Tom was finally ready to move on to the 4th stage of preliminary cultivation, qi absorption. This was the process by which one would draw qi from their surroundings into their body and there were actually several different methods to accomplish this.
These methods included full body absorption, directly absorbing qi through the skin and pores on the body, breathing techniques to draw qi from the air into the lungs and ingesting materials with high concentrations of qi to break down and absorb in the stomach.
Right now Tom was attempting to perform the first of these methods. The reason he was attempting the first method over the others was twofold.
First, from the memories of the old Tom Cardinal, Tom could tell that absorbing qi from the skin was the better of the three options. The breathing techniques would absorb the same qi from the surroundings but to a lesser degree. Whereas the first option would allow absorption of the qi all around someone, through all parts of their body, the second option could only allow the absorption of the qi that someone had managed to breathe in. Also, the third option was reliant on external materials he didn't have at the moment, but, even if he did have them, they may not necessarily be any better than just absorbing the qi from the surroundings and it would be bad if he became reliant on them without being able to perform the other methods.
Secondly, full body absorption of qi from the surrounding was essentially the same as how he collected mana when he was still a magic beast on his home world. There he had had a magic core and naturally drew mana from his surroundings and absorbed it. He did it subconsciously.
This was why he chose to attempt this method of gathering qi.
In fact, this kind of full body absorption was generally considered the hardest of the three methods and people who weren't capable of this would find it more difficult to progress as a cultivator, so, one way or another he pretty much had to learn how to do this in order to accomplish his goals.
Tom started to focus on his surroundings and began sensing the qi that was all around him. To accomplish what he wanted, he was trying to make a connection with the qi surrounding him and draw it towards his body. This was similar to how he made a connection with and was able to influence the qi in his body to achieve body opening, only this time he had to influence to qi outside of his body and maintain that connection.
Tom concentrated to feel the qi in his surroundings and slowly but surely he could feel it becoming more tangible. He remembered the feeling when he had connected with the qi in his body and used that to guide him.
After just a short while, Tom could feel that he was able to influence the qi surrounding him. It was just a miniscule amount at first but as time went on his field of influence was increasing. Having made this connection, Tom started to use his influence over the qi to draw it towards him and into his body. He felt the energy start to enter his body, moving into his body's qi pathways and filling them up.
A smile grew on his face. He had achieved qi absorption, the 4th stage of preliminary cultivation.
[Good, this is going well. Now for the 5th stage]
After having achieved the qi absorption, Tom proceeded to move on to qi storage. Now that had achieved qi absorption he was able continue doing it without focusing on it, just like when he was a magic beast, but, qi storage would be a little different for him in this body. As a magic beast he had had a core that drew in and stored his mana but this body didn't have that. In fact, qi storage was one of the problems for cultivators. Without learning how to do it qi would naturally seep out of their bodies. This was obviously a problem when cultivating if the person cultivating was bad at qi absorption. In fact, even now the qi that Tom had absorbed into his body was seeping out; only his current rate of absorption exceeded the rate that it leaked out so he didn't notice much of a difference.
Tom was actually very fortunate in that he was able gather and absorb qi without consciously trying to do it. Like when he was a magic beast, he was able to do it naturally without concentrating. Although the amount he could gather and absorb was greater when he was concentrating, this ability of his would prove to be very useful in aiding his cultivating. Unfortunately, because his original body and the current one he was in was so different, Tom had to put some thought into the 5th stage of preliminary cultivation.
The 5th stage, qi absorption, was a bit trickier for him because his current body didn't have a core that would natural store the qi he had gathered. The qi that he had and was absorbing was residing in the tiny energy pathways that ran throughout his body. When he was a magic beast storing mana was an inherent ability and he'd never had to even think about it. Now however, he had to use the information from the Cardinal clan in order to guide him.
The clan records were quite extensive about preliminary and the first three realms of cultivation. Tom had already singled out the relevant information from this body's memories. Unfortunately, several of the stages of preliminary cultivation were only vaguely described. Tom reckoned that this must be because of the difficulty in explaining something to someone that has never experienced that thing before. The clan records after preliminary cultivation were actually much more detailed and this could be attributed to the first realms of cultivation involving the stages of preliminary cultivation in one way or another.
Tom started using the information on qi storage to adapt to his body. He wasn't quite sure how humans would keep qi inside their body without a core but the information described it as a sort of reverse absorption. Previously he had been influencing the qi in the air around him, drawing it towards him and absorbing it, whereas now he had to use his influence over the qi to stop it from moving. By drawing the qi towards him he had made it energetic and now he had to make it lethargic. For the most part this would keep the qi idle in his body and stop it from leaking out. Furthermore, after going through the 6th stage of preliminary cultivation, qi assimilation, this would help to keep the qi as one with the body.
Using the principles he'd already learned from qi absorption and the information from the Cardinal clan, Tom found himself being able to control the process of qi storage. He stopped his absorption of qi in order to concentrate his focus on preventing what was already in his body from escaping. At first he wasn't able to calm the qi down and it would continue to escape, but, after several cycles of filling up with qi and losing it Tom found that the rate qi leaked from his body was slowing.
As he practiced he became able to calm the qi as it entered his body. Doing this many times over he eventually got to the point where he could barely notice qi leaving his body. Actually, what he'd accomplished in this short time was far more than most people ever accomplish. People would achieve the different stages of preliminary cultivation to varying degrees of accomplishment. This would directly affect their ability to progress as a cultivator and right now Tom was performing rather well. His grasp over qi absorption and qi storage would be regarded as high amongst the general populace and were a good indicator of his future prospects.
"Hah, the 5th stage is done. That wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be, though it's certainly different from what I'm used to" Tom muttered himself.
Tom was happy with himself right now. He'd spent the day cultivating on this strange new world for the day and it appeared as though he was having continuous breakthroughs. There had been a few interruptions but he felt as though things were progressing rather swimmingly. Nevertheless, he knew that he was still only at the very beginning on the path of cultivation and decided to plough on.