Now that the heavy subject matter was over, Hei had something he had been wanting to ask.
“Tianlan. Why have you never come to visit Mumu?”
Tianlan was surprised at the question. But he answered with a serious tone.
“I have been focusing on my training.”
“Eh? But you don’t have any spirit roots right? Doesn’t that mean you can’t train?”
Hei had been wondering what exactly was the result of not having spirit roots. With Tianlan saying he was training, Hei was interested in finding out more.
“This. I train in martial arts techniques.”
“And that is different from cultivation?”
“Yes. Cultivation has to do with taking in and using Natural Qi. Since I have no spirit roots, I-I mean, s-since I uh… I am unique! I haven’t found the method that works for me. So I train my physical body through the practice of martial arts techniques.”
“You don’t have to deny it, Brother. Not everyone has spirit roots, right? I remember hearing that I could still cultivate using external resources.”
Hei remembered the words that had been said on the day of his birth. After hearing this, Tianlan clenched his fists before saying.
“In this Wu Clan, those like us will not get any support. They give out resources based on talent. I have not received even a single cultivation resource.”
“Eh? Even though you’re the patriarch’s child?”
Hei was surprised. In most of the stories he read, the parents would nurture even trashy children. Sometimes, it even went to the point of going against the clan. This patriarch’s image was getting worse and worse in Hei’s mind.
“So, what you do is physical exercise? How effective is it?”
To this, Tianlan puffed out his chest in pride.
“While I may not be anything compared to a cultivator, I have strength comparable to the average adult.”
“That’s right. And even though Mother has great talent, I am stronger than she is.”
Hei turned to Xiulan.
“You have great talent?”
“That’s what they say. Apparently, I have dual element spirit roots. But what does that have to do with baking? ”
Hei decided to ignore the part about baking.
“Dual element spirit roots?”
To this question, Tianlan chimed in.
“It’s no use asking Mother. She has no interest in cultivation and lacks even some of the basic knowledge.”
Hei was surprised. There were people in this world who weren’t interested in cultivation? What was that about?
“So what are dual element spirit roots?”
Hei decided to ask Tianlan, who seemed to know more than Xiulan.
“Mm. There are five types of Elemental Qi, Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Metal. Cultivator’s talents are divided into groups based on how many elements their spirit roots can play with.”
“So dual element, would be two of those five elements?”
“Exactly. Mother has fire and earth elements.”
“And you have nothing?”
“So if Mumu has great talent then the best would be spirit roots that can only play with one element?”
“Why is that the case? Wouldn’t someone who can use all of the elements be stronger than someone who can only use one? Don’t the elements have weaknesses and strengths against each other?”
“You are correct. I’ve read that those with more elements are usually stronger at the early stages of cultivation for the reason you said. They can learn techniques to counter those of their opponents. However, later on, strength is largely based on comprehension.”
“You mean a deeper understanding of techniques, cultivation methods, laws?”
“Uh… I don’t know exactly how it works, I haven’t had much time to read up on these things, but I heard it explained like this. Water element naturally suppresses fire element. But what would happen if you put a drop of water into a volcano?”
“The drop of water would be overwhelmed by the heat.”
“Exactly. Comprehension is like increasing the size of the water drop. One day, it would be able to consume the heat. So even though mixed element spirit roots allow the cultivator to study techniques to counter their opponents, their drops of water are too small to change anything.”
“Ah, because they have to split their time between multiple elements. Makes sense. But what if one of those mixed elements cultivators decided to focus on only one of the elements?”
“The fact that their spirit roots are mixed in itself limits their potential. It’s like only having half of a field to plant your crops. compared to someone else who can use the entire field.”
Hei was surprised that Tianlan was able to speak so much on the topic. He could imagine the young boy frantically looking up information on how he could change his situation.
“So… Mumu, why don’t you cultivate? With your talent, you could surely get some resources. You could even give them to Tianlan.”
Xiulan was hesitant.
“No one knows about Mother’s talent.”
Tianlan jumped in, seeing his mother having difficulty answering.
“Eh? Then how do you know you have dual element spirit roots? Didn’t you use the same measuring stone as Tianlan?”
“It was my mother. She wanted to find out what my talent was, so she had my father get a measuring stone to test it. That’s how I found out.”
“I see. Then why don’t you tell the Wu Clan? Then they would surely treat you better.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Brother.”
Tianlan jumped in.
“If Mother’s talent were to be known, she would be forced to join the fight with the Fang Clan. Mother’s talent is actually the greatest in the Wu Clan. There is no way she would be able to live in peace if it were to be known.”
Hei was starting to get irritated by this Wu Clan. They would force their women to fight? What kind of situation was this?
“What exactly is this conflict with the Fang Clan? I remember hearing about this before as well.”
