For a moment Aleran became mute at Zarasen question. Yes, he was always fantasizing about escaping, but the news about who runs the asylum and the strength of the guards were huge deterrents.
‘Is this old man joking with me?’ This was his first guess but the serious look Zarasen had a while before made him doubt.
‘Could he be some hidden supreme expert like in the novels?’
Aleran's eyes grew brighter for a second but soon he tossed that idea aside. ‘ Why would someone who can escape be staying in such a place willingly? It makes no sense’
So, with more realistic expectations he asked. “Are you serious?” Can you really take us out?” If the old man had a way to escape he would do anything. Hell, he would let the old pervert lick him clean if that was of any help.
“Me?... No No No No.” Said Zarasen while pointing at his old face with an incredulous look, and then he shook his head waving his messed-up hair. That gesture was enough to make Aleran regret ever taking the old pervert seriously.
But then the old man pointed at him. “ YOU!... can take us out”. And shrugging he continued “otherwise, why would I even bother to ask you, I would just escape on my own.”
Now Aleran was more confused. “How am I supposed to help us break out here? if you are suggesting making me some kind of bait to distract the guards…”
“Hehehe.” Zarasen laugh stopped Aleran from continuing. "Just hear me out, kid. I noticed it the moment you went through the corridor, the big mistake the healer of this place made. Back then it was just a potential opportunity, not a real one but now I can confirm it .” Meanwhile, his eyes turned crafty like an old fox.
Aleran squinted his eyes and turned serious while listening. Zarasen seemed to have a thousand faces, from crazy to smart, to imposing and then the crafty creature in front of him.
“The secret lies in your spirit-veins. before he could continue Aleran stopped him with a question. “what are spirit veins?”.
With an annoyed look, Zarasen answered his question. “You have surely heard the term. I must have mentioned it before and you should have heard of it even after losing your memory, though you probably missed it because you didn't understand anything.
Sometimes they are called spirit roots or phantom organ. They are not a physical thing, so you can cut open someone and if you don't have a special method, you will see nothing. Besides once someone dies the spirit roots disappear, nobody knows why though.”
Waving his hand dismissively he continued. “But that's not the point, the important thing is that they are the channels where you can circulate and refine the energy of heaven and earth. They are also what allows you to harness the power you refine Without them, you cannot move heaven and earth energy. In short, it allows you to cultivate.”
Aleran already knew about cultivation. He had watched the images where Darim took flight like in a superhero movie, or Saria freezing water with a thought seemingly defying all laws of his precious physics. Coupled with the superhuman strength of all the jailors he wasn’t surprised by something like this. In fact, he had already talked about that with Zarasen but never so deeply like now so he insisted the old man to keep going.
According to Zarasen, in this world, everybody had spirit veins but only those with spirit veins of a determined quality were able to efficiently cultivate. Those were called functional spirit roots.
Anyone could have a son who is able to cultivate. The quality of the spiritual roots was completely random unless both parents had functional spirit roots. Then the child would have also functional spirit roots.
Of course, the issue with the resources and techniques was a completely different problem, not everybody had them.
After the explanation, Aleran guessed out loud “ So my spiritual roots are broken… but?” He looked expectantly at Zarasen. He was fascinated by the idea of having superpowers.
“Yes, yes, that's what I was going to say before getting interrupted by your stupidly obvious questions.” Zarasen changed his face again, now for a serious mask as he sat on his bed.
He tilted his body forward and lower his voice as if about to say a secret even though no one could really hear them. “The thing about your condition is that there should be no buts, once you wasted your spirit roots it's over, you have no chance at using qi”
“If you had destroyed a portion of your spirit veins you would still have the chance to move some qi. Of course less efficiently, and with no chance of improving just like someone who is born with not functional spirit roots.
The best-recorded outcome to a cultivation deviation was of someone who got back a thirty percent of his original power. Its as if the quality of their roots had dropped."
"Of course there are cases of deviation that only affects the mind but we are talking strictly about broken spirit-veins."
“Anyway your case is unbelievable, you have somehow regrown your spirit veins anew!” Zarasen started making gestures with his hands waving them over his head, it seemed like he really couldn't believe it. His voice was pretty loud too, making the previous secrecy charade look pointless now.
“There has never been a case of someone mending spirit veins after they broke, much less growing new ones out of thin air. Boy, you have no idea how huge this is! There is supposed to be only one set of spirit veins per person. I'm still struggling to understand how in the hell it happened.”
Aleran knew how it was because he wasn't Aleran. ‘I guess even for this world, soul transmigration is unheard of.’ He wasn't going to say it though. “ But I still don't see how that is supposed to help us. After all, I remember hearing you say that this collar was supposed to stop me from sensing heaven and earth energy and using the qi I have.”
