Treasures of Heaven and Earth (天堂与地球的宝藏) an original XiaXia by WheeledWriter

Disclaimer: Not Asian, can't speak Chinese. The following is an idea that has been rolling around in my head since around the same time I started reading CD and has only gotten stronger since I've never seen an attempt to address the central idea behind this story. What is it? Keep reading to find out.

Chapter one


Rén Chún walked slowly up the dusty path, flicking his staff at the trailers of his village's flock of geese as they marched up the mountain side. The screams of a mighty army on the march, he mused to himself as the unceasingly squawking fowl flowed like a river towards their favorite grazing area, startling various smaller creatures along the path with their cacophony.

Chún was used to the noise they made, though. As a simple orphan who survived by doing odd jobs for the village, he was often given the work others preferred not to do - compared to carrying out the village night-soil to the fields or cleaning out the offal from the carcasses that the butcher hung out the front of his shop, putting up with the screams of the village flock was an easy break.

The sun warmed his shoulders as he called out to a few birds that had decided to sneak off the path. "yi, yi yi, sisters stay with us", he cried as he circled along side and ahead of the wayward geese flicking his staff as one stretched out her neck and hissed at him. "none of that, Princess - back", jabbing the stick in warning at the goose's beak.

The bird pulled back and with a grand show of flapping and ruffled feathers chose to turn back and rejoin the main group - acting as if had been her intention the whole time, of course - followed by her underlings. Snorting with amusement, Chún bent down and plucked a stalk of grass at his feet as he kept an eye on the flock for any other breakaways, thinking to himself that the geese behaved a great deal like humans.  

Straightening his back, he pulled in a great breath of air, which was much cleaner up here on the mountainside than down in the valley of the village - another reason he preferred this task to the others he was given to do. "Dangerous beasts ha, the only dangerous beasts on this mountain is this flock of good-for-nothing pile of feathers",  he exclaimed grandly to the empty air, spreading his arms to indicate the gaggle of birds marching nosily up the mountain path, "...and the lack of company is getting to me with no one else to talk to". 

Sticking the stalk of grass firmly between his lips, he whistled sharply as he resumed following the flock, chasing a few errant individuals towards the top of the mountain, pushing his woven grass head covering firmly down to shade his eyes from the morning sun and broke into a simple song - punctuating each line with the push of his staff into the path for purchase;

'Clean air and
Sun light
Bird song and
Earth's breath;

Better than gold,
More precious than,
Power...

Treasures of
Heaven;
Treasures of Earth'

"An interesting song, young man".

Chún's eyes widened and the grass stalk dropped from his lips in surprise. The praise came from a short, elderly man sitting on a boulder a little way ahead on the right side of the path, just short of the flock's customary pasture. Chún blinked, and rubbed his eyes with his left hand as his right tightened cautiously on his staff.

"Peace, friend - I mean no harm", chuckled the stranger, slowly laying aside a full size stave from across his lap, "I was merely contemplating the mountain scenery, when I was interrupted by the dulcet tones of your lady friends, here", he gestured wryly at the flock streaming past him with loud contented honks as they spied their destination and began to spread out across the pasture. 

Chún ducked his head in embarrasment and hasty apology; "Apologies honoured Ancestor, I did not mean to disturb your meditations..." he cut himself off as the bald man waved one hand like a monk bestowing a blessing, the earth colored robe he was wearing making the simple gesture seem sweeping and grand as the long sleeve followed the movments of his arm.

"It is of no concern - but you seemed surprised to see me...?" Dark eyes shone with curiosity in a face seamed and brown like an old walnut as the elder cocked his head in question at Chún.

Chún shook his head in befuddlement. He rarely had reason to hold long conversations with anyone, he was mostly ignored by the villagers unless they wanted chores done or he traded the rewards of chores and hunts for basic necessities he could not gather or make himself. However, he knew that he hadn't seen the old man on the rock earlier as he came up the path and it had been in his sight for the last two li and that made him long to be elsewhere. Unfortunately, the villagers would skin him alive if he abandoned the flock, even if they believed anything he said about strange old men. He eyed the flock who seemed oblivious to the person on the rock and shivered, despite the warmth of the rapidly rising sun

"Honoured Ancestor..." 

"Call me Yijing", interrupted the old man, his long beard fluttering as he bounced off the rock towards Chún like one of those hairy, wild goats Chún had spotted on his occasional forays further up the mountain, his staff thumping against the path with a musical chime from the bells dangling from the top.

Chún broke into a sweat. He hadn't seen the man pick up the staff - and where had the bells come from? Despite the geese, Chún felt his feet move backward of their own accord and then tangle into a fall...

...only to find his right elbow (and staff) held firmly in a strong grip, looking up into Yijing's smiling, wrinkled old face, eyes twinkling in amusement.

Yijing hoisted Chún upright and onto the boulder with less effort than Chún would use to lift one of the butcher's carcasses and hopped up beside him on the rock, "A better place to watch your flock, yes?"

Chún blinked. Orphan or not he had lived by his wits and physical effort. Physical labor and eating wild game had given him a stocky, muscled frame despite being barely out of his youth - he was no lightweight, but this old man had lifted him like a feather, where even the village blacksmith would have had to put forth some effort. From listening to the villagers talk, there was only one thing that Chún knew of that this man could be.

He bowed carefully towards the old cultivator in thanks, his earlier fear replaced with calm - if this man was a danger he wouldn't notice until after he had died. "Senior Yijing, this one is called Rén Chún".

"A Simple Man, en. Good. Very Good.",  Yijing's eyes narrowed as his smile broadened, "Or perhaps a skilled one?"

"I am only an orphan of little skill, Senior", said Chún respectfully, keeping one eye and his ears trained on the flock in the pasture to their left - they seemed strangely well behaved - or perhaps not so strange he thought, considering the calm he felt himself.

"En. Young Chún, then you do not know your family?"

"I was left in the village as a babe, Senior", Chún answered, ignoring the old familiar pain at the thought with the ease of long practice, "the village raised me as one of their own - I repay their kindness as I can".

"Hmm, kindness is it? So that is that why you sing your song?" The twinkle was gone from Yijing's eyes though he smiled and Chún felt his face heat.

"It is merely a pastime, Senior and I only do it alone... I know my voice is not very good."

"Your song seems wise for one of your age, my friend - I am curious, where did you hear it?"

Chún ducked his head, forgetting to watch the flock for the moment. "I, that is... it is my song, Senior... it helps the chores go faster".

"Hmmm, truly? Your song? Does it have more verses then, Young Chún?"

Chún raised his head in surprise and saw Yijing looking at him intently for a moment before the cultivator laughed, his eyes twinkling and Chún blinked in confusion.

"Senior wishes to hear...? Well... it is only that the path is long so...there are quite a few..."

"Then we will watch your flock, friend and you will sing for us both!"

Chún coughed, rubbing behind his neck under his grass hat. "It is only that... I use my staff, as I walk, for the beat..."

A thumping chime interrupted him as Yijing's staff hit the grass beside their boulder. Chún shook his head as he looked into the smiling face. "As you wish then..."

'Good food and
Dry bed
Stream's cry, 
Wind's heart.

Stronger than Wine
Warmer than, 
Woman...

Treasures of 
Heaven;
Treasures of Earth'

A serene mountainside; breezes swirling through treetops and ruffling green grass, the scent of wildflowers and herbs, calls of the proud steel-backed eagle and chatter of drilling jackdaw, water flowing over river rocks, chuckling wetly to itself as a doe and her fawn dip soft muzzles to drink - a proud stag watching alertly beside them.

The sun shines brightly in the sapphire sky and the essence of Heaven and Earth strengthens around the mountain; insects hum busily from flower to flower, chased by lizards...

...broken by the sound of cheerful if slightly off-tune singing, and a chiming beat of a stave beating against the ground. The deer jerk their necks upward and bound away in startlement, the sound of the jackdaw pauses - and then resumes as the voice falls silent, replaced with aged laughter coming from the top of a large boulder.

"Young Chún", wheezed Yijing as the old man wiped away tears of laughter, "A good verse - although perhaps, I think - you might wish to rewrite it when you get a little older."

Chún blinked. "I have been doing adult chores for the villagers for the last two seasons, Senior", the boy replied, slightly indignant "and hunting for myself for the past three - I am almost eleven seasons old".

Once again Chún thought he saw an appraising look cross the face of the old cultivator, before the aged head dipped slightly in apology. "I meant not to mock your achievements Rén Chún - merely that when you get to my age, everyone seems young", Yijing answered, smiling at the boy across from him, "Although I do wonder where you have heard of the warmth of a woman is less than that of a good bed..."

"I heard some of the village men talking about it", answered Chún in puzzlement, "Although I have never really understood it - a girl won't be any warmer than I am and without a bed, everything is cold at night, Senior - that is why I put it into my song", he added as an afterthought, rubbing the back of his neck in confusion as Yijing broke into a fit of coughing.

Yijing rubbed his mouth with his free hand as his coughing subsided, eyes twinkling, "Forgive me, ah... my throat has become dry with all this talking - and the sun is warm - please share a drink of my own design as thanks for your good company". His hand dropped from his face to a gourd fastened to his waist on the right side, pulling it free and above his head, tipping the opening of the gourd towards his lips - the clear liquid falling easily into his mouth.

"Ahh, that is better", he exclaimed and smiling extended the gourd towards Chún. "Please, it is refreshing on such a warm day..." Yijing waggled the gourd invitingly, sending the clear sound of liquid sloshing to Chún's ears.
Bowing his head in thanks, Chún hesitantly took the gourd and with the old Cultivator watching and nodding encouragingly, carefully raised it over his lips, catching the falling liquid into his open mouth.
An indescribable coolness rushed out from Chún's mouth and down his throat, hitting his stomach like a cool breeze that exploded through his body. For a moment he felt that he was standing under the small waterfall further down the mountain that he usually washed in - instead of on a boulder in the hot sun.