“The Fang Clan is the number one clan in Spring Leaf City, where we are. The Wu Clan has been trying to take over for a while now. Apparently, there was a big incident a few years ago which caused both clans to hate each other. I don’t know too much about it.”
‘Clan trouble plotline? You best believe I won’t be lifting a finger to help this Wu Clan.’
Seeing that Tianlan didn’t seem to know too much about it, Hei decided to move on to a different topic.
“Even if you have to keep your talent hidden from the clan, how did Tianlan become stronger than you? He said he was nothing compared to a cultivator.”
Hei turned to Xiulan who answered with a relaxed tone.
“That’s because I’m not a cultivator.”
Hei was surprised. Even though he knew Xiulan lacked interest in cultivation, it was another thing entirely to not be a cultivator at all.
“Mm. Cultivation is boring. I would rather bake bread.”
Hei was feeling light-headed. How could someone forgo bettering their physical attributes because it was boring?
‘Lady, you do realise that you sit around all day looking out the window don’t you? And now you want to talk about boring?’
“Mm. Mother has been this way for as long as I can remember.”
Seeing that Hei was confused, Tianlan chimed in.
“This… Do cultivators live longer?”
“That’s what I heard.”
“And cultivation isn’t physically straining or mentally taxing?”
“Nope. They say it’s like meditating.”
Hei was now unable to believe that this was real life. Are you serious? You can get a longer lifespan just by meditating? How can you say it’s boring? Do you know how many people on Earth would sacrifice an arm and a leg for this?
“But Mumu, if you live longer… you can bake more bread…”
Hei was going to try to come up with some compelling reason, but he decided to speak her language.
“Mm. I too have pondered over this frequently. Ultimately, I have discovered that I do not seek a long life. I am content with what I have. To bake for an extra hundred years would be no different than baking for twenty. Let me ask you Little Hei, is there something wrong with living a short life?”
‘The heck is this?’
Hei was stunned by Xiulan’s bearing. She was emanating a strange aura.
As he thought about her words, he couldn’t really find any issues with living a short life. Who said life must be long anyway?
As he was observing her, Hei saw a golden glow wrapping around her body.
‘What is this?’
He could see something in Xiulan’s eyes, something that he lacked.
‘Has she reached some kind of enlightenment?’
Even though he was enthralled by her aura, Hei had one thing to say.
“It’s true, there is nothing wrong with living a short life, but there are those that love you, your mother, your father, Tianlan and… and myself. What would we do if you were to perish?”
To this Xiulan responded with a gentle smile.
Hei could see the golden glow intensify.
“All bread shall one day perish.”
Hei was once again stunned. He felt Xiulan had something about her, something he wanted but could not have.
“Mm. Then you throw it away and bake some more.”
Tianlan jumped in. The golden glow disappeared without a trace.
“How many times have I told you? Even if the bread is mouldy, you can still use it to grow wheat. Do you want to buy flour from others forever? You have to reduce costs Tianlan!”
Xiulan had on a stern expression as she admonished Tianlan.
“R-Right, Mother. I was wrong.”
“Hmph. It looks like you need more training.”
Hei didn’t expect the sudden shift. He tried to observe Xiulan some more, but the golden glow didn’t return.
‘I wonder what that was. Could it have been one of the abilities I asked for? But if it was, why did it activate then deactivate?’
Hei’s initial thought was the talent detection ability, but he could see Tianlan’s strange aura at all times. If this was the same thing, there was no reason for it to be golden instead of the mostly white aura of Tianlan. He then thought it may be the personality module, but again, why would it activate then deactivate?
Realising that he wouldn’t be able to get the answer in any small amount of time, Hei decided to move the conversation along.
“You don’t want to cultivate and you also do not seek a long life. But what if we were to find a way for you to cultivate without meditating? If you could bake your bread and cultivate at the same time?”
Xiulan placed her finger on her chin and tilted her head slightly. She thought for a while before responding.
“That wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Mm. Good. We have a mission Brother. Baking Mother Seeks The Dao!”
Hei had devised a plan in his mind. On his journey to the peak, he would find someone to create a custom cultivation method for Xiulan.
“Eh? What are you talking about?”
“Never mind. Just know, Mumu will also cultivate one day. That is our responsibility as sons.”
“OK. So, how do we celebrate birthdays around here? Is there cake?”
Hei decided to get back to this topic since he had found out what he wanted to know. He was old enough now and had teeth to eat solid food.
He wanted his first meal to be birthday cake.
Xiulan and Tianlan looked at each other before turning back to Hei.
“Cake on a birthday? Are you crazy?”
“Mm. My father has sent us some special bread to eat today.”
‘Bread? HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER DAY?’
Hei was thoroughly disappointed as he watched Xiulan leave the bed and go to the bread table and bring a basket over.
‘Sigh. If that’s how they do things here… who am I to complain?’
Hei decided to just go along with it.
