It was a dark and stormy night on the mountainside, and I was just minding my own business, meditating at the back of my cave. There were ancient quartz crystals all around me; whenever I cultivated ‘indoors’, it would always be in close proximity to those beautiful pillars. They were able to absorb mana or Qi from the earth and air pretty easily, but I usually needed to wait a few days for them to build up a charge, before channeling it into my own body.
After sitting there for a few hours, I started to smell something strange. I had seen trees get struck by lightning and catch on fire before, so that wasn’t what confused me; I hated the scent of burning wood and related it to danger, but there was something else mixed in with it.
Walking for a minute or two and taking a couple turns, I stealthy approached the huge cavern’s main chamber and saw a single human boy, sitting upon a wet log. He was wearing a few animal pelts to cover his groin and buttocks, with a leather scabbard strapped to his back. The child was only about twelve years old and had a greatsword that was obviously way too big for his tiny body to handle properly. It was some sort of family heirloom and a magical treasure; made out of a super-dense ebony metal and covered with glowing crimson runes.
As he stayed there, he spent a while polishing the weapon but eventually sheathed the blade and placed it to his side. On the campfire, he was roasting a huge, skinned boar and was planning to use its pelt as a bed for the night.
I could immediately tell that he wasn’t an ordinary human, by the dense crimson glow of Qi that constantly oscillated around his entire body. He seemed more dangerous than any bear or tiger I had met, but the difference, was that he didn’t ‘feel’ like an enemy.
“You don’t have to be afraid, I won’t hurt you… Come, join me for a meal!” I was frightened by the boy’s sudden shout, and had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Of course, I obviously learned how to speak, read, write, and all that other nonsense eventually, but at the time, it just sounded like gibberish.
However, even though I was nearly a hundred and fifteen, I was still as naive and innocent as a young child. Thus, I slowly walked out from the shadowy cavern and revealed my four-meter tall, overly muscular, genderless body to the kid.
He seemed shocked for a moment, then asked “What are you? A hairless demon-ape? Or maybe, a Giant-kin? Perhaps a Barbarian from the Desolate Lands to the east? Hmmm, did someone maim you or were you born without your manhood?”
The boy had long black hair, tied back in a ponytail and a very small, lithe, agile frame. It is true that my parents were likely fairly large, but they definitely weren’t as abnormal as myself. My absurd size was mainly caused by my cultivation method and had nothing to do with my original genetics.
Since I had no idea what his strange utterances were supposed to mean, I just sat down cross-legged on the ground across from him. Even with the boar between us, I was still easily able to look down at him. I tilted my head and growled, then shrugged, scratching the back of my bald head and asked “Awoo~, rawr~, guru~, gyanguaoaoao~?” It was just random animal noises that I had heard over the years, without any particularly ‘language’ involved.
The child smiled wryly, cupping his hands together, while bowing slighting and saying “My name is Lang Wong, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I grinned back and copied his silly gesture, as I muttered “Aagu, guru so cocau laotoe…” He furrowed his brows and rubbed his chin in contemplation, attempting to understand what I was mumbling.
Eventually he smirked, telling me “I see, then from now on, I’ll just call you Guru. I’m not sure if you know what I’m saying, and I know this may be somewhat of a bother to you, but I need to stay here for a while. There are some really bad people trying to kill me and I need a place to ‘lay low’ for a few… weeks, or months, hopefully not years. I just have to breakthrough into Core Creation, then with my Ancestral Sword and secret techniques, there’s no way that those disgusting royals would be able to stop me from being with my beloved Yue…”
He accidentally released an oppressive aura, along with a potent killing intent, which caused me to be startled and confused. However, I was far too interested in the delicious roasted boar that was cooking over the campfire, so I didn’t get scared away that easily.
Anyway, the two of us ate together and that kid just would not stop talking. Don’t get me wrong, he was definitely a really nice guy, but since I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying, it was kind of awkward. Fortunately, I can summarize our one-sided conversation in the form of some exposition. Aside from all the silly whining and complaining about how the love of his life was a beautiful princess, he was from a ruined noble household and other cliche rubbish, this is what he said.
“I can see that you’ve just started your cultivation and seem to be stuck at the rank-five Qi Strengthening bottleneck. Don’t worry, as long as you’re hard working, you should be able to reach the Qi Condensing stage soon. Those last four ranks will probably take a few years, but once you make it to the next stage, you’ll realize that it was definitely worth it. At that point, you’ll have to gather a bunch of Qi into your dantian and compress it from a gas, into a single drop of liquid. Then you’ll be able to start using some simple magical spells and formations during battle.
“You basically wouldn’t stand a chance against a Qi Condenser in your current state. Oh me? Yeah, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m only eleven years old and I’m already at least sixty-percent through the Qi Refining phase… It shouldn’t be long before I can form my first crystalline Qi Core in my dantian! Then I’ll be able to start my second Qi Strengthening! Hahaha~, those idiots might have their second cores already, but that doesn’t matter! With this ancient treasure and my awesome, innate divine Fire Affinity, I’ll be able to slaughter my way through the capital and rescue my true love from her evil father!”
The poor kid seemed so cheerful and excited when he was awake, but when he went to sleep that night, he kept crying and calling out for his parents. I would normally be meditating on the mountaintop, but the storm was raging outside and I felt an odd ‘connection’ to the boy. Of course, I didn’t really understand why he was giving me strange glances the next morning, after I spent the whole night with him cuddling against my chest.
In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that he was trying to figure out if I was male or female and dealing with some complicated emotional issues. I did have nipples and there were several times when I could produce milk, to feed wolf puppies, or tiger and bear cubs. It depended on the situation, but like I’ve already mentioned before, gender and appearance are totally irrelevant once you reach a certain point in the journey of cultivation.
There are plenty of magical techniques for shapeshifting, even as early as the first Qi Condensing phase. Men and women are both just humans in the end, and all that separates them are a few sexual organs. The only real issue is that during the entire process of training your physical body, every part of it is improved, including the genitals.
Yin and Yang have more to do with testosterone and estrogen, than the actual genders. Some people preferred to focus on one or the other, depending on whatever cultivation method they were using, because it was incredibly difficult to choose the third option. I did things the hard way and had to balance the two opposing, surprisingly similar elements of Light and Darkness.
Not only that, but I would even go with Lang Wong deep into the depths of the mountain’s most dangerous caverns and train the ‘Fire’ Affinity with him. There were literally dozens of huge lakes, filled with either magma or constantly boiling water.
He always tried to warn me not to spread myself too thin by focusing on more than one element, but I just ignored his gibberish. Since he assumed that I was little more than a giant humanoid magical-beast, he never actually tried to teach me anything. Thus, for a whole year, we meditated, ate, bathed and occasionally slept together.
On his twelfth birthday, he finally managed to finish refining his first Qi Core and began his second ‘Strengthening’. Even though his rate of absorption doubled, the amount of mana required to improve a cultivator’s physical body depends on how powerful they are at the time. That’s one of the main reasons that it always took me so long to raise my ‘Grrr~!’ to the next level.
It only took him six months to reach his second Qi Condensing phase. That was when we finally had to part ways, and the first time in my life that I ever killed another person.