Chún felt a shiver pass through him, followed by a rush of energy. Small popping noises came from his muscles and joints causing him to twitch in surprise. He lowered the gourd hurriedly to avoid spilling it and stared at the old Cultivator with wide eyes.

"This is a treasure" , he exclaimed in shock, "Senior, you should not waste it on this unworthy one..." he hastily pushed the gourd back into Yujie's hand and scrambled off the boulder to bow deeply to the Cultivator.

Yijing snorted gently and hopped off the boulder, whacking Chún across the shoulders as he laded in front of him. "None of that nonsense, Young Chún. It is Water - not a treasure.  Or at least", he waggled the gourd in Chún's face, forcing him to straighten up as he watched with disbelieving eyes as the short figure ambled away, toward the stream that crossed the north end of the small pasture, "not a treasure an ordinary man would recognise. Follow me, Young Chún - we can watch the flock from here as well as there".

Chún blinked - absently considering that he seemed to be doing that a lot lately - and scrambled to follow after Yijing who seemed to move a great deal faster than his pace might suggest, catching up in a puff of dust raised from his rough clothing despite the lushness of the pasture, just as Yijing reached the stream bank.

"Senior, I can refill your..."

Chún's apologetic statement cut off as Yujie extended the gourd in midair over the stream and vibrant blue mists swirled like wind blown dust up from the surface of the stream. Glittering cerulean motes darted in and out of the mists like fireflies which flowed into the mouth of the gourd.
Chún's pupils shrank in shock, but before he could speak, the stream chuckled loudly and twisted upward into the gourd following after the mist like a silver snake moving into bushes.

The quiet pop of Yijing replacing the cork shook Chún from his paralysis, to find the old Cultivator watching him steadily.

"Tell me Young Chún, what did you see?"

"Water... the Cry of the Stream it... into your - and then the water... just..."

Yijing's wrinkled face broke into a large smile, "Cry of the Stream, is it? Good. Very good." Yijing poked Chún with the top of his staff, "After hearing your song - I thought that might be how it was".

Yijing's face went solemn, staring at Chún seriously, "What would you say, Young Chún, if I told you even the mightiest", he frowned darkly, startling Chún, "...the mightiest Cultivator, would have only seen the water from the stream move to my gourd?" 

Yijing smiled broadly again "But Young Chún can see more...", he laughed at the expression on Chún's face and moved past him back towards the boulder, raising his voice in a singsong tone.

"Come with me, Young Chún
Treasures of Heaven and Earth indeed, my friend
Treasures of Heaven and Earth"

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  • edited August 2017

    Chapter Two


    Chún's mouth open and closed like a fish's as he watched Yijing move over to a fallen log some distance away, under the shade of the trees rather than back to the boulder as he originally thought. That made sense, since the warmest part of the day was fast approaching and the boulder was too hot in the direct sunlight.  If it hadn't been for the strange energy of the old man's drink, he felt that he would have fainted like one of those legendary imperial court beauties the village storyteller was always going on about. As it was, he definitely felt light headed.

    That made him realise he'd been distracted from his duties and ingrained routine took over as Chún's thoughts swirled around like a whirlpool. Taking a deep breath of the still cool wildflower scented mountain air, he shaded his eyes and checked the sun's position, then slowly moved over into the pasture to check that the geese were moving into the shade closer to the stream at the north end of the mountain meadow as the heat of the day increased.

    Chivying a few geese who seemed intent on roosting in the middle of the field and prodding them towards the trees, Chún nodded in satisfaction as a number of geese walked into the water and started drifting about with busy honks as they prodded the stream-bed for juicy tidbits. These tasks Chún had done many times before, so Chún's thoughts could settle slowly into practical solidity as he worked.   

    Eventually all of the flock were out of direct sunlight and Chún trotted over to retrieve his herding staff, roughly wrapped buns and skin of watered wine that he had left behind when he had jumped off the boulder earlier, then joined Yijing on the log next to the water.

    The old man seemed absorbed in watching the beams of sunlight falling through the leaves, dance over the shifting surface of the stream - chased by the occasional iridescent dragonfly that fish leapt up from the water to catch, splashing jeweled droplets through the air.
    Chún was hesitant to interrupt Yijing's thoughts, so he busied himself with unwrapping his meager fare. The smells of water and living greenery helped cover the stale scent of the buns and Chún took a moment to throw a silent curse at Fatty Nie the village baker that would only trade him yesterday's leavings.
    Normally, Chún wouldn't care about the buns, but having someone with him made him conscious of how little he had to share.

    "Forgive me, Senior, I have little to offer for a guest", he said quietly; suddenly aware of his bare feet and the cast-off shirt and pants held at the waist by a grass rope he had twisted together himself.

    "If you would share mine as well, I'd gladly share with you", answered Yijing. "Many times I have wished for as much of a feast as you hold in your hands", he added as he offered over some sticks of jerked meat and fruits in return. Seeing the look of trepidation on Chún's face he smiled, "It's ordinary food".

    The two of them split the repast equally and ate slowly, watching the flock resting among the trees and paddling in the water. Chún's watered wine was ignored as they passed Yujie's gourd between them - Chún felt now that it was not nearly as shocking as the first drink - it was pleasantly refreshing and he felt comfortable all over - it even seemed to bring the buns back to freshness when Yujie sprinkled them with a sly wink.

    "I have seen those mists and lights as far back as I can remember, Senior", said Chún quietly as the food was finished and the they sat digesting and drinking the water. "Never much, and usually here on the mountain more than anywhere else, but..."

    Yijing stayed silent, a listening presence. Chún leaned back on his arms and closed his eyes, listening to the noises of the forest and mountain, feeling the warmth of a sunbeam on his face. The cry of some essence beast deeper into the mountain forest echoed, startling all the wild animals to silence and sending the flock into a flurry of warning honks.

    "I had almost convinced myself I was imagining things", he eventually whispered bitterly. Shaking his head, Chún sat up and looked into the forest unseeing. "When I was younger - I asked the villagers what the mists and lights were - they either called me a sun-struck fool, ill or cursed. Even the Storyteller and the village Head only spoke of nonsense and childish imaginations."

    Chún wiped the back of his hand across his eyes and spoke in a horse voice, "After that the villagers kept their distance - and only let me do the work no one else wanted. Lately, I've heard a few of them say that I ought to be finding another place to live." Heaving a big sigh, he looked at Yujang beside him with some confusion and said tentatively, "I even spoke to a man the villagers said was a wandering cultivator once - he laughed at me and said that fireside tales were not a good way to try and impress him into taking a disciple - he told me I had no ability to gather essence at all".

    Yijing snorted and spat to one side, a sneer on his face and beard bristling with indignation, his voice harsh with anger. "Bah, cultivators are trash - they think they stride the Heavens and Earth but they all they do is consume. Cultivators, that's an insult to the Heavens - what do they know? Nothing but the collecting, consuming and hording of essence - ravenous gluttons - a plague of locusts."

    Chún's mouth dropped open, his bitter recollections washed away in surprise. "But..."

    Yijing laughed, his face overcome with mischievous smiles in an instant, "Yes, you are supposed to think I'm one of them - and if you weren't special - you'd have never known otherwise."  

    Chún shook his head in complete confusion. "Senior, I saw..."

    Yijing rolled his eyes and poked Chún with his staff, "That's because you are NOT a Locust, Young Chún, as I an Not a Locust".

    "But you move... and you're strong..." Yijing ignored Chún's babble and turned to fix a serious eye on him; "Young Chún, the sages say silence is a great treasure".

    Words stopping midstream, Chún bowed his head in embarrassment. Yijing ruffled his hair and asked slowly, "How often do you come up the mountain?"

    "Most days, Senior...no, Honored Yijing", stammered the boy, realising he'd been using a cultivator's honorific, but the bald old man shook his head gently. "Senior will suffice, for now, Young Chen. Now, do you always sing when you come up the mountain?"

    "Not always, Senior, but mostly. It is a long walk and the air is much cleaner here, I feel happier away from the villagers".

    "En. Some of that is because what you are doing with your song, my young friend. Oh, I am sure this place always had more essence then other places - mountains are like that, but your songs strengthened the essence here. It is raw and unfocused, but eventually, you would have turned this mountain into a low ranked treasure ground."

    Chún blinked. "I... Senior, how could...", he broke off as a thought occurred, "You said I was not a Cultivator, but you are saying that I cultivated essence..."

    "You are not listening boy", said the old man, cocking his head to one side and peering at him thoughtfully. "Those things from your song - like the Cry of the Stream - can you see any around here?"

    Chún furrowed his brow and then looked around. "There Senior, in that hollow, beside the stream in that patch of sunlight - I see green, yellow and blue mists...some green motes, not many", Chún pointed hesitantly as Yijing raised his eyebrows and hopped off the log, gesturing Chún to follow as he moved towards the spot Chún indicated.

    "Young friend, you are talented. It took me many years of honing my essence sense to perceive what you can sense naturally. Now," Yijing said as they reached the small fold in the ground, "stretch out your staff hand - put it into the mists as you see them, that's right", he said encouragingly as Chún stretched his hand out, "concentrate on what you sense, focus", Yijing gripped Chún's outstretched arm and suddenly Chún heard the sound of a large drum echoing. "That's me you sense, young one, now pay attention as I push my perception out into the essence".

    Chún heard the drumbeats slow and echo, then a counterpoint bell-like sound, like the chimes from Yijing 's staff. Slowly the drumbeats sped back up and then disappeared as Yijing released his arm, but the bells remained, sharper now without the drums. "Follow the essence young one. You can give it more energy or slow it, gather it or thin it".
    "I heard your drums, Senior... this sounds like chimes - what do I do?" 
    Yijing stroked his beard, "Increase the beat, add notes, make it louder or softer... follow the song that's there, but give it more, show it more".

