Over the next hour Eric coached Valerie and Nicole on how to get the exact right breathing technique and position. Then came mental exercises as they had to create an internal image of their core. Occasionally nurses and doctors would come in and check on Eric. They never tried to make Nicole or Valerie leave though. The fact that Nicole was still in uniform helped.
Finally after a few hours Nicole and Valerie began to cultivate the energy that was already inside their core. Normally Eric would have a cultivator start by drawing energy into their core. That was impossible since there was no energy to draw on in a null plane.
Over the next three hours Eric led them through the process of using that energy to reinforce their bodies. Cultivators referred to the process as breaking through into a new rank. Usually breaking through would result in a significant increase in the power of the cultivator. It would also increase how much energy they could cultivate.
That increase was nearly insignificant for new cultivators. On the plus side it also meant that breakthroughs happened quickly for new cultivators. The higher the rank of a cultivator the more energy they needed in order to break through.
“I think that is enough for today. You have officially reached what is widely known as the initiate levels.” Eric finally said after the tenth time they broke through.
Nicole shivered. “Did someone turn the AC on?”
“It’s burning up in here. How are you cold?” Valerie said as she wiped sweat off her brow.
“That is the main side effect of having yin and yang bodies. Having too much yin energy will make you cold and having too much yang energy makes you hot. It’s not an issue yet but eventually you will need to balance your energies.” Eric explained.
“Balance our energies?” Nicole said clearly confused about what Eric was talking about.
“There are multiple ways. By far the easiest way is to simply have intimate contact with someone that has an excess of the energy you need. The energy should naturally balance.” Eric explained.
Nicole and Valerie both stared at Eric. “What? That should be easy for both of you. It’s not like you aren’t already sleeping together.” Eric said with a shrug.
“How did you know? Most people don’t realize.” Valerie asked.
Eric shook his head. “Even though this is a null world you still generate a small amount of yin and yang energy. If it builds up too much it can cause various minor physical and mental issues. I’m fairly sure that neither of you are having those issues. Which means that you are balancing your energy. All men have a small amount of yang energy and women have some yin energy. So there is a remote possibility you are balancing it with other partners. However, yin and yang energy attract each other. That is especially true of anyone with a yin or yang body. It’s obvious the two of you are close. I’ve never met a pair of yin and yang bodies that weren’t in a relationship.”
“Well that explains a few things I’ve been curious about.” Nicole said.
Valerie gave her a confused look. “Like what?”
“The fact that most people that know about us think we are bi but I’ve never been attracted to other women. As far as I know neither have you.” Nicole explained.
“You’re right. I’ve never been attracted to any other women. At least not the way I’m attracted to you or a hot guy.” Valerie said in surprise.
“So what’s the benefit of having a yin or yang body? It sounds like it’s usually deadly and you have to spend a bunch of time balancing energy.” Nicole asked.
“Usually cultivators rely on absorbing external energy. They can cultivate using internal energy but it is significantly slower. Those with yin and yang bodies can cultivate internal energy at a significantly faster rate. On a low energy world it’s actually faster than an external energy cultivator. They can also use pill and herb supplements that contain large amounts of the opposing element. Not only does this balance their energy, it also gives them a significant cultivation boost. Since these are poisonous to most cultivators they are significantly cheaper than other energy supplements. Overall if they survive, and realize what is going on, those with yin and yang bodies have a significant advantage while in the lower realms. Even at later realms they still have advantages in combat.” Eric explained.
“So we are going to become super powerful cultivators? How long before we are immortal?” Valerie said excitedly.
Eric winced. That was a question that far too many new cultivators asked. “Under normal circumstances becoming an immortal takes millions of years. And a null world is well below average.”
Valerie frowned. “What’s the point then? I’ll die of old age long before then.”
Eric blinked and then remembered that Valerie and Nicole knew nothing about cultivators. “The path of cultivation is far longer than you imagine. The lowest ranked profound realm cultivator has a lifespan of at least a hundred million years. Even on this world with my help you will easily reach that realm in less than a hundred thousand years.” Eric said proudly.
Nicole frowned. “A hundred thousand years? That’s crazy. Why would anyone do that?”
Eric grimaced once again. Even the youngest children wouldn’t question something like that. If he had said it would take them a million years they would have been ecstatic. Once again he reminded himself that they knew nothing about cultivation.
He decided that he would start from the beginning. “Currently you have both stepped into the first level of the initiate rank. That is the second stage of the mortal realms. The effect is small but you have only been cultivating for a single day. Roughly you should be a tenth of a percent stronger, faster, and tougher than before.”
Nicole interrupted him. “We’ve spent an entire day on this and we have only improved a tenth of a percent? I could do better spending a few hours lifting weights.”
