“There goes the last patrol of the night kid, let's begin.” Aleran was suddenly awakened by Zarasen's voice. He had been keeping tabs on the guard.
They sat crossed legged on the floor between the two beds facing each other. As he saw Aleran take a seat, the old man started speaking. “ Okay I will only explain what you need to know and no more, I'll try to make it as short as possible since we don't have much time.”
Aleran nodded and noticed that Zarasen was using the same tone as when teaching him Eleemes, only this time he looked more solemn.
“Your goal is to get to the heaven opening middle stage, the flesh refinement phase. It is only the first stage of cultivation, that's how weak these people are. Most of them are in the middle stage, your goal.”
“ But do not underestimate this stage, for people without cultivation someone on the third phase would be undefeatable.” Zarasen eyes started to emit a faint green glow. “ The heaven opening stage, like most of the cultivation stages is divided into three phases.”
“The first is the qi gathering stage. In this stage, the only thing you need to do is to feel the heaven and earth energy, or source qi as cultivators call it. Then move some of this energy towards yourself.” He said as he made a gesture with both hands as if grabbing something in the air and pulling it towards him. Aleran noticed there was something hypnotic in Zarasen voice.
He continued. “In this first phase, you feel the energy, and absorb it. As soon as the energy gets inside you, you are in the second phase. You will have to guide the source qi through your spirit-veins to refine it and then transport it along certain paths to strengthen your flesh.”
“This will, in turn, strengthen not only your flesh but also your spirit-veins. Once the spirit veins reach a certain threshold you will be able to absorb more energy and strengthen your bones. In theory, you could strengthen your bones first but it was discovered through trial and error that this way is better.”
“Oh, by the way, this will not increase your strength permanently. It will only last as long as you have this energy injected in your flesh and bones. Though it's obvious I had to tell you that this is the reason why although you had already passed this stage before, once your spirit-veins broke you became a normal kid again. ” he said like he just remembered something important.
Aleran nodded while thinking. ‘Then it's like a battery. As I cultivate the capacity of the battery will allow me to divert energy to other parts of my body like the bones.
“Now follow my lead as I breathe in and out.“ Without thinking, Aleran followed the strange and rhythmic breathing. He entered a deep trance, with the only noise being Zarasen's voice that sounded like a soothing breeze.
“Try to feel the source qi all around you, you will realize instinctively when you notice it. First, you will feel your remnant qi. It will be like a wall, you will need to filter that, find a hole, and feel beyond it.”
After an hour or so, Aleran could feel clearly his inner remnant qi, it was calm thanks to the collar. But instead of a wall, it felt like an armor under his skin. It cost him a great deal to filter that sensation.
“I Think I feel something”. Said Aleran after five straight hours of meditation, though he somehow didn't notice it. He sensed a familiar feeling but he couldn't point what was it.
“Describe it.” The same soothing voice reached his ears, but now it felt more distant.
“ It's everywhere around me, vast like an ocean, but tiny at the same time. And if I concentrate too much on it, it's like it doesn't exist as if it were a void.”
“Good, now try to reach for it with your consciousness, imagine something on your chest reaching for it and pulling the energy that's closest to your skin. It will feel different from anything you have done before. Once you make it, you will naturally feel your own spirit-veins. ”
This time Aleran spent an hour trying to move this strange energy he felt. Sadly he had to stop before he could do anything, a jailor was starting his round.
Two more days passed with not a single improvement on his part, and Aleran was starting to get frustrated. Now he only took almost one hour to feel the source qi, but he couldn't move it towards him no matter how hard he tried.
He knew the problem was, that in a corner of his head a there was a nagging voice trying to rationalize all this. The fact that there was some kind of particle only appreciable through meditation that could give someone enormous amounts of energy. At least enough to give someone strength without exercising one bit.
And then there was the issue with how the hell was he going to move it without interacting with it. It was the same as someone asking you to move something with your mind, no matter how much you stare at it the thing will not move. To move something you needed to give energy to it.
Usually, there was no free lunch in the universe. If you wanted to move that source qi to give you energy, you needed at least an equal amount of energy to move it to you. It was the same as electricity, to obtain energy you needed to spin a turbine, be it with the wind, water or a nuclear reaction.