    Chún thought about the bells swelling and the chimes sang like the big bells the cow-herders used, motes of verdant green springing like a fountain as the mists coalesced and pooled in the hollow with a joyful peal. 

    With a suddenness that stole his breath the essence - for surely it could be nothing else - flashed a brilliant opal green, and a wave of energy spread out like ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, splashing and rebounding off the trees, plants and other things around them. The energy crashed into his body, washing away his tiredness and clearing his head. His body hummed and he felt comfortable all over - even better than when drinking Yijing's water.

    Chún stared in shock at the hollow. Before there had been just ordinary grass there. Now, half foot tall strands of a silver green grass swayed in the breeze, a much thicker opal mist swirling out from it. Glittering opal motes scattered in all directions and Chún heard crisp-clear chimes as the leaves shook. 

    "What... Senior?"

    "En. Good. Good. Thousand year grass on your first attempt."

    Chún gasped. Thousand year grass was a plant prized by Cultivators for its rich essence, but was difficult to find as very few grasses lasted long enough to develop the characteristics.

    "I could sell this, Senior and never have to live in the village again!"

    Yijing frowned. "A cultivator would think that way Rén Chún. Do you think this a wise use of your talent?"

    Chún stopped and looked around. All around he could see more mists and motes than he'd ever seen in one place before, rising from dips and rises, trees and plants around the Thousand year grass. And he felt...

    Chún frowned. All the stories told of cultivators said they would be drained of essence after preforming great feats - or that the essence around them was drained. But he felt stronger, and there was clearly more essence present than before...

    "Senior, what are we?"

  • edited August 2017

    Chapter Three


    "Many of us have spent thousands of years debating that, Young Chún", mused Yijing quietly, leaning on his stave and watching the Thousand year grass sway, "So far all we can agree on is that we are the Heaven's Balance to the ones that call themselves Cultivators. I would say", he turned and spat meditatively, "that we are True Cultivators, where the Locusts are Consumers. We grow and cultivate the", he turned and jabbed his stave at Chún, "as you call them - treasures of Heaven and Earth - we strengthen Essence and are strengthened in turn".
    Looking towards the setting sun he paused and remarked, "We can talk while you gather your flock".

    Chún jumped in shock as his attention was drawn to the lengthening shadows and honks of the geese already gathering at the entrance to the pasture and spun to gather his items. "Senior, it was barely the time of Soaring Crow, what happened?"

    "Igniting essence always takes time. Especially in the beginning - you will lose yourself. Fortunately, you are talented and it was only a small Thousand Year Grass, so it was only a few hours", Yijing's voice took on a lecturing tone, "So if you ignite essence alone, start small and make sure you are in a safe area where you will not be found. Do not attempt to ignite an essence larger than your level of ability", he said sternly, "You will either die of essence drain or be immolated from essence overflow - and if you are cursed to escape that - you will overload and detonate when the ignition wave hits you".

    Chún blinked. "Senior, how will I know when an essence is too large?" he panted, chasing the last of the flock together to the entrance and calling out the marching sound, "Yi, yi yi...", starting the flock bustling down the mountain trail with their usual cacophony.

    "Do not attempt to ignite essence any larger than what we did today, until", Yijing looked at him sternly, "you feel no effect from the ignition waves. Then only select essence slightly larger - repeat the process and so on."

    "The ignition wave - that is what happened at the end? That ripple?", clarified Chún, setting Yijing's head nodding in satisfaction. "Good, boy you have a sensible head on those shoulders. Yes, that is the wave of essence that is produced when the essence ignites - our bodies are purified and strengthened by it - it literally burns out the impurities in our bodies, tempering it and empowering it to channel and amplify larger amounts of essence."

    Chún thumped his herding staff on the ground thoughtfully as the flock continued down towards the village. Headed for their pen where they knew warmth and food awaited, they needed little herding on the trip back. "And igniting - is like lighting a fire in the essence?".
    Yijing shook his head. "No, it is more like strengthening and adding to it - the spark is already there but it is not large enough, yes? You said you heard chimes and saw the mist?"
    Chún waved his staff at a few geese that seemed to be getting slightly rambunctious and grunted affirmatively. "That happens naturally, especially in places like the mountain", said the old man in response, "in certain places the energy of Heaven and Earth collects and becomes essence. That spark was likely Earth essence from the hollow, Water from the mists of the stream and Fire or Power itself from the 'Golden Crow' - as the Consumers insist on calling it.

    Yijing thumped his staff again as they continued down the trail, "Over a long period of time if nothing disturbs it, the essence grows concentrated enough that it invokes the Dao Laws of the essences that have collected - and creation itself - which in turn releases more essence..."
    Yijing's voice became softer, reverent, so that Chún had to concentrate to hear him. "One of our number says the universe itself was born from a single ignition of the Dao like that and the Dao of Fire in the sky also... that the act of creation releases energy itself..."
    He tapped his stave authoritatively, "We - you and I and others like us - are born with the ability to amplify the essence - we channel it from around us and out to form the Dao Laws as guided by the spark. You, heard the music strengthen as you followed it, yes? The essence guided you in what was required for it to reach its Dao."

    "So I did not make the Thousand year grass then", Chún said thoughtfully, "It was always - no, the possibility was there. I just fed it fuel... from around me?"

    Yijing smiled, "Yes, we draw the essence in and concentrate it as we are guided - and then it feeds us - when the act of creation creates more essence".

    "And each wave of essence strengthens the energy of Heaven and Earth where it touches, creating more sparks... I saw so many afterwards..."

    "Yes, Young Chún. That was a small wave, as only a small treasure was born, so it wouldn't have affected much - perhaps half a li or so". 

    "But how is that different from Cul - forgive me Honored Senior - Consumers? The tales say they temper their bodies with essence and treasures and they create artifacts and gather essence with formations and..." Yijing's stave poked Chún sharply in the ribs and he snapped his mouth shut, rubbing his side sheepishly.

    "Consumers do not temper their bodies with essence directly", the old man snapped sharply, "They consume it and try to hold it inside of them in areas where essence pools naturally in their bodies. The tempering is an after affect as they circulate essence through their meridians artificially using techniques they've developed. They lose some back outward while they consume, but in the end there is always LESS then what was there to begin with. Any they retain or build themselves they hold tightly - and only release it out to perform their techniques. Then they consume even more essence to replenish what they lost".

    Yijing shook his head wearily, "Artifacts and pills are the same - essence resources are burned and forged to create something else. The only exceptions are Heavenly Tribulations - they release a great deal of essence as the Consumer forces the formation of Dao - that is what they refer to as 'breaking through' - but they are formed naturally and the essence released is destructive. Once in a great while a Consumer will grow past the consumption stage and understand Dao so that they begin to produce the laws naturally - then their tribulations are beneficial. But those are World stage existences and above - they begin to create worlds of their own, becoming actual Cultivators that generate more essence than they use - but those are 1 in 1000 trillion Consumers - and to get to that stage they burnt through countless treasures - enough essence to create a universe".

    Chún listen raptly as his new mentor continued sadly, "And for every Consumer that begins to create instead of Consume, there are uncountable others all burning through essence treasures as fast as they can get their hands on them".
    Yijing snorted, raising his voice "And where do all these treasures - essence stones, essence beasts, essence weapons, million year fruit of beat-the-other-Consumer's-face into-a-pig's-head come from? Why", here the old monk puffed his chest out like a peacock and spoke in a sonorous, wise tone, "...from ancient treasure troves of Great Sects of the past, great treasure gardens that exist forever, Caves of essence and at the bottom of great pools or 100 thousand season beasts, of course..."

    Yijing lowered his voice and muttered out of the side of his mouth, peering around shiftily like a thief planning to rob someone, "Want to guess what they used to say a thousand years ago about where the treasures came from?"

    Chún thought for a moment then groaned quietly "I am enlightened Senior, of course - they said the same".

    "Hah - as did those before them and those before that and them lot behind those... and always, always, burning treasures. Oh sure, sometimes there is genuinely a Sect collapse that no one might find for a while, but it takes time to build resources of treasures;most sects wither away because they run out of treasures, not just collapse leaving everything behind - usually they are conquered and get plundered straight away."

    Chún's voice held a note of bewilderment "And yet with so many Consumers there are always more treasures and secret lands...and you said it takes a long time for enough Essence to gather naturally to create treasures... how don't they see it, Senior?"

    Yijing sighed as they reached the base of the mountain and stopped as the flock turned for the village. "I will not follow you into the village, my friend. Tell the villagers you are leaving and come back to the Thousand Year grass as the Golden Crow begins it's flight. I will be waiting for you."

    Chún swallowed heavily. "Teacher". Dropping his staff, he knelt in the dust of the path and kowtowed three times. Feeling a light touch on his head he looked up, but only the lights of distant Dao greeted his eyes as the last of the light disappeared behind the mountain.

    Looking upward Chún felt tears run down his cheeks. "The Heavens have eyes", he whispered, gazing upward...

    "...Treasures of Heaven, Your Grandmother! The Geese...!"

    In the deepening twilight, a True Cultivator, a Balance of Heaven... runs after a flock of honking geese.
  • edited August 2017

    Chapter Four


    The next morning Chún rose before dawn from the thin cotton pad in the loft of the abandoned barn where he was grudgingly allowed to sleep. He had told the villagers that he did chores for that he would be travelling 'to broaden his horizons' the night before, so he had no reason to wait until they rose - unwise if he was to be back up the mountain before dawn. With the ease of long practice he bundled the sleeping pad and his two changes of castoff clothing into a tight roll and hung it on his herding staff - well, from now on it would be a walking staff.