Aleran knew from previous talks, that the tingling he felt during the travel to the asylum was the inner qi moving chaotically through his body. It was thanks to the repressive nature of the collar that he didn't feel it anymore.
Zarasen nodded “Mm! Well, that's the important part boy! When they made your collar they took a drop of your blood that was impregnated with the particular essence of your old spirit-veins. It blocked your old and broken spirit-veins.”
“Each person has a particular essence, it is similar to your parents but it is still unique to you. In fact, that relationship with the essence of your parent's energy is part of the reason why you are here so that nobody can get his hands on you and through a specific technique, prove that trash like you is related to your family. Hihihi” The old man chuckled.
‘Is Like DNA’ Thought Aleran making an association. He was starting to get where the old man was coming from.
“ Through a few simple checks, I concluded that the energy essence of your new set of spirit veins is different from your old one. This means that if you start cultivating, nothing would stop you from doing it. In fact, if we play it right we may be able to use that remnant energy of yours.” The old man started to smile excitedly while pointing with his finger.
“That's a huge mistake they made, how come they didn't realized about this when they checked up on me?” Asked Aleran a little incredulous.
“ A huge mistake Indeed. Tough to be fair, few people have the required perception to see past the remnant qi and the destroyed spirit-veins. Moreover, at, that time your new spirit veins were very faint, like a newborn. They were clearly functional but not developed yet, it was like a mirage.”
“Besides they probably saw the mess with the most simple energy check and they concluded that it was a waste of time checking more thoroughly. Not that it would have helped them with their mediocre abilities.”
“Then, how did you notice?” Asked Aleran with a skeptical face.
What's with that face kid?! Maybe I wasn't clear enough about how awesome I was, and well, some of that awesomeness is hard to get rid off even now. You see-”
“Okay, I understand. Sorry I doubted of you.” Aleran interrupted him with the hopes of stopping another incessant boasting
“Yeah, that's better. As for how I did it, let's say that my eyes are special” Blurted Zarasen with a disgusting wink.
Thinking about Zarasen s eyes glowing green from before Aleran nodded unconsciously. ‘There's definitely something weird about those eyes’.
Now Aleran was starting to get convinced. “So, I have to cultivate. How do I do that? Don't I need something like a meditation technique?"
“I'm glad you remember some of our past talks. Yes, you need a meditation technique and guidance. I will provide you with both, in return, you will make sure we scape this place.” The old man now looked magnanimously at Aleran. “And maybe you can lend me your feet a little.” As always he couldn't stay serious for more than a minute.
“Then it's a deal, till the escape part.” Said Aleran ignoring the last sentence, already used to those. “Now what do I have to do to start?” continued with excitement.
Zarasen raised his hand to signal him to stop. With an almost mocking look, Zarasen started to speak about the issues. “First you should get rid of that impatience. Cultivating isn't an easy task. It will be harder in this place and especially for you. that remnant energy, though useful at a later time, it will make it harder for you to sense and absorb the energy of heaven and earth.”
‘What the hell is with that look, if I can't cultivate you will be stuck here too’ Thought Aleran with an inner snort.
Meanwhile, Zarasen kept listing. “ As I already said, the other problem lies in this place. You can't cultivate while the jailers are patrolling, they will sense the shift in energy and that will put you in evidence. So we have a limited time at night to do it.
Suddenly he shut up and pointed at the small window on the door. With an almost coordinated timing, a guard passed by their cell. It was almost spooky how good Zarasen was at measure the time the guards took.
It was for these tiny details that Aleran chose to ignore the old man's craziness and pay attention to his words. After all, Aleran knew the guards tried to change their shifts and times to make them as random as possible.
As the footstep sounds vanished Zarasen returned to his speech. “ Our goal is to make you as strong as the average guard, if we time it right we will have a chance to escape. The bad news is that with our limited time and resources it will take a lot of time to get there.”
“But don't despair yet kid, the good news is that those guards are weak as ants. To you, they may look like superhuman but that is because you have no frame of reference, in the outside world they are trash. As the guards probably told you and I repeated to you, this is practically a trash can, it is so for us and the jailors. The difference is that they can sometimes leave this pace.”
“You probably thought that their random patrolling time is to be unpredictable to the prisoners.” Aleran was impressed ‘Is this old fart reading my mind?’ Zarasen continued. “But the sad fact is that they just do it when they feel like it, it's not a confusing tactic, only tardiness, and laziness.” Zarasen made a clear look of disgust, something rare to see.
“Besides I will make you refine that remnant energy. It has special characteristics, it is in a sort of limbo between your spirit veins and your body. If you refine it you could use it as a reservoir of energy, you could fight for longer than the average cultivator of your same level. That is until that reservoir runs out, but it will last enough to take us out.”
“Now get some rest we begin when the moons are out.” With a failed attempt to look like a master, he waved his sleeve and leaned on his hard bed.