Xiaotong was the name of the creepy floating red skull that I ‘played with’ every morning. Now, I knew that there was definitely some sorta fucked up story behind that thing, but Long Di would never tell me anything. He just got all serious, smacked me around a bit and sternly shouted “Don’t go into that shitty tree-house! It’s a deathtrap!”
Of course, I wasn’t stupid enough to test out whether or not there was enough voltage to kill me and that ghost would always get angry if I came too close anyway. However, while it attempted to scare me away at first, it also started trying to keep me from leaving during the second month.
I learned a bit of geography from the old man during one of my monotonous evening exercise sessions. Basically, we were on a continent that was about the size and shape of Australia from my previous life. The entire chunk of land was located close to the equator of Genesis and if it had been anything like Earth, then the whole place would have been a lot like the Amazon Rainforest or The Congo. It would have been stranger if things were exactly like the planet I came from, especially with the weirdness of Qi or mana. There were monsters, ghosts and all kinds of odd magical phenomena that didn’t really make much sense unless you had a super-open mind.
From what Long Di had told me about the oceans that surrounded the continent of Xian Dao, I was able to guess that Genesis was probably bigger than Earth. It was hard to tell though, since the gravity was about the same from my perspective. The only other way I knew how to judge the size, was based on the horizon, but with magic and all that crazy shit… Yeah, it was possible for people to see ‘around’ the curvature of the planet for hundreds of miles or even farther. Sometimes the Qi would allow someone to see better, but other times it would cloud their vision. It just wasn’t something I had the capability to test and the old man didn’t even seem to understand my questions when I asked him about size of the world.
The thousand acres we lived on were located a few hundred miles from the ocean to the south, east and west. That Qing Republic or whatever country that we lived in, was a big peninsula on the southeastern edge of Xian Dao.
As for seasons, the entire planet would go through periods of dramatic climate change every ten years. We were in Spring, which was kind of temperate and neutral, but during the middle of Summer, it was supposed to be absurdly hot. Like, the places that were already deserts would transform into hellish lakes of molten glass and there would even be tsunamis of lava… Fortunately, magic was a thing and there were a lot of Cultivators who absorbed the ‘Yang’ energy from the sun. Even though the drastic weather problems seemed terrifying to Novices and Apprentices, there were Legends and even Immortals out there. They made sure that the heavily populated areas didn’t get destroyed by natural disasters, but also accidentally wiped out entire countries by accident, so it kind of all evened out in the end.
An Expert like my ‘master’ wasn’t quite powerful enough to make much of a difference, but we did live a few miles away from a Rank-A giant motherfucking tree-hydra monster, so it was all good. That all seemed pretty far away from me at the time though, since I had only been in that world for less than two months. I was more concerned about meeting the deadline that would decide my entire life.
My muscles were becoming more defined, yet I was still pretty lanky. I was only nine years old and by my past world’s standards for humanity, it was difficult to build too much bulk before puberty. Although, I had definitely seen some crazy kids who actually managed to become bodybuilders or gymnasts by the time they were my age, but they needed years to get that far.
It just wouldn’t have been realistic for me to start learning any sort of martial arts, spells or anything at that point, because I hadn’t even reached the Apprentice Stage yet. Sure, those Clans, Sects and Academies began forcing children much younger than me into practicing techniques, but they also didn’t need to struggle so hard to make the deadline. Not only did they have magical drugs, there were also Legacies and rituals to help them practically skip past the first two Stages.
Reaching Adept before twenty was pretty easy if you had the proper resources or talent, but getting to Expert before thirty was a lot different. From what he told me, at least ninety-percent of all Humans have Red Innate Talent. Even if they try their hardest, it’s practically impossible for them to become Apprentices. In fact, even among the bigger forces throughout the continent, if someone is born without at least Orange, they’ll be abandoned or used as political tools, maybe even sacrificed for some fucked up ritual. This is something that happens the moment that they’re born; they don’t even get a chance to prove themselves or try and defy fate.
Of course, Long Di also mentioned that some people believed in Karma, so they would intentionally be kind to the less fortunate. On the other hand, there’s groups who think that if a person has bad luck or a terrible life, then they must have done something to deserve being mistreated. The majority are always indifferent and neutral though.
He didn’t know for certain, but there were supposedly about three billion Humans who lived in Xian Dao. The Qing Republic only had a population of thirty million; the majority of that was concentrated in the capitol and other large cities. Most of the land was privately owned by Sects and Clans, although there was a good portion that was the territory of powerful Beasts. Almost all of the farmers were forced to pay absurd taxes and weren’t much better off than back when they were serfs. However, they had no possible way to defend themselves from bandits or monsters and they also didn’t have any say in the matter, since no one could stand up to an overbearing government that was backed by powerful Cultivators.
The old man knew an awful lot about the current politics for someone who supposedly had been hidden away from civilization for centuries.
By the end of the second month, I became a level-three Novice. Di was satisfied with my smooth progress, but I started to feel really anxious. The fact was, I was already nine years old when I arrived on Genesis, yet I had no idea when I was actually born. That fear intensified when I learned the names of those nine months.
The first was called Ao, which was supposedly some sort of giant turtle monster. Some people believed that the entire continent of Xian Dao was resting on the back of that enormous creature and it takes the Godbeast ten years to swim around the planet. That was their explanation on how seasons worked, though it sounded totally ridiculous to me. Under that scenario, it would have felt like we were constantly having an earthquake and how would the volcanoes even work?
Anyway, I arrived on the first day of that first month, so it should have indicated that I was given a whole year, right? Except the names of the subsequent months made me nervous. Dilong was an Earth Dragon, which was literally the size of Earth. Then there was Fucanglong, the treasure dragon; I wasn’t too worried about that one cause I was totally penniless. Jiaolong was a Flood Dragon and it looked like a huge alligator with whiskers on its face. Shenlong was a giant blue serpentine dragon that caused rainstorms and stuff like that. It had two legs for some reason, whiskers and horns on its head. Zhulong was a red Chinese-style species of dragon that supposedly illuminated the three moons.
Okay, now the first six were a little suspicious, but Chi was the first one that really bothered me. I saw a painting of a few in Di’s house and they all just looked like giant snakes. Tianlong was a ‘celestial dragon’ and it appeared eerily similar to a certain massive green serpent… The last one was Jiangliu, a nine-headed hydra that lives in the ocean.
My instincts were screaming at me to hurry the fuck up with my training and break into the Apprentice Stage as quickly as possible. The old man wouldn’t give me any herbs or magical drugs because he didn’t want to damage my overpowered Innate Talent. Aside from that, he seemed overly confident that I would be able to easily get past Novice.
On the third of Fucanglong is when I finally made my decision to speed things up a bit. It was a dark and stormy night, with lightning constantly streaking across the sky. I was sitting cross-legged on the middle of my bed and gazing out the window. That entire jungle gym was strobing constantly, while the tree-house at the top had red and purple arcs of electricity jumping off of it.
I opened my window and could hear the wind and thunder much more clearly. The bed wasn’t right up against the wall, so when the rain sprayed inside, it only got the hardwood floor a little wet. More importantly, the storm was exciting the Nature Qi and making my breathing exercises seem much more effective. There were plenty of other Elements as well, but my Dantian wouldn’t absorb them.
Even though I kept cycling the mana through my my body, it was still a really slow process. Whenever I felt a cramping sensation in my gut, I would stop for a few minutes, before starting again. Everything was going smoothly for a while and I even started to slip into a state of meditation, but then I heard someone whispering into my left ear.