    Carefully climbing down an old ladder, Chún went around to his various possessions and gathered them up in an old sack, including his fire starter, some handwoven rope and a few other odds and ends that he'd accumulated over his childhood. Finally he picked up yesterday's still-full skin of watered wine and a couple of small withered apples that he'd gotten from the geese keeper as payment for yesterday's herding (he had made sure to get those - before - he mentioned he was leaving), hung the skin on his belt on his right side and put the apples in the pouch he kept his meagre funds in - mostly the occasional copper piece he'd found - on his left.

    Yawning, he stretched and adjusted his clothing to shakeout the worst of the winkles, then bent down, tied a knot in the sack and slung the carry sling across his chest, leaving the sack pressed against his back. Straightening back up, he grabbed his walking staff and walked briskly through the door.

    The barn was on the edge of the village, so Chún headed straight towards the mountain, with a quick glance at the star positions telling him it was hour before dawn. If he was quick, he could detour and use a mountain waterfall to bathe and scrub his spare set of clothes on the way up to the Thousand year grass.

    ---

    The sky was just lightening over the Golden Crow's nest with the last stars fading away behind him as birds began their salute to their Senior Ancestor when Chún reached the pasture where he had taken the flock yesterday and looked around. No one was there that he could see and given that he felt it was too cool to go under the trees to wait near to the Thousand year grass he went to the boulder from yesterday, undoing his bedding roll. He spread out the wet clothing on the flat top for the first rays of light to warm and dry them.
    Facing the slowly rising fire, Chún sat with his back against the boulder, taking out an apple from his pouch and closed his eyes in contentment. He was free of that place - it felt like a thousand catties had been lifted from his shoulders. No matter what happened in the future he was not going back.

    Slowly crunching the apple, Chún savoured the taste. Thinking about what his new Teacher had told him yesterday, he tried to push his Essence out to feel the mountain wake with the light. Unlike yesterday, he could only hear slight chimes, bells, drums and something that sounded like the horn the village head used to summon the village for a meeting. There were other sounds too, but most of them weren't like anything he'd heard before.

    The light from the rising crow hit the mountain and his shut eyelids at the same time; the entire mountain rang like a giant gong.

    Chún reeled; he saw the flood of fire-natured Essence and pure energy crashing into the mountain from the horizon, the mountain absorbing it and glowing brighter in a mix of greens, blues and whites as all the animals and plants absorbed as much of the energy as they could - his own body glowing gold as it did the same. A feeling of strength and power burrowed deep into his marrow, a million times more powerful than the feeling of the ignition wave yesterday, but at the same time incomparably gentle in comparison, washing away his tiredness and setting every bone of his body humming. 
    The mountain glowed a deep, deep, almost black emerald as every life form on it, including Chún, blazed with more and more energy - glowing brighter and deeper - then there was a brilliant flash as all of the mountain and every plant and creature released excess energy, thousands of overlapping waves of every colour and sound crashing over and over everything and through everything. 

    All this takes many words to describe, but it happened between one breath and the next - and then Chún found himself gasping, his Essence shoved back inside him and feeling like he'd been simultaneously energised and remade anew while being rundown by a herd of cattle.

    The amused voice of Yijing spoke behind him "If you're not expecting it, Young Chún, dawn can be a little bracing..."

    ---

    "Teacher", gasped Chún, trying to get to his feet but only succeeding in toppling awkwardly over onto his side. His body didn't seem to be responding properly to his wishes and he flailed awkwardly, trying to get up.

    "Stop. Breathe slowly, calmly and relax. Your body just underwent an extreme amount of refinement, while participating in a very large energy and Essence exchange, within the span of a few breaths. It needs time to adjust."

    Chún stopped trying to move and focused on his breathing. Slowly control returned to his limbs and he slowly lifted himself up onto the boulder next to his teacher, gingerly and then more confidently as his body responded better and more powerfully than he was used to.

    "Does that happen every dawn Teacher?" he asked after a few breaths of time, accepting the roll of mysteriously dry clothes the old man handed him and tying it to his walking staff.

    "The world's energy and Essence, with a few exceptions, begins with the Golden Crow. All living things, including", the old man waved his hand about in a slow circle, "ourselves, take that energy in. They absorb it and it fuels life, which itself is a concept of Dao. And the expression of Dao is what creates Essence from all things - Essence is the energy created from the forming of Dao", he gestured expansively outward, "released back into the world".

    "I thought Dao was a grand mystery?" asked Chún, "At least that is what the village storyteller says".  

    Yijing nodded. "Most people believe that. But Dao simply is. And for anything to be, it must also have Dao".

    "So everything has Dao? Even the grass? And when we, gave it more, more energy it was able to change its Dao to a Thousand Year grass?", Chún puzzled out slowly.

    "It did not change its Dao, Student, it is after all, still grass. It simply broke through to a higher level of Dao. And comprehension of Dao is the act of creation, which releases extra energy and Essence - so after there is more than before."

    Chún was quiet, listening to the bird song and the chuckle of the stream at the other end of the pasture as he thought about what Yijing had said.

    "If we are all living beings, Teacher, then we all have Dao? So that includes people?"

    "Yes, student. But, unlike you and I, most will never naturally accumulate enough energy to allow their Dao to grow. The same is true for animals - most will never become an Essence beast. There are always exceptions - a person or animal exposed to so much Essence that their Dao spontaneously matures, they begin to generate more themselves and comprehend Dao - but that is a very rare event. Less rare, but still something not seen in a thousand million people, is the person who comprehends and ignites the natural growth of their Dao through contemplation or enlightenment and grows their Dao. They also can be considered True Cultivators".

    Yijing paused and took a drink from his gourd. "It has been a long time since I spoke so much." Putting the stopper on the bottle, he frowned then started to speak again.

    "From those people or animals who had fortunate encounters like that, or reached enlightenment - or like us were born naturally connected to Dao, their descendants came. And if a True Cultivator has children then those children will always have bodies inclined closer to the perfect form of their Dao than if they were born to ordinary parents. They still must comprehend their Dao to have growth, but they have an inherent possibility within them. Thus, Perfect Yang body, Perfect Yin body..." he rolled his eyes and spoke with an airy insouciance "...body of the extra excellent kicking of the donkey... and so on - do you understand Student?" Yijing still had a glower on his face as he spoke of some commonly known 'Heaven's Fortunes' bodies, that Consumers could be born with, or develop, with enough resources.

    Chún laughed, hiding his chuckes behind a hand. "I have never heard anyone be as disrespectful to Culti - I mean Consumers - as you, Teacher".

    "Trust me, once you meet a few, you'll understand. Everything they do is built around artificially creating a Dao within their bodies, disconnected from the Dao around them. It twists their minds - every one of them greedy for more resources and happy to step over everybody else to do it. The only reason we aren't completely overrun with them is that they spend so much time and effort killing each other off.
    The worst part of it is that most of the time the Dao they practice is not the one their body is born with. So that is why you hear of Consumers becoming cripples from trying to use a particular 'cultivation' technique, dying, going crazy, struggling with 'breaking through' - whatever. The ones who succeed with a 'cultivation' technique are worse, they are rebuilding their bodies around flawed techniques - so of course they themselves are now broken in mind and spirit - and do not see it."

    Yijing's eyes gazed off into the morning sun, distant. Chún had the feeling his new Teacher no longer saw him, but was looking at something only he could see.

    ---

    Chún waited respectfully, enjoying the feeling of sun and wind on his skin, the scents of plants and water on cool morning air, and the sounds of birds and insects. Somewhere else in the corner of his mind he also heard a gentle hum of happiness from the mountain around him, which he found relaxing and peaceful, so he was content to sit in silence with his eyes closed. 
    Without conscious thought his Essence flowed out into the world around him, easier than it had earlier, allowing him to see the currents of colours from the Essences of all the Dao of everything around him. He could see his own body breathing in and expelling Essence back into the world around him, refreshing his energy and sending the excess he produced back out. Gentle ripples of colour leisurely proceeded outward from his body, brightening each thing they touched momentarily.

    "Life gives, life takes
    All is one
    All is Dao"

    As he sang, the ripples from his body brightened and the plants around the pasture that he could sense feel into the beat of his song, their colours brightening and changing shades with his voice as the ripple that moved out of his body touched them. Some of the closer ones seemed to tremble, with ripples of their own colours rippling from them in a chain reaction, motes of energy and curls of Essence drifting off them like smoke from a fire. The whole meadow seemed to be a wave of combining energy waves and brightening Essence - as each life form was hit with a ripple of energy, it expelled its own as it absorbed it. Touches of colour were exchanged between different things - some green in a rock, some brown in the creek, some gold in a bush.

    "Water runs swift;
    Earth is strength,
    Reborn in Fire;
    Air is life.
    Dao is all
    All is one"

    Chún sensed his Teacher stirring; in his Essence sense, Yijing was a blazing fountain of brilliant energies constantly flowing outward - barely any flowing inward. Chún supposed his Teacher had comprehended his Dao and was creating his own energies without needing any from the World. Instead, wherever he went the world's energy was strengthened and deepened. Already Chún could see that the Essence and energies of the mountain around him much more complex and heavier than what he had sensed the day before. 

    Odd curls of Essence almost looking like characters or pieces of interlocking structures seemed to be both flowing to and from his teacher and the mountain. Chún could almost sense something like the odd diagram that he had briefly seen when the Thousand Year grass had advanced and ignited its Dao forming within the mountain's energy as it grew heavier.

    ---

    "Well done student. It is unfocused and weak, but you are chanelling Essence to strengthen the world around you - the singing helps direct and focus it. It is your Dao, so you should continue to work on it."

