The contrast between Valerie and Nicole couldn’t be more clear as they loaded their bags into the car. Valerie had half a dozen different color bags. Nicole on the other hand had only a couple bags. From what Eric gathered they were her go bags and were already packed long ago. Which meant she had just grabbed them and spent the rest of the time helping Valerie.
Eric also got a chance to see Valerie’s car. He finally understood exactly why Valerie had said they were lucky that they had taken Nicole’s car instead of her car to the bar. Eric had never thought of orange and pink as colors that went well together. Surprisingly the paint job on her car looked great. However, he could barely imagine a more recognizable car.
It took nearly forty five minutes but they finally left the apartment. After that they stopped at an ATM and a gas station. The owner of the cabin was on vacation and wasn’t able to take cash. Fortunately the people that had been scheduled to stay in the cabin had cancelled. And since Valerie and Nicole had rented from him before, he agreed to let them rent the cabin and pay him next week.
Even the trip to the cabin went smoothly. Eric had been halfway convinced that they would get pulled over again. The only police officer they saw on the trip had been focused on catching speeding drivers.
Eric was pleasantly surprised by the cabin. It sat on five acres of land. There were a couple neighbors but the area was heavily forested. After pulling off the road it was impossible to see any other houses.
The best part was the size of the cabin. Eric had been halfway expecting a one room shack in the middle of the woods. Instead the cabin was a full sized three bedroom house. If it wasn’t for the log siding Eric wouldn’t have called it a cabin.
Eric helped the girls grab their bags and they headed inside. He only had a single bag that he had gotten from the hospital when he was discharged. He was pleasantly surprised that they had given him an entire month of medication. Apparently it was part of the same non-profit program that had given him a change of clothes when he was discharged. His old clothes had been terrible. And that was before he had bled all over them and the paramedics had cut them off his body.
The first thing Nicole did was turn on the TV. For a moment Eric was wondering what she was doing. Then he saw her turn on a news station. He was a bit shocked to see a picture of the bar and hear them talking about the investigation.
The news didn’t show any pictures of the inside of the bar or victims. They simply said the images were too disturbing to show. They did show plenty of pictures of the police captain, officers, bar employees, and clients of the bar. After watching for a bit Eric was relieved that nobody was talking about him, Valerie, or Nicole.
Part of him was rethinking his decision to go to the bar. Not because of what he had done or found. Instead it was because of just how quickly news traveled on Earth. John Ralston’s memories hadn’t given him a clear picture of the technology on Earth. The lack of cultivation energy had severely hampered some areas. For instance medical care was far more advanced on all but the worst of the cultivation worlds.
On the other hand Eric was constantly running into objects that surprised him. Cell phones and TV were two of the most obvious. Even cultivators weren’t able to communicate information so quickly and accurately to such a widespread audience.
The cities had also surprised Eric. Cultivator cities were nowhere near as densely populated. There were too many powerful people that could wreck an entire building during a simple fist fight. As cultivators and empires became more powerful this only got worse. Powerful cultivators could destroy an entire city with the wave of a hand.
Of course there were arrays that could protect a city. But they could only stop attacks from outside the array. So even in the best case something like a skyscraper would never be seen in a cultivation world. The only exception being if it was the personal home of an especially powerful cultivator.
Even the population of Earth was staggering to Eric. Billions of people lived on a single planet. Only a handful of the planets that Eric had ruled had more than a billion inhabitants. And none of them had come close to reaching a population of two billion. The vast majority of the planets in his empire had a population of only millions.
Not that Eric would ever want the planets in his empire to become like Earth. However, he couldn’t help but think there were some things that would be beneficial to implement. The cultivation world was just too chaotic and he had grown tired of constantly worrying about the stability of his empire.
For instance the justice system could be overhauled with some techniques from Earth. Eric had enforcers that upheld the laws of the empire. Yet they were rarely involved in anything less than murder or treason against the empire. Based on what he had seen it was common on Earth for the police to be called over the simplest of disputes. Although the murder rate was still higher on Earth Eric knew that was like comparing apples and oranges. Cultivators spent the vast majority of their time cultivating. When they weren’t cultivating or practicing their skills they fought.
Technology was another major opportunity. That would be more difficult to implement. Mostly because of the frequent fights and wars between cultivators. Any large infrastructure was bound to be a high value target for enemies. Even his empire had enemies. There weren’t enough powerful cultivators in the empire to protect the type of infrastructure that existed on Earth.
