior brother Wang, please take the time to help this unworthy one..."


Jian Cheng fell to his knees, hands clasped together were held up above his head imploringly. "Please!"

"Um, it's not safe, it really is too dangerous you could die."

"If I die, I swear I won't complain at all."

"Well, I admit that is exceedingly gracious of you..."

He was floundering and Jian Cheng was not about to let him off the hook. An incense stick of time later the constant wheedling had worn Kong Wang down to the nub, and he reluctantly agreed.


“Ahh, gahhh, aarghh, ahh!”

“Are you alright?” Kong Wang appeared puzzled.

“Uh-uh uhhh, aarghh!”

“I think I might have overdone it a smidgeon? What do you think?”

“Ahh, ahhh, blaarghh, ahh!”

“What? You’re not sure?”

“Ahh, uh, gahhh!”

“I’m pretty sure I did. I got distracted… I was worried about how to get home… Silly really as I just remembered father gave me a homing crystal after the last time I got lost…”

 

“Aaarrghhh….”

“Anyways, do you want me to lower the power I’m using?”

“Ahh, uh!”

“Can you speak clearer?”

“Ahh, ahhh, uh-uh!”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“Aghh, ugh, ahhh!”

“What to do…What to do…” Kong Wang furrowed his brow and frowned down at Jian Cheng’s twitching form. “I know, blink twice if you think I should slow up.”

 

“Arghh, uh, ahhhhhh!”

“Um, that’s too much blinking I can’t tell if it’s twice or twenty…”

“Uh-uh, ahhh… Aargh…”

“It’s rather difficult to know exactly what you’re thinking. You definitely need to work on your communication skills.”

“Ahh, uggh, ahhhhh!”

“Uh, I’m just going to stop - it truly is too tiring, doing this, it's really draining my qi…”

“Aaarrghhh….”

“Ready?”

“blaarrghh….”


“Going to pull back now. We can both have a little rest then start again. There…”

“Ahh, no more, no more…”


“What? Are you saying I did it?” Kong Wang couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I don’t care if you did it or not, no more, never again.”

 

“I was almost sure I’d stuff it up and kill you, so don’t be such a mewling kitten - let me check.” Grinning Kong Wang laid his palm on Jian Cheng’s still heaving chest.


Closing his eyes Kong Wang concentrated for a few seconds before exclaiming.

“Whoah! So wide!”

His eyes blinked open and a shifted slightly furtively. “Ooh ouch, that would have hurt so much - you should have said something…”

“I did," Jian Cheng muttered sulkily, but still under his breath. "I screamed ‘aargh’ for five minutes straight...”

“Something more specific maybe…” Kong Wang lowered his eyes a little chastened, before reaching into his spatial ring and pulling out a striped green pellet. “Swallow this it will dull the burning sensation and help heal the qi channels.”


Startled Jian Cheng reached out reverently for the proffered medicinal pill. A magic tablet.! His first thought was to pocket it as it was probably priceless... But the burning pain, not to mention the trusting eyes of Kong Wang forced his shaky fingers towards his mouth. It may well heal him but it would indeed be a bitter pill to swallow.


“So much gold, literally going down the gurgler,” he sighed, gulping the pill down. It felt like swallowing a 'medicine ball' , in every sense.

Beside him Kong Wang also cleared his throat. “The good news is your meridians are now entirely clear and are now, in fact, the widest I’ve ever seen. - massively improving your cultivation speed potential!"


Luxuriating in the lush cooling medicinal effects, Jian Cheng took a while to process the words he’d just heard. When the information hit home he almost collapsed. Didn't that mean he could cultivate! All his stillborn dreams came alive and crawled back into his consciousness.


He could cultivate! On the spot he swore he’d snatch this second chance and never look back. Tears of gratitude gushed down his face. Immediately he rolled to his knees and kowtowed three times toward his saviour.

Cupping his hands, his tear glazed eyes stared intently at the taken aback Kong Wang in front of him.

“This one will forever hold this kindness in his heart. If senior ever requires anything…”

With a wave of his sleeves Kong Wang cut him off. “Nonsense, that’s what friends are for. You helped me, I help you; it’s only natural.”

 

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