"You don't waste any time, do you?" The woman was surprised at how well the man-turned boy adapted to the situation. He didn't wish for vengeance. He didn't want to go after her or Michael for what was done to him. He figured out his situation sooner than it would take an incense stick to burn and now was asking why she had brought him here. "Honestly, I have never met someone like you before." She smiled and shook her head.
"I brought you here to live."
"Just to live?" He looked skeptical. "Seems like you have gone through an awful lot of trouble just to bring me here to live."
"Honestly!" She waved her hands. "I just want to see exactly how someone like you would survive in my world." Her smile was replaced with a look of sadness. "I was hoping that someone like you might be able to bring reason to this world, before it's too late." Her frown was short lived as she seemed to focus back on him. "I'm even going to help you out a little." Her hand went to her pocket and brought out a silver ring and threw it to him.
The boy caught the ring and examined it. From what he saw, it was of fine make. The lustrous silver gleamed in the sunlight and he saw a raise of patterns which looked like little claw marks dancing in the center. "Are you marrying me or something?" He raised an eyebrow as he tried on the ring. "If so, you got the size wrong." The shiny piece of jewelry hung loosely on his hand. It was official, he was brought to another world by a crazy woman.
Just before he could voice his thoughts, he felt something tighten around his finger and looked down. Somehow the ring had adjusted itself to his finger. He looked at it in shock. "This is not your world." The woman said before he could panic. "You have technology in your world. We have Martial arts, qi, spiritual energy among other energies to harness. Though such energy is not generated from metal contraptions, but from yourself." She explained as he looked up from the ring. She was right, it wasn't his world, and he had no idea what the hell she was talking about.
"What is qi?" He couldn't think of anything else to ask. He had just seen a ring wrap around his finger without him doing it.
"That is a good first question, but I'll first tell you my name. Just call me Master Lan." She said with a wink. "As for your question, qi is cultivated from the energy of the heavens and the earth which is all around us." She said simply. "Cultivation is achieved by meditating or through rare martial arts skills. Cultivation is necessary to achieve new ranks within the qi realm. We all start at the mortal realm. One cannot simply become a cultivator just by being in this world, instead it is earned through your cultivation. It takes months to make a foundation for your cultivation to begin, but soon after, you could rise to my own level." Lan said with a wink.
"How do I cultivate?" He didn't want to waste any time. The sooner he understood, the sooner he could begin. He didn't know exactly why, but at that moment, he was determined to become as strong as she was. To be able to create a world, if it truly was her world and bring him across reality, she had to be something incredible.
She stood and walked towards the tree he leaned on and sat cross legged in front of him and raised her hands in the sign of the fox. At least he was familiar with that certain hand sign. He had seen a few meditations in his life, though he couldn't exactly remember when. Instead of asking any questions, he sat and mimicked her gestures.
"What I want you to do is imagine the energy all around us. When you can feel it, it may feel like an electrical current around you." She closed her eyes and concentrated. "After you can feel it, create a funnel above you.
The boy did as he was told. It took many hours of trials, but then he felt something. It didn't necessarily feel like electricity in the way of shock, but he could feel the small hairs on his skin stand on end. Through his mind's eye, he could see the energy brushing against him. When he noticed just that small amount, it increased his awareness substantially. It felt more like he were on an island surrounded by the strange energy.
Feeling slightly overwhelmed by his eyes being opened once more within this strange world, he focused at a spot atop his head where he made a funnel within his imagination. He could feel the energy shift slightly. It sluggishly began to circle around him. At first it just looked like small ripples or waves above him, but the longer he sat and concentrated, the faster the energy began to move, until the funnel appeared.
"Very good!" Lan praised him. "Now imagine that funnel going to the center of your being. We call this the lower dantian. It is a place just below your navel. Imagine a cave being at the center of your being, then imagine the energy funneling into it."
The boy imagined a cave while maintaining his concentration on the energy above him. When he had a good enough picture of where the energy was going, with his mind's eye, he placed his funnel within the center of his being and immediately felt a pulling sensation around him.
He imagined the cave within the center of his being, and the energy went straight to it. The cyclone of energy continued to swirl around within him. With each cycle, he could see it grow lighter. The longer he concentrated on the energy, the more fine it became, until it looked like just a strand of bright white hair, which circled around within his dantian.
