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It had been a few days since Neave had arrived in Pavarrie. Since the first night he had slept in the secret vault of the inn he was staying in, he hadn’t had a wink of sleep.

Why?

Because the morning after he woke up feeling tired and terrible as if his life was sucked out of him.

And that was because his life was sucked out of him. He had forgotten that it was kind of impossible to maintain conscious control over his life force if he was asleep. Because, well, he was unconscious. He ended up losing a further one percent of his life force as a consequence. His room was surprisingly left entirely alone.

Maybe the inn had better security than he’d thought.

Ever since that day, he had been occupied by the same routine. Killing a large number of monsters and making a show out of selling the cores. Neave was trying to attract the attention of anybody who may be capable of selling him a life force restoring treasure.

Or anyone willing to ‘donate’ one.

Neave was hesitant about buying the mansion at first, but he had saved up for it a lot faster than he had expected he would. Once he bought it he decided to decorate it with as much ostentatious crap as humanly possible.

It was a great way to attract the attention of a seller, not to mention that if he didn’t have the money, he could trade the mansion.

Living off no sleep while your life force was below twenty percent was a nightmare. If Neave wasn’t so used to agony, he doubted he would even have any will to live left. Not to even speak of his muscles. This little life force effectively meant he recovered at a brutally slow speed. He had to use healing pills to recover his muscles from overuse.

That strategy wasn’t a terrible one, but it was both very expensive and suboptimal for gaining muscular strength. It worked great if you wanted to just bulk up though. Which still didn’t work for him either. He was currently looking at his body in one of the many mirrors of the mansion.

He looked more like a corpse that had washed ashore than a living cultivator. Even his skin was wrinkly and looked like it had spent too much time underwater.

Neave sat down on the queen-sized bed and pulled a bag of cores out of the dimension ring. He wasn’t selling all of the cores. He kept some of the ones that seemed like they might potentially help him with his life force.

Then he pulled a book out of the dimension ring.

Spirit powers: Practice and Theory.

He kept contact with the boring old clerk. The clerk hooked him up with the book, which wasn't even that expensive. Neave was immensely disappointed to find out that he couldn’t buy a life-force-recovering treasure from the merchant company. Well, he could have a lower-quality one for five platinum coins, but they just didn’t have any here.

He’d asked whether they could deliver some from a bigger city, but that was only possible if he needed to purchase something at fifty platinum coins or above. Delivery across countless miles of dangerous forests wasn’t done unless it was for a solid profit.

It was possible to get delivery for purchases lesser than 10 platinum coins, but those deliveries went through much slower channels. It could be as many as four months until he finally got the treasure. By then he would likely be dead.

So his current plan was to gather fifty platinum coins. It was getting more and more difficult, however. Soon he would have to sleep again and every time he slept the hourglass would start running again.

Neave put those thoughts aside and focused on the book. It was theoretically possible to find a solution here as well.

He flipped through thirty or so pages then stopped.

Wait, how long have I been reading?

He felt dazed after a mere thirty pages for some reason. It simultaneously felt like he'd been reading for hours and like he’d been reading for seconds. Then he read another page.

Oh yeah, that was definitely seconds, alright.

Neave had known that cultivation could improve one’s mental abilities as well. But he always discarded that since it just seemed like all cultivators were stupid.

But the sheer difference in speed of reading between now and before was utterly baffling. He didn’t even need to read sentences, he could just read an entire page! Was he perhaps so incredible at reading before, that entering the foundation realm turned him into a book devourer?

No, that was exactly what happened. He smiled at the completely unexpected boon he had just received. It felt good being him, sometimes.

But the book was damn long, so even with his reading speed, getting through it would take a bit of time…

***

In a small city close to Pavarrie, there was an organization. Officially, they were just a high-end construction crew of cultivators.

Unofficially, they were spies for the Bentheta sect.

It had been a few days since they had received an order to report any sightings of limbless cultivators.

And currently, all of the members of the construction crew were seated together around a large table. There were three individuals, a beautiful woman with black hair, an elderly man with long white hair and a white beard, and a bulky man with short brown hair. And behind them, nine people were standing, three behind each of them.

The elderly man spoke up.

“So… Do we report this Guardian of Pavarrie? I honestly do not know whether this fits the criteria. We are talking about somebody who is reported to be on the golden path.”

The woman pondered.

“We were explicitly ordered to leave no stone unturned, however, I can’t help but agree that perhaps turning too many stones may get us bitten by a snake.”

