I got used to the height and the feeling of being up in the air. It was easier to calm down once I made the determination to deal with it and let it go. Mom was also holding me close, which comforted me.
“I feel you would have been a talented cultivator,” mom said. “Even if you’re not reckless, you’re more than willing to face things that might scare you. Those who let fear control them can never step further in cultivation.”
Cultivation, huh? I was curious about that.
“Would I be able to cultivate though?” I had to ask. “You’re always speaking as though I could have been instead of saying I will be.”
“You can’t cultivate,” Mom said. “Mortals can’t cultivate easily. Cultivation is a fate. Only one in every ten thousand mortals are born with that fate and discover it early in their childhood. That’s why cultivators go to every town to test mortal children, as it isn’t known who will possess that fate. The heavens are fickle in that matter.”
“Then what about those born to cultivators?”
“No, even those born to cultivators are one in ten thousand as well,” Mom explained. “That’s why Sect Masters don’t follow a line of succession or blood normally. Some races like the dragon or elf race will still have a long life regardless of a fate in cultivation, but overall their own physical limits and natural abilities traps them. Dragons can still breath fire and have strong scales, but cultivators can destroy them simply by lifting a finger.”
The power scaling in the cultivation world is literally garbage. I realized this now. I mean sure you could say that it’s fun to read, but cultivators are really unfair existences that could destroy planets with their thoughts.
“I guess it’s a world I will never be a part of then if I can’t cultivate,” I said.
“It’s not ideal to be part of this world,” Mom said. “It’s not a gentle world. The amount of cruel things I’ve done to enemies in order to establish order and prestige for the Sect can only be counted by the hundreds, and I am not even fifty yet. Compared this to the Progenitor who reigned over a hundred thousand years and the length of my reign would have been if you had completed the ritual… perhaps it is better I do not live a long life after all.”
“You won’t live a long life?” I had concern. “Elder Liu said you would go mad once I die, so does that mean you will kill yourself when I am old?”
“Yes,” Mom said. “I have to do that, but until that day comes I will do whatever I can for the Sect and whatever I can for you as your mother. I want you to live your full life, and hopefully one without suffering.”
The warm words from mom made me feel both happy and sad at the same time. While I understood her motherly love, I also realize that the expectation for her was also a cruel one if she should live. I don’t know whether long life is a good thing if one has to continue to kill others with no end.
Mom took out food like a picnic and put it on a plate for me, and she also drank tea. The wind didn’t seem to affect us as there was an invisible barrier that prevented it from hitting us.
I really wish I could be a cultivator. All the things mom can do are amazing. Flying, fighting demon beasts, and being able to bend nature to my will are all things I always imagined, yet even here I couldn’t do it myself.
“Do you like the food?”
The food tasted great.
“It’s really good, mom.”
“I made them myself,” mom said. “It’s my first time cooking, but being able to sense every ingredient makes it easier to cook.”
The more I hear about it, the more disappointed I am of my inability to cultivate. At the very least my mom can do it and I won’t have to starve while living in the Sect, but it still feels like I have no ability to do anything on my own.
“Can you tell me what the solution for the curse is?”
“No son,” Mom said. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I’m not comfortable telling you yet.”
“Is it really that horrible?”
“I don’t know if it’s horrible,” Mom said. “I don’t know if it is horrible. I only know that I can’t tell you yet.”
There was no point in pushing it, and so we descended as the sun set. I went back to my room, unable to get an answer. I don’t believe it was because mom didn’t love me or didn’t want to spend time with me. The problem was that whatever the solution was; it was one that bothered her a lot.
When I consider the fact that she cut off the arms of a girl that just approached me, the evil spirit and everything else that’s happened… I can only say that there are a lot of bizarre things that have happened since I came to the Sect.
I went to sleep that night, and the next morning Elder Liu was there once again. I spent a lot of time alone and bored in here.
“Good morning, Elder Liu,” I said.
“Good morning, Dong Chen, I’ve brought you breakfast once more.”
“Elder Liu, I have a request.”
“A request? Let me hear it and if it’s something I can do, I will do it or bring it to the Sect Master if it requires her authority.”
“It’s simple, I just want books.”
“Books? That’s a simple request.”
“Thanks. I’m bored in here all the time with very little to do. At least reading something would be more fun than sitting around staring at the wall.”
“Didn’t you enjoy your time with the Sect Master yesterday?” Elder Liu asked. “She will come again today after giving pointers to the disciples.”
“I know, but there are still hours where I’m stuck in here with nothing to do, also there is that time during the full moon I have to hide here from that evil spirit. If I’m going to be spending the rest of my life in here, then I’d like things that can keep my mind stimulated while I wait to die.”
Elder Liu didn’t seem to like those words.
“Wait to die? Can you not use better language than that?”
“I don’t have other words to use because that’s just how it is. I can’t work or do anything because of the curse and I can’t interact with others as it might cause problems for the Sect. I don’t understand the curse, of course, but for now I’m always going to be stuck here.”
“I see,” Elder Liu said. “I will bring up your concerns with your mother, but for now are there any kinds of books you want? I can send some disciples to buy them from the nearby mortal villages.”
“I’m okay with any kind of books, you don’t have to send anyone yet. I’ll read any cultivation manuals, any alchemy books, anything you have.”
“Those are difficult books, and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a non-cultivator to read.”
I still want those books.
“I can’t cultivate anyway since I have no ability to sense spiritual Qi. I’m a mortal. What harm would it do for me if I only stayed in here and read them? I’m interested in cultivation and how it works, even if I can’t do it myself.”
Elder Liu shook her head. “Suit yourself, but if you want other books, I can always send our disciples to buy them for you. Mortal books are cheap.”
“Thanks, but what I really want to know are things about this world,” I told Elder Liu. “I grew up in a small town where my father was the prime business owner, and that town is near this Sect, but the reality is I’m nothing more than a frog in a well. I want to know how large the world is, even if it’s not something I’m able to picture.”
Elder Liu had a smile.
“I like your curiosity, Dong Chen,” she said. “It’s unfortunate many of our Sect Disciples don’t have that same curiosity. Young people need to be explorers. It is good for their cultivation. If it wasn’t for your curse, I would want you to lecture the disciples on expanding their horizons. Such things are beneficial for cultivation.”
“Really?” I’m a bit surprised at this.
“Yes,” Elder Liu said. “Fearlessness, determination, curiosity, all of it are emotions that humans have. Those who live longer and those who only focus on getting stronger forget the essence of being alive. To cultivate is to be alive, and even if you cannot cultivate your body, you cultivate your mind. You are definitely the son of the Sect Master.”
“I guess that’s a compliment then.”
“It’s a wonderful compliment,” Elder Liu said. “Now I’ll bring some books for you. How about starting first with information about the continent since it’s more relevant for you than cultivation?”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I’d like a few at a time, but eventually I want to read the entire library provided it’s not some forbidden manual I shouldn’t have.”
“The hidden manuals won’t be in the library, we keep Sect Secrets safe.”
Elder Liu’s attitude towards me has changed a lot. While she’s not blood related, she’s the one who raised my mom so I guess I could say she’s an adoptive grandmother to me? Is there such a thing in this world?
“Elder Liu, thank you.”