“What do you think? Is he crazy?” Nicole asked Valerie once they got to her car.
Valerie seemed to think about it for a moment and then nodded. “I heard some of what the nurses and doctors were saying when they checked on him. He’s definitely crazy. That doesn’t explain the fear that we felt though. Also it’s barely noticeable but I really do feel like I could detect the energy he was talking about. Especially when we broke through.”
Nicole nodded. “Yeah it was almost like hitting your funny bone for just a moment. Except it was my entire body. I also don’t know how we could explain that I was freezing cold and you were hot. By the end it felt like I was sitting inside a freezer.”
“For now I want to keep on cultivating. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I would regret it if I didn’t. If Eric is crazy it will be easy enough to just walk away. He’s bedridden and according to the doctors he will never walk again.” Valerie said.
“He may not be bedridden long if he is telling the truth.. Although miraculously healing himself would make me question if he really is crazy. Are you crazy if you are right?” Nicole asked.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day. He could be both crazy and right.” Valerie said.
“Let’s hope not. Can you imagine an insane person running around that could destroy an entire city?” Nicole said with a shudder.
“He said that there was a limit on this planet. Above that the energy would dissipate faster than it could be gathered.” Valerie argued.
Nicole shook her head. “I highly doubt he will be satisfied with those limits. He’s already talking about being ten times stronger than the average person. That’s the type of thing you would only find in a comic book. It doesn’t sound like even that will satisfy him.”
Valerie looked thoughtful for a bit. “I think that’s a really strong argument for us cultivating. If he is evil and crazy then we have to be powerful enough to stop him. I’m hoping he’s a superhero and not a villain.”
Nicole couldn’t help but nod. Especially when she thought of the knife that she had seen earlier. She hadn’t heard anything yet but if there had been blood on the knife it may link back to a crime. If that was the case then it was likely that Eric wasn’t the nice guy he seemed to be.
As she was thinking of the knife they pulled into the driveway of the house they rented together. “Tomorrow I think we should go to the hospital again. Until then, what do you want to do?” Valerie asked.
Nicole shivered a bit. Ever since cultivating she hadn’t been able to fully warm up. “I’m not sure. Are you still feeling hot right now? I still feel like I just came inside after spending a few hours in below freezing weather.”
Valerie nodded as she brushed some sweat from her forehead. “Yep. Feels like I just came indoors after a two mile run during summer.”
With a bit of a giggle Valerie grabbed Nicole’s hand. “Eric did tell us how to balance our energy.” She said, dragging her towards the bedroom.
The next morning when Valerie and Nicole showed up at the hospital they were surprised to see Eric sitting up in bed. “The legs and back are still going to take time to patch up. The rest of my body is coming along nicely though.” He said.
A doctor happened to be in the room and shook his head. “It may be surprising how quickly your bruises are fading but nerve damage isn’t something that is going to just magically disappear. You have multiple serious breaks in the thoracic and lumbar region of your spine. At the very least you are looking at multiple surgeries in order to repair those breaks.”
Eric interrupted the doctor. “Yeah I get it. Next you are going to tell me that my spinal cord was severed in four different places. And apparently you doctors are so terrible at your jobs that you can’t fix those injuries.”
The doctor frowned. “The scan this morning showed three places where your spinal cord is severed.”
Eric rolled his eyes. “Yeah I fixed the highest one last night. Why do you think I’m able to sit up now? If you don’t believe me just look up the scans or talk to the doctors from yesterday. Also can you see where my meds are? The pink hippos are starting to get annoying.”
The doctor, Valerie, and Nicole all looked concerned at the mention of pink hippos. Eric sighed. “Obviously they aren’t real. I’ve already explained to multiple doctors that I’m suffering from a few different psychiatric issues. It’s hard to nail down which one is responsible for the hallucinations though. Still if you have any pills that can reduce them that would be helpful. Even your zero grade mortal pills would be appreciated.”
The doctor looked a bit disturbed. “I’ll have to review with the psychian that was here yesterday.” Then he turned to Valerie and Nicole. “I’d appreciate it if you would keep an eye on him while you are here. If you are leaving please let the nurse know.” He said before leaving the room.
“Good. It looks like you balanced your energy last night.” Eric said looking at Valerie and Nicole.
Both of them blushed. “It’s kind of creepy that you know that.” Nicole said.
