Early winter morning. Industrial District of Townberg.
One piece of cultivator history that my predecessor’s H*-Man figurine taught me is that there’s virtually always a seniorer senior ready to defend their junior. There’s always an ancienter ancient, ready to emerge from solitary meditation to slap down those who threaten their descendants.
While this provides excellent opportunities to constantly fight increasing odds, being thus incredibly beneficial to Alpha cultivation, it also presents with it a unique set of challenges.
Thankfully, I follow the Dao of Chadness instead of Dao of Murderhoboism, and thus my methods aren’t restricted to killing my opponents.
Air tasted crisp and hopeful with a dash of burnt sulfide.
My hypermuscular form rippled with Chad-like strength and I knew I was finally ready.
Life was good in my neighbourhood and the rest of Townberg had waited long enough.
It was time.
Time to begin my reconquest of Earth.
Banner of the Humming Blade sect fluttered above tall industrial chimneys. Workmen trudged between blocky concrete giants. Sacks of scrapped furniture and technology bent their backs.
“Come on now. Come on. Work those legs.” A burly, black bearded man in a puffy winter hat clapped his hands at a queue of men walking beside him. “Today’s price is a meridian opening pill. We can do it, boys!”
“Bah. How about you lend a hand eh?” A white-haired man with a sack replied. “Not much use for those powers if you’ren’t hauling no more, is there?”
The bearded man shook his head, a sympathetic frown on his features. “Would if I could, Tobias. Would if I could. You know the rules.”
“Piss ‘em rules,” grumbled the wrinkled gent, huffing as he adjusted the sack on his shoulder. “Piss ‘em all.”
The bearded man’s frown turned grave. “No more of that tone, Tobias. Not a word, or I’ll be forced to take that as a slander towards our sect. Come on now!” He clapped. “We’ve never lost a day. Let’s make sure the tradition holds.”
Grumbling internally, the men continued work. Similar groups of 30-50 led by one Earthling turned cultivator dotted the courtyards and docking areas.
I made my way to the building with most Humming Blade markings, a large industrial foundry. Two locals in sect tabards stood between me and the doors.
Several things had changed about me since completing the Muscles-on-Muscles stage. Firstly, [Eyes of the Alpha] was now permanently active. Secondly, my massive thighs and masculinity made my gait naturally follow one of the eleven Alpha Walk techniques, at all times.
“Good morning. Which way are the cultivators?” I asked, smiling.
The two were helpful enough to guide me to the top floor. There, in a wide room furnished in a peculiar mix of oriental and factory. Thin slabs of various alloys filled the huge round table, around which two Humming Blade cultivators drank tea.
“...quality should be impossible for mortal smiths,” said a black-haired woman with feathered parka and a raven beak-mask.
To which a tall burly man with colorful plumage in his hair and cloak replied, “And yet, they continue to fail to infuse even the faintest brush of Qi into the metal. As it is, this can at best be used for mortal tool…”
Neither was able to take their eyes off my [Chad Stride] (the first Alpha Walk). Neither could break eye-contact.
“Shirtless,” the woman coughed blood. “The audacity!”
“Fool! You’ve made your last mistake.” The man sneered. “To bring your army here means the declaration of war against the Humming Blade sect! None of you shall be spared when our elders hear of this.”
“Good morning,” I said, sliding comfortably into their personal spaces. “These aren’t warriors. My friends are part of the Happyland staff.”
Two orderlies, one nurse, and doctor Edelfelt — all demonic Qi cultivators — trailed behind me and Mr. Maxson, who adjusted his glasses with a trembling hand.
“Staff?” the woman tilted her head, confused.
“It is irrelevant who they are! The elders will take this as a declaration of war that it is, and we can finally put an end to this farce! That is. If this… admittedly handsome and manly vermin can even survive! Behold! Hungmangyongnon’s Blade of Slightly Rainbowish Blade! A single slice will break bones and shatter innards on anyone it hits!” With an exaggerated flourish, the man drew a sword infused with Qi. “This Hungmangyongnon of Rainbow Blade will take your head!”
