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Hearing his name, the man in the grey top's expression changed. He turned back to the man driving the cart and shouted "Old man get over here, we're putting him in your cart".

"So Tom, what happened here?" said the man in a gentler voice.

Tom paused for a second as he thought to himself. He had only been able to learn his vessel's name so far, so, he didn't know what had actually happened. Therefore, he could only give a generic answer.

"Thieves" Tom spoke to the man.

Tom was no fool. He may not have been human but it wasn't like he had no knowledge of humans or human society. After all, his friend Jacob was an ascended human and although he hadn't met with many Gods, quite a few of the ones he had met were human or some other humanoid species. He was perfectly aware that thievery was practiced amongst humans and judging by the situation it seemed like a suitable explanation to give. In fact, when he was young and swimming in the oceans of his home world, the pack he was in at the time often had to fight off other ocean magic beasts that would try and steal their prey.

"Bloody bandits!" the man said hatefully. "The roads are getting worse and worse and the bandits are getting more brazen than ever"

The man, looking down at the bloodied body of Tom with some concern introduced himself.

"Tom my name is Arnet, are ok? How bad is your wound?"

Tom noticing his concern looked down at his body before looking up and reassuring the man.

"I'm fine, it's not my blood. They just knocked me out"

The man seemed to understand and since the cart had finally drawn close, he reached down his hand, grabbed Tom's arm and pulled him up effortlessly. Tom was still unsteady and didn't yet have full control over his new body so Arnet had to steady him. Arnet then proceeded to lift him up and place him on the cart where Tom was able to sit and rest has back against the cart's wooden side.

The two men then proceeded to ask Tom a few more questions about what had happened but all Tom could do was continue to give generic or ambiguous answers, saying he didn't know who exactly the attackers were or how powerful they were. Eventually he had to tell them that he still felt groggy and had to rest in order to clear his mind, so, Arnet let him be, scanned the surroundings and then signalled for the man driving the cart to continue. One had to say, Tom was doing a fairly good job at bluffing his way through the situation.

Now that Arnet had given him some time to rest, he was able to once again stimulate his vessel's brain and delve into its memories. He quickly learned the reason why after hearing his name the man in grey's tone changed and he became much more affable. His new body was that of one Tom Cardinal of the Cardinal family clan of Hill City.

From what he learned, Hill City was one of two powerful cities in the area and the Cardinal family was in control of it. They had been granted governorship over the city by the royal family of the kingdom over one hundred years ago. However, their control over the city wasn't just because it had been granted to them. The Cardinal family clan was a large clan and a powerhouse in the area. On the surface, this was because the clan had a lot of strong cultivators and was very wealthy. However, it was also due in part to the natural talent for cultivation that the family possessed as well as the clan's overall competence.

In the Grand scheme of things the Cardinal family may not have appeared old; however, they still had a history dating back 1,100 years when they first came into notability. The clan originated form one individual who was a talented cultivator. He was able to acquire a fair amount of wealth in his life, bringing his family out of poverty. He then built the foundations of the family in Hill city by buying a large mansion and bringing his relatives under one roof. From there on the Cardinal family developed, eventually becoming a prominent family within the city. However, it wasn't until 300 years ago, when the Central continent underwent many changes and entered into a period of chaos and warfare that the Cardinal family truly rose to their current position of power.

By being active participants in the wars to come, they were able to ingratiate themselves with the Royal family and, when the original governors of Hill City, the Hill family, suffered great losses during the wars and could no longer functionally control and run the city, the Cardinal family were best placed to inherit the position.

This was why Arnet decided to become more helpful and even went so far as placing Tom in the cart. Of course Arnet was by no means a cruel hearted man and had genuine concern for Tom, even before hearing his name; nevertheless, he couldn't argue that the Cardinal name influenced his actions henceforth. After all, by helping a member of the Cardinal family, in a situation such as this it wouldn't be a stretch to expect some form of reward at the end.