    Chún stopped pushing his senses into the Essence around him as he opened his eyes and turned to his teacher. "Your Essence flows outward without ceasing, Teacher".

    "If you survive this world and become one with Dao, yours will also - you will create more than you receive - like those World-level existences I mentioned yesterday, but without having to consume more than you create".

    Chún nodded. "Teacher, you said all Consumers use flawed Techniques. Surely some Techniques are correct and as long as someone found one that matched their Dao, it might help them comprehend their Dao quicker..."

    Yijang smiled at Chún fondly. "Student, I am glad that you are thinking about what I teach and not merely accepting it. Unfortunately, while it is possible to match techniques with one's Dao, few Consumers do so - even the great Families and Sects often choose for their youngsters based on tradition and what is expected rather than because their Dao matches." The old man raised his palm and and curled down a finger.

    "Firstly, almost no Consumer knows Dao as a part of them. They believe it is reached by progressing through Cultivation techniques, which artifically create Dao fragments within their body - if they are lucky their Dao accepts it and changes - if not..." He curled down a second finger.

    Secondly, while some Consumers do have an idea of the concept, they usally think of it in terms of family lines - a family practices the 'Three Faced Donkey Fart Technique' for example -  and because their ancestors passed it down and also 'cultivated' it or even because it was the Dao of the family Ancestor that passed it down, it matches generally with their Dao and so they have a good measure of success. But it will amost never match them exactly and thus they may do well in their youth and become less able to progress as the grow older - you often see a lot of sect and family based cultivators stuck at the middle layers of strength, unable to move forward, no matter how much 'Heaven-defying' resources they burn". Yijing glared heavily and closed his palm into a fist, speaking emphatically.

    "Finally, there is the insurmountable problem. ALL Consumer's techniques are incomplete by their very nature."

    Chún blinked. "How can that be - surely they would have noticed..."

    Yijing laughed ironically. "Oh they have. They say that a true student of Jianghu or whatever must comprehend their own techinques to really grow or whatever. But they are overlooking the fact that most of them are working off an incomplete base".

    Chún shook his head. "I don't understand".

    His teacher waved his stave in the air, sending it's chimes ringing. "The source of creation, power, cultivation - whatever you call it. It is Dao, yes?"

    Chún nodded in confusion. "It grows from within us - constantly changing and growing stronger or weaker?"

    "Precisely", his teacher agreed in satisfaction, "So, can you understand all of Dao? Even your own?" 

    "No... you can only become one with Dao - a part of it and every Dao is part of all Dao....even the village story teller said that". Chún frowned.

    "And what did I say a Technique was?" Yijang rested his hands on his stave and looked at Chún expectantly.

    "A way... to... artificially create a... Dao.." Chún straightened up in realisation, "But if Dao can't be completely understood... then a technique cannot contain all of Dao... and so it is flawed.

    Yijing snorted. "Correct. Only a Dao knows how to be what it is, so only by following its direction can it be created within you. Techniques are like trying to write a description of the world on a scroll and expecting the world and the scroll to be the same thing."

    Chún crumpled in disappointment. "So you can't teach me any Dao or Techniques to become strong, Teacher?".

    "They would be useless to you if I did", said the old man smiling indulgently and then poked Chún in the chest with the tip of his stave. "Your Dao is in here. Listen to it and it will show you what it needs to grow." The chimes on the top of the stave sounded as his teacher grounded the staff again with a thump that seemed to resonate, startling a nearby flock of grass pigeons who flew off, cooing in warning.

    "This is what separates True Cultivators from Consumers - we can sense the Dao within us and the Dao around us - we strengthen it and it strengthens us. Consumers force their bodies to follow whatever flawed Dao they choose - they use energy from the resources and Essence they consume to remake their bodies to match. They are not connected to the world as we are, so they hold that energy within themselves and are mortal when it is exhausted or destroyed."

    Chum rubbed his chest, feeling slightly hard done by. He was an orphan that had barely been allowed to grudgingly learn basic characters due to the villagers wanting him to be able to do some bookkeeping chores. How would he know all this? "But Essence beasts do not use techniques...", he grumbled, then paused at a sudden thought, "Oh...beasts are naturally more connected to the world and follow their instincts... so Essence beasts cultivate their Dao naturally?"

    Yijing nodded "Good. You reason well. That is why Essence beasts are themselves Essence resources - even low level ones. Humans must begin to generate more of their own Essence than they consume before they become meaningful resources, generally speaking."

    "There is another exception that happens reasonably regularly", he continued. "The Consumer who, for one reason or another does not have access to established techniques and resources of a Family or Sect and comprehends their Dao out of great need or desperation, either through fortunate encounters or following their instincts from the start. Generally, while they may consume resources, they are often ones that Heavens and Earth provide for them and they do not require an excess to achieve results, far outpacing other Consumers of the same level." 
    Yijing smirked, "Those Cultivators I do not have as many issues with - they tend to drive the established Consumers mad with frustration as so called 'trash' out performs them at every turn - and because they develop their Dao, they are more connected to the world than other Consumers. Those that survive reach True Cultivation levels quickly, returning what they consumed to the world and often adding to it." 

    Yijing paused, then shook his furiously chiming stave at Chún, "Can you think of why a Cultivator starting from nothing often has greater success than a Consumer?"

    Chún nodded. "Yes, Teacher. Based on what you have said, if a Cultivator is following natural Dao, even without knowing it... then, they will create a technique of cultivation close to their own Dao and have better results. And... if you follow natural Dao... then you are aligned with the Heavens and it will grant fortunate chances... like finding suitable techniques and resources for their Dao... because Dao always works towards completion?"

    Yijing nodded excitedly. "As far as True Cultivators have been able to observe that is the case. Hence, you must always strive to follow Dao and not try to create shortcuts".

    The old man took another long drink of his flask, then passed it to Chún, who took a drink of his own as his teacher resumed speaking, "Student, there are still quite a few things I must teach you before I leave - so do not worry. You may not learn the Three Headed Donkey Fart Technique from me, but I am still qualified to be your teacher. Now, come", the old man hopped off the boulder and gestured to Chún as he turned towards the stream and the trees, " the sun grows too warm to stay under it's full strength".

    Chún faltered, staring at the old man. "You... you are leaving me, Teacher?" He scrambled off the boulder and rushed after him.

    "In no more than a day or two, Young Chún. It is necessary. You must follow your Dao, not mine - and if I stayed, even with the best intentions, you would follow my Dao more than yours and become flawed. Additionally, the longer I stay, the greater chance the mountain gathers enough Essence to form its Dao and become a Treasure Mountain. For your sake the increase in Essence gathering here is a good thing, because it will be easier for you to grow if the Essence here is strong, but if the Mountain wakes entirely without your help, you will be overwhelmed. You must be the one who ignites the Mountain's Dao, it is already a part of you - the process will be excellent training - with you here on your own it will grow with you and strengthen you as you strengthen it."

    "You make it sound as if the mountain will be my partner, Teacher", panted Chún.

    Yijing nodded as they crossed the pasture meadow, his stave's bells jingling with each step. "Yes. When True Cultivators take our first steps, each of us has a connection to someplace more than anywhere else. This is an excellent place - originally I stopped here because I saw signs that a True Cultivator had formed a connection with the mountain and I wished to find out who it was." He winked at Chún, "I was amazed to find someone I did not know and according to True Cultivator law - as the one who discovered you, it is my responsibility to evaluate and instruct you."
    He thumped his staff on the ground for emphasis. "A locus - such as a mountain that we form a connection with, continues to help us grow and defend ourselves through the land we stand on, no matter how far away we are  - and it benefits from any excess Essence we channel.  Eventually, we produce more than we use - and no longer rely on loci - but that takes thousands of years."

    Chún tripped over his feet and fell to the ground as they reached the streambank. The flowing water seemed to chuckle in laughter at the sight. "Thousands of years... what?"

    Yijing extended a hand down and pulled Chún to his feet, rolling his eyes. "Constantly renewing flows of energy, following your Dao to grow... you won't die, Young Chún, unless some Essence Beast takes a liking to you or a hot-headed Consumer runs you through with a sword... or hits you with a technique..."

    Chún stared at his Teacher's receding figure as Yijing hopped over the stream, his voice carrying over his shoulder as he walked into the trees, "...get hit by falling rocks...immolated by a Dao ignition...hit by more Tribulation lightning than you can absorb...choke on a chicken bone..."

    Chún sighed and rolled his eyes in exasperation, muttering to himself, "Maybe it is a good thing Senior is leaving...?" Raising his voice he called after the eccentric old man, "Teacher, wait for me!" 

    ---

    End of Chapter Four

    Apologies for the delay on this one. Anyone who might feel irritated at the discussion of Dao being inaccurate - remember this is a XiaXia world so its Dao may not be exactly the same as our Dao... or the True Cultivators don't see everything...who knows?
  • edited August 2017

    Chapter Five


    Chún followed his teacher higher up the mountain and deeper into the forest - through the boundary the villagers never ventured past - the source of many of the claims of 'Monstrous Essence Beasts' which kept them from going past the foothills. 

    Even Chún had never been higher than the geese pasture, or deeper into the forest more than a half-li or so beyond the pool and waterfall he used to bathe in. There had never been a need as game and edible flora were plentiful and he never had to go far to find what he needed to sell furs and supplement his diet - and perhaps the villager's stories had a grain of truth to them? 
    There was no need to tempt fate after all.

    The trees filtered and blocked much of the sunlight in beams and patterns of shadow and light. Even without pushing his Essence out, Chún could see the glowing curls of coloured Essence mists drifting around the trunks of trees and scattered, twinkling specks dancing in the darker hollows, growing thicker and numerous as they moved deeper into the depths of the mountain.

