Of the eight recognized realms of cultivation, it is the third or the “green” realm which has perhaps been the subject of the most study. Some scholars argue that it is the first true realm of cultivation, that the first and second realms are merely preparatory steps. This is in some ways a reasonable perspective.
The first or “red” realm merely refines the human body and mind to its peak condition while the cultivator begins to generate the first trickles of their own qi. It is possible for a very skilled mortal to outdo a first realm cultivator in their realm of expertise.
The second or “yellow” realm is a mere expansion of capability. The body is stronger and more sturdy, and the mind more clear and acute than even the most studied of mortals. It becomes possible to use techniques which lay wholly beyond mortal abilities in a sustainable fashion. However, the cultivators of the second realm have not truly begun to define themselves yet.
The third realm is where this occurs and which has the most recognized discrete stages. It is the point where a cultivator truly begins to transform themselves, leaving mortal frailty and foibles behind. It is also, unfortunately, the realm where the majority of even the skilled and talented in the world will end their paths. The trials of the green realm are many and intensely personal to each cultivator who climbs its steps.
The paths up this mountain outnumber the stars, and it is this which is the greatest stumbling point to many a newly minted noble who wishes to establish a stable baron clan. Many barons stumble and fail when raising their own children, thinking to simply have them follow their own path, which nearly always fails or at the very least, strands the child at the same level as the parent with little ability to develop further.
The great clans bypass this problem through sheer volume of cultivators and the attendant breadth and depth of arts available to them. In the archives of a ten thousand year old clan, there will surely be records of enough cultivators and their arts that even the most iconoclastic neophyte will find something of use. For those with more meager means however, there is only trial and error. Painstaking progress must be attained through meticulous and never-ending effort. The reward is more than worth the effort.
Among baronial clans, survival and maintenance of one’s title becomes almost certain if the fourth or the “cyan” realm is achieved. Abilities which are impossible outside of incredibly expensive and rare talismans become possible once one has breached the final barriers of the third realm and taken the first step into the fourth.
The most well-known of these abilities is the power of unassisted flight. While many green arts can allow for some limited imitation through various means, it is only by stepping into the fourth realm that one is able to step beyond the shackles of the earth in true flight. As a cultivator rises further, this ability only grows as the cultivator masters the world around them such that matters of up and down are merely matters of personal discretion. Flight allows for a consistent and rapid method of escape from dangerous situations where the cultivator finds themselves in over their head.
The second and lesser known ability is that of multipresence. A cultivator of the fourth realm is capable of techniques which are not mere clairvoyance, illusions, or telepresence but actual existence at multiple locations at the same time. Although there are no instances of a fourth realm being able to maintain more than one additional presence at a time, even this is a tremendous boon to any lord or lady in efficiently carrying out their duties, leaving more time for cultivation of self or the family.
However, this ability is of limited use for more violent endeavors. The act of splitting oneself is deeply draining even to the mightiest cultivator, and such secondary presences lack much of their whole self’s potency, which is also impaired while the ability is active.
The third ability in the fourth realm is less exclusive and more an evolution of earlier abilities. Those in the middling stages of the third realm may master some tricks involving the bending of space, and certain potent arts might allow even second realms to touch on this ability. This can appear as short range, non-material movement, the crafting of transport arrays and spatial rings, or the twisting of probability and distance.
However, at the fourth realm, the more potent energies of the second dantian allow much greater expression of these abilities, and make the user much more difficult to slay. More than that, it indicates a sufficient understanding of the Way to allow one’s descendants to consistently achieve the upper reaches of the third realm. To the cyan or iron cultivator, it becomes possible to directly alter the way in which one interacts with the world.
Here, the difference between internal and external domains becomes more clear. External domains force lesser changes to physical law on the world around them. Internal domains instead directly alter the way that the self interacts with the world. Of course, these categories are somewhat academic; typically, a cultivator expresses aspects of both.
It should be known that overuse of these abilities can be dangerous. The world resists having its laws trampled upon, and it is unwise to press this too far. The most obvious example is of what occurs when one attempts to go against the flow of time, rather than simply manipulating the speed of its forward flow. At best, the attempt will simply fail; at worst, the unfortunate cultivator will simply cease existing, aging to dust in moments.
In most cases, the effect of imposing one’s laws on the world simply decays relatively quickly, or in the case of formations, crumble with each use. It is wise when experimenting with new effects to exercise caution. Unfortunately, save for a handful of unchanging axioms which will be discussed in later chapters, the exact nature of backlash is also intensely personal, and this tome may offer only general advice.
Along with the formation of heavenly pearls, it is these three abilities which mark the fourth realm. As such, it is a wise cultivator who plans for such in their rise through the third. Here, this tome may offer more concrete advice. In the following chapters, advice will be offered on how to develop a foundation for the above abilities, as summarized below
Chapter 1: The miracle of flight. This chapter discusses the vagaries of leg and arm techniques and how their lessons on manipulation and movement can be integrated into one’s mindset to smooth the transition to true flight.
Chapter 2: The miracle of multipresence. This chapter discusses techniques involving the head or as some call them, brain meridians and the cultivation of multitasking and clairvoyance in preparation for multipresence.
Chapter 3: The miracle of shen. This chapter discusses techniques using spine, lung, or heart meridians, the specific meridian depending on one’s personal style, and the practice of which prepares a cultivator for enforcing their self on the world. For the insightful cultivator, this would consist of lung techniques focused on the formation of constructs and resonances for external domain effects and spine techniques focused on self-improvement for internal domain effects.
Lastly, this tome’s appendix will list some other publicly available resources which may answer more involved questions.
- Foreword for “Ascension for the Common Baron,” a popular tome distributed to new barons in the Alabaster Sands as part of the Jin’s educational programs