Sorting through the memories, Tom was learning more and more about his vessel and was becoming quite pleased with himself as he did so. He couldn't help but be happy about the vessel that Methis had chosen for him. It seemed that being Tom cardinal would bring many benefits to him, so, he decided to play the role. As such, Tom continued working through the memories to find the most useful information relating to his vessel. He needed to find out the more personal information about the human Tom Cardinal.

He found out that Tom was 23 years old, unmarried and unlike the rest of the people in his clan, he was not a cultivator. Tom grew up in Hill City in the Cardinal family's estate. He was the only son of the 10th elder of the family and grandson of the 4th elder. From an early age he grew up as friends alongside his cousin, Adam, of the same age. However, unlike Adam, by the time he reached his teens he had not passed through any of the preliminary stages of cultivation. As time went on it grew more apparent that Tom was not able to cultivate. His grandfather provided some pills to try to force him through the preliminary stages of cultivation, but, this was to no avail.

One might think that a child in this situation would quickly become ostracized from his family; however, this was not the case. Of course, there was some jeering and mocking from the younger generations of the family, but, one of the main reasons that the Cardinal family was able to build their power to what it is today is because they knew how to take care of their family and make the most of what they had.

The world isn't built with only cultivators in it and being able to fight isn't the only skill that the Cardinal family values. Because of this, when it was evident that Tom was unable to cultivate, his development took a different direction. Being from a powerful, wealthy and prestigious family such as the Cardinal family, Tom was brought up with an education far better than many others would ever have to opportunity to receive.

The affairs of the clan involved more than just fighting, so, Tom's abilities were put to use elsewhere. At the age of 17 he began helping with some minor administrative and financial issues in the clan. He quickly proved his competence in this field and as time went on his responsibilities expanded. Of course his responsibilities didn't expand that much, but, he was still sent to help to help in the Governor's office of Hill City and also sent out to surrounding towns and villages to conduct official work.

It was during one of these outings that Tom Cardinal met his unfortunate end. He had been sent with another individual of his clan, a distant relation at the 4th level of body strengthening, and various low levelled guards, to a neighbouring town to inquire over some financial matters. This task had taken longer than expected and consequently, when Tom Cardinal's group left to return back to Hill City it was fast approaching night. It was during this return journey that they were suddenly ambushed by bandits on the road.

Tom's group found themselves outnumbered and unable to flee when arrows shot into the group and felled several of their horses. Those that remained on horseback became the first targets of the assailants. Men quickly ran in from off the side of the road and sprang at the guards. Although the Cardinal family was powerful and could bring quite an impressive force to bear, were they to mobilise, because Tom and his relative were only low levelled individuals out on a routine outing to a neighbouring town, nobody saw any need to send any particularly strong guards. The strongest guard was at the 7th level of body strengthening, however, he was killed during the first volley of arrow fire. Once the enemies came out of the darkness and started close quarters combat, guard after guard quickly fell.

Tom Cardinal had no way to escape in this situation. Since he wasn't a cultivator, he was the weakest person in the group. However, he was actually the last person to die. When it was down to just him and the guard in front of him, the bandits slowed their assault and took some time to laugh and revel in their victory. One gaudy man appearing to be in his twenties took the opportunity to come forward and duel the last remaining guard one on one. He was far stronger than the guard and after he finished toying with him he sent one powerful swing that broke the guard's sword in half and cleaved through the armour on his chest.

Finally, Tom Cardinal was the only one left. The bandits could easily tell he wasn't a cultivator and so, had on a rather relaxed attitude. While they were having a short laugh about what they had just done, all Tom could do was wait shaking, waiting for the cold embrace of death. The gaudy man, after light-heartedly speaking a few more words to his comrades, plunged his sword into Tom Cardinal's chest. And so came an end to the life of one Tom Cardinal of the Cardinal family.

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jmj1011995

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