    A constant low level chorus of various animal sounds, bird calls and insect hums was occasionally overwhelmed by a louder swell of complaints; providing a counterpoint to the constant fall and trickle of running water and rush of breezes flowing through the trees. 
    The occasional rustle or flickering movement betrayed various creatures moving out of their direct path; accompanied by barks, coughs, chirps, squawks or other cries of warning in symphony with the chiming of the old man's stave and the susurrus of their feet in the leaf litter.

    The air was fresh and cool in the lungs, heavy with moisture, the taste of greenery and the odour of decomposing plant matter heavy in the breath that flowed over Chún's tongue - punctuated with the scents of the flowers, aromatic plants, earthy fungi, wild-fruit and spice of wild-herbs that they brushed against; occasionally interrupted by the sharp tang of spoor, the sweet-sour fermentation of overripe fruit or other less identifiable smells.  

    Their progress was not constant. Yijing slowed to point out various details - a particularly strong gathering of Essence at a confluence of elements where water flashed over a sunlight rock, a tree or plant that seemed to be absorbing or producing more Essence than the others. It was important to note those things as potential ignition points which would eventually form Dao, creating more Essence and producing treasures. This would happen with or without the help of a True Cultivator, Yijing explained to Chún as they walked, but where it might take ten thousand years for a Dao to form in such a place naturally, with a True Cultivator's presence there would be a many-fold increase in the forming of Dao as they affected the Essence around them.

    Eventually, the older man stopped in a small clearing just shy of a cliff-face thickly overhung with greenery. Enormous vines, more like twisted tree trunks twisted up and down the cliff like a mythical giant's net, supporting a vast profusion of dark green, plate-like leaves, brilliant, multi-hued flowers and large teardrop-shaped fruits that hung heavily from their stalks, glowing dimly with different swirls of Essence like festival lamp decorations to Chún's eyes.

    "What is that, Teacher?" Chún stared in amazement; "I have never seen so much Essence in one plant before".

    "That is a Earth to Heavens vine, Young Chún. Unless I am mistaken, it doesn't have long before it becomes a Five Elements Tree - a normal Earth to Heavens vine does not have fruits or those flowers on it. It is one of the reasons I picked this place for your 'Immortal's Cave'".

    Chún blinked. "We use 'Immortal's Caves' as well?"

    Yijing harrumphed in disdain. "We have always used them. Consumers make poor copies of them, although in time anyone who grows to sense Essence well, will learn to find or create good ones".

    Chún coughed quietly then hesitantly addressed Yijing, "Teacher, you have said repeatedly that True Cultivators are different from Consumers, but other than our bodies connecting to our own Dao rather than forcing the creation of Dao through techniques and cultivation methods, I do not see much difference between us. You gave me Essence water yesterday and it strengthen my body; so we can use resources as they do to similar effect. Is it merely a case of 'Two enemies cannot live under the same sky?'"

    The old man looked at Chún and nodded. "We can use resources, but it is not necessary for us to deplete them - for example, the fruits of this Earth to Heaven vine will greatly assist in tempering your body with concentrated Essence - even more so if it successfully attains the Dao of a Five Elements tree - which your presence will help foster."

    "I understand, Teacher", answered Chún, continuing stubbornly "But I have heard that many sects grow and maintain Essence herbs and plants..."

    Yijing shook his head and held up a hand halting Chún's words. "Student, I have barely begun to cover the differences between the average Consumer and a True Cultivator. While many larger sects do grow Essence plants and herbs, they use formations, other resources they cannot replace and not their own Dao. It is good you continue to think, however... there is much you have to learn. True Cultivators may use resources, but they can, with the aid of the World's Dao replace those resources from channelling energy and Essence into a Dao. In the end, all Consumer methods work by the consumption of one resource to create another - or to generate Essence which they use to remake their bodies as they desire. Without some means of re-creation the demand for resources would outstrip the natural formation of new resources - and the World would become lifeless as the World would no longer contain enough energy to comprehend Dao and thus die." The old man was silent for a moment, looking at Chún steadily. His next words fell like the strikes of a blacksmith's hammer pounding against iron and anvil. "I. Have. Seen. worlds. Like  That."
    Yijing's eyes gleamed, "For now, Student, remember this: True Cultivators are part of the Dao of Heavens and Earth and thus create. Consumers go against the Heavens and the Earth and thus destroy".

    Chún bowed shakily in acceptance, no longer wishing to ask questions. The forest had grown still during the old man's speech, all sounds and movement ceasing as a heavy feeling emanated from him - and Chún realised that while his Teacher might act like a simple old man, he was truly a powerful Master that could command the winds and rain.

    The sense of pressure faded and Yijing spoke quietly. "Student, you are indeed correct in saying that Consumers have much in common with us. There are indeed reasons for this, but they are lengthy and of no concern to your immediate training. However, the central difference of Consumption as opposed to true Cultivation separates us, except for special cases, or World level Cultivators as previously discussed. It does not concern you at this stage, and may cause deviation if you dwell on it overmuch", He turned and walked towards the cliff. "Now, Student, follow."

    Chastened, Chún followed his teacher through the tangle of vines and leaves, that shifted to one side or the other as if a breeze had pushed them, giving Yijing and Chún clear passage. On the branches, leaves and stalks Chún could see glowing shapes and strange characters, that shifted in different combinations as the plants moved around. Chún thought these felt abstruse and strange, they gave off a sense of silence, blandness, inconsequential, unimportant as they kept shifting, forming different patterns...

    "Teacher, I see shapes in the Essence of the plants..."

    "Very good, Student. This is another thing Consumers learnt from us - creating manifestations of Dao to create effects on an area, item  or person. They call it inscriptions or formations - they use resources to create inferior copies of parts of Dao to create the effect they want. I asked the Earth to Heaven Vine to hide this place and provided Essence and support - it comprehended and grew Daos of concealment and protection within itself - and they combine and change naturally as the plants move into different formations. This will keep your Immortal's Cave hidden. I will show you how to ask the Mountain how to hide itself, so that Consumers do not find it before it is able to protect itself - or find you."

    Chún blinked as they entered a narrow tunnel, its ceiling only a short distance above his head. The walls were smooth and gave off a feeling of ancientness, with strangely coloured veins of minerals glowing with Essence tracing the walls and ceiling, providing enough light to see.
    They only walked for a short while before the tunnel opened up into a comfortably-sized cave, the ceiling disappearing. The air within the cave was fresh and warm. Chún could see motes of air energy dropping down in spirals from higher above, while a small ground spring, bubbling with as much Essence as water, lay in one quarter of the cave, flowing into a large pool in the centre. Chún could see motes of Fire essence rising above the pool along with steam. Occasional whiffs of mineral laden scent betrayed a connection to a vein of earth-fire beneath the pool.
    A faint glow permeated the cave from all the essence, making it easy to see around - although it was not bright, it was not dark either.

    "Young Chún, here you have access to all of the basic forms of Essence. They are easy to merge with and you will be able to temper your body and spirit though channelling them without much effort. This place is a little unfinished - you can use the Dao you comprehend to create what you need to be comfortable."

    Yijang sat unceremoniously on the smooth rock of the the cave floor, pointing with his staff. "Sit, Student and listen. Now I will explain as much as I am able of what it is essential for you to know. It will be quick as I cannot remain much longer on this Mountain".

    Chún bowed and sat in front of his Teacher attentively. "Yes, Teacher", said Chún solemnly. 

    "You have much to learn... and the World will teach you most of it. So I can feel assured, leaving you."

    Yijing's eyes glowed in the dimness of the Essence lit cave. "But these things I will teach you. Reach out with your Essence".

    Chún closed his eyes and let the colours and music of Essence suffuse his senses, hearing his Teacher's voice. "Greet the Mountain as you would an older brother - use your thoughts, feelings and Essence, not your voice."

    Essence flowed through his body from the Mountain and back again into like a river returning to the ocean. Chún felt the Mountain respond to his greeting. It was indescribable but Chún knew that he had received a cautiously friendly answer.

    "Good. Tell it respectfully that it needs to conceal the increasing level of Essence. If the Consumers find the Mountain before it can defend itself, it will die when they divest it of its resources without it fighting back."

    After hearing Yijing's words about dead worlds, the idea of Consumers stealing so many resources from the Mountain that it died stillborn caused a surge of revulsion in him. He understood what the old man meant about fighting, but the best defence was always to not be there when the fight started -  he had learnt that the hard way avoiding the bullies in the village - but if the Mountain moved, surely it would be noticed. It had to not be there and yet no one see any difference... if it looked like an ordinary mountain then no one would go looking for it... and the Mountain could choose to let good people stay there, but hide from the rest... then he and Teacher could live there safely...

    There was a pulse of something that Chún instinctively recognised as understanding and a sound of the great many instruments. Chún felt something - twist - then snap into place. He felt like he had moved a great distance while at the same time not moving at all - and he briefly saw a very large Dao shape before an immense ignition wave of blindingly dark green Essence slammed through him and he knew no more.

    End Chapter Five

  • edited August 2017

    Chapter Six


    "There is a possibility..."

    "Unwise...?"

    "Success might be worse than..."

    "Begin again?"

    "...continue..."


    ---

    Chún's body felt heavy. Lifting his eyelids felt like carrying sacks of grain from one end of the village to the other. He couldn't remember where he was. Had he been ill?

    Finally, he managed to open his eyes, but it remained dark. He couldn't see!

    Blinking in panic, Chún cried out involuntarily, his terror increasing as only a horse croak made it past his lips, body twitching as limbs instinctively attempted to flail in response.

    Suddenly he felt a gentle warmth on his forehead and a sense of calm swept through his body. "Rest, young one". Before Chún could articulate who the voice belonged to, his eyelids slid shut and his consciousness floated away.