Mr. Maxson frowned. “It’s worse than I feared. Dr. Edelfelt?”
“I heard him, Dr. Maxson.” Edelfelt made notes.
“Was I too hopeful?” I asked the good doctors.
“I am talking to you!” shouted the cultivator. “Challenging you!”
Dr. Edelfelt pursed her lips in a smile. “Fret not. I’m certain we can manage.”
A sword dashed through the air and stopped at my neck, pressing against an artery. “Foolish cur. This shall be the last time you disrespect the name of Humming Blade with your presence. Now prepare to die!”
With a casual motion, I lifted my arms above my head, flexed my form, and assumed the [Sure You Wanna Do That, Bruh?]-defensive posture. The blade bounced off my neck-muscles. With [Alpha Slap] I disarmed the cultivator, and twirled his sword back into its sheath. All of this occurred within the fraction of a second, too quick for the cultivator to register.
He swung his bladeless fist as if he was holding a sword and made a motion, which frankly, looked quite silly.
“RAAH!” He blinked, looking at his empty hand. “The… whu… but?”
A trickle of Big Dick energy entered me from the cultivators, which I channeled straight back into [Sure You Wanna Do That, Bruh?], turning perfect defence into an offensive maneuver.
The cultivators recognized the unspoken demand in my display of dominance and froze from sheer intimidation.
Mr. Maxson continued, “It’s, if you allow me to put it crudely, Mr. Chadman, as if they were toddlers declaring that their punch kills the mostest. Combine that with what seems to be a severe case of intermittent explosive disorder, possible childhood trauma, and repressive cultural norms… I say, we’re facing a thoroughly demanding challenge.”
“But it could be done?” I asked.
“Yes. Yes. Perhaps with Dr. Edelfelt's methods and our research on demonic Qi psychiatry combined, but… I will say this Mr. Chadman. Utilizing demonic Qi psychology on unwilling participants treads a fine line between treatment and brainwashing. This whole endeavour, it could be construed as highly unethical. Highly unethical, I say.”
“This is war Mr. Maxson. War with Earth at stake,” I reminded him.
“That is exactly why we must exercise caution. I’m certain Himmel said the same thing, as did many other men who saw themselves turn into their worst reflections. I won’t say that we won’t try it, Mr. Chadman. But if we are to do this, we shall be treating them as patients first, and enemies second.”
A smile cracked my lips, and I patted the small balding man’s shoulder. “You’re a great man Mr. Maxson.”
With [Sure You Wanna Do That, Bruh?] momentarily broken, the male cultivator found strength of will to continue the fight. He released an ear piercing cry of a bird and shot at me. Iridescent Qi coalesced around his arms into ghostly talons. Wings of pure Qi sprouted from his back.
He had no doubt established what Feathered Blade had called Winged Core, surpassing any Qi cultivator I’d faced thus far.
But I had made gains since Feathered Blade.
With a casual twirl of my posture, I evaded his strike and took the man under my arm as if he were an old friend. Holding him thus, I leaned in, and whispered with the full might of my presence techniques combined, “Bruh, just don’t.”
The man stared up at me, his hesitation feeding my Big Dick energy, creating an inescapable feed-back loop between his fear and my presence techniques.
Qi evaporated. The battle was over.
Both cultivators were put into straitjackets.
I was left with a lingering satisfaction. Finally, my Alpha cultivation had reached a level where I could more freely utilize its core techniques. Presence techniques were the dumbbell and deadlift to us, a way for us to fight less powerful enemies without accidentally turning them into human pretzels.
Before heading back to Happyland, I gave the Earthling guards turned cultivators instructions for how to be better bruhs to their subordinates.
Year 19 562 of the Era of Voidflight. Mortal realm of Terra, the city of Townberg, Happyland Asylum.