He had asked Zarasen where does the energy to move the source qi comes from. The old man just stood rooted where he was, thinking of something. It seemed he had never asked himself this question.
That was more than Aleran expected. After all, to someone without modern knowledge, the most common answer would be something along the lines of: “That's how things are”. And they would keep going with their lives. But the fact that Zarasen just stood there without answering was a good measure of his wisdom.
“He may not know about the law of conservation of energy, or thermodynamics, but he somehow intuits there's something important he is missing.”
After three days of struggles, he decided to make a pseudo-theory in order to appease that corner of his mind. Fortunately, as a scientist, he was always open to discuss new theories and approaches. After all, theories are made to be improved as new information is discovered.
Since it was everything so new and he couldn't prove anything, it was hard to even call it a pseudo-theory, it was more like a story he told himself to feel better.
So, according to his experiences till now, he guessed that the source qi was some kind of energy that was capable of changing into other kinds of energy depending on certain circumstances yet unknown. This came from the memories of the previous owner of this body. After all, in these memories, people could summon fire out of nowhere.
To absorb the source qi his train of thought came from a different perspective. Since he had a new set of spirit-veins it was highly likely that the spirit veins were related to the soul. With this connection, he guessed that it was the soul through the spirit veins that used energy to move this source qi.
Where does the energy from the soul comes, he didn't know. But his guts told him that if there was something miraculous enough to be the engine of this crazy phenomenon, it was the soul. The image of that strange form he once had, and how he instinctively knew it was his soul made a huge impact on him.
That seemed to be what he needed because that very night he was able to move a strand of source qi. The moment it happened, like by art of magic he was able to sense his own spirit-veins.
He could feel them as clearly as he could feel his limbs. They felt small but boundless at the same time.
“Great! well done kiddo. Now, follow my instructions, I will tell you how and where to circulate this strand of qi.” Without Aleran telling him Zarasen was able to notice his progress. Since his last question about energy, even though it was a very basic question, Zarasen had started to see him in a different light.
Zarasen started to trace a path with his finger in Aleran's body. According to the route, the strand of qi entered through his abdomen and then traced a complicated path throughout his body. The pathways the strand reached became somehow more robust. Zarasen also started giving instructions that were not possible to show with his fingers. After all the spirit veins were not two-dimensional.
“Now you will deposit the strand of energy here”. The old man's finger stopped in a section near his heart. There, the spirit veins took the form of a small pocket the size of a pebble. “That is a spirit node and once you deposit your energy there, it will slowly disperse to your heart and flesh near the node.” Doing it, Aleran felt a warm current on his chest but nothing else.
“That was a revolution. It's when you circulate that strand of qi through all your spirit-veins and then put it on a node. The mere fact of circulating qi allows your spirit veins to grow without consuming it. The more qi you circulate the more they will grow and the more qi they will allow you to circulate. At the same time, they will allow you to pump more energy into your flesh and bones. It is a virtuous cycle.”
The night ended with Zarasen making Aleran memorize many other paths and node,s all of them to strengthen his flesh.
The next night Aleran was starting to attract source qi when a feeling that the day before he had overlooked came to him. It was the familiar feeling he felt before, but now it was more clear, more complete. It was something that came from his spirit-veins, it was what manipulated the source qi. ‘This… this is... original sense!!’ He had to make an effort to not scream.
However, as he paid more attention he realized something. “It's not original sense, but just like the rest of the senses, it's like a part of it. Though this one is composed of a bigger part of the original sense.” It was like a puzzle if you put together the smell, hearing, touch, vision, and taste you would have something like 20% of the original sense. But if you throw this ability to sense and manipulate source qi to the mix, it would be like 60%.
The second this association was made he felt like he could control all the qi in his surroundings, and that was what he did.
He felt everything within his reach. Like with the original sense he sent pulses of a sticky kind of energy that came from his spirit-veins. Then when it came back it dragged the source qi that stuck to this energy. It was like an octopus with thousands of tentacles, spreading them and grabbing everything around him.