So I was pondering what I’ve seen so far for Grandmaster, and wondering what tiny thing might allow characters to avoid a lot of the horrible things that happen in canon. In the process of poking other people’s writings I ran across a blog post that pointed out Grandmaster differs from a lot of cultivation settings; most xianxia-type works have “demonic” and “righteous” cultivation set up as “anything you can do, I can do better”. I.e., both types of cultivation allow flying, cultivating to immortality, the whole works. Most important, while both can kill you if you lose control, both work fine and don’t destroy your body and sanity if you know what you’re doing.
Yet in Grandmaster, Wen Ruohan and Wei Wuxian both have problems with this. (At least until Wuxian resurrects later, ouch.) So… how best to explain this? Simplest would be, nobody in this area knows how to do demonic cultivation properly, and therefore Wei Wuxian had to make a heck of a lot of mistakes before finally figuring out how to do it safely by the time he ends up in Mo Xuanyu’s body.
(Mostly safely. Sometimes.)
So if demonic cultivation can be done safely, how?
The main problem for righteous cultivators is that they’re used to funneling any energy they take in through their meridians. Only resentful energy tears through the meridians and heads right for the golden core. If they’ve got a strong core, it burns off the energy, though they may need extra help getting purified after. If they don’t, it’s… not pretty.
It’s pretty much canon that Wei Wuxian was able to start working with resentful energy in the Burial Mounds because he didn’t have a core anymore. It did keep tearing up his meridians… which is what happens in qi deviations, which lead to bad temper, loss of control, hallucinations, and eventual death. (Hello all the symptoms Wei Wuxian had up to that last mess in the Nightless City.) Conclusion: You need to keep resentful energy out of the whole meridian/core network, or it will. Mess. You. Up.
But you need to store, or at least circulate, energy to use it. So how?
Canon, we see demonic cultivation arrays that work drawn in blood. Blood attracts resentful energy. Blood carries emotion.
What if the proper way to demonically cultivate is to circulate the energy through your blood, and store it in your heart? It wouldn’t matter if you had a core or not, you just need to keep the two kinds of energy circulating separately.
So a “nail” that would avoid some of the nastier bits of canon would be, what if Wei Wuxian had at least some starting point for “how demonic cultivation should work” before he gets dumped into the Burial Mounds?
This is actually a multifaceted problem. Canon, after fierce corpses got loose in the Lan sect and Wei Wuxian ended up touching resentful energy in a last-ditch attempt to save his own life (and a rabbit’s), he promised his adoptive brother Jiang Cheng that he’d never handle resentful energy. And then had to break that promise to survive when he was tossed into the Burial Mounds later. Which did not help in dealing with the whole mess, because Wei Wuxian doesn’t break his promises willingly. So… he’d have to have a pretty desperate reason to try and intentionally learn how to mess with demonic cultivation. As in, a person’s life would be at stake if he didn’t. Someone he valued above even Jiang Cheng’s promise.
…Canon, that pretty much boils down to three people prior to the Burial Mounds. Jiang Chang himself, Jiang Yanli – and Lan Wangji. Who is commonly associated with ice.
It just so happens there’s a fairly powerful ice demon in The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (written by the same author as Grandmaster!), Mobei-jun. Who, canon, has a human cultivator as spouse and thus would have half-demon children. And half-demons can learn to use both types of cultivation, if taught. And it’s Grandmaster canon that the founder of the Lan clan was a monk, then met The One he married and founded a cultivator clan instead. And oh, look – the Lans wear a forehead ribbon, symbolizing restraint, exactly where it should cover the forehead mark of noble demons.
Bunnies: “Suppose Mobei-jun had worked it out with his daughter that, if she wanted her descendants to live as human cultivators, he’d make sure their demon powers were suppressed or removed. And Wei Wuxian encountered him on his surreptitious visits looking after that.” It’d be a way for Wei Wuxian to encounter someone who wouldn’t tell him how to do demonic cultivation, but might give that first crucial hint about “not through your meridians, idiot, through the veins and heart”. Because it’s canon that Wei Wuxian is much more sensitive to moving energy than most, he might sense what Mobei-jun had taken from a young Lan and start poking for answers, because if his crush had part of his power taken that’s just not right…. though I’m not sure how the bunnies jump from there to Mobei deciding maybe this is one Lan who could handle it… but someone’s got to teach him if he gets his powers back, are you willing to be the one, Wei Wuxian?
Or it’s possible that Wei Wuxian might just notice that when the demon suppressed or manipulated energy, he was not working through their meridians. Also possible that the power actually can’t be taken without consent (most are eager to get rid of it), but it might be suppressed by Lan elders without a child knowing about it….
Comments, suggestions welcome!