Eric shrugged. “I’ve cultivated energy for so long that detecting energy is as easy as reading. It’s something I barely think of anymore. If I had been I would have realized that you and Valerie had yin and yang bodies much sooner.”
“Are we going to have to balance our energy like that every day?” Valerie asked.
“Technically you didn’t have to last night. That’s why I didn’t mention it. As you cultivate more your body will be able to store more energy without negative side effects. Although the speed you cultivate energy will also increase. The yin and yang pairs that I know of usually balance their energy daily, if not more often. That isn’t required though and I’ve known them to go a week or more without balancing. Even longer than that if there were other available methods of balancing their energy.” Eric explained.
“What are the other methods?” Nicole asked.
“Why? Balancing energy is fun.” Valerie said with a bit of a grin.
Nicole shook her head. “Last night was awesome just like every other night. I just want to know in case something happens and we have to spend some time apart. Or one of us is so busy that we don’t have time.”
Valerie scoffed. “Who doesn’t have time for sex.”
Nicole grinned. “You probably won’t have as much time during your residency. At least as long as you still plan on becoming a doctor. If I become a detective I expect that I’ll also be working long hours sometimes.” Valerie looked like she wanted to argue but finally nodded.
Eric sighed. “You both still don’t understand what is going on. Neither of you are going to have time for work. You are going to be spending the vast majority of your time cultivating. If this is going to work I need both of you cultivating as much energy as possible.”
Valerie and Nicole both glared at Eric. “So you expect us to just give up our jobs and careers and spend all day cultivating and having sex with eachother?”
Before Eric could reply Nicole chimed in. “What exactly is your plan anyway? If you are some powerful cultivator why show so much interest in us? Why do you need us?”
For a moment Eric bristled at the questioning. It made him consider whether he really did need them. They were complete barbarians when it came to cultivation knowledge. They were also now challenging his authority. As an emperor he had killed people for less.
After a moment, reason won out. Without Valerie and Nicole it would take him decades if not centuries longer to enact even the first parts of his plans. He also couldn’t force them to do what he wanted. Due to his cracked core he wouldn’t be able to cultivate. The power of his soul and the curse of immortality would ensure that they weren’t a threat to him. At the same time he didn’t have a way to force them to help him long term.
Which meant that Eric had to explain his plans. He also needed to convince them to go along with them. “This body has a cracked core which means that I’m unable to cultivate. Or more correctly I’m unable to keep any energy that I cultivate. It’s like trying to keep water inside of a shattered glass. The reason you are both so important is because you can internally cultivate energy faster than normal people. I’d have to train hundreds of people to get the same effects. My plan is to use your energy to help create an array of energy containment formations. That should negate most of the effects of being on a null world. At least as long as you stay inside them.”
“So after the formations are setup you won’t need our help any longer?” Valerie asked.
“You two are still going to be able to cultivate faster than anyone else. Once a cultivator reaches the foundation realm of cultivation they can create portals to other worlds. With luck this is just a null world and not a null plane. If it’s not then once you reach the sage realm you can heal my cracked core. And once I reach the heavenly realm I’ll be able to open up a portal to another plane. At that point I can get back to the plane I came from and salvage what’s left of my empire. I also need to get revenge on the god that banished me to this plane.” Eric explained.
“You said the foundation realm will take ten thousand years to reach. You really expect us to just cultivate for ten thousand years?” Nicole said rolling her eyes.
Eric shrugged. “It may be possible to speed up the process. Even if I can't, cultivators have long lives. In the grand scheme of things ten thousand years is the blink of an eye. Besides it’s not like I expect that you will only cultivate. But that is what the majority of your day should be devoted to. Not working.”
“What do you expect us to do for money then? How do we pay bills and buy groceries?” Valerie said with a tiny bit of sarcasm.
Eric froze and realized he hadn’t thought of that problem. As an emperor everything had been provided by his empire. He was mostly free to do whatever he pleased whenever he pleased. Which was usually cultivating and becoming more powerful.
He tried to think of all the ways that normal cultivators provided for their own basic necessities. Most cultivators didn’t rule a country. Yet they still spent most of their time cultivating. Being sponsored by a country or cultivation family was obviously not an option, at least not in this world. If this had been a cultivation world it wouldn’t have been an issue for all three of them to get sponsored to cultivate. Eric because of his knowledge. Valerie and Nicole because of their special constitutions.