"Good. You have taken the first step into cultivating. Congratulations!" Lan praised him. "If you refine your qi like that every time, you will have a very strong foundation."
He got back to his feet and stretched out. He felt as if he had been sitting for quite some time, yet he felt as if it had only been moments. Looking in the sky, he noticed that the sun was not where it had been when last he checked.
"Time always moves differently on the outside when focusing within." Lan said with a smile. The boy wondered if there was ever a time she wasn't paying attention. "Now that you have a cultivation method, maybe you can look inside the ring I gave you."
The boy looked at the ring and frowned. "There's no hinge or special opening area. The ring is exactly that, a ring. How can I open a piece of metal?" Hong Zhao complained as the tried to pry the ring apart.
Lan laughed as she watched his attempt to open the ring. "Maybe you should put your shoulders into it!" It was clear she was having a blast messing with him.
When Hong Zhao wore himself out, he put the ring back on his fingers and crossed his arms looking at Lan. His frustration made him look like he truly was five years old. "I assume you have an explanation for the ring?"
Lan wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. "Yes, yes." Her chuckles died slightly. "I haven't had entertainment like this in a millennia." Finally she regained her composure. "Remember how to visualize the qi within your dantian?"
Hong Zhao visualized the strand of qi that roamed his center and nodded.
"Good. Now visualize that qi moving through your body and into the ring."
As he did what he was instructed, Hong Zhao felt a pull. It felt as if part of himself had gone inside the ring along with the qi. What he assumed was within the ring was a black void. A mental projection of himself walked in a dark place, yet there was a faint glow the further he walked. As he continued, he came across a door marked as 'Student'.
Hong Zhao let his mental projection open the door, which led to a more well lit room. It was a large spacious room. He thought back to a football field within his previous life and felt that half of one could fit in this room. Along the wall he saw various doors. Above the doors were stars. He could see a sort of numerical system within the stars. There were ten doors, and the stars above the doors were one through ten. "Interesting." the mental projection said as he went to the first door and tried the knob. It caught and wouldn't budge. frustrated with the locked door, he wondered why exactly Lan wanted him to view what was inside the ring if he couldn't open a single door within.
Hong Zhao was about to travel back to his body when he noticed an indentation within the wall to the left of the first door. It wasn't quite a door, but it was a large enough indentation for something to be held. Walking to the disturbance in the wall, he notice three small jade vials on the floor and picked them up. "This is it?" He asked as he let the projection fade.
When he came to back in his body, he looked in his small hand and noticed that the jade vials were in it. "That was interesting. Was it some sort of spacial pocket?"
"Nothing phases you." Las said with little disappointment. "I was expecting a little more," Her eyes opened wide in mock surprise. "Woah! It's huge in there!" She shouted. "How do I have something in my hand that was in an imaginary room?!"
"If you wanted that, you would have gone with a normal person within my world. Don't waste my time." Of course on the inside he was impressed and a little freaked out that the vials were in his hand, yet it was as she said. This was not his world. This was normal for her world, and he had to adapt to survive here.
"Those three vials have three pills called qi grasping pills. They will help you absorb more essence at a faster rate. Take one at a time and don't use the next until you feel the medicinal effects wear off. They are high quality, made by my old alchemist." Her eyes took on a glazed look.
Hong Zhao watched Lan's appearance change with a hint of thought. It was clear that the alchemist that made the pills for Lan was important to her. It might also be a part of why she brought him to her world. He couldn't get behind the idea that she only wanted him there to live out a normal life here in this world. No one would go through all that effort for nothing.
Sitting in the Lotus position, Hong Zhao uncorked the stopper on the first jade vial and dropped a small round pill into the palm of his hand. It had an overwhelming medicinal scent to it. He examined it for only a moment before popping it into his mouth. The moment it hit his tongue, the pill turned to liquid and slid down his throat. He could feel the small stream find its way to where he thought it was going, to his dantian.
He could feel a suction force begin from the center of his being and knew that his body was about to absorb a large amount of essence. He made the sign of the fox and began cultivating.
Lan paced slowly around the now oblivious Hong Zhao. "You are quite impatient." She said under her breath. "This world needs someone like you. They just don't know it yet."
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