Sitting in the lotus position, Hong Zhao felt like he was the center of a maelstrom. The essence above him seemed like a large storm cloud as he forced it into a cyclone of raw energy. Small threads of qi entered his dantian, just a few at a time. He could feel the collective energy within his center, the calm after the storm. After more than twenty strands of qi had been made within his dantian, he could feel them link together into a small rope. As the strands continued to make their way to his center, he could feel multiple of the ropes forming.
Hong Zhao could only focus on the strands of qi within himself. To do anything else would be to lose the potential windfall such a cultivation session would give him. The qi was a lustrous white as it entered.
Soon, strands of qi that had began to form into qi ropes linked together with each other, forming one large qi rope.
In a time which was undefinable to Hong Zhao, the roiling storm of essence above him was brought to his dantian and refined. He could tell that something within him was different, yet he couldn't figure out what. As he looked within his dantian, he saw a large thick rope of qi which swirled around.
"Lan, something is different inside of me." He looked around and noticed that Lan was no longer there. "Great, now I'm talking to myself."
Hong Zhao looked at the vials in front of him. "I should put these back in the ring." He didn't think the pills were simple, even in the world he was in. If others were to see them, he might be targeted in the future for the ring.
Inserting a strand of qi into the ring, Hong Zhao entered the room within the ring once more. He went to the indentation within the corner next to the first star student door. When he did, he noticed that the star above the door was glowing. "Maybe it's unlocked now?"
Hong Zhao moved to the door and twisted the knob. Holding his breath, he opened the door and discovered a dark room within. A small light could be seen at the end of the door. It landed on a pedestal which held two jade slips and a little white note.
"My dear traveler," Hong Zhao read the note to himself, "I'm sorry I wasn't there when you finished your second cultivation session. Congratulations for reaching your first star rank! I would suggest getting used to your new power by learning these two abilities. The woods you are in right now are full of a fierce beast species named shadow panthers. They are swift on their feet and hard to locate due to their shadow ability making them more than capable hunters. You can learn the abilities by holding the jade slips to your forehead." Hong Zhao finished the note with a hint of curiosity and annoyance. Curiosity towards learning these abilities just by holding slips to his forehead and annoyance towards Lan for leaving him without a word.
"Fine then," Hong Zhao grabbed the jade slips and allowed the mental projection to end. He then brought the first slip to his forehead. He could feel information push at his consciousness. "Devouring Qi Claws." He could feel the information overwhelming his senses. He knew how rotate the qi into his meridians in a specific pattern in order to make three qi claws on his knuckles.
"Let's give it a try!" Hong Zhao was excited to try out the new ability. His hero back on his old world had much the same ability. He briefly wondered if he would have the fast healing as well.
Circulating the qi through his meridians, Hong Zhao concentrated on the mental image of claws on his knuckles, yet nothing happened. He could feel the drain on his qi only slightly, yet he knew it would only take a few hours to lose the qi he had spent so long to get.
Cancelling out the ability, Hong Zhao tried it again. This time, he saw a glimmer on his knuckles, yet not even half an inch above the skin. He thought they looked more like specks of dust than claws.
Testing the ability for an hour, Hong Zhao's progress was steady, yet frustrating. His devouring qi claws definitely lived up to their name. The qi that he painstakingly cultivated was halved, yet the claws had grown an inch and a half. If he were to punch an enemy with these claws, he could now break skin by just a little.
"Lan did say that I can now focus on making my body the way I had always wanted it," He said obviously needing a break. "Maybe I should try some body building." Hong Zhao stretched near the pond. Before starting, he held up the remaining jade slip. "Maybe this will be useful." He put the slip to his forehead and felt the suction force once more. "Vortex Thrust." He said excitedly. It was a movement ability. He could see that when mastered, he would be able to move fast enough to disappear from view.
The next hour was spent practicing both abilities. If one were to be watching, they would see Hong Zhao tripping over his own feet many times trying to activate his new ability at the same time as his inch and a half claws. In other words, they would have the time of their lives. Who wouldn't laugh at the sight of a naked man tripping over himself and sticking his hands into a tree.
Within the next hour, Hong Zhao was exhausted. He sat in the lotus position and began cultivating again. To his surprise, within the hour, his qi had returned fully. "It must be easier to regain qi I have already cultivated." He said. Yet it was more. He could sense that he had more qi than before. His dantian seemed to be expanding slightly.