Eric nodded. That was actually a decent line of questioning. One that many young teenagers had when they started cultivating. It was also something that far too many experienced cultivators forgot. “That is true. Which is why at some point you will also work on exercising and learning martial arts. The key is that cultivation is a multiplier of your base attributes. Unlike lifting weights there isn’t a limit. As you lift weights and approach that limit your gains slow down. Cultivation does the opposite and your gains speed up.”
Nicole thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “So if we practice every day for three years we would be twice as strong?”
Eric shrugged. “You would also react twice as fast, be twice as tough, and heal two times faster. It won’t take three years though. In the early realms the gains quickly accelerate though. You should reach the apprentice realm in just two days. That will give you a one percent increase. Around two weeks after that you will reach the journeyman ranks which give a ten percent increase. If we weren’t on a null world around two months later I could get you to the first level of the cultivation realms. Instead it will take at least twice as long. At that point you would be twice as strong, fast, and tough as normal. Past that will become difficult because of losing energy on a null world.”
“Why do we lose energy on a null world?” Valerie asked.
“There is such an extreme lack of energy in this place that it pulls the energy from your core. Past a certain point it will pull more energy from you than you can recover. So not only does it become impossible to progress, you also have to continue cultivating to keep from losing your progress.” Eric explained.
“That sounds bad. How much will we have to cultivate to maintain our energy at the first level of the cultivation realm? If we have to spend all day cultivating it probably won’t be worth it.” Nicole asked.
“At that rank it should take less than an hour each day. Someone without a yin or yang body would need to cultivate at least ten times longer.” Eric answered.
“An hour a day isn’t that bad. Even if it was only a ten percent boost there would be a ton of people willing to do this.” Nicole said.
“I know of a few methods we can try that may reduce the energy loss and let you cultivate to higher levels. With some luck we can break into the master cultivation ranks in a few years. That will make you ten times stronger.” Eric said.
“At least it’s not the orphanage. They had us meditating for half a dozen hours every day just for the sake of meditating. Those people were crazy. All they talked about was absorbing the energy from the air and the earth.” Valerie said with a laugh.
Eric frowned. Absorbing energy from the air and the earth was the standard practice for cultivation. It wouldn’t work in a null area though. Anyone that actually practiced cultivation would realize that instantly.
“Where is this orphanage?” Eric asked.
“It shut down a couple years after we turned eighteen and left.” Nicole answered. “Why are you so curious about it?”
“Because it sounds like someone is trying to turn orphans into cultivators. So someone on this planet knows about cultivation but not enough to know that method won’t work on a null world.” Eric explained.
Valerie and Nicole both looked thoughtful for a bit. “Is there a problem with that?” Valerie finally asked.
That question made Eric think for a bit. His first instinct was to worry that whoever this mysterious person or organization was would be an enemy. However, since they couldn’t figure out how to cultivate long term they weren’t a threat. Starting an orphanage and forcing children to cultivate seemed to reek of desperation. Chances were they weren’t from this planet and ended up trapped here just like Eric. In that case it was possible that they were a potential ally.
“There is a small possibility of it being a problem. It’s more likely that it’s an opportunity. Would it be possible to figure out who was running and funding the orphanage? I’d love to meet them.” Eric answered.
Nicole nodded. “I should be able to request access to the records. It may take a few days to get approval and set up a meeting.”
“I’m in no hurry. It will be at least a week before I’m able to get out of this bed. Meanwhile the two of you should go home and get some rest. Tomorrow we will be cultivating for most of the day.” Eric said.
After Valerie and Nicole left Eric went back to cultivating in order to heal himself. The nurses and doctors continued to check up on him. However, they had mostly left him alone after the first doctor got angry about him self-diagnosing himself. Eric was just happy that hadn’t stopped them from running a battery of tests.
With any luck he’d get some medicine soon and all the delusions he was ignoring would finally disappear. The purple hippos dancing around the room weren’t that bad. The demonic beast he was certain was hiding under the bed took an effort to ignore. Especially when it started growling. Of course logically he knew they were just figments of his imagination. For one thing if there really was a demonic beast under the bed it would have eaten him hours ago. Patience was one of the last traits anyone would ascribe to demonic beasts.
Eric found it helped if he concentrated on healing himself and making plans. Getting off this null plane would be difficult. For most cultivators it would have been impossible.
Most cultivators could be split into two main types. Warriors and workers. Warriors solely focused on becoming more powerful. If it wasn’t directly related to their combat power they thought it was a waste of time.
Workers focused on making money from being cultivators. They didn’t care about fighting techniques and skills. Some warrior cultivators despised them as weaklings. Although most valued cultivators that learned a profession.
It was necessary since so many of the items that warrior cultivators needed could only be created by someone that was also a cultivator. For instance no matter how skilled a mortal was they could never imbue a sword or armor with energy. There were even cultivators that focused on farming and growing plants. Although mostly they concentrated on herbs for the alchemists instead of food.
