Maybe he had an affinity? Approximately half of all cultivators did.
Ooh, what did he want?
Fire was his first choice of course but how about wind? They generally got to fly first... Earth for stout defence. Or maybe metal? It was ideal for a blacksmith as well... Water what's that good for? No, lightning like Fen Ling. Zap! Yes lightning. Please gods be light--"
"It's wood." Kong Wang was peering intently at him though slits for eyes. "Yep, wood."
Wood? Good... Good... He could help Fatty in the garden growing things. Ar last the prize for growing the largest turnip is mine, all mine!
"Congratulations, wood is a good one." Kong Wang looked pleased. Not top turnip schadenfreude pleased either but genuine simple guy pleased. Unlikely as it sounded to his own ears, could Kong Wang know something that Jian Chen didn't?
"What's so good about wood?" He snapped suspiciously.
His friend didn't react to the tone, or beat about the bush.
"Healing," he stated in a matter of fact manner.
Then he seemed to sense how unsatisfied his new found friend was. "Healing" was just a heading to Jian Cheng; he wanted the topic fully expanded upon in all its gory or glorious detail.
"Erm, healing is what's so good about wood." More. Jian Cheng needed more.
"Uh, everyone loves healers... They're always in demand, second only to alchemists… Every adventurer party has one..."
The frown slowly turned upside down. Actually that did make sense. He could fight then fix himself...
"I wouldn't tell anyone about it though," Kong Wang warned. “Sects snaffle healers up and don't let them outside much... Practically imprison them."
Jian Cheng’s tail instantly stopped wagging. Kong Wang sought to encourage the young pup by giving him another bone to chew on.
"You've got a minor in metal too."
"What's a minor?"
It seemed big brother Wang knew at least two things Jian Cheng didn't.
"People aren't born with only one skill you know. They have the whole range - except most aren't developed much. An affinity is just a skill that's strong enough to be deemed useful. We call it a major. A minor is a slightly weaker skill. It's still helpful and can usually be developed."
Can be developed? That was news to Jian Cheng. And his whole country, possibly the entire continent... But there was more...
" I have an earth minor that I've been working on for years - that’s how I got out of the ground before. But, obviously my major is water because the Black Tortoise was the divine beast king of water affinity. All our sect elders are water majors."
Wow! Brother Wang was suddenly a gushing fountain of information.
"What about my metal minor?"
"It’s already pretty strong and is good for using and making weapons and also talismans."
Now we're talking. "How do I develop it into a major?"
"Lots of ways. Practise makes perfect mostly. Lucky chances... Certain medicines... Metal qi from beast cores of that affinity...
"You need to understand that a major or affinity as you call it is not the be all and end all either. It's just a basic threshold of usefulness. A lot of cultivators chase the almighty qi and don't develop their abilities properly - or their soul and body cultivation. That's not the Tortoise way though, we're about total growth for total domination."
"Wow, I like the sounds of that last bit."
"I just made it up, to be honest."
"Still like it. It's a catchy slogan!"
"Thanks. You are a good friend..." Kong Wang was clearly teetering on the brink of agreeing. Just a little more Jian Cheng willed. “...you also have such an auspicious name for a founding elder. And as we all know a good name is better than a good face.”
Oops. Named and shamed - he could almost curse his parents. Unfortunately for him the two hanzi combination of his name weren't "establish" and "successfully". He studiously avoided his friend's trusting eyes. The stretched out silence made him feel increasingly guilty. Especially as the Cheng character in his name actually stood for "true and sincere". The first stood for "strong and healthy" but that wasn't helping anyone at the moment.
He almost spoke up, but Kong Wang had already sat back down in the lotus style, settling in to restore his qi. He'd even closed his eyes, which made it harder somehow. A minute later, Kong Wang opened his mouth to speak and the moment was gone. He’d been beaten to the punch anyway.
"Damn them all to hell, let's do this. I'll deal with the fallout."
"Wait, will elder brother Wang get in trouble?" Jian Cheng felt worse than before.
"You're the only friend I've got so it's worth it." He seemed determined. Jian Cheng could only sit back and listen. Kong Wang was off in his own world anyway - wherever that was.
"First order of business is blood. The other six chapters of the sect carry our holy bloodline in some form or other, as it brings out the best in the sacred techniques."
Unfortunately, the real sacred black tortoise blood is really ultra-rare and priceless... plus I forgot to bring any - must be in one of my other rings... That's a real problem…"
Kong Wang gritted his teeth,
"Ah, I suppose I could give you a drop of mine, it's pretty pure. Please don't ever tell anyone though as it’s strictly forbidden to share it… But since we’re such good friends…"
Kong Wang stared into his spatial ring and a collection of five jade vials appeared. He shook each of them in turn, until he found an empty one. In a blink of an eye the other four were gone, leaving an exquisite nephrite container. Jian Cheng eyed the mutton-fat white vial longingly. A fistful of nephrite was worth a king’s ransom in his world.
Mistaking his avarice for avidity, Kong Wang drew his water sword with a flourish and proceeded to prick his left forefinger. Making a sour face he squeezed a single drop of blood out and sealed it in the vial, then, with a wince, held it out to Jian Cheng.
"One drop of holy Thundering Tortoise bloodline. Down the hatch and thank me later."
Jian Cheng now eyed the exact same jade vial he'd coveted earlier with suspicion. “Does it hurt?”
