If Jian Cheng could overhear the conversation taking place between the two experts below, he would flee straight home...
Splayed out on the ledge like a sacrificial lamb on an altar, the severely injured teen expert - knowing full well they'll never have time to produce results - crunches another batch of recovery pills ... His time on this plane appears to have run out...
"Kong Wang, the infamous failure of the Thundering Tortoise Clan, prepare to die." The older man looms above, looking down on the teen.
"I'm not a failure. I'm 17 and on the same tier as you - and you' must be a 100!"
"I'm 46 you insolent brat!"
"Same difference - 46 is a lot closer to a 100 than it is to 17."
"What?!"The elder's brows knit together. "Wow! I'd heard you were a stupid inbred, but this takes the cake."
"Uh, who said I'm stupid? Tell me immediately - and what cake?"
The elder shakes his head. "It would be quicker to name those who don't say you're stupid!"
"Oh, in the interests of saving time I suppose..."
Snort. "I'm not going to stand here and spout off a whole list of names - I'm going to kill you."
"Really? Why?" Kong Wang reaches behind and pushes himself upright into a sitting position.
"Uh, because my Shining Phoenix Sect is mortal enemies with your--"
"No, I know that obviously..." Kong Wang rolls his eyes. "Everyone knows that, but why are you refusing to name names?
"Are you frightened that I will wreak a terrible vengeance upon them?" he asks.
"No lackwit, not at all." The elder's voice begins rising in volume. "I'm about to kill you, the only reeking you'll be doing, is stinking of death!"
"What? Now you've lost me..." Kong Wang scratches the back of his head.
"Imbecile! Desist with your futile attempts to drag me down to your level." The elder's anger is now towering. "Besides there's no point in your 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!" Kong Wang's scratching hand suddenly points forward.
"Ke-ke. You think I, your father, would fall for a child's trick?" The elder smirks and shakes his head.
"No, seriously, you could get hurt... seriously...," the teen insists.
"Cease your gibberish." One of the Shining Phoenix expert's clenched fists blooms with crackling arcs of white lightning. He raises his sparking hand above his head to deliver the killing blow... but pauses at the last instant. " Aargh!That's not even logical you know? You're my sworn enemy so why would you go out of your way to save me?"
"Oh, that's true." A faint comprehension dawns in dim eyes. "He-he, in that case, carry on as you were... Just ignore any rumbling you may hear."
"Rumbling? Wait what? The skinny man takes two steps back, then spins around. His already sallow complexion becomes stark white. Avalanche!
Placing his hands flat on the ground, Kong Wang raises his knees and scuttles spider-style backwards across the ledge, frantically wedging himself into a crevice as a 100,000 catty torrent of dusty scree thunders past.
His opponent is not so fortunate. Using the last vestiges of his still recovering qi, the skinny elder seeks to soar into the air.... But is clipped from behind by a bouncing boulder and falls screaming to the ground. In the blink of an eye the Shining Phoenix star is snuffed out, buried under dusty shades of grey rock...
Oh-oh, Jian Cheng has overcooked the rice! ... Ahh, an avalanche isn't so easy to arrange, let alone control. The apprehensive boy digs his heels in then slides down the wall of still-settling scree he's unleashed. He arrives at the bottom in a cloud of dust then sprints towards the hillock where he last saw the teenage expert. The landslide he started has gone a little too well and he's probably killed the both of them. But before he can even begin his search, he hears a familiar refrain...
"Dammit! I've lost my ring again."
Like a lotus opening, a mound of dusty rock and dirt unfurls from within... A corpse-like jiangshi figure arises shakily out of the flotsam and jetsam debris.
"It's on your other hand." Jian Cheng shakes his head but inwardly sighs in relief.
"Ahh, so it is." Kong Wang beams gratefully, if somewhat greyly. He waves his hand to retrieve a glowing pill, which he promptly pops 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?" Kong Wang seems surprised. He pauses dusting himself down for a moment, but then just shrugs.
"That was pretty irresponsible of you. Fortunately there has been no harm done this time. It actually came in quite handy... He resumed slapping at his clothes. "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 doesn'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 digests this latest titbit. And finds it to his taste. "Well, it worked bloody well, cause you killed him. I can't sense his qi at all. Done and literally dusted. Good job and good riddance to bad rubbish."
"I'm just grateful that esteemed senior survived..." Jian Cheng humbly cups his hands and half bows.
"Thanks to you young friend. Forget all that "senior" nonsense, please 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 hero Cheng, I suppose congratulations are in order, you've killed a yuanying powerhouse - how many does that make it?"
"Uh, one." The boy replies, inwardly rolling his eyes. "Though they say it only takes a single spark to start a forest fire."
"So true." The teen nods sagely. "So, now you're thinking you should have started a fire instead?"
A slow-forming frown scrunches his facial features into a knot "Uh, I don't know if there was time? Besides the avalanche worked out fairly well anyway..."