Trying to focus on both was bound to slow down your growth as a cultivator. Even worker cultivators would usually only focus on a single profession. It took an immense amount of time to become an alchemist, blacksmith, or even a simple herb farmer.
When Eric started cultivating he had no choice but to learn a profession. It was the only way he could afford to cultivate. Once he founded his empire he devoted himself to being a warrior cultivator. If he needed pills or a new weapon he could get someone else to create them for him. That was the benefit of being in charge of an empire of cultivators. Of course on the flip side he had to deal with a multitude of assasination attempts.
Eventually Eric had learned something though. Knowledge was useful for combat. Cultivators had extremely long lives and plenty of time to dabble in any number of skills and professions. He didn’t need to be a master alchemist or blacksmith for it to be useful in combat. Being able to recognize the pill his enemy was about to take or the defects in their equipment was invaluable. Of course part of that learning process was learning the basics of all the professions.
Surprisingly he had discovered a passion for enchanting. At first he had only focused on being able to use them in combat and recognize what enchantment his enemy was using. That had turned into learning everything about enchanting.
Then he started studying the more intricate and complicated parts of enchanting. Beyond simple enchantments were formations. These could span large areas of land. And at the highest level were arrays. These were multiple large scale formations that were linked together.
Building arrays was an expensive hobby. Emperors were expected to have expensive hobbies though. The fact that his hobby was useful instead of just being a money pit had delighted his financial advisors. Especially when he had been able to put that knowledge into practice in order to benefit his kingdom.
Some of that knowledge would be beneficial in this situation. Certain types of formations impacted the flow of energy. Most array and formation masters knew this. In fact, containing or concentrating energy was one of the more common formations.
It was also possible to use nearly any type of energy to power and maintain a formation. The downside was that it required a far more complicated formation to harness the energy. And then that formation had to be linked into the other formation in order to create an array.
The only common example Eric had found were arrays used to contain destructive and powerful forces. Basically they used the power of the force inside the array to power the containment formation. Which meant the formation could continue operating without cultivators having to feed it energy. Very useful if you wanted to contain something like an immortal fire elemental that was trying to destroy a planet.
Most enchanters didn’t study alternate energy sources for their work. Cultivation energy was far more efficient and easily harnessed. Eric had found the process fascinating.
It also presented a possible solution to his current dilemma. Even low level sources of energy could be used to power a formation. And with enough energy and the proper setup any array could be powered this way. Which meant that even in a null world Eric could create and use powerful formations.
With a smile Eric found himself looking up at the lightbulb in the ceiling of his room. Electricity was an excellent source of low level energy. And it appeared to be everywhere on this planet.
The final key was that layering formations could increase their ability to contain energy. No formation could completely stop energy from flowing through it. Especially when dealing with large energy differences between the two sides. But enough layers could slow that transfer down to where it was nearly non-existent.
By combining these three concepts Eric was hoping to create a high energy area that he could cultivate in. With any luck this was a null world instead of a null plane. If that was the case once he reached the foundation realm he could open a portal to a different world. Although he suspected the goddess had sent him to a null plane.
Traveling to another plane was far more difficult and would take more time. He would have to reach the heavenly realm. On the plus side long before then either Eric or someone he trained would reach the sage realm. At that point fixing his broken core would be easy.
Unfortunately being on a null world was going to slow everything down. He would only be able to rely on internal cultivation for that energy. Just reaching the foundation realm was going to take tens of thousands of years. It could take millions of years to reach the sage realms and probably billions to reach the heavenly realm. Of course since he was now immortal, dying of old age wouldn’t be a concern.
The real question was how could he speed up that process. Part of that answer was Nicole and Valerie. They were able to cultivate internal energy much quicker than anyone else. Eric could then use that energy to help set up the initial array. In this situation Nicole and Valerie were worth at least a hundred normal cultivators.
There were only two potential problems Eric could think of. First at some point he would need to convince Valerie and Nicole to give him energy. Hopefully they would view it as payment for the training he had provided them. Second he would need to design the arrays he needed. It was possible in theory. It was just going to take time to figure out exactly how to design the array so it did what he wanted. It would also have to be permanent since if it went down for even a moment it would lose all the energy it contained.
With that in mind Eric spent the rest of the night reviewing his knowledge of enchanting and arrays while he cultivated. Hopefully by the time Nicole and Valerie had enough energy to create the array he could figure out the design. Then it would just be a matter of finding the right location.
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Bio: I'm almost certainly addicted to reading. For decades I've read at least a dozen books a month. I'd say getting close to ten thousand over the course of my life. For the past few years I've been writing as a hobby. I created an account on royal road in order to get feedback on the projects I've started.