However, the ability to communicate to a large group of people quickly was invaluable. Even if it was just communicating information to the citizens of his empire. Something like the internet could be invaluable for professional cultivators. Self-taught alchemists, blacksmiths, and other professions were unheard of on cultivation worlds. Professions had to be learned in a school or as an apprentice. The lack of trained workers had been a constant frustration as a ruler. Without workers it was impossible to grow his army. A large army was vital to protecting his empire from other cultivation empires.
Eric reminded himself that all of those ideas could wait until after he escaped Earth. Plus he would probably find numerous other possible improvements before he left Earth. The important thing right now was helping Valerie and Nicole cultivate.
With that thought in mind Eric spent the rest of the day helping Valerie and Nicole cultivate. They had both lost a tiny bit of energy since that morning. They recovered that energy in just a few minutes though. Within an hour they had broken through into the second level of apprentice.
They didn’t break through again that evening. By the next evening they had both reached the third level. Eric was pleased by the progress. The more powerful they were the easier it would be to initialize the array. Eric almost considered just staying at the cabin until Valerie and Nicole reached the journeyman realm. Unfortunately fate intervened once again on the second night at the cabin.
Eric woke up after hearing something. He couldn’t tell what had woken him up though. Over a lengthy life as a cultivator Eric had learned to listen to his instincts. So instead of turning over and going back to sleep he got up to investigate what the noise was.
It was at that moment that someone busted down the front door of the cabin. An object was thrown in immediately after. Before Eric could identify it exploded. Everything went white and it felt like someone had stabbed him in the ears.
If Eric had been a normal person that would have incapacitated him for a few seconds. He didn’t need to see or hear his enemies to attack them though. Ignoring how dizzy he felt Eric released his killing intent and directed it towards the door. Using his soul he could actually feel where the people attacking him were. There were almost a dozen of them.
Suddenly something hit him and his body jolted. All his muscles seized up and Eric fell on the floor. For some reason his killing intent wasn’t incapacitating his attackers as quickly as it had everyone else he had used it on. Ramping it up a bit he hit them harder. A couple seconds later he sensed them finally fall on the ground.
Eric cultivated for a moment and immediately directed the energy to heal his vision and hearing. Whatever was causing his muscles to seize up stopped after a few seconds. Eric suspected it was a taser of some type. At the same time he spread his soul sense out and detected half a dozen more men around the house. He quickly hit them with bursts of killing intent until they were also unconscious.
Finally when he was able to see Eric sat up and removed the leads from the taser. Getting up he walked over to the men that were lying on the floor. At first he thought they were a swat team that had been sent by the police.
Then he looked at their uniforms. They looked like military surplus. None of them had any badges or writing. Curiously none of them had any guns or knives either. All of them were armed with tasers and flash bangs.
That last part made Eric glad that he had just knocked them out instead of killing them. It was obvious that they had taken steps to try to make sure that nobody was killed. Heart attacks were still possible when tasers and flashbangs were used. When compared to other methods of subduing someone those risks were minimal.
As Eric was examining the men Valerie and Nicole came rushing out of their room. Nicole was carrying her pistol. “What happened?” She asked while scanning the room for threats.
“We had some rude guests. Apparently they decided that breaking the door and using flashbangs and tasers was better than ringing the doorbell.” Eric said with a grin.
Nicole looked at one of the men. “I don’t recognize any of them. So I doubt it’s dirty police officers from my department trying to silence us.”
Eric nodded. “None of them were armed with lethal weapons. It looks like they were here to capture us.” He said.
“Who are they?” Valerie asked.
“No idea. I don’t want to stay here though. Go pack your stuff up and let’s get out of here.” Eric said.
While Valerie and Nicole packed. Or more accurately Valerie packed and Nicole helped her. Eric stripped one of the men of all his equipment and most of his clothes. Then he tied him up.
Nicole walked back in the room and gave Eric a curious look. “I’ve been reading up on Earth technology. Don’t want to risk him having some type of GPS tracking device in his clothes.”
“Why would we worry about that?” Nicole asked.
“Cause we are taking him with us. Once we get somewhere safe we can question him and try to figure out who these people are.” Eric answered.
Eric and Nicole carried the man to the car and threw him in the backseat. That way they could keep an eye on him. Eric was relieved to find out that Valerie hadn’t unpacked all of her luggage. Which meant that in less than fifteen minutes they were loaded up and headed away from the cabin.
Despite leaving Eric still felt uneasy. He hadn’t told Valerie and Nicole yet but there was something unusual about the men that had attacked them. He had realized it when they first resisted his killing intent. All of them were cultivators.
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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.