I dropped the axe on the ground and started walking back towards camp. However, I didn’t make it far before a fist smashed into my face and sent me tumbling dozens of meters across the dirt, crashing into a tree.
“Ya stupid brat! That was for sneaking away ta beat yer dick in the middle uh the fuckin woods!” Before I could fall, a huge palm smacked against my mouth and I think I was doing ragdoll flips through the air at that point.
“That was for having ta kill a man ya didn’t even know anything about!” He caught me and threw me up into a super-tall tree. I was barely conscious, but I managed to latch onto a large branch by instinct. “That one was for the two guys ya could’ve just left, but decided ta execute anyway!”
Finally, I managed to make out the hazy figure of Long Di. Then I yelled “Boo-fucking-hoo! Why do you give a damn if I get rid of a few random trash mobs?! They wanted to murder me! Also, I have a medical condition! I need to masturbate at least once a day, because science! Shit! You’re my teacher, so shouldn’t you be happy that I didn’t die?!”
“Ain’t I done told ya already?! I never realized ya were so freakin bloodthirsty! Now get yer ass down here!” He casually jumped two stories and grabbed me, then carried me back to our camp. After that, he had to spend three hours in order to heal all of the damage he did to my body during his little temper tantrum.
In the morning, we continued walking southward in silence. It seemed like the cranky old bastard wanted to say something to me, but he kept hesitating. Eventually, we reached a large river and had to ride in that magical brown canoe. After ten minutes, he muttered “Now we just gotta sit here and wait till the stream carries us out to the ocean… It’s gonna take a while and I don’t wanna have a staring contest with ya the whole damn time.”
Di let out a long, melodramatic sigh and told me “Listen Kid… I’m sorry bout gettin so mad at ya last night. Killin… is addictive. I mean, so is screwin and drinkin… Ya need ta be careful. There’s two kinds uh people; the ones that freak out when they kill someone and the ones who don’t. If you’d uh started whining and crying like a normal brat, I would’ve gone over and comforted ya… I’d uh told ya that ya had ta do it ta stay alive and ya aren’t a bad person… Or somethin like that! But no, ya had that look on yer face… It was like a gardener, pulling out some pesky weeds. Did ya enjoy it? Was it troublesome? I’ve had more than a few disciples that went down… a different path.”
I smirked, shaking my head and explaining “No, the gardening simile was pretty accurate. Honestly, I definitely don’t remember killing anyone before last night… Hell, I would feel bad if I accidentally stepped on a cockroach! But people though, no, even if it was a Spirit or a Beast, anything that I determine is ‘evil’ to a certain extent… Those three men were willing to murder some random ‘child’ for no apparent reason. Since they were so ruthless, I doubt that I would have been the first and if they were allowed to live, they would certainly cause far more suffering.”
The old man took off his outrageous helmet and smiled wryly, “Brat, there’s a reason why I was so upset… It’s ‘cause I actually own a Celestial Cultivation Method. I know it’s shocking and I’m sure yer amazed, but there’s a catch… It’s called ‘The Innocence Scripture’ and in order ta practice it, ya can’t kill anyone, ever. Yer absurd Innate Talent, combined with a Celestial Cultivation Method, you’d be pretty overpowered… Well, I guess yer gonna have ta settle for a-”
“Oh, I already have a Cultivation Method though.” When I cut him off, he frowned and didn’t seem to believe me. Then I casually mentioned “Yeah, this weird nudist lady with a blurry face was like ‘Interesting, I shall bestow upon you this super-awesome overpowered, mega-spectacular Eternal Dao of Eros based Cultivation Method! Because I’m the best and I have a totally hairless pussy…’ Okay, maybe I embellished a bit, but she really did tell me that she would create a body for me. I’m pretty sure she gave me an ‘Eternal’ Cultivation Method, which sounds pretty impressive, but the name is kinda sketchy… It’s called ‘The Karma Sutra’, though it doesn’t have any fancy sexual positions.”
Di complained “Bullshit! There ain’t no way that’s true! I ain’t never heard uh no Eternal Cultivation Methods! All I know is after Celestial, it’s Ancient, but even then, they’re practically a myth!”
“Eternal is probably the best, right? Here, I’ll just recite the confusing incantation thingy for you…” I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and delved into the depths of my mind. Then the words appeared as if I was staring at a computer screen, so I read them aloud.