Bright lights loomed above Hungmangyongnon, swirling like celestial bodies, slowly coalescing into one of the odd electric lamps Terran mortals liked to use. Awareness returned slowly.
Old memories clung to his heart with the feel of fresh wounds. Tears long since dried ran down his cheeks. Longings long since denied stabbed his soul with rusty teeth. Child’s naivety fluttered in his breast, screaming.
I’m under an illusion. Hungmangyongnon tried to circulate Qi through himself, but found his body sluggish and his focus slow.
His Winged Core was there, but something barred his access to it. Poison. It had to be. Hungmangyongnon snarled. How vile! To think these people would stoop to not only using demonic cultivation but also poisoning techniques? Honorless rats.
A blurred figure and her chair grew into clarity.
Hungmangyongnon glared at her. One couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else. This female was a rogue demonic Qi cultivator, garbed in a white coat and a brown shirt of crude wool. Beneath that inoffensive appearance hid the demonic illusionist, who’d tried to trick Hungmangyongnon.
“Hello,” she said, her voice and demeanor strangely pleasant, “Do you remember me and where you are?”
Hungmangyongnon spat on the ground. “You are an honorless cur known as Ede Fel, and this is the lair of the foe known as Chadman.”
“Mm-hm. It seems your memory is intact.” Her fingers tapped one of those odd boards of buttons. “Would you like to describe to me how the treatment made you feel?” Red demonic eyes locked on Hungmangyongnon.
“The treatment?” he blinked, confused.
An avalanche of emotions and memories cut Hungmangyongnon’s words.
Old wounds of his soul were bared. Regrets all there as fresh as last hour. Dreams and hopes, wishes of his past, all bloomed beside the dark moments, as if his whole life had happened yesterday.
“This one demands to know what manner of poisonous sorcery you’ve done.”
Ede Fel finished tapping at her buttons. “A form of highly experimental Qi-based psychotherapy to help the patient overcome a frankly tangled mess of incredibly toxic cultural norms, childhood neglect, and misguided ambitions — a combination Dr. Maxson has coined as: This One Syndrome. I’m afraid you don’t have the choice to forego this treatment, but I do believe we’ll be able to make great progress together. We believe that for the vast majority of you, real human beings are hiding underneath the cultivator shells, simply acting out a compilation of memes and trying to fit a mold.”
It took a moment for Hungmangyongnon to process what he’d heard.
Memories and emotions ran amok, throwing off his focus, but in the end, by sheer power of will, he managed to wrangle them under control, and scoffed. “Fool! You believe your fancy wordplay will work on this one? Think again! Our elders knew of your world before we came. Our elders saw your nations. Our elders saw your leaders, your powerful, all corrupted by the mortal powerlust for gold and influence. Strong will rule. Weak will kneel. You will learn the honor and virtues of cultivators, and learn that without them, true power of cultivation would make your pitiful realm a most hideous den of miscreants.”
“Perhaps.“ The female shrugged.
“You admit it.”
“Perhaps not.” She shrugged again, smiling strangely carefree. “Perhaps your society is one natural outcome of when the human condition comes into contact with a system that gives us immortality and superpowers that scale with age. But I believe we can be better. So long as there is will, there can be change.”
Ede Fel stood up, conjuring demonic Qi on her fingertips. “Now. Let’s resume working on your motivation. We’ll give you another dose of Qi-therapy, and you can tell me all about your mother.”
Hungmangyongnon was trembled by a shock of memories. “No! Stay back! This one warns youuuuu…”
Three fingers pressed against his temple, and Hungmangyongnon returned to simpler days, to the day before the feather-clad man came and took mom away.
Three days after the liberation of Industry District, Industry District.
Hungmangyongnon, the Rainbow Feather, and Ho Li, Sulking Talons, shook my hand and thanked us for opening their eyes. Dr. Edelfelt prescribed them both some medication, and daily follow-up checkups for next week to make sure they didn’t revert.
