Tom proceeded along his way through the Cardinal clan's estate. He was heading to Gerald's office. He was actually quite lucky that Gerald conducted his work within the estate rather than in the governors building. It saved him quite the walk.
Whereas before he had only stayed in the residential area that his close relatives lived in, he was now heading out to a new area of the estate. In doing so he came across many people from the clan, including family members, servants and guards. They didn't pay him much attention as he passed them by and he only got a few courteous nods and greetings here and there.
After a bit of walking he finally arrived at Gerald's office. Without knocking on the door he directly opened the door and entered. Inside he saw Gerald sitting at a desk with many papers spread across it.
Unlike some elders whose purpose was only to decide on major issues affecting the clan and to defend the clan when it was threatened, Gerald actually had an administrative job within the clan's estate. Actually several of the elders had some form of administrative job; working in the clan's estate, the governor's office or some other clan affiliated place, such as a regional town. The trade-off of having less personal time was that these elders would have more influence in the day to day operations of the clan. Some saw this as a benefit in which they would have more power to shape the clan the way they wanted, whilst others saw it as their duty to keep the order and prosperity of the clan.
When Tom entered the room Gerald raised his head and saw him. Gerald was frowned at his son's appearance. It wasn't particularly unusual for his son to visit him since his son worked under him, performing tasks at his direction, but, he was confused at Tom's appearance at this time because his son hadn't returned to work yet since the bandit incident.
"Tom, what're you doing here?" Gerald queried his son.
"And what happened to your hand?" he added with concern after noticing that Tom's right hand was bloody.
"Oh, this" Tom said while briefly raising and looking at his hand.
"Never mind that. Father, do you notice anything different about me?" said Tom, goading Gerald's curiosity as he had done with Rowan.
Unfortunately, Gerald was a serious and practical straight-faced man so Tom found he couldn't direct the conversation as well as he'd hoped.
"I see that you have a bloody hand. That's certainly different" Gerald said in all seriousness.
Perhaps if Tom was talking to Emery instead, who was more laid back than his younger brother, the conversation would have flowed better.
"How did that happen?" Gerald persisted in asking.
"I crushed a glass in my hand" Tom had no choice but to reply.
"Why did you do that?"
"I admit, in hindsight, that it was a mistake, but, this actually brings us full circle back to the question I asked you"
Hearing Tom's response, Gerald payed closer attention to Tom and unlike Rowan he needed less of a prompt to figure out the situation. He, like Rowan, wasn't sensing qi at the time that Tom entered. Actually, since he was already in the late stages of qi expansion, his natural attunement with qi was greater than Rowan's, but, since he had been concentrating on work he wasn't paying attention to the qi in his surroundings. In fact most cultivators, especially at the lower realms of cultivation, unless actively sensing qi, wouldn't be able to do it.
Seeing the qi infused body of Tom that represented the first level of body strengthening, Gerald's face immediately changed. He jumped up from his chair, knocking it over, and stared at Tom, wide-eyed.
The previous serious attitude of Gerald immediately collapsed as the broadest grin Tom had ever seen appeared on his face. Tom actually feared that Gerald would incur some sort of facial muscle injury from it, but... Gerald couldn't really be blamed. Right now, he was incomparably excited and overjoyed. His one and only son, the one blood descended clan member that wasn't able to cultivate, bar the young who were not yet able to, had finally become a cultivator.
"YES!!!" Gerald shouted out loudly and jubilantly.
Gerald proceeded to quickly make his way around the desk, over to Tom, and clasped his hands on Tom's shoulders. Gerald just couldn't contain his excitement. He was looking Tom over and sizing him up in a whole new light. His greatest dream had finally come true.
"When? When this happen?" He couldn't help but ask.
"Just this morning" Tom replied in a calm manner. He had already done his gloating with Rowan earlier and had calmed himself down. He actually chastised himself for being so self-satisfied and smug earlier. Perhaps to the original Tom Cardinal this would have been something to rejoice at, but he was a celestial being. Yes it was the first step to winning his bet with Methis but he reminded himself that this was still just an inconsequential thing to him. A mere 1000 jin increase in strength, how laughable was that to a god.
"Hahahahahaha" Gerald laughed almost maniacally while tears of joy formed in his eyes but never really escaped them.
"This is brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! We have to let people know. Your mother, she just left, I have to call her back" he said and then began turning towards the door.