“I am the devourer of worlds, the illusion of fate, the creator of Karma, and the Guardian of Arcana. Death is ephemeral, life is eternal; seek damnation and receive salvation. Who is like God? Do not trust what you cannot believe. Seven is the key to Heavenly Hell; Nine leads to the Hellish Heaven. The truth lies in contradictory agreement. I love you…”
That was it, the entire ‘Cultivation Method’. There were no instructions, only random nonsense that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Yet, the old man was staring at me as if I were some sort of monster.
“Ya gotta be fuckin’ kidding me! I ain’t got no clue how ya even practice somethin like that?! My ‘Ironbark Sutra’ is just ‘I am an Ironwood Tree; my flesh is the hardest part of me.’ It only makes my skin and muscles more durable, ya know?! I hate ta break it ta ya Kid, but ya might need ta learn some other ones first… Unless ya know what the hell yer ‘Karma Sutra’ is even supposed ta do?”
According to Di, it was possible to practice multiple Cultivation Methods. Some kinds would cancel each other out or have negative side-effects, but as long as you staggered them a bit, it would just depend on the person’s talent and comprehension.
Fortunately, if you had something useless like the ‘Ironbark Sutra’ and you randomly came across the slightly better ‘Steelbark Sutra’, it was pretty easy to make the upgrade. Even if it was a different type of general skin or flesh enhancement, I would still be able to switch, but it would take a bit more effort.
“Wait a second, then can’t I just make up some random words? There’s gotta be more to it than ‘I am an Ironwood Tree; my bark is the hardest part of me!’ Then couldn’t you say ‘I am a God Tree of Awesomeness! My bark is made out of motherfucking carbon nanofiber mesh and I can eat planets!’ or some such bullshit?”
The old man started laughing hysterically, as he explained “Ya dumbass! Course there’s more ta it than just words! Ain’t I done told ya already that my ancient ancestors were part Dryad? If ya don’t got the proper bloodline, then ya can’t learn a lotta stuff, no matter how great yer Innate Talent and comprehension are. That’s another reason why we gotta go visit that hag… She should be able ta tell us about yer bloodline, exact age and maybe some other stuff too.”
As we traveled down the enormous river, I noticed a small fishing village along the eastern shore. There were people in little kayaks paddling around, though there didn’t seem to be any piers or docks. Their houses were basically mud-huts with straw for roofs… I frowned and couldn’t help but ask “Hey Big Di, tell me honestly… What’s the deal with the technology in this country? Like, you’ve got electricity, plumbing, all sorts of magical shit that I don’t even understand… Yet, a few dozen miles away, they don’t even have proper rods and reels?”
He chuckled, “It ain’t that weird Kid… This here’s the Long Bai Wilderness. Your Dao Protector’s been around for millennia already; much longer than the Qing Republic or the Empire that came before it. Them Human Sects and Clans ain’t got no authority round here, much less that Qing Republic. It’s mostly just tiny Tribes, though there are some bigger ones. The real powers out here in the sticks are Beast Packs, Prides, Herds, Flocks or whatever their particular groups are considered… Trust me Brat, the big Cities have all kinds uh things ya probably never seen before.”
“Well, I believe you… Now that I think about it though, even my old world was like this too. What I wanna know is, do you have any idea what a computer is? Or guns? If firearms exist, then are they still capable of competing with magic and crazy overpowered martial arts?” Judging by the perplexed expression he was making, I could tell that he didn’t understand what I was talking about, but was too embarrassed to admit it. Then I asked “What about cannons?”
Di immediately yelled “Course I know bout cannons! Stinking brat, tryin ta make me feel stupid! Damn it, I’m almost four centuries old and yer tryin ta act like a smartass in front uh me!”
I sighed, muttering “Calm down~… Anyway, if artillery exists, then I wonder if handheld firearms are around? Well, it isn’t too difficult to build some guns, and black powder is easy to make; though there are probably other methods, now that I think about it… All you really need is a tube, a projectile and a way to easily create explosive force. If I could skip the gunpowder factor, it’d be way too easy to make an SMG. Hell, I could probably use springs with some kinda magic for a semi-auto pellet shooter…”