“A little. I didn’t want to mention it, but it stings like the blue blazes… It’s like a sharp pin piercing your skin…"
“No, infusing the blood. Will it hurt me?”
“Oh, I don’t see why it would. I was born with gallons of it. Didn’t bother me. Well, I probably cried a bit, but I was only a baby… And I’d been dropped on my head as well...”
“Okay, okay, I’ll drink it,” Jian Cheng interrupted snatching the jade vial and tilting it towards his lips. “It can’t be any worse than that meridian debacle."
And it wasn’t.
It was about the same.
“Ahh, ahhh, blaarghh, ahh!”
“Zhenwu save us, not this whole rigmarole again.”
“Ahh, ahhh, ahh!”
“Rotate your qi!”
“Ahh, gah, ahhh, blaarghh, ahh!”
“Oh, you don’t know how, do you?” Kong Wang rubbed his stubble-less chin.
“I should probably have given you our special qi technique first…”
“Ahh, ahhh, blaarghh, ahh!”
"I could teach it to you now but it would take a while... And, to be honest, you don't really seem to be in the right frame of mind…"
"Aghhh, blaarghh, ahh!”
“Here I’ll help.” Kong Wang stepped forward decisively and stuck three fingers against his friend's chest. He concentrated his energies and began circulating his blood around Jian Cheng’s body in the prescribed manner. Instantly the searing burning pain receded. His body was still suffused with heat but it was a warm nurturing burn that exercised muscles gave off.
Soon it slowly began to build up eventually turning into a rumbling sensation. Jian Cheng sighed in relief, but suddenly the pressure in his chest began throbbing again. It felt like an angry herd of rhinos were running amok, rampaging throughout his dantian area. He began to panic, but Kong Wang just laughed.
“Don’t worry you’re breaking through that’s all.”
Those two words were music to Jian Cheng’s ears. He was about to become an actual successful cultivator! The dream he’d been denied was about to be restored.
At Kong Wang’s insistence he closed his eyes and concentrated on his internal situation. Under his friend's guidance, he reached out and added his impetus to circulating the qi along the prescribed pathways. A short but turbulent time later the pressure peaked, then combusted sending tsunami waves of qi outward towards his extremities.
Mentally, Jian Cheng rode the waves, until the sloshing settled and was absorbed back into his all parts of his body. His eyes snapped open revealing a vibrant light shining behind them. He stared at his skin surprised to not see it glowing in the darkness. It felt like it was glowing… It felt alive… He felt alive.... More alive than he’d ever been. Reborn almost...
Jian Cheng shook his head in wonder; he’d broken through to first layer of the qi condensation stage. It had been an utterly bizarre process but it didn’t matter how you got there. He imagined his parents’ delighted faces and the tears began to stream again.
Kong Wang snorted. Crying because of a break through, what a sook. “Save your tears, we’re not done yet.”
And they weren’t. Jian Cheng broke through twice more within an incense stick of time. Three tiers from one drop of blood. The beast kings were truly all powerful. Jian Cheng wasn’t crying at the end, he was laughing. They both were. It was a wonderful moment to be treasured forever. Kong Wang may not be the brightest nugget in the stream, but he was a genuine guy. A simple guy who enjoyed simple pleasures. In his heart Jian Cheng pledged his fealty to his powerful friend, swearing to some day repay his extravagant generosity.
Third layer qi condensation, top of the initial ninqi stage he felt fantastic. So fast, so strong.
He couldn’t wait to face his father again. He was so full of vim and vigour he felt like challenging Kong Wang to a sparring match on the spot. However, recalling the savagery and scale of the battle between the two experts before, he thought the better of it. Discretion was the better part of valour he consoled himself.
He breathed deeply, all was goo-- Oh gods above what was that smell? Fish guts? The three fingers against his chest suddenly prodded him and he was sent scuttling backwards.
"So powerful," he thought ruefully.
"You stink, go find a stream and wash up."
He did. It was him that stunk. His skin was oozing a disgusting black paste. It was pouring out of every pore. He lifted his arm to sniff the usual offender under his armpit. Whoa. He reeled back. Big mistake. He began backing away trying to escape his own smell as much as follow his friend's instructions. Thankfully he knew of a nearby stream along the forest border. As he sprinted towards it he couldn't help marvelling at the new found spring in his step. He was so fast now. He arrived at the stream in the blink of an eye.
Stripping off he dived in. Curiously his thoughts returned to his enduring shame and the time when little Fen Ling was snatched away. Now he had power... He would enter the Misty Cloud Sect and set things to right! Or die trying...
Jian Cheng dunked himself under again and those negative thoughts were washed away with the other grime.
Today was the greatest day in his life and he was determined to enjoy it. He began beating his wet clothes against a boulder revelling in the physical movement.
He could feel his speed and strength had improved by leaps and bounds. He was a country strong child who had always been training hard.
At 12, he could lift and carry a 100 catty sack of iron ore from the wagon to their foundry. One hour and three levels later, he felt as if he could throw it there.
His strength had basically doubled. His father, a half-step zhuji, could carry around 700 catty. By the end of body refinement, a normal cultivator could usually lift somewhere between 1500 and 3000 catty! One fine day!
He swam around for a bit then stood waist deep in the shallows and scrubbed himself with a fistful of rock moss. He roughly scoured the stubborn and sticky impurities paste off his entire body... But no matter how hard he scrubbed, he couldn't wipe the silly grin off his face.