Atuel shivered. He remembered what the old cultivator had said that day. He was inerting Qi into their bodies and that was what they had experienced! No matter how much his skin shivered at the thought, he had to do it.

This was a sacrifice! One he had to do for his mother and himself. An opportunity to pay his mother back for the countless times she did for him.

He tried to remember what it was like, the instant terror he felt. The feeling of something crawling in his skin and under his muscles. But for a long time, nothing appeared around him. Regardless of how hard he tried to focus, it didn’t help.

Instead, it made it harder.

Only when he, unknowingly, entered a state of utter focus did he finally find the edges of something. It was there, but he could not explain it, just out his reach. He prodded it, but it seemed to run from his attempts.

It was everywhere, completely surrounding him only half an inch away from his skin. Some form of natural power blocked it from entering.

Atuel attempted to remove the layer on him. He jumped in his seat as the unidentifiable thing around him rushed with glee into him. With his startle, he lost concentration and the thin cover on his body returned like he had never touched the barrier.

He struggled to convince himself to do it again, but he knew better. There was no other choice.

Atuel found the previous state again, easier this time after experiencing it once. He removed the thin barrier from his hands. The energy jumped to fill him like water does an empty jug. His breathing quickened as millions of things crawled slowly under his nails and up his arms.

His hands shook like branches in a storm. He had begun hyperventilating, only able to close his eyes as his body fought to escape from the alien sensation. But Atuel would not quit. This was something that had to be done, not for himself, but a greater purpose.

This was for the future, for his mother, himself, and anyone who would call him family! Weakness could not be found in him! He must be the fountain of strength and power for the people close to him to rely on! It was destiny, he believed.

The crawling spider sensation covered his arms and chest, then spread from his sternum faster than the sedated pace it had taken in the beginning. Now it rushed to every part of his body all the way to the tip of his toes.

His body drank in the sensation unwilling to stop gulping like a desert man dying of dehydration in a river. Unbeknownst to him, hours had passed as he fought to keep focused. It kept adding until suddenly, a hole began to suck in every ounce of Qi he had gathered from where it had sped up near his sternum.

The Qi inside of him vanished faster than he could imagine absorbing. Regardless of how he tried to prod the hole or the Qi, it would not change at all. Again and again he fought to make sense of it. Wasn’t he supposed to gather the energy?

How would he do that if it was transplaced somewhere else he had no idea of? He had to use the Qi to do flying kicks and breathe fire! If there was none, then all his hopes were for not.

The prospect of not flying or exploding balls of fire made him more desperate. Desperate enough to for a moment to forget about the crawling sensation that came with his ‘cultivation’. Instead, all he could do was try to attract as much as he could.

But in the end, it never changed. No matter how hard he tried to gather Qi or keep it away from the gluttonous hole in his chest, it always rushed with a vengeance he could not understand.

He opened his eyes after what felt like ages. The feeling disappeared and with it his bodily reaction. Atuel took deep gasping breaths, shivering from the cold smacking his sweat soaked clothes.

His eyes drifted up only to see the sun peaking in the distance. The dark sky that had been there, what felt like moments ago, was tinted pink and a bright yellow. The entire night had passed without him noticing. In a flash, it was gone and replaced with one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen.

It was different, the sun rising, than the others he had seen before. It was clear and not tainted with a deep melancholy like almost all the ones in the past. The rays of life shone with vigor in his renewed hopes.

How amazing would it be if he could get his mother to share this moment with him…

Or anyone for that matter. Anyone. The loneliness was deep, he felt hollow deep inside, but he quickly covered the suffering.

Atuel shook his head and quickly threw off his shirt before he got sick. That would almost be a death sentence without anyone willing to sell them medicine.

He attempted to even get up only to fall to the side limp. Moving was a long shot, unable to find a single ounce of strength in his body.

For the first time in his life exhaustion rocked him to his core. His mouth foamed and body shook like a drowning man. The world blanked out before he could even understand what was going on.


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