Gerald had got caught up in his emotions but before he could continue his rambling or go search for his wife, Tom cut him off with the wave of his hand.
"Wait, there's plenty of time for that. We should discuss things now, I'll tell mother later. She'll enjoy the surprise"
Tom said that, but, little did Gerald know, this was just because Tom thought that by catching her by herself he'd be able to get some resources from her. Nevertheless, this seemed to calm Gerald down and he took another look at his son, a smile still plastered on his face which had become heated and flushed from his excitement.
"Yes, yes... I suppose you're right. There are many things to talk about"
Tom smiled to himself. This is what he'd been waiting for and he intended to make the most of the situation.
"Well, as you can see father, I'm a cultivator now. I can finally bring pride to you and the clan" Tom said, trying to play on the emotions of Gerald.
"Of course, of course... wait, no. That's not what's important" Gerald said while patting Tom's shoulders.
"I'm just glad you're a cultivator now" he said with sincerity.
Gerald was feeling overwhelming pride right now, not just because his son had accomplished something he would never be able to, but also because he was thinking about the clan first.
[He should be thinking just about himself right now, yet I can't believe his first thoughts are about how I would feel and about bringing honour to me. He truly is a good son, a good son indeed]
"Father, there's more. You know I've been stuck for so long, never being able to make my way through preliminary cultivation. You're probably thinking I was slowly making my way through, hiding this from you in order to surprise you when I finally succeeded, but that's not true. Last week, after I was attacked, I suddenly gained some insights and it was like my eyes were opened. That's why I wanted a break from work and have been staying in my room this whole time"
"Look" Tom said while taking the completely depleted qi stone out from his pocket and holding it up for Gerald to see.
"I used this that you gave me and I was able to quickly make it to the first level of body strengthening"
Hearing all this, Gerald was taken aback by shock. It was like his son had said, he'd assumed his son had been slowly working his way through the preliminary stages of cultivation and had only appeared before him now that he had achieved the first level of body strengthening. How could he have guessed that it had only been one week since he had become and worked his way through being a preliminary cultivator.
Hearing Tom's words and seeing the depleted qi stone, many thoughts raced through Gerald's mind. It must be known that sometimes it takes people years to make it through the preliminary stages of cultivation, yet Tom had done it in such a short time.
[If what he says is true then could it be that he actually has talent? No it's too soon to confirm that, he's only at the first level. I mustn't get my hopes up by setting them too high. This alone is enough]
Thinking these thoughts Gerald tried to calm himself. Even if his son passed preliminary cultivation quickly after gaining sudden insights, it didn't mean he would be a talented cultivator. Each of the realms of cultivation required some basic knowledge and ability. Someone who passes through one quickly may not necessarily be able to pass through another and right now Tom was only at the first level of the first realm.
Actually, the time it takes to pass through the preliminary stages of cultivation tends not to be a reliable indicator of talent. This is because, especially in noble families, clans, sects and various other martial institutions, young children are educated from an early age to try and pass through these stages. To a young child who is still learning and developing, these concepts can be hard to take in and understand. Thus, sometimes there are children who will take years to pass through these stages and sometimes there will be children who can easily pass through them within just a short amount of time.
Of course, passing the stages more quickly does show greater natural talent, but, that doesn't mean that through hard work and time the position between two children can't be reversed.
So it doesn't affect their growth, children are only meant to start infusing qi after they have hit puberty and grown. Although it varies from place to place; in the Cardinal clan, clan members are only meant to start doing this after their 15th birthday. Therefore, from birth to 15 years of age there is plenty of time for a child who at first showed less promise than another to achieve greater attainments.
"Father" Tom said with an emotional voice.
"Now that I can cultivate, I feel like if I had more resources I could quickly advance as a cultivator"
This was not the most subtle way to approach things but Tom wasn't the most subtle person either, especially when he wanted something, but, he felt he'd already laid the proper groundwork with his previous words.
"Yes, of course, of course. I'll arrange for things, don't you worry. This is a momentous occasion, there's much to do, much to do"
While Gerald got caught up in his own excited ramblings again, Tom began smiling.
[It seems to be going well]
Tom felt he had tugged on all the right heartstrings when talking with Gerald. He believed he had made a significant impact and would get at least a decent reward from his efforts.
"Come, sit down" Gerald said to Tom, pointing him to a chair in the room.
Gerald then proceeded to take a seat himself, facing towards Tom.
"Let's talk" He said, excitement still on his face.