I felt optimistic.
Though most of the invading cultivators were heinous criminals, I wasn’t a stranger to former murderers being reformed. It could be done, though only time would tell whether the treatment would help long term, or if it indeed was applicable to all cultivators. Some, I suspected, would have the mental fortitude and power to resist it, especially in the case of those who’d advanced to the higher realms of cultivation and touched their Dao.
This was merely a short-term solution to my earlier dilemma.
The reformed cultivators would allow us to maintain an illusion of normalcy around Townberg, thus lowering the odds that an overpowered senior was summoned to simply destroy the entire city, civilians included.
I began my move against the Humming Blade sect.
My short-term goal: Capture the elusive leader of Townberg cultivators known as Silent Feather, without alerting the rest of her sect.
Extreme care was needed, for she was known by her former comrades to be at the Ethereal Bird realm, the spiritual realm of Humming Blade cultivation. This, third realm, was where cultivators began to grow exponentially supernatural. Flying swords and magic-like Qi techniques both could be effective against my current power.
What’s more, the ones we’d captured knew her to be a cunning and ruthless leader, a true cultivator to the bone, the type that maneuvers herself with calculative intelligence both in politics and in the battlefield.
I had to pull all the stops if I intended to win.
While cultivating basic reps with my bruhs, while eating, while sleeping, while pooping, I clenched my head-muscles to increase the blood flow in my brain. 24/7, I either planned incredibly elaborate 4D maneuvers against her, or executed them.
By disguising myself as a pizza delivery boy, I penetrated the defences of the underlings left in charge of the campus area.
By making a cultivator believe that Christmas was in November, and disguising myself as Santa, I was able to infiltrate the base of the cultivators, who were supposed to keep order over the Apartment Housing district.
By taking a nap at the central park, and letting myself be shackled and put into a slave carriage, I got a free ride to an underground mine beneath Downtown. There, mortals in collars extracted shards of midnight black glowing material from strange veins spider-webbing across the walls of the subway system. I took a sample and defeated the cultivator in charge with a simple presence technique.
I was making moves every day.
Outplaying my foe at every opportunity.
I’d even reinforced the defensive Chad formations around Happyland with Dese Nut’s help. Even created feints and distractions by printing cardboard copies of my visage and spreading them throughout the city.
I’d taken measures to protect Townberg’s food and water supply.
I’d taken every possible move I could.
And yet, despite using Big Brain mode till every orifice on my head bled, I could not anticipate my opponent. It was as if she was a ghost.
What was going on?
It couldn’t be?
Was she utilizing some form of Galaxy Brain technique to outsmart my Big Brain moves?
“Papa, meet my future husband!”
Elder Ghost Feather coughed blood and nearly choked on it.
Neckbeardman smirked smirkily. “Potential husbando,” he corrected. “The marriage of m’lady and I is dependent on whether or not your ‘sect’ can appreciate and agree to my requirements.”
Elder Ghost Feather doubled over from shock, heaving clumps of blood through his cough. “Such… such ar—”
“A wonderful gentleman, isn’t he, papa?” Silent Feather snuggled up to Neckbeardman’s stomach, giggling as she twirled a finger against his majestic girth. “In a mere span of four days, he’s defended my honor twenty times, bought me flowers eight times, and released Heaven sundering ‘ree’ thrice, when my opinions were questioned. He’s the perfect gentleman.”
Neckbeardman smirked even smirkier. As expected, a true m’lady could appreciate the White Knight techniques.
“Oh, look at him, papa. Isn’t he handsome?”
“Handsome?” Both of Ghost Feather’s eyelids were twitching. Veins popped on his forehead and his hand crushed a tea-cup. “My child, under what warped Heavens is this… creature handsome?”
Silent Feather giggled as if her father had told a joke. “Oh, papa, don’t be dramatic. Please, this one’s hoogieboogie, tell this one’s father your demands.”