    ---

    Chún opened his eyes. Gentle sparkles of Essence floated in the air of the Immortal's Cave, back lit by a soft ambient glow from the veins of Essence on the walls and ceiling. A gentle burbling to his left made Chún turn his head, where he could see the luminescence of the small ground-spring's fountain. He felt thirsty the moment he saw the water, so he sat up and walked over to the spring, then knelt at the spring side and cupped water to his mouth.

    A refreshing feeling spread from his throat and mouth as he gulped the water down, feeling extremely comfortable through his body. Eventually, he finished and looked around the cave. 

    It was empty, other than a beast skin thrown on the cave floor where he woke up. He looked around, frowning slightly at the quiet - where was Yijing?. "Teacher?"

    There was a soundless flash near the beast skin and a glowing figure appeared. Chún blinked in amazement - it looked like Yijing but it was made of white and gold Essence mist - Chún could see through the figure to the cave wall.

    "Student. As I told you I must, I have left. I only remained long enough to ensure you survived the Essence overload caused by your waking of the Mountain".

    Chún's mouth dropped open, a dim recollection of a wave of dark green Essence hitting him rising in his mind. "Teacher..."

    The figure wavered and paused. "This Formation can only repeat the message I have placed within it. It cannot answer your questions. Listen well".

    Chún shook his head and scrambled closer to the figure. Next to the beast skin, a palm sized rock glowed softly under the figure, wisps of Essence rising up off the rock into  the glowing figure of his Teacher.

    The figure wavered again then resumed speaking, the voice sounding oddly like echoes and the sounds of wind forming words.

    "Student. As I told you I must, I have left. I only remained long enough to ensure you survived the Essence overload caused by your waking of the Mountain." The figure paused and shook its head ruefully, "I do not know what you spoke to the Mountain, but it has hidden itself within it's own small world. It remains visible as an ordinary mountain outside of its world, but does not appear to be a Treasure land. Experienced or skilled Consumers and True Cultivators will be able to tell that there is more to the mountain, if they touch it - but there is nothing to attract their attention anymore. Even if someone does come, they will need to search for the entrance to the small world. You will be safe here for a time."

    "The Mountain will teach you what you ask of it. The land has been here longer than men and remembers everything that touches it. Ask it to teach you writing and noble manners."

    "Continue to practice with Essence. Remember what I told you about choosing small Essence points to practice with - I am not there to help you if you are overloaded again".

    "Formations are formed naturally by the world Dao as it needs it and collects enough essence and energy. Consumers copy this with inscribing and forging formations which they force onto the Dao of the world - but the World can create formations naturally as a part of itself. Ask the Mountain to hide or protect the treasures you ignite - eventually, you should encourage the Mountain to build large formations to protect itself and everything on it"

    "Essence beasts will be attracted to the Mountain or even develop on it from lucky chances. It will be your responsibility to care and nature everything on the Mountain including these beasts - but take care, they will not always care that you are a True Cultivator."

    "Ask the Mountain to show you your Dao. This will allow you to follow your Dao for defence and offence and to increase your cultivation".

    The figure straightened and look straight at Chún. "Finally - a warning. I have warned you somewhat of the dangers of Consumers and Channelling energies and Essence. More you will have to learn for yourself. But there is another danger I have not spoken of."

    There was a pause.

    "As sects and groups form and war between Consumers, so too not all True Cultivators are of the same mind. I am of the Balance faction. While I dislike Consumers, I acknowledge that they have a place - without them, beast waves and Essence manifestations would destroy man - True Cultivators born of the World as we are - are too rare to defend men alone. We would be overwhelmed and fall and man would be wiped from the world. The Balance faction seeks to maintain a balance between the consumers and the Dao of the world - as I previously told you."

    "Another faction hates Consumers and man and considers them a plague to be eradicated. We are too few to fight - although True Cultivators grow stronger individually - in time - than the average Consumer, we would be easily destroyed in any attempt to threaten Consumers as a whole. Thus this faction uses insidious methods and twists essence points, or uses death essence and energies from pain and suffering to create cursed and evil resources and lands. Consumers find these resources and develop Demon or evil techniques built around the death and killing of other Consumers, thus meeting their goals of encouraging Consumers to destroy each other."

    The figure took on a serious mien. "If they find you, they will kill you, before you are strong enough to defend yourself. You almost single-handedly changed the Mountain into a high level treasure land full of resources for righteous or neutral Consumers - such a place runs counter to their aims - they will want to stop you before you create more".

    "There are others with differing aims. Be careful of any, you cannot be sure of their intent".

    "Learn, take care, grow stronger. When we next meet I hope to greet you as a Brother of True Cultivation".

    The figure raised a faint hand in blessing and bowed, then dispersed into wisps of essence. The rock flickered and the glow faded.

    Chún stared blankly at the empty space where the message had hung and sucked in a long breath.

    ---

    A mysterious Heavenly Mountain,
    A Ghostly scream of indignation;
    "....Your Father....!"



    End of Chapter Six

    Apologies for the delay and the shorter Chapter - this is more of a transition out of the introduction arc - and it took me a while to decide how to proceed.


  • edited September 2017

    Chapter Seven


    A young man runs up a misty mountain path, breathing perfectly evenly, perfectly at ease. He seems to be one with his environment, serene and untroubled

    However, within his thoughts is a different story.

    "Tai, this is absolutely not possible. Absolutely!"

    "This series of movements are perfectly calibrated for your body's Dao. Please comply."

    "Perhaps you are not hearing me, you unfeeling lump of rock. Those movements are not possible by the human body."

    "Your statements are inaccurate. 232 years ago 23 year old male human Joun of the family Li performed movements 3 through 11 in the Emerald Walls City of the Chin province of the Green Dragon Continent. 1362 years ago female human Ling of the family Xiao performed movements 1 though 7 in the Desolate Valley in the Chast prefecture of the Golden Crow Continent. 5512 years ago..."

    "...gahhh, Stop, stop! It doesn't matter if all these people from a thousand generations ago managed to do these movements...".

    "Your statement is incorrect. The oldest of these individuals is no more than 827 generations separated from your present position in time."

    Chún reached the top of the mountain and breathed out a mouthful of turbid air as he channelled Essence to replenish and strengthen his body according to the routine that his new mountain mentor had devised to follow his body's Dao. 

    "A Essence spring is located two and a half li from your current position. Proceed with ignition process."

    Chún closed his eyes in frustration, stretching his neck back. "Tai, don't you feel we're moving too fast? Teacher said we have to be careful not to give away our existence with excess Essence emissions - arrg, your Father, now you have me speaking like you!"

    "This Father is currently concealed within a pocket plane of existence. It would take an ignition event several million times the size of the Essence spring this one is directing you to alert..."

    "En, en, en... as you wish. What sort of training is this?", grumbled Chún to himself, "Arrogant sun of a boulder, mother was probably a donkey... run here, ignite this, channel Essence, make this movement..."

    "This training routine is specifically tailored to your Dao, Student Chún", sounded the dispassionate voice of the Mountain within his skull, sounding like a falling landslide and tumbling water being blown through by a strong wind, "Following this Father's instruction will allow you to realise your potential with as solid a foundation as possible. A solid foundation is the basis of all Dao."

    "Maybe for a Mountain, Tai", said Chún aloud, "But I am human, I need some flexibility, a change in routine, some feeling of achievement..."

    "You would not have been able to articulate your thoughts in such a manner when you first arrived, Student Chún".

    Chún rolled his eyes. After nearly two years of almost constant tutoring by the Mountain he was standing on, his vocabulary and understanding of the world around him had truly expanded dramatically. One might not expect a Mountain to be a good teacher, but it turned out the world remembered everything that was ever done on it. Anything that ever happened when something or someone was touching the land was part of its knowledge and as Tai was now a self-aware part of the world, it could reproduce and show Chún every event that ever happened or was happening anywhere.

    It was like getting taught by every master, teacher, philosopher, Consumer, True Cultivator and artist that ever lived - simultaneously, constantly and without regard for human limits. Tai had started off with reproducing lessons as told to their students by the best teachers - using that strange Essence technique his Teacher had used to leave behind his message (only better, of course) - the best being decided by Tai based on how many successful students each teacher produced. And if Chún didn't understand a teacher on a subject, Tai simply switched to a different teacher on the same subject, with unending patience, until it found a lesson that resonated with Chún. And then it required Chún to follow the exercises the teachers set and repeat them until they were correct. 

    Fortunately for Chún, tempering his body and spirit through constantly channelling essence and having impurities burnt out by Essence waves had remade his mental functions. As long as he was channelling while he was learning something the knowledge would be imprinted deeply within his mind; even if he was not using Essence, his memory could be considered eidetic and his reasoning ability had grown enormously.  Otherwise it would have been impossible for Chún to have learnt so much so quickly, let alone understand it.

    Writing, calligraphy, reading, poetry, history, politics, plants and animals - although Tai usually spent most of those last two lessons correcting the teacher - geology, those lessons as well - fitness, health, growing food, fine dining and human customs - for nation, after nation, after nation. Chún didn't know when he would need to greet a Noble of the Southern Continent, or beg for food in the western desert, or write in the strange markings of the northern Barbarian kingdoms - but he knew how to. He also knew how to plant his own crops - Essence channelling was a complete cheat there - weave his own clothing and form his own dwellings - again with the Essence cheating.

    His clothing had Essence formations formed naturally from the weave which Tai had taught him to find and grow straight from the plants themselves, his walking stick had been replaced with a living staff formed from a sapling of the Five-Elements tree that sustained itself from the Essence he channelled without conscious thought even when asleep. Under Tai's methodical guidance he had ignited thousands of plants, streams, springs, rocks, trees - the very air was saturated with Essence, with treasures forming spontaneously on a regular basis now.

