“This pill has been specially formulated to assist you into entering the 2nd realm.” Liao An explained, hold up the pill in her small fingers.
“You… really found something like that for me?” Bao bi asked, growing slightly teary-eyed.
“It wasn’t a big deal.” She responded with a snort.
“Like hell it wasn’t!” Tigra was crying silently on the ship.
In just the body of Liao An, while continuing to watch Bao bi, she had spent years carefully gathering those components. Ingredients from the Heavenly realm would be far too powerful, so they had to use local lower realm ingredients. She had personally prepared herself and spent a week formulating this pill. It had been created specially and was lacking a single component. That component was Liao An’s vital yin!
That’s right, this pill was Tigra’s ace in the hole. She would reveal to Bao bi that to use the pill and break into the second realm, they would need to sleep together. After a magical night together, he would take the pill and begin cultivation in the morning. However, Midnight had already found the pill the second she took over Liao An, and when she went to clean Liao An up, Midnight had turned her cold gaze on Tigra.
“Your medicinal abilities have grown rusty. I am very disappointed. This pill is missing a core component. It would be ineffective in allowing Bao bi to reach the 2nd realm, and may even harm him.”
“That… yes… Master.” Tigra put her head down.
How could she explain that the pill was intended to be taken with Liao An? She absolutely could never reveal to this cold virgin that she had plotted to pop a young man’s cherry at the ripe age of ten using the body of a twelve-year-old. It sounded awful when you explained it like that! There were just some things that couldn’t be put into words.
“Luckily, I arrived. A small adjustment…” She pulled a few ingredients from the void and a flame flared to life and then dissipated just as quickly.
The fault in the pill that guaranteed Tigra some booty had been rectified, as well as her chances of tasting Bao bi. She became extremely depressed, to the point where Midnight wondered if she might have been too harsh on the girl. Admittedly, these pills they were dealing with were so tame that even calling them pills was an insult. It was no wonder that Tigra wasn’t able to make the pill properly. It was far too beneath her! At least, that’s how Midnight explained Tigra’s unhappiness in her mind.
“I-if he’s going to be moving up to the 2nd realm, I-I’ll stand as his protector!” Jiang Bo cried out.
When someone was intending to make a breakthrough, guards, companions, and friends would off stand guard. A person was at their weakest when they were breaking through, and anything that disturbed them could lead to death. Admittedly, breakthroughs between tiers didn’t require such an act, and breakthroughs between the 1st and 2nd realms rarely required such an act. However, if these men wanted Bao bi to fail the selection, they may make another move on him before the date while he’s in closed-door cultivation.
Jiang Bo still felt guilty that his friend lost his mother. If he hadn’t encouraged him to go out drinking, then Bao bi would have been able to protect his family. It was the least Jiang Bo could do in penance, watching after Bao bi as he took the pill.
“That won’t be necessary.” Liao An immediately cut his desires short. “I will stand watch over him. Besides, you will also be participating in this selection, will you not?”
“Huh? Th-that’s true!”
“Then, you don’t want to be left behind, do you?”
His face started to turn red. Admittedly, Liao An was also part of the selection, but she was so far ahead of everyone else, that there wasn’t even a question about her success during it. Furthermore, she’d be able to protect Bao bi better than anything Jiang Bo could provide. She had been drugged once, and that was a dirty trick, but otherwise, even Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue’s instructor had only reached the third realm. Even if he used the royal family to find a protector for Bao bi, he’d be hard-pressed to find someone superior to her.
“I don’t wish to fall behind.” He responded through clenched teeth, before shooting Liao An a pleading look. “You said that you made that pill. Pills often come in batches. Is it possible… nevermind.”
He was going to ask Liao An if she had any more pills. If these were powerful enough for Bao bi, they should be powerful enough for Jiang Bo. His family had made no plans except to have him rest until the selection. However, if his friend was going to be jumping a tier, then he should as well. Yet, it was far too much to ask a girl younger than him for pills. His pride as a prince wouldn’t allow it. He turned to leave, but he suddenly felt a tug at his purse. He reached down at touched it, and to his surprise, there were two pills inside. He spun back and gave Liao An a dumbfounded expression.