Ghost Feather shivered from outrage.
Neckbeardman’s smirk achieved critical smirkness, activating [Nice-Guy Aura]. “Very well, m’lady. So that you know, father in law, m’lady has already agreed to these. Thus, this is but a mere formality.”
Spit flew with every other word as he spoke, his mannerism and tone that of a superior intellectual. “In order for me to accept a time-consuming 3D waman into my waifu harem, she and her sect must agree to the following rules. Primarily, do not message me while I’m raiding with my guild. Secondarily, do not disturb me while I’m reading manga. Tertiarily, never interrupt me whilst I’m writing essays on Gud Reads reviews. You see, my two followers rely heavily on my insightful list of ten thousand 1 star reviews, in order to avoid books, where the main character is a whiny loser or makes sub-optimal decisions that the authors try to lazily justify as ‘realistic emotions’. These times are essential and sacred times of meditation.”
“Harem…” Ghost Feather’s gray wispy hairs began to turn white at the tips. “Waifu…” His chest trembled as the man entered cardiac arrest.
“Papa, don’t be dramatic. It’s embarrassing.”
Ghost Feather shivered violently, nearly blurring. Then, with a snap, returned to normalcy.
The wispy old oriental man dressed in oversized robes of black and jade silk smiled widely and resumed a dignified posture. “Apologies, my child. This one does not know what overcame him. Yes, yes of course you may marry this exceptionally nice guy. It is evident that he is both virtuous and honorable nice guy, based on how he has treated my little jade feather.”
“Gratitude papa!” Silent Feather bowed to Ghost Feather. “I’m overjoyed to become one of his waifus!”
“Ho-ho-ho. This one can only imagine the joy.” Ghost Feather stroked his silky white beard.
Neckbeardman stroked his curly black mane.
[Nice-Guy Aura] was an amazing technique. M’ladies were proper ladies. Unintellectual men understood their inferiority to a true gentleman. Brutes knew their place to be beneath a true White Knight. The world under his aura worked as it logically should.
“We shall prepare for a wedding befitting the status of my thirteenth heir. A grand festival! An event that shall show these mortals a glimpse of the life they could attain if they work hard and cultivate.”
“How cunning, papa.”
“Hmph. Make sure you serve D*ritos and Mountain D*w.”
“Of course. Of course. Only the best to my new son-in-law!”
“This has been a fortuitous encounter, my child, my son-in-law.” Ghost Feather looked at them both. “But this one must be excusing himself. There’s much to do.”
“Anything we could help you with, papa?”
“I’m afraid not, my child.” Ghost feather stood to leave, pausing dramatically at the door. “A diplomatic delegation arrived under the banner of the Sovereign of Primal Dawn. This is no doubt a matter of continental importance. Focus on the city under your dominion. Keep the Can Can Clan out, ensure the subjugation and integration of the natives proceeds smoothly, and perhaps we may add further territories under your rule before the decade is over.”
“I will papa. Thank you papa!”
Neckbeardman and his waifu candidate were left alone in the vast lounge that tried to mimic oriental China, but got a few crucial details wrong. For instance, the glowing birds inside paper-lanterns, dancing tapestries of bird-ink, and the long arched ceilings were not at all authentic.
Whilst enchanting her with an insightful lecture about why A*atar is, in fact, not an anime, Neckbeardman’s beard tingled, alerting him to the approach of a potential enemy. Scent of earth, woodlands, and blood suffused the air.
The backdoor slid open without a sound.
In a maneuver of perfect elegance and majesty, Neckbeardman drew his blade and slashed the air.
“Be at ease, friends. I’m here only to talk,” said a voice of sugar and honey.
Neckbeardman lowered his blade, bowed, and tipped his hat. “M’lady.”
“Why, how charming. You may call me Rhie.” Rhie had a pleasant laugh, and accepted his kiss on the back of her hand. The red silk she was garbed in left bare large stretches of golden tattoos, a pair of golden fox ears, and three tails. She was any true intellectual’s dream come true — a kemomimi waifu.