As Xiulan sat back on the bed and placed the basket between the three of them, Hei could smell the fragrance of the bread.
‘Hm? What’s this?’
Xiulan opened the basket and Hei could see the bread inside. It was oddly enough glowing with the same golden glow that had wrapped around Xiulan earlier.
Xiulan and Tianlan wasted no time in getting a piece of bread each and putting it in their mouths.
“You better hurry up, Brother. There is no mercy at the birthday banquet.”
Tianlan said this as he took two more pieces of bread and lay them before him on the bed. Xiulan was doing the same.
“Hey! Wait a minute, both of you are bigger and faster than me.”
Hei found himself wrapped up in the atmosphere, grabbing some bread for himself.
Seeing his actions, Xiulan and Tianlan both shouted out.
“Uh-uh. You have to have bread in your mouth before you can take more!”
“That’s right, no cheating!”
Without Hei noticing, Xiulan and Tianlan had already eaten their pieces of bread and were placing more in their mouths.
“What kind of obscure rule is that?”
Hei said this as he frantically placed bread in his mouth. As he did so, he noticed that it immediately started melting.
‘Eh? What kind of bread is this?’
Hei tried to get a feel for the taste but he couldn’t even describe it. If he had to put it in words, he would say it was more of a feeling than a flavour. It actually felt similar to his healing ability.
After a few minutes, the entire basket was empty. Everyone was tired, except Hei, and they had smiles on their faces.
“I’ve never had a birthday like this before.”
Hei said this as he was looking at this new family of his. They did things differently but he could feel the care they had for each other. Even the Grandfather was celebrating in his own way.
“Oh? How were birthdays celebrated in your previous world?”
“Ah. Usually, we would sing songs and eat cake. There would be decorations and other things. One particular ritual was the blowing of the birthday candles.”
“Wow. You really ate cake on a birthday? That’s so weird.”
“Eh? When do you eat cake then?”
Hei was interested in this strong reaction.
“Cake is for when others have discovered your shameful actions. People would throw mocking parties to shame you further. Then you would have to celebrate the joy you have given others through being able to mock you, by eating the first slice of cake. So for a birthday…”
“Eh? If it’s like that…”
The three laughed and with that, the celebration came to an end.
“Then I shall take my leave, Mother.”
“Wait. I have something I wanted to know.”
Hei suddenly had a thought and he wanted the answer.
“What is it?”
“Why did you not come last year? That was also both of our birthdays but there was no banquet. Also, why was there no banquet during the year for Mumu?”
“Oh, that’s simple. The banquet is only held for the youngest. And since you were just born, you wouldn’t be able to participate, so we didn’t have one.”
“Why is it like that?”
“Because this bread is special, and Grandpa can’t make it multiple times a year.”
“Ah, I see.”
It was true. This bread really was special. If it could be mass produced, surely Xiulan’s status would have been way too high to end up in this situation.
“Mm. If that’s all then I’ll be on my way.”
“Train hard Brother.”
With that Tianlan closed the door.
“What is it Little Hei.”
“I want to learn more about this world. Could you bring me some books to read?”
“Mm. I’ll get them tomorrow.”
After a long night, Hei and Xiulan went to sleep.
The next day, as usual, the maid came to deliver bread.
Xiulan was on her way out of the room and the maid was shocked.
“L-Lady Xiulan. Where are you going? I-I can do it for you!”
“I am going to the clan library. Can you do that for me?”
“Then I’ll be on my way.”
Xiulan said this and left the room.
The maid took a quick look at Hei before following.
“W-Wait Lady Xiulan. Let me come with you.”
Hei saw the maid run out in a panic.
‘Hm? What was that about?’
Hei was interested, but it had nothing to do with him. He decided to begin with his daily training, which consisted of jogging around the room.
He was getting pretty comfortable in this new body of his.
After a long while, Xiulan came back. The maid was holding a tall stack of books, which she looked like she could drop at any moment.
The maid quickly placed the books on a table before turning to Xiulan.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“But… Very well. I shall see you tomorrow.”
With that, the maid left the room. Hei would have asked, but it looked like Xiulan didn’t want to talk about whatever that was just now.
“Bring the books to the floor. I can’t get to them like this.”
With the books on a table, Hei was too short to reach them.
Xiulan then moved the books to the floor in stacks as tall as Hei.
There were 20 books in total and each of them was as thick as Hei’s hand.
“Mm. This should be good for now. Thank you Mumu.”
Hei watched as Xiulan went to her usual spot.
‘It looks like what happened out there affected her more than she will let on.’
Hei decided to just focus on his reading. If Xiulan had something she wanted to say, she would say it. After all, she was already aware of his situation.
‘Hm. It looks like most of what Tianlan said was correct. What’s interesting is the description of these spirit roots. Apparently, they are what ties the spirit to the body. If that’s the case, what stops my spirit from floating away?’