Then the burly man spoke up.

“Come on, you cowards! We do not need to insult this person. We could send one of our men to check things out. If it is some good-natured spirit beast, then they would at least be open to conversation! Right?”

The elderly man sighed but had to agree. If the sect somehow learned they had failed to report this individual, they could be punished quite severely.

“Very well then.” The elderly man then turned around to the younger cultivators standing around the table, “Are any of you from Pavarrie? I think it may be a good idea to send someone who already knows the locals there.”

The woman nodded.

“Yes, I believe that one of your boys is from there, Gabrias was it?”

One of the three young men standing behind the old man held back a sigh. He was a tall lad, standing at nearly seven feet and his arms were long even for his height. His black hair was a little curly and combed back behind his ears. He had slightly droopy eyes and a rather large mouth. His nose was also just a little too big. One could perhaps even call him ugly but in a strangely attractive way.

He was ugly but handsome. And he didn’t want to be part of this nonsense.

“Yes, you are indeed right. Not just that I believe he may just have the perfect spirit power for the job. I shall have him scout the situation then. For now, we will send a report, putting the likelihood of this being our target at minor. Once Gabrias is back we will send a more detailed report.”

Then Gabrias was sent on his merry way. Back to his damn hometown.

***

Gabrias exchanged some awkward greetings with old acquaintances and learned of where this Guardian of Pavarrie lived. Then he just simply walked over to the mansion and well…

He knocked.

***

Neave finished reading the book and… Oh, man. He was so glad that he didn’t resort to taking a spirit power. He wouldn’t have died or anything but the consequences could have been awful. There were so many experiments he wanted to conduct with spirit that it was basically…

Knock, knock, knock.

Did somebody just knock on the door?

Neave was flabbergasted. He could sense somebody standing outside, but it was nobody he recognized. He was so immersed in his reading he hadn’t sensed the spirit until now. It seemed to be a third-step bronze path cultivator.

Tall fella too, wow.

Neave happily skipped over to the door and opened them.

The man was indeed, exceptionally tall. Neave had to practically look up at a ninety-degree angle to get a look at his face.

“Who are you and what do you want, tree man? Are you perhaps here to rob me!?”

The man chuckled awkwardly.

“No, no, heavens forbid, no, I am merely a humble cultivator from a nearby city. My name is Gabrias and as someone who was raised here I merely wanted to visit and express my thanks to the Guardian of Pavarrie.”

The man talked in a pleasant tone with a kind smile plastered on his face. A damn big smile too.

“I’m sorry, but what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Uhm, excuse me?”

“No, you mentioned something about some guardian or some shit? Are you on something?”

Gabrias was utterly confused.

“Have I got the wrong address? I was told this was where the Guardian lived.”

Then he looked at Neave’s missing arm.

“This dude must be out of his mind… Look, dude, I’m like… Oh, man. I’m not used to dealing with crazies.”

Gabrias was getting more and more confused by the second.

“Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask exactly who you are?”

“Oh, me? I’m Neave Zearthorn.”

Gabrias nearly swallowed his tongue.

“Oh, I, I–Uh. I have not… No I have–I have not heard of you, no, I do not know who you are.”

Neave looked at him, this time almost with pity. Then the pity disappeared and anger set in.

“Look, Mr. World Tree, can you kindly fuck off? I’ve got shit to do and I don’t need some crazy bastard snooping around my place."

“Wait, please, just wait a second, uh, do you…” Gabrias’ mind whirled, trying to come up with anything. “Do you, ah. Do you, d–ah perhaps know where the uh… Where the uhm? The dude. The person, no I mean the Guardian, yeah, where the guardian lives?”

Neave just started closing the door. However, Gabrias grabbed them and stopped Neave from closing them.

“Okie, I see somebody wants to lose a finger or two.”

“No, please, just wait…”

Then Neave felt something strange wash over him.

Gabrias stepped back.

“Okay, I apologize. I will stop bothering you.”

“Wait a damn fucking second…”

Gabrias paused, breaking out into cold sweat.

“Did you just do something to me?”

“Who? Me? No, I, no I literally, there was nothing I could have even done to you.”

“Hmmm, ugh, fine, whatever, just get off my property.”

“Thank you for your time…”

Neave slammed the door.

“... Sir.”

Then Gabrias turned around and immediately sprinted away.

***

Well, that was weird as hell. Neave scratched his head in confusion.