Becoming a rogue cultivator and living off the land was also not possible. It was doubtful that Valerie and Nicole would agree to that plan. Plus he needed a secure place to set up the array.
Eric thought back to the time before he became an emperor. When he had started cultivating he had joined a sect. A sect was an organization that taught people how to cultivate. It was especially important for those that weren’t born into a cultivation family or had some special talent or ability. The members and elders of the sects were usually responsible for funding the sect. Either by taking missions or crafting items that the sect would sell. In return the sect provided protection for its members. There was often safety in numbers. The cultivation worlds were a place where might made right.
If this had been a normal cultivation world making money would have been a breeze. Eric could craft some products and sell them. Or take a few wealthy pupils that were eager to learn from an expert cultivator.
Thinking about it further Eric realized that just because this was a null world that wouldn’t necessarily be impossible. Selling products would be difficult. He would need to create them inside the energy containment array. And when taken outside the array any cultivation product would lose effectiveness quickly. Knowledge still had value though. Especially healing knowledge.
“I think I have a solution to our money problems. A number of people suffer from various disabilities in this world. Disabilities that I could fix. I’m assuming there are also a few of them that are rich?” Eric asked.
Nicole shrugged. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to that type of thing. Valerie is always reading the gossip blogs though. Can you think of anyone?”
“I can think of a few famous people but I’m not sure how rich they are. Especially when you are talking about being rich enough to pay us enough money to survive for more than a couple years. I’m sure we can find someone though. It doesn’t have to be the rich person that is injured right? It could be a family member or loved one.” Valerie said.
“That’s a good point. It should be easy to find someone rich who has a close family member that is in a wheelchair.” Nicole said.
“I do have one question though. If Eric can help people that are paralyzed shouldn’t we be spreading that knowledge around? Why keep it limited to just a few people? It only took a day for us to learn how to cultivate. We could help so many people.” Valerie asked.
“I wouldn’t say that you have learned how to cultivate yet. That would be like saying that someone that has learned the letters of the alphabet has learned how to read. In addition, dealing with severe injuries takes a certain level of energy control. Something neither of you have started learning. It will take me weeks to heal each person. Especially if their nervous system and muscles have atrophied. At most I’d only be able to help a couple dozen people a year.” Eric said.
Valerie looked disappointed. “Isn’t there some other way to help them? We could make a video or an online course teaching people to cultivate.” She insisted.
“Everyone cultivates a bit differently. Trying to learn it from a book or recording would take years if not decades. That’s why we have sects and teachers where I’m from. Of course not everyone has the time to learn to cultivate. That’s why we have healers. If I didn’t have a broken core I could heal those injuries in hours instead of weeks.” Eric explained.
“Then how about teaching me how to heal?” Valerie asked.
“I can but it will take years of cultivating and training. Self-healing is far easier than healing injuries in others.” Eric said in agreement. He had planned to teach both Nicole and Valerie how to heal anyway. It was always a useful skill in combat. There was no way he would pass up an opportunity to get Valerie to agree to his plans when all it cost him was doing what he planned anyway.
“What about you Nicole? Is there anything you would like to learn?” Eric asked.
Nicole thought about it for a moment before replying. “I’ve always been into helping and protecting people. It’s why I’m a police officer. What I want is to just get as strong as possible.” She finally said.
Eric couldn’t help but grin. Some of his best generals and bodyguards had the same sentiments. He himself cared less about protecting others and more about protecting himself. He would make a terrible bodyguard.
“I traveled the path to becoming more powerful for my entire life. It’s a journey that I never reached the end of. I thought I had reached it but found out that there were still those that made me look like an ant in comparison. I can certainly give you advice in following that path. A large part of it will be spending time on things that you may not think are important. For instance, as long as I’m teaching Valerie to heal, you should also gain a basic proficiency in healing.” Eric said.
“Makes sense. All police officers are trained in first aid. This is just like that but using cultivation techniques instead.” Nicole said agreeing with the plan.
“For now you will both need to cultivate. Practicing energy control will be far easier when you have a significant amount of energy to control. We will start some basic lessons once you reach the journeyman realms in a couple weeks.” Eric said.
The rest of the morning was similar to the previous day. Valerie and Nicole spent the entire time cultivating. Occasionally Eric interjected with advice on how they could improve their cultivation techniques. When he wasn’t teaching Eric either spent time healing himself or answering questions that various doctors had for him.
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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.