Hong Zhao then had a routine set for the day. He would train his two abilities for two hours, then he would cultivate for the next hour to replenish his spent qi. Within the next twelve hours, he was somewhat competent with his new abilities, but he was getting hungry. Having just finished his latest cultivation session, his body was brimming with qi. As he looked within, he noticed that even though his qi had been slightly growing overtime, it wasn't a massive gain. At least not when he compared it to his second cultivation session with the qi grasping pill.
Within the twelve hours, his claws had grown to at least four inches. They were now long enough to slash at trees and leave large rents in them. The claws were quite sharp. He reveled in the idea of having blades he would never have to sharpen.
Along with the claws, he was able to train vortex thrust. He was no longer tripping over himself when activating the ability. Instead, as he pushed forward, gusts of wind formed at the heels of his feet, pushing him forward at an accelerated rate. Instead of falling on his face, he spent hours learning how not to run into trees. He was at least a little confident in his ability to dodge now.
Though he could only count the twelve hours he had been training, he knew it had been much longer since he had eaten. As a matter of fact, it would be his first real meal in this body since being reborn. Though he was hungry, he wasn't stupid. As he walked the wood line, he avoided all berries, seeing as though it were a different world and he knew nothing of their vegetation. Instead, he decided to try his luck on one of the shadow panthers that Lan had mentioned. He could eat, and make clothes for himself.
After walking the woods for a while, Hong Zhao noticed a carcass in the middle of a clearing up ahead. It was unnaturally dark around the beast, which made him think of what Lan had told him of the shadow panther. They had an ability to shroud themselves in darkness. He didn't know exactly how many panthers there were, but he did know he was hungry.
Taking a stick from under a decent sized tree, Hong Zhao backtracked slightly until the clearing was just a little in sight, then he threw the stick at a tree, making a loud sound. The beastly gorging sound subsided, he knew he got their attention. Soon, he saw green eyes in growing darkness moving its way towards him. Though it hadn't noticed him yet, he knew he only had mere moments before a confrontation.
Hong Zhao activated devouring qi claws and vortex thrust. After a few hours of weaving in and out of trees with both abilities activated, he was fairly confident in his ability to maneuver, and he used this experience to weave in between the trees to make it to the rear of the shadow panther. As he arrived, he prepared his claws to strike. Before they reached their mark, the panther jumped out of the way.
Hong Zhao was momentarily surprised, yet it did make sense. He wanted to end the attack swiftly to avoid confrontation, yet the panther's keen sense of hearing had saved it from meeting a quick fate.
The shadow panther roared and seemed to become dimmer to Hong Zhao. Then it disappeared in a swift movement. "It has a movement ability?"
Hong Zhao kept his abilities going, yet stood still and closed his eyes. He knew he wouldn't be able to trust them since the panther was using darkness to its advantage. Using his own keen hearing from years of training, Hong Zhao picked up small sticks breaking under weight three hundred meters away to his six o'clock. The panther was trying to sneak up on him, much the same way he did. Maybe it had a sense of humor.
Suddenly, the movement behind picked up. Hong Zhao spun just in time to put his claws within the eyes of the panther. He felt the claws soak up the blood and viscera that had stained them from the attack. In moments, the red claws became a lustrous white once more. He could feel the blood traveling to his dantian, rotating with the rest of his qi, yet maintaining it's form. "What the hell?" He didn't have time to begin to try understanding what had just happened. Instead, he used the momentum of his attack to spin and give the panther a backwards slash with his other clawed hand, slitting the panther's throat. The blood spurted all over the naked child, painting him red. His claws glowed a faint red for a moment before once again returning white.
The panther struggled in death throes for only moments before sinking to the ground, twitching slightly for a minute. Hong Zhao watched the life drain from the panther. It took only minutes before he picked up his first kill and brought it back to his clearing at the pond.
Hong Zhao put the carcass in the center of his clearing where he could keep an eye on it and went to the pond. He looked at his child like reflection, yet instead of the childlike innocence he had seen there before, he instead saw a gruesome mess. He looked like he had been a part of a massacre, yet it seemed right to him. The body was new, but his soul was bathed in blood.
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