    And yet, with all of this his own Dao remained an issue. Tai refused to let him leave without the means to defend himself and pass as a Consumer rather than a walking treasure generator that any sect would promptly enslave and work to death. 

    And Chún couldn't. Sure, his body was tempered so that even Earth level Essence beasts couldn't puncture or crush it - and was it not fun finding that out - he could energise natural formations of the Dao within every li of land he strode on, he had the eyesight of a great Golden Jiao, the strength of a hundred Earth blood Essence Bears, but he couldn't actually perform anything resembling a martial technique offence or defence to explain it - and Tai had shown in his many reproductions that any Earth level and above Consumer would have techniques to put him down permanently with ease - because as, his old Teacher would say 'They had the Technique of Kicking the Donkey's Ass, and he had nothing to match it'. All he could do was take a beating and run away.

    Well, actually he could of course channel Essence, and help Dao inherent in the world to form in his favour to attack a Consumer, but that would be like telling any half way decent Consumer that here was a 'rare treasure'!

    And finally, his complete inability to conceal his channelling. While not as enormous as old man Yijing's, Chún's Dao produced Essence which was added to the World's Essence he channelled, slowly increasing the Essence levels where he went. As a True Cultivator that was his responsibility; as someone who didn't want to light the equivalent of a roaring signal fire for every Consumer within a thousand li... well, there was a reason that every time he ignited an Essence spring he requested the Dao of the new treasure to form concealment or defensive formations, hoping to gain insight into hiding his cultivation level.

    By now he was quite skilled in finding the potential for and igniting natural formations - the mountain had become a maze of defence, confusion, illusion, concealment and battle formations, dimensional pockets and so forth; even if a Consumer managed to make it past the dimensional twist that concealed the mountain, they would find it difficult to go two steps without being caught in something that would take their life. No matter what, Tai would never be a Treasure land to be plundered at leisure.

    By now Tai estimated itself to be a Sky level Treasure land, something which usually took aeons to achieve and was usually plundered to death by Consumers, simply from Chún's daily practice.

    "En, Tai where is the Essence Spring?" said Chún as he trotted away from the peak of the Mountain.

    "East, one li, South one li..."

    ---

    After his daily practice, Chún made his way towards his usual bathing waterfall. Although he had the hot pool in his Immortal's cave, he often preferred the pounding clean given by the fall of water over his body. With his level of body tempering the past discomfort of the freezing falls now felt more like a comfortable full body massage.

    "Cultivator, Cultivator", Essence pulsed out from the spirits of some of the older awoken plant treasures as he walked by, leaves, branches or stems swaying. "Good sun, fresh water to you!"

    "Friends! Any news?", sang Chún back, as he made his way towards the lake without breaking stride

    "The birds say more True Creatures are coming..." grumbled from a standing boulder twice his height and three times the width.

    "Good, good, good, yes, yes, yes!", chattered the stream along side the path as it leapt over it's bed.

    "As long as they don't attack me on sight", laughed Chún, asking the stream for a drink, a jet of water splashing his face, before he'd finished the thought "Ach!", he spluttered as the stream laughed. "Not funny, guys... Any Consumers get wind of a Treasure Land here?"

    "Nooo rooobbbersss neeear", thrummed a stand of bamboo, rattling with alarm. "Goldeeeen Baaack Truuue Appppeee".

    "Oo, maybe I can trade some Five Elements Fruit with them for Monkey Stone Wine..." Reaching the lake, Chún mentally stroked the essence of his robes and staff which flickered into his personal dimensional twist, leaving him nude as he strode into the water.

    Pale, sculpted skin and muscle chiselled out a perfect, hairless male body shape, water beading off his skin as if waterproof. At close to fourteen, Chún would pass for someone three of four years older, looking more like an idealised sculpture of some young warrior, than anything merely human. Sun and constant essence channelling had turned his skin and hair pale, the finer body hair burnt away completely in daily ignitions and training. He was unrecognisable as the orphan boy that had gone up the Mountain.

    "Fish for supper again... hup!" A deft twist of hand flicked out a couple of fat Silver Essence Trout to land flopping on the bank as he swam deeper.

    "It is unnecessary for you to eat", chided the voice of the Mountain, "Channelling Essence and your own Dao supply more energy than your body will ever require".

    "Tastes good. Also, practically the only non-training related activity available around here - even then, it is good practice for my table manners anyway".

    "You should attempt the Mountain Stands Firm again. It will..."

    "Not happening Tai. I do not agree with you - that form does not fit my Dao, foundational or not". Swimming under the waterfall, Chún raised his face to the water, allowing the pounding to drown out the muttering of the Mountain and the chatter of the other minor locus' into a timeless moment...

    ...the mountain shuddering yanked him out of the Dao and into a fearful, singing silence.

    "What, What...Tai?" At the speed of thought Chún was on the lake bank dressed with glowing tree staff in hand and fish in the other as he scanned for danger.

    Tai's essence was subdued and fearful. "The dimension is breached, Cultivator."

    Chún's thought's flashed to the obvious and he froze "Consumers - where..."

    "No, Cultivator...Royalty."

    Chún blinked in complete confusion, "What...?"



    End of Chapter Seven

    And now the actual story starts - again sorry for the delay and smaller than usual chapter. Wanted to get us up to speed where things could start happening without endless filler of Chún going through True Cultivator cram School - though I did consider and discard various versions of that. Still not sure I have the right balance.
  • edited September 2017
    Fair Warning: This Chapter is different. It also may not fit with the usual XiaXia formats... but after many rewrites, this is how I was able to articulate what I saw in my head. I'm not entirely sure it would be possible to translate some of this chapter into Chinese as I'm using the way I'm writing English to get some of the imagery across.

    Chapter Eight

    An essence dense roar echoed out from above him; Chún looked up, reflexively sliding into a defensive position as a wave of pure sound slammed into him, jostling his internal organs. He tasted a sweet taste at the back of his throat and swallowed the blood down forcefully, releasing his control on his channelling at the same time allowing the Essence to flow through him and out again without restraint.

    As the energy flooded through him repairing the internal injuries, his right foot pushed off the ground launching him up the side of the mountain like a gust of wind. If an Essence Monster was attacking his locus and all of his friends, he had to stop it.

    The mountain quivered under his feet as the tips of his toes touched lightly on its surface in another leap, "Tai, what's going on? What does Royalty mean?".

    "Shen... Lung", groaned the Mountain in his mind, "Angry... Dragon.  Hurts...".

    "Tai!", Chen screamed as he jumped upward from boulder to boulder to avoid the stampeding, screeching and howling wildlife that suddenly seemed everywhere, flowing down towards him in a mad rush to leave the area. A large silver mountain ape flared its essence as it matched his leap in opposition, snarling in a fear driven rage as it lashed out blindly to clear the obstacle in front of it.

    Chún pulsed a wave of essence that rebounded off the ape's, sending both of them spinning off in opposite directions. Chún controlled the momentum and angle of the spin to fling himself further up the mountain in terror-driven haste. "Tai, answer me! Where is it!"

    "Do.. not..." The mountain quaked like soft tofu and a thunderous roar was the only warning Chún got as a huge landslide crashed over the mountainside, enormous boulders, trees and other detritus suddenly raining down from above, blotting out his view like the hand of an angry god.

    "Ignite!"

    Chún pushed out his Essence and everything he was channelling in an enormous wave of energy willing the Dao around him to be...


    ...stillness

               ...falling...

              The petals of the peony
              fall endlessly,

             Within a moment.

                          Eternity.

    A bell chimes.


    There was a brilliant flash and and ignition wave larger than anything Chún had seen before froze everything in place. For a moment Chún felt like he was everywhere and nowhere at the same time in a perfect moment of peaceful tranquillity....

    ...Then the world returned in a rush of of fury and noise and he stood in front of an enormously scaled, muscular body that looked like a snake with a girth that would tower over a seven level pagoda...

    ...and flung himself to the left as an enormous claw crashed down where he stood, sending the mountain quaking again. An enraged roar that sounded like a thousand howling winds would have blasted him unconscious if he wasn't already channelling to his maximum capacity.


    "C u L t i V a T OR  PA RA S i t e!!!" 


    The furious screaming howl came from everywhere and Chún threw caution to the winds, pushing as much Essence as he could into any and all natural Dao formations within his reach. Essence flared and ignited and blazes of colour as the thunder of war drums pulsed. Ignition waves crashed against one another like a typhoon storm waves - and Chún screamed in agony as they burned through his body. Dimly he was aware of lava streams, and torrents of fire, earth, water and bolts of pure energy forming around him and lashing back at the immensity that loomed above him...


    "Youu UU uu  DA RR rre!!"


    An enormous flash of pure white energy and Essence swept all of the igniting Dao aside, shattering them like junks against a sea-roar wave. Chún was likewise blasted into the air, everything on him vaporised in an instant as the energy flooded his body until he was...

    ...only 
    ...energy... 

    Scattered

             everything

    He had to... hang on 

                 Tai was
                 
            pain
                                        EveryThing
                       
        Disjointed

                hurt
                           Lung

      EVERYthing
       
                     hurt
                                          pain
                                                       Must
                     
                               HEAL
                       
                 EVERYTHING

       



    A moment
    Is forever;

    Forever is a moment...


    Breathe


    Can you hear,

    when the chime ends?

    ---

    End Chapter Eight


    A very short chapter; but necessary. The cliff is also needed, there really is no way any MC - even an XiaXia one - can conceivably last for very long against an enraged dragon; not until they get to demigod level at least and Chún is barely a beginner.
  • edited September 2017
    Nice chapter. Also MT.TAI being hidden, consumers have eyes but can't see mt.tai. Man you are too funny.

    Hope you keep it up. Looking forward to the next chapter.
  • Thanks. Apologies for the wait and the let down....
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