Clang! Clang! Clang!

The sound of metal on metal rang out as Tom traded blows with his opponent.

Tom aimed a strike towards his opponents head but it was easily parried away, with a force that sent his sword flying out of his hand. Afterwards, he received a kick to the stomach that knocked the wind out of him and sent him backwards onto the ground. Lying there, gasping for his breath, Tom couldn't help but think back on the past 3 months and everything that had happened since then.

When Tom first arrived on this planet it was the 3rd month of the year 3000 on the after chaos calendar, which started around the same time that the Mantal kingdom was formed. Now, it was A.C 3000, 6th month.

In this time, Tom had fully immersed himself in the role of Tom Cardinal. He no longer thought of himself as inhabiting a vessel, rather he now thought of his current form as his own body, a thought process easy to achieve by virtue of the fact that his perceptions and sensations were all felt through this body.

Somewhat surprisingly, he also experienced his first birthday in this body because the original Tom Cardinal had been born at the end of the 3rd month in the year 2977. This meant that he had the body of a 24 year old man. The actual birthday though, was a small, close knit affair.

Tom also no longer thought of the Cardinal clan as some stranger mortals. Now, they were his clan, his family.

To a certain degree he was still distant from them and his feelings towards them was that of apathy, however, he also appreciated being part of a collective.

Although he hadn't had any friends for a large part of his life, perhaps Jacob being the only one, and being ok living relatively solitarily in his later years as a magic beast and then as a god, this didn't mean he objected to having them either. Infact, after his ascension and first meeting with Jacob, he was quite pleased tohave someone to talk and converse with. Such being the case, he decided to willingly settle in to his new position and had even begun conversing somewhat with those around them.

Tom thought back to how his current situation, lying on the ground after being forcefully knocked down, had come about as a direct result of a conversation he'd had with his father, Gerald Cardinal. Tom remembered how 3 months ago he had gone to see Gerald, to show him that he had broken through to the first level of body strengthening and to try and receive some cultivating resources from him.

When Gerald learned of what had occurred he was incredibly happy and the two had ended up conversing for quite some time. At the end of it Tom was actually successful in securing some cultivating resources from Gerald. Although Gerald didn't have any on him personally at the time, he told Tom that he would make arrangements within the clan to secure some for him and also that he would provide him some from his own personal stock.

Afterwards, Tom went to see Sarah and she, like her husband, was jubilant at the news he had to tell her. In this manner he was actually somewhat successful in his plan, which admittedly lacked forethought, to speak to people individually in order to obtain more cultivating resources. By catching her alone at her room, where she had the materials he was after, he was able to immediately obtain some lesser cultivating resources from her personal collection. Unfortunately, since Sarah was already in her 40's and was only at the 8th level of body strengthening, she wasn't considered a priority when it came to receiving resources from the clan. This meant that she didn't have many resources to begin with so Tom couldn't obtain much from her.

When all was said and done, Tom had obtained two dozen lesser qi stones, some qi imbued ointments and also some form of ingestible qi infused food. This was actually quite a good haul considering Tom's age and strength in the clan and he would have received even more, only; his grandfather, Frank Cardinal, the 4th elder of the clan, was away visiting the city of Raventree to the south east. Had he been home, Tom would likely have received more than he had.

Of the resources he received, the majority of them were provided by his father from his personal collection. In particular, the qi stones were largely provided by Gerald, with only a couple coming from Sarah and none from the clan.

Getting qi stones; even lesser ones, was unexpected for someone of Tom's level. Qi stones contained a more pure and dense natural qi than most other cultivating resources. In addition, the natural qi from qi stones could be easily and quickly absorbed and assimilated, making them very beneficial for cultivating and recovering ones qi. However, because of this, they would be reserved for the more talented members of the clan.

This was especially true since the Cardinal clan didn't actually control a mine that produced qi stones and so were limited in their number. Considering the size of the clan and the limited intake, qi stones were usually reserved for those that had at least reached the later levels of body strengthening or showed greater cultivating talent.

Although Tom was pleased with the haul he got and it benefited him substantially, there were also things he was displeased with. The qi stones were by far the best resources he received but the others he was as happy about.

The ointments he received from his mother and from the clan were used by rubbing it all over the body. This would create a hot and tingling feeling on the skin. This didn't actually feel particularly bad or uncomfortable but the problem was that the ointment had limited efficacy. Tom didn't know whether it was just because he was given lower level resources or because this type of resource wasn't very effective but he didn't feel that it was helping him much.

Aside from the qi stones and ointment there was also the ingestible food, however, this qi imbued food was truly terrible. It could hardly be called food at all.

There were two different types of this food. The first was a black viscous solution of unknown origin. The taste was bland, which was ok, but the texture was a problem. Its consistency made it difficult to swallow and Tom later found it gave him terrible stomach pains. After the first couple of times of trying it out he decided to stop altogether. Although his tolerance for pain was high, he wasn't willing to put himself through so much discomfort for such a small reward, as, like the ointments, this cultivating resource had a low efficacy.

The second food type resource he was given had similar problems. It had a higher efficacy than the other food but it was also much worse. It appeared as though it was once a cheese because there were spots of yellow on its largely grey yellow. Tom didn't know what had been done to it for it to have the colouration it did but it had a putrid smell and just as repulsive a taste. Also, like the black goop, this repugnant cheese also gave him stomach pains.

After eating this terrible foodstuff Tom went and had some strong words with his parents. The response he received was that it wasn't for everyone, which was also a response that he didn't particularly appreciate. To be frankly honest, Tom felt that merely being able to eat it without throwing up was a praiseworthy effort.

There were actually many other ingestible cultivation resources with much higher efficacy and without the unfavourable side effects, but, Tom didn't receive any of these. It could be said that because of his level of strength, the clan had basically just scraped the bottom of the barrel when his father had went to organise some resources for him.

Given the current situation, Tom decided to forgo the food type cultivating resources and just use the qi stones, the ointment and natural cultivation.

Over the course of the next 3 months, Tom spent a large portion of his time by cultivating. In these 3 months, with the aid of his newly acquired resources, he was able to progress from the 1st level of body strengthening to the 4th and felt like soon he would step into the 5th. Perhaps he already would have, if not for the fact that his time was split between cultivating and martial training.

Previously, Tom's job had been to carry out low level administrative work for the clan. However, now that he could cultivate the, situation had changed. Tom wanted to spend the majority of his time cultivating and was glad when his father told him he wouldn't have to waste his time with paperwork for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, at his father's insistence, Tom was forced into a martial training regimen. Tom found that his time had become split between cultivating and learning martial arts, which brought him to the situation he was currently in.


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