Guardian of Pavarrie? Ah fuck.

Did somebody spread some weird rumors? Oh, damn it, was it those people he gave the big monster core to? Or maybe somebody else he had given something. It seems like someone had forged some rather favorable rumors about him…

"Ha, ha…"

Fucking Guardian of Pavarrie.

Would they offer him sacrifices if he asked? Perhaps a minor life force restoring treasure? Neave couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation. This whole time he was expecting a gang to break into his mansion and try robbing him, but the entire damn town declared him a ‘guardian’ instead?

Was it the number of monsters he had killed? He shrugged. That explanation was as likely as any other.

Anyhow, after reading the book Neave believed he had a good plan. Well… Maybe ‘good plan’ wasn’t the best way to put it. A solution. He had found a solution for his life force problems. A rather suboptimal solution, but a solution nonetheless.

Honestly, the method he was considering was, theoretically speaking, so horrible that even he was reluctant to do it. But it was practically guaranteed to solve his problems.

Neave went to the master bedroom. This place was so massive, he might need to hire some maids to keep things clean around here. Then he sat on the bed.

He pulled out the bag of potentially useful monster cores. Then he threw it back into the ring and pulled out a bag of miscellaneous crap. He dug through the pile of almost completely random monster cores and fished out a few that would serve his purpose. They were all quite tiny, but that wasn’t an issue. Not a big one, at least, and not for his current needs. They were all misshapen and jagged.

And they all had powers related to digestion. Everything from stronger stomach acid to more flexible bowels to a larger stomach. The one he was looking at, however, was the most simple.

Better digestion. That was it. A vague power that made his digestion better. Not even by much. It was a particularly small and jagged monster core as well. About the size of his thumbnail. Neave grabbed it into his hands.

And crystalized some spirit. It cost him around another half a percent of his life force. The small jagged piece of spirit became perfectly round. Neave cackled. This was something he could sell on its own for dozens of platinum coins. He could still tell exactly what the original shape of the monster core was. It just looked like a transparent marble that was encasing a monster core. Even though it didn’t add any power to the monster core or change the actual power in any way, this was enough to perfectly stabilize the spirit.

Those geezers that wrote the other books on spirit weren’t nearly clear enough on just how much more valuable round monster cores were. A nearly round monster core was something that sects would go to war over if the power contained inside was any good at all. Why?

Because the rounder the core, the less spiritual interference.

Neave grabbed a bowl. Then he made a small cut on his finger and filled the bottom of the bowl with his blood. Then he put the monster core in.

The core melted into the blood and Neave then drank it.

Immediately, he was back in the hellish loop. He almost panicked, but he calmed down. This wasn’t the same place, this was just his spirit realm. What a spirit realm looked like depended on completely unknown factors, but it did have something vaguely to do with the person's subconscious.

Neave was holding a sword. It was the swordsman demon’s sword.

The weapon he had used the most.

And standing in front of him was a small abominid. It was a critter with three arms and one leg. Neave just cut it up with the sword and it died.

Ta-dah, spirit trial over!

Such were the spirit trials of exceptionally weak powers that came from exceptionally weak creatures. If Neave hadn’t rounded up the monster core before doing this, this would have been the single dumbest thing anybody could do to themselves.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Neave pushed qi into the part of his spirit that contained the spirit power. Then the spirit power evolved and another trial started. This time the abominid was as tall as Neave’s knee. Neave again, just cut it in half and it died.

Another spirit trial finished!

And the power had evolved. It went from better digestion, to… Even better digestion. Great.

Spirit trial round three, start!

This time he fought an abominid that was as tall as he was.

And the power evolved into 'perfect digestion'.

Neave was starting to run out of qi so he had to take a qi restoration pill to continue.

Spirit trial round four, start!

This time he fought an abominid that was three times taller than he was.

And the power evolved into 'consume'.

Neave had to take another pill.

Spirit trial round five, start!

This time he fought an abominid that was utterly gigantic. The fight took him a couple of minutes as he had to cut the abominid up to bleed it alive.

And the power evolved into 'absorb'.

Neave cackled maniacally. Spirit trials felt like they were practically made for him. You faced the spirit of the creature whose spirit you had absorbed in combat. The fight took place in your spirit realm and the only equipment you got was what you subconsciously created. And it could only be mundane equipment.