Jian Cheng sighs silently, then sits down crossing his legs, letting the uncomfortable conversation lapse into a comfortable silence. For the time it takes to make a meal, the pair sat side-by-side, feet dangling off the ledge, recuperating. But nothing very good or very bad ever lasts for very long...Kong Wang has been peering intently at Jian Cheng with a perplexed expression. Their truce of silence is about to be broken...
"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 any."
"Ahh, the mysterious Absence is a Form of Presence cultivation method."
"Uh, not quite... Unfortunately my eight primary meridians have some blockages."
This expert meant well, but everything he utters makes the boys spirits sink.
Then why don't you get them fixed?" Kong Wang asks.
"Fixed?" Instantly Jian Cheng 's chin lifts.
"How?" he demands.
"Couldn't be simpler." Fortunately, the esteemed senior seems to be oblivious to the boy's rude tone. "Just ask any expert to force them open with their qi... It would only take an incense stick of time for anyone over emperor stage..."
Jian Cheng doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Whereas, Kong Wang doesn't know when to stop.
"My father could do it, easy... Many of my uncles could...," he blathers cheerfully. "Even I could at a pinch... Although control isn't my strong suit and I'd most likely kill you... Boom! There'd be bits everywhere..."
Jian Cheng didn't hear anything about any explosion, he only hears Kong Wang can fix him! This is 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 is at stake... He begins to beg...
"Honorable elder brother Wang, please take the time to help this unworthy one..." His eyes well with watery emotion.
Falling to his knees, Jian Cheng hands are clasped together and held up above his head imploringly. "Please! Senior please!"
"Um, it's not safe,." Kong Wang is squirming on his rocky seat. "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 is floundering and Jian Cheng is not about to let him off the hook. Soon the constant wheedling has worn Kong Wang down to the nub, and he reluctantly agrees.
"Ahh, gahhh, aarghh, ahh!"
"Are you alright?" Kong Wang appears puzzled.
"Uh-uh uhhh, aarghh!"
"Oops, I think I might have overdone it a smidgen? 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 worrying about how to get home... Silly really, as father already gave me a homing crystal after the last time I got lost..."
"Anyways, do you want me to lower the power I'm using?"
"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 furrows his brows and frowns down at his friend's twitching form. "Hmm, 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 20..."
"Uh-uh, ahhh... Aargh..."
"It's actually 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 on my qi..."
"Right. Going to pull back now. We can both have a little rest then start again. There..."
"Ahh... No more, no more..." A shaky Jian Cheng splutters.
"What? Are you saying I did it?" Kong Wang can't contain his excitement.
"I don't care if you did it or not." The shivering boy seeks to control his quivering body. "No more, never again!"
Utterly unconcerned, Kong Wang sits back on his haunches.
"I was almost sure I'd stuff it up and kill you, so don't be such a mewling kitten - here, let me check." Grinning, he lays his palm on Jian Cheng's still heaving chest.
Closing his eyes, Kong Wang concentrates for a few heartbeats.
"Whoah! So wide!"
The expert's eyes blink wide-open then shift slightly furtively. "Ooh, ouch, that would have hurt so much - you should have said something..."
"I did," Jian Cheng mutters sulkily, but still under his breath. "I screamed 'aargh' for five minutes straight..."
"Something more specific maybe..." Kong Wang lowers his eyes. He considers for a moment before reaching into his spatial ring and pulling out a large striped green pellet. "Swallow this it will dull the burning sensation and help heal the qi channels," he said.
Startled, Jian Cheng reaches out reverently for the proffered medicinal pill. A magic tablet! His first thought is to pocket it, as it is probably priceless... But the burning pain, not to mention trusting eyes of Kong Wang, force his shaky fingers towards his pursed lips. It may well heal him but it will indeed be a bitter pill to swallow.
"So much gold, literally going down the gurgler." He sighs silently, gulping the pill down. It feels like swallowing a 'medicine ball', in every sense of the term.
Beside him, Kong Wang also clears his throat. "The good news is your meridians are now entirely clear and are, in fact, the widest I've ever seen. - massively improving your potential for growth!"
Luxuriating in the lush, cooling medicinal effects, Jian Cheng takes a while to process the words he has just heard. When the information hits home he almost collapses. Didn't that mean he can cultivate! All his stillborn dreams come alive and crawl back into his consciousness.
He can cultivate! The jianghu path is open to him again. On the spot he swears he'll snatch this second chance and never look back. Tears of gratitude gush down his face. Immediately Jian Cheng rolls to his knees and kowtows three times toward his saviour.
Gripping his hands together tightly, his tear-glazed eyes stare intently at the taken aback Kong Wang above
"This one will forever hold this kindness in his heart. If senior ever requires anything..."
With a wave of his sleeves, Kong Wang cuts him off. "Nonsense, that's what friends are for. You helped me, I help you - it's only natural."