Hei was reading foundational information on cultivation, there were also history books and other information on the surrounding geography, but he was more interested in this at the moment.
According to the books, there was a consensus on the nature of spirit roots and their relation to the body. Apparently, all spirit roots had what was called a Null Element Core, and Elemental Roots.
The null element core would act as the attractive force to the Natural Qi in the surroundings, this Qi would then be processed by the roots, being branded by the cultivator’s unique essence, before being integrated into the body and entering the circulation path.
This meant that a cultivator’s Qi was unique to them. Even when they used it and it escaped into the surroundings, it would take a long time before their branding eroded. This prevented other cultivators from using it against them.
‘So this is how they determine what kind of spirit roots a cultivator has.’
Hei had found some information on the common ways to measure a cultivator’s talent. He found the measuring stone method which Tianlan had mentioned.
The cultivator would hold a stone, which contained equal concentrations of each type of elemental Qi. The stone would then push the Qi into the cultivator whose spirit roots would brand the Qi as they could.
The stone would then measure the Qi that returned and the concentrations of branded Qi for each type of elemental Qi would indicate the cultivator’s talent.
In Tianlan’s case, the stone would have reported that all of the Qi had returned unbranded, thus he had no spirit roots.
‘Then how do cultivation resources work? They mentioned that even those without spirit roots can cultivate using external resources.’
Over the next few weeks, Hei was reading the books from front to back, taking in all of the information he could. Fortunately for him, he was able to remember most of what he read. Unfortunately for him, even with the 20 books, he couldn’t find much comprehensive information on how cultivation resources worked.
The basic idea was that plants did not brand Natural Qi. They instead converted it into a new form somehow and this new form of Qi was very easy to assimilate. Even those without spirit roots were able to brand the Qi just by consuming the resources. They could then use it much in the same way as other cultivators. It was just that the only way for them to replenish it was to consume more resources.
It was described that only the wealthy would waste resources like this on those with no talent.
As Hei was finishing up on reading these books, he felt like there was information being omitted. Maybe it was his comprehension ability kicking in, but he felt there was something missing. Like the books were dancing around a major issue, but never quite touched upon it.
After reading all twenty books, Hei had Xiulan get more.
A similar situation to the last time occurred, with the maid being anxious.
Hei decided he would find out about it later because there was nothing he could do about it now. But there were obviously things happening outside this room.
A few months passed by and Hei became more familiar with this world. He was apparently in the lower eastern continent of the five continents of the world. There were the northern, eastern, southern, western and Middle continents.
All of the continents besides the middle continent were split into the lower continent and the upper continent. These were based on how close they were to the middle continent.
The middle continent seemed to be the centre of the world and as you got further away from it, resources became more scarce.
During the third month of Hei’s studies, something out of the ordinary happened.
“Lady Xiulan… The patriarch wishes to see you…”
The maid informed Xiulan of the news.
Xiulan was silent for a moment before standing up from her usual spot. She then walked to the door.
“Mumu. What is this?”
“Don’t worry about it, Little Hei.”
Hei watched as Xiulan and the maid left the room.
‘Just because you say not to worry does that mean I won’t worry?’
Hei knew there was nothing he could do about whatever was going on, so he decided to let it go. But he had a bad feeling about it.
A long time later Xiulan returned.
“Welcome back Mumu…”
Hei went to welcome her back but she ignored him and went straight to the bathroom.
Hei hesitated before going back to his books. Sometimes people needed to be alone.
After a long while Xiulan had still not come out, so Hei decided to take a look.
What he saw left him furious.
It was Xiulan in a corner of the bathroom hugging her knees while crying.
“This… What happened?”
“Don’t worry about it, Little Hei.”
Xiulan tried to force herself to smile.
“What do you mean don’t worry? How could I not worry when my mother is crying?”
Hei walked over to her while saying this with a frown.
He suddenly had a thought.
“WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU?”
He was getting even angrier. He remembered that she had been summoned by that patriarch.
“Don’t worry about it, Little Hei.”
Hei was angry but he also knew that it wouldn’t help anything.
“Does the victim seek justice?”
This was all he could say. If she responded yes, he would do everything in his power to make that patriarch regret ever having offended his mother.
Xiulan looked at him for a moment before responding calmly.
“No. It is not necessary.”
Hei was perplexed. Surely in a situation where you are crying, you have been wronged. How can you not seek justice?
Xiulan raised her arm and placed her hand on Hei’s head. She said with a gentle smile:
“After the storm, there was a rainbow.”
“Even with me?”
Hei was shocked. He had assumed he was born under the proper circumstances.
Xiulan nodded her head.
Even if Xiulan had forgiven, Hei could not let it go when it was right in front of his face.
“This… Even if you do not seek justice, I will have that man crawling beneath your feet, begging for forgiveness. I swear it!”