Sure, one could imagine their trusty high-rank sword with a quasi-spirit, but it wouldn't be any better than their spirit was capable of making it. One’s body was perfectly recreated within the spirit realm, but one could not use any spirit powers. Everything worked the same as reality usually did. Except Neave doubted that he could create spirit within his spirit, that just probably wouldn’t work… Would it? An experiment for another time.

The reason why round cores were great only came into play when you acquired a second spirit power. One still had to fight the monster from the first spirit power as well as the monster from the second spirit power. When the cores you used were jagged, the spirit interference ended up blending the monster's powers. This created two creatures whose powers add up.

Sure, Neave could take another tiny monster core, let’s say a slime! If the cores were jagged, he would have to fight an utterly gigantic slime and an utterly slimy gigantic abominid. Why not add a goblin as well?

Now he’s fighting three slimy humanoid giants, probably with several extra limbs each! That didn’t sound particularly fun.

There’s a reason why so few people had more than a handful of spirit powers. The spiritual interference made the trials effectively impossible, or at least a massive threat to one’s life. So they refrained from adding any powers until they advanced and became more powerful.

Neave simply didn’t have this problem. Perfectly round cores meant zero spiritual interference. He laughed so hard he almost puked the blood he drank. This was such an utterly moronic power Neave was starting to doubt he even needed cultivation in the first place. But he wasn’t done yet. He had acquired the power he needed.

This was a relatively well-known spirit power. It was well known for being exceptionally dangerous to its user. It made one capable of absorbing nearly any substance they consumed. The problem was that consuming too much of anything could be lethal. Eating just a large meal could mean he ended up with far too much sugar in his blood and he just died. So he needed to be moderate with food. Neave would be looking to remove that limitation with another spirit power, but for now, that power would be saving his life.

He then walked out into the garden and found a random bug.

He ate it alive.

Neave winced as it squirmed in his throat and almost puked it out. The moment it reached his stomach, it practically evaporated and Neave felt his life force restore just a little bit. The problem with getting life force from something like monster meat is that life force didn’t really like sticking around in things that were dead. But things that were still alive? Oh yeah. Those had plenty of life force.

Neave cackled like an absolute lunatic as merrily chased bugs around his garden.

The strange encounter with the man named Gabrias was already far out of his mind.

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A note from Robert Blaise

[IMPORTANT UPDATE]

Hello everyone!

Now that I've buttered you up with a bonus chapter, there is an important topic I'd like to discuss. But first, I've finally finished editing the previous chapters. It took me so much more time than I was expecting. At first I combed over the chapters slowly, but I had failed to actually fix anything. 

Why? 

Because I didn't even really know what it was supposed to look like! I had to actually go learn English grammar to fix my tenses. :/

Massive bruh moment.  

But now I think it's good. Not perfect though, I'm sure there are still a few things I could fix. Later though, I'm tired of grammar. 

Now, I got to talk about the important stuff. For the last two weeks, ever since I've started releasing TJOA, I've been spending more or less all of my free time either writing new chapters, fixing old ones or plotting future arcs. For now, this is perfectly fine.

But I'm working on borrowed time. 

I have college, work and I'm even getting married this year. Eventually I will have to justify the amount of time I spend writing. I've entered this fully for my own personal enjoyment and because I love story crafting. But as long as this remains just a hobby-for-fun, the time I can set aside for it will keep shrinking until it completely dries up. 

I am planning on opening a Patreon eventually. But I do not want to just open it haphazardly or do it in a way that comes across as money hungry or greedy. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily depending on how you look at it, I live in a rather poor country. This means that the standards are low. So I have a decent chance (according to the statistics I've seen, at least) to at least make enough from this to make it something of a part-time job. 

I want to ask you two questions:

1) Would you subscribe to the Patreon if I made one? 

2) If you wanted to subscribe to the Patreon, what would you expect to see? (ex. Side stories, extra content, access to the backlog etc...)

Regardless of whether I can make writing a job in the future or not, I still plan on writing as a hobby. And I promise that no matter what, the story won't slow down or suffer any hiatuses until at least chapter 100. 

I have a lot of other books planned, many of which I believe have at least as much potential as TJOA. So don't worry, you will be seeing me around quite a bit longer. :) 

Cheers everyone! It's been a crazy ride so far and it's only been two weeks. We're nearly 500 followers strong and climbing up the Rising Stars ranking at crazy speed! No matter what the future holds, I can safely say that I am already very happy. 

Have a wonderful day! 


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About the author

Robert Blaise

Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...

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