The cart continued to rattle forward through the night, getting closer and closer to its destination. Finally, Tom was able to make out a few small stone and wooden buildings. It was still night and there were no lights burning but Arnet and the old man knew where they were. This was their hometown and their destination.
Arnet turned to look at Tom and the old man.
He said "Alright. Tom, you'll have to get off the cart now. Old man, I'll help you unload".
Arnet was planning on personally seeing Tom back to Hill City but this was the old man's home and he wasn't going any further. He'd been courteous enough to let Tom ride in his cart but now that he'd arrived Tom would have to get off and make his way on foot.
They stopped outside of the man's house and then Arnet dismounted from his horse. He approached the cart and reached his hand to help Tom off of it. Although Tom had been in this human body for several hours now, he'd basically spent the entirety of that time not moving. As such, he was still quite unfamiliar with how to move it properly. He was still very unsteady on his feet and when Arnet helped him out of the cart he had to lean against it to avoid falling over. Arnet raised his brows at this and questioned internally whether Tom was really injured or actually drunk but in the end he decided not to comment. He proceeded to grab a few wooden boxes that were in the cart and took them inside the house.
The old man also got off the seat on the front of the cart and started to untie the horse from it. He then took the horse into an outside extension on the house, where it had a roof over its head, and tied the horse to a post.
After this, Arnet came back out from the house. The two shared some words of gratitude and parting, and then, Arnet started walking over to Tom while the old man went inside his home.
"Well, we can't take the cart anymore but we're only a couple of miles from the city now and the path is flat from here on out. Are you ok to walk it?" Arnet asked Tom who was still leaning against the cart.
Tom looked himself over, tilting forward in the process. It looked as though he was going to fall over but he was able to keep himself upright.
"I... ah... I.. I think I'm fine" said Tom.
Arnet frowned and looked at Tom dubiously. He was considering letting Tom riding on his horse with him. He particularly didn't mind letting Tom ride his horse, but, he knew that in the state he was in right now Tom probably wouldn't be able to stay on it without any help. That was something he did mind. However, to his relief, Tom insisted that he would walk so Arnet decided to walk alongside him while leading the horse along.
From Tom's point of view, walking the distance would help him in being able to control his new body. Better yet it was night and the only person who would be able to see him was Arnet, who'd already seen him clumsily stumbling around. Honestly, Tom was quite embarrassed. He was a majestic celestial being. A God. But, right now he was floundering about like a fish out of water. Of course he actually was a fish. Well... technically a swimming reptile, but that was neither here nor there. Nevertheless, it would be best if he could achieve at least some mastery over his new body before appearing in front of any more people.
It was one thing to be seen this way by Methis and Jacob, who were undoubtedly watching from Methis's celestial viewing platform, but, it was another thing entirely to be seen this way by a bunch of mortals. At this time, Tom was thankful for being placed in this body. But, what no one else knew was that the reason that he was most thankful was not because of the benefits that being Tom Cardinal would bring in this new and dangerous world but because he didn't have to look a fool in front of a bunch of people and feel humiliated while getting accustomed to his new body.
Tom and Arnet started walking along the path and Tom rested a hand on the horse's back to steady himself. Slowly but surely, as they proceeded Tom began to get more accustomed to his new body. Although he still swayed while walking he'd managed to stop dragging his feet and accomplished a semi proper walking posture. Doing so, he was able to increase his walking pace. This was a refreshing change because, although they were rather close to Hill City now, Tom's walking pace had been making them go at a slow crawl.
As they went around a curve on the path they were able to see lights in the distance. It was still night time and small villages didn't leave lights burning, but, cities were different. Previously they had only been progressing under the light of the moon, unable to see far into the distance, but, they were able to easily make out Hill City at the end of the road.
"Hah, nearly there" remarked Arnet.
"Yeah, nearly there" repeated Tom.
At this time Arnet was feeling reinvigorated. Even for a cultivator like him he preferred to travel during the day and would still get tired at night. Originally he would have stopped in his home village after travelling with the old man, but, after finding Tom on the road his pace had slowed considerably because he had to be cautious of bandits. Now, he was walking Tom to Hill City and would probably have to stay with him for some if he wanted to get a reward out of this, therefore, he felt energy returning to his body upon seeing the lights of Hill City in the distance.
Contrary to Arnet, Tom was experiencing a more complicated mix of feelings. He was now in the body of the old Tom Cardinal, making him the new Tom Cardinal. When he arrived at Hill City there would undoubtedly be certain expectations for how he should behave. He would be amongst his vessel's family and they would probably notice any strange behaviour. He was concerned that any odd behaviour by him might result in suspicion from the family, preventing him from obtaining any benefits from them.
This seemed like it would be a problem because he knew that at the moment, the Cardinal family would be his greatest asset in gaining strength and staying safe. Of course this required the prerequisite that he would be able to actually cultivate the energy on this planet. Furthermore, the danger aspect of this world wasn't that huge of a problem. If Tom died in his current vessel he wouldn't actually die. The vessel would be destroyed but his consciousness would instantly re-fuse with his essence back on Methis's celestial viewing platform and he would instantly be back to full strength. Only, under these conditions he would have thoroughly lost his bet.
Nevertheless, he was giving far too much credit to Tom Cardinal's family and overestimated how much of a problem it would be. Tom Cardinal may have been part of the prestigious Cardinal family that ruled Hill City, but, because he was just an ordinary person in a family of cultivators, his existence was largely ignored. It was not that he was actively ostracised or any such thing, but, in either the hustle and bustle of the Cardinal clan's estate or in the Governor's office, who would pay attention to an ordinary person.
Another reason that he had no need to be concerned over such a matter was that the original Tom Cardinal had quite a few similarities with him. Since he was just an ordinary person in such a powerful family, he himself grew solitary and withdrew from others in his family. And, like Tom who could perhaps only call Jacob a true friend, Tom Cardinal only had a true friend in his cousin Adam. Even his parents no longer spent much time with him as they all had their own work to do within the clan, therefore, when he actually made it to Hill City, no one noticed a change in his behaviour and his concerns proved to be unfounded.