Silent Feather perked, assuming a more serious tone. “Well met, Rhie. This one is Silent Feather of Humming Blade sect.”
“Ah, a pleasure. I’ve heard great things about your… dominion.” Rhie smiled sweetly, taking a seat near Neckbeardman.
A tail brushed his leg.
[Nice-Guy Aura] collapsed as his brain became overstimulated by female touch.
Silent Feather’s eyes grew cold and calculative as she regarded Rhie. “What interest does the Primal Dawn have of my dominion? If it’s mortals you desire, my third brother has more of them. If it’s natural riches, my second sister holds more. If its dimensional fragments, I believe the land known as Antarctic is the richest.”
Rhie waved her hand dismissively. “Of those we have plenty.”
“Indeed, which is why I asked.”
“Hmm.” A curious smile parted Rhie’s lips as she leaned on her palms. Her tails fluffed about for a deliberate pause. “Primal Dawn considers Humming Blade a cousin sect. Can’t we visit you out of the goodness of our hearts?”
“Ha! Last this one heard, you described us as ‘pathetic imitators’.”
“I was in a foul mood. I assure you, no offense was meant.”
“Quit stalling, fox, and speak.”
“Very well.” Rhie rolled her eyes. “Boring and straightforward is the monkey way, isn’t it? I heard of you losing several underlings to mortal rebels, and of the Can Can Clan vying for a portion of your unprotected dominion. The tragic situation touched my heart deeply, and I came running to offer a plan with which to aid my dear little quiet bird.”
“Hah! Putrid fish smells less than the lies in your words.”
“You wound me. It is true.” Rhie pouted, glancing at Neckbeardman.
He tipped his fedora at her, still smitten by the fact that a kemomimi waifu could exist in real life. “M’lady.”
Rhie continued the conversation with Silent Feather. “I wished to help, but alas, we aren’t allowed to directly interfere in Northwind alliance business. You can only imagine my distress!”
“Uhu. Sure, this one can imagine it,” said Silent Feather, grinding her teeth.
“I spent weeks pleading and pestering my superiors, before finally allowing them to offer you a trade.” Rhie reached into her skimpy robes and produced an orb wrapped in cloth. As she unraveled it, bright green and sounds of woods filled the room, as if they’d been whisked to the center of a primeval forest. Birdsongs echoed. Warm scents of life danced in the air.
“A pill of origin,” gasped Silent Feather, her eyes wide.
Rhie grinned, wrapped the orb, and purposefully slipped it between her breasts. “Mmh. A wonderful gift for any nature cultivator, whether true or imitator. And all we ask in return is one mousy little favor.”
“This one won’t betray my sect, if that’s what you ask.”
Rhie laughed warmly. “Oh, sweet little bird. That’s not it. All we want is for you to capture a mortal and bring her to us. Once that’s taken care of, the pill is yours.”
“None of your concern. Mortal for a pill. Do we have an agreement?”
Hesitantly, Silent Feather shook Rhie’s hand. Something snapped in the air and Neckbeardman felt a greater force stand as a witness for the agreement.
Rhie pulled out a charcoal sketch and flipped it over for them to see. “This is the lucky girl.”
Memories from a lifetime ago paused him and made the conversation between the two beside him flow through Neckbeardman. She’d been one of the first m’ladies he’d helped rescue. Nay. Failed to help rescue.
Neckbeardman grew conflicted. His waifu m’lady was being tempted by another m’lady to kidnap his former friend m’lady.
Who exactly was he supposed to side with in this Neckbeard paradox?
Which m’lady needed white knighting the most?
That night, he popped open ten fresh bottles of Mountain D*w and devoured twenty sacred packages of D*ritos, entering deep digestive meditation. Yet, despite his ponderings, even Neckbeardman’s superior intellect could not find the answers.