Later that day, when Tom was eating tea with his parents, Gerald brought up the topic of having Tom go out into the outside world.
"Tom" said Gerald suddenly, putting down his fork and looking at his son.
"Yes father?" said Tom.
Tom also put down his fork at this moment. He guessed that he would probably have to engage his father in further conversation.
"I and the other elders have discussed about what happened last night. The bandits clearly have people hidden in the city. That's why you got attacked last night and we can't be sure if they'll do it again"
"I see. That is troubling" Tom said, slightly exasperated.
He was frustrated that he still didn't have any real answers or solutions to this problem. He didn't even know if it'd be safe to walk the streets of Hill city.
[Well, it shouldn't be too dangerous but unexpected things will always happen]
He could of course just stay within the Cardinal estate, as he had done for the past 3 months, but that was starting to bore him. There was only so long he could stay cooped up in the same place without becoming annoyed. More than anything, he detested not having the freedom to go where he pleased.
"Are there any leads yet?" Sarah asked, concerned about her son.
"I'm afraid not. We couldn't find out anything about the man who attacked Tom other than the fact that he'd been drinking that evening in Benny's with another man. We've looked for this other man but no one knew who he was and we haven't been able to turn anything up" Gerald explained and then sighed.
"So no one really knows anything" Sarah said critically.
Gerald gave an awkward smile which was confirmation enough of Sarah's suspicions.
"Honestly, do you and the rest of the elders even know what you're doing? Did they even have any suggestions?" Sarah asked frustratingly.
"Yes. They did. They believe that so long as Tom is out of sight of the bandits, he'll also be out of their mind. It was suggested that he go to the outskirts of either the tainted forest or the haunted forest, to hunt his first qi beast"
"That's really the best they could come up with?" said Sarah in anger.
She was getting annoyed at the incompetence of the clan elders. It wasn't really their fault but since her only son had almost been killed the previous night, she was a bit emotional and needed to vent her anger.
She wanted a quick fix solution and retribution to fall on the heads of the bandits, but unfortunately, it just wasn't that simple. This was something that would take time, work and also a stroke of good luck. The elders hadn't been able to find the bandits yet because of how carefully they operated and it was really more of a case of waiting for them to make a mistake or stumbling upon them by chance.
"Actually, it's not that bad of an idea. I was reluctant at first as well but he is getting to that level of strength now. We've all done this as a rite of passage before and it's about time for him to do it too" said Gerald.
"So you want to send him out there now? For heaven's sake Gerald, he's only been training for 3 months now. Aside from his fighting abilities or current lack thereof, he doesn't know anything about qi beasts. He's never had to learn before. There was no point" said Sarah, stressing the dangers involved.
Because their son hadn't showed any promise in cultivation before, he hadn't been taught many of the things important to a cultivator. He'd had some basic swordsmanship training when he was young, but, after he hit 15 years of age and still hadn't accomplished any of the stages of preliminary cultivation, that had stopped. Furthermore, since he had never become a true cultivator, he had never been educated on the myriad of qi beasts and danger zones found throughout the kingdom.
"I hear you and you're right. I don't intend to send him out straight away. We'll wait until he reaches the 5th level of body strengthening and studies up a bit on qi beasts first. After that, he should be fine. Besides, he won't be alone. I'll send a team of my men with him and Lucian said he'll pick someone suitable to search along the roads for any bandits"
Hearing his words, Sarah finally felt relief. If this was the case, then she didn't have to be as concerned. Plus, she too had experienced a similar rite of passage when she was younger, going out to hunt a qi beast.
While this conversation was going on, Tom just sat there listening. He was feeling a bit indignant at the moment. He had stopped eating in order to speak with his father but although the conversation still continued to be about him, he no longer seemed to be involved it. However, it was at this moment that Gerald turned his attention back to Tom.
"Will you be fine with all that?" he asked
"I'm... open to it" Tom replied.
He had been mulling it over in his head and it didn't seem like the worst of ideas. Yes, there was an increased amount of danger, but, it would give him the freedom to move around and explore the kingdom a bit.
Plus, there were benefits to be gained by leaving the city and hunting qi beasts. The atmospheric and earthly qi was thinner in the cities so it would take him longer to cultivate if he spent all of his time in Hill city. Besides, he would be able to personally obtain cultivating resources by killing qi beasts.
Everything he had gotten so far in the way of resources, were only handouts from his parents and from the clan. They had helped him progress quickly through the beginning stages of body strengthening, but, the further he progressed, the more qi he would need to absorb.
The clan was generous to its talented members but they still had to ration what they had. After all, the clan only had a limited amount of resources and many members. Plus, they also had to cultivate the strength of their guards and general employees.
If the clan used everything they had, they could easily help promote the strength of its members but that would be at the cost of the future generations and a severe mismanagement of their future prospects. Well... perhaps it would be easy for them to make it back, but, they'd never done things this way before. Their current method of management had always benefited them and they saw no reason to change it, never mind completely overhaul it.
All of this meant that if Tom wanted to secure as many cultivating resources as possible, he would have to show both outstanding talent and also personally secure resources for himself with his own effort.
"Well it's decided then. You'll continue your training for the time being and when you've gotten strong enough you'll leave the city" said Gerald with enthusiasm in his voice and a smile on his face.
"There's just one thing I don't understand" Tom said to his father.
"Oh? What's that?" Gerald asked.
"You said that this was a way for me to be out of sight and mind from the bandits but surely, after killing a qi beast, I'll just be returning back to the city again.
"*Cough cough* that... well. You'll just have to stay out there for a short while until things calm down. I'm sure that after a month or two the bandits will have completely forgotten about you and you'll be able to get plenty of experience in the meantime"
"Very well" Tom answered back.
[I'm sure it'll be more exciting than staying in the city anyway]