“It will be… healthy for Bao bi to have allies near his level. Take one. The other will be for your sister. I warn you though. For those at your level, these pills will be extremely dangerous. Take with caution. Only if you survive do you have the right to stand by Bao bi’s side.” Liao An sounded uncomfortable, but she also had an attitude that she wouldn’t turn back on her decision.
For Midnight, she wasn’t used to giving out favors. This was hardly anything to her. In reality, the pill Tigra had spent a week making and years gathering the resources for had all been for a single pill. When one reached their level, they didn’t waste resources making multiple pills. A single pill always sufficed. However, Midnight had figured out the recipe with a look, and the moment that Jiang Bo had turned away, she had decided to collect the supplies and create two more pills for this man and his sister.
Naturally, Tigra’s painstaking work was turned into a joke next to Midnight, who was able to replicate her work at the speed of a blink. Liao An didn’t even have the time to show a visible sign of Midnight leaving her body before the woman had completed her work and returned. She hadn’t moved to put the pills in Jiang Bo’s pocket. Instead, she pushed them through using a small split in space, adding a slight tug with air so he knew.
Bao bi, who was watching this, had much on his mind. Although he hadn’t seen Liao An put the pills in his pocket, he assumed she must have slipped them in his pouch sometime earlier when no one was looking. He’d never have guessed that the extra pills simply hadn’t existed until Midnight made a split-second decision to create them.
Jiang Bo closed his mouth, gave a respectful bow, and then turned and left. No more words needed to be spoken. Bao bi didn’t wish Jiang Bo goodbye either. He knew Jiang Bo was going to give it his all. He also didn’t want to see Jiang Bo fall behind. He also hoped that a pill that would bring him from the 1st realm to the second would be something Jiang Ying Yue could handle. She was only in the lower tiers of the 1st realm, after all. He trusted Liao An though and didn’t think she’d give his friends something that would intentionally hurt them.
“Then, let us begin. Take the pill.” Liao An turned back to Bao bi and spoke in a no-nonsense voice.
Remembering that in a moment of high emotions, he had sworn to obey her, Bao bi only hesitated for a second. It wasn’t that he was afraid of the pill. It was true that he could feel a power resonating off of it, but such things didn’t bother him. Rather, he was going to be cultivating for a while, and he wasn’t sure if the middle of the mansion, immediately after there was an attack, with dead bodies of friends and servants still on the floor was the best time. He only hesitated a moment though and then swallowed the pill anyway.
Had he been strong enough, those dead bodies wouldn’t have been there. That was what he decided. Liao An nodded after she took the pill as if this also was all in her calculations.
Bao bi sat down and crossed his legs, closing his eyes as he began to concentrate within. That’s when he heard movements around him and opened his eyes. He was shocked to see that Liao An was placing profound stones around him. It couldn’t be understated just how valuable these were, and she had placed nearly fifteen around him. His father had nearly killed himself just acquiring one a month, and here she was with over a dozen.
“Close your eyes!” She barked. “You must concentrate on extracting the energy. You will absorb the energy into your cells until you feel they are about to burst, then you must draw it all into your center. This will begin the formation of your dantian.”
Bao bi snapped his eyes closed, and instead began to concentrate as she commanded. The warmth inside him was starting to grow, but he made sure to listen to her. He might have impulsively kept the energy at his core, but she had told him to spread it into his cells, so he did that instead. He eased the energy out of his center and then sent it to every appendage. His cells seemed to eagerly absorb the energy. As this happened, he also felt his cells eagerly absorbing the energy around him too. That would explain the profound stones, which emitted concentrated and clean power for him to absorb.
At first, Bao bi was able to do fine, although the burning feeling continued to grow. Sweat started to form in droplets on his brow as he continued to pull out the increasing amounts of energy. However, after some untold amount of time, the energy being produced in his core continued to grow, but he found himself unable to pull the energy away fast enough. He began to feel a pain in his gut as the power inside grew.
This was the part where Liao An vital yin would have calmed the raging yang, allowing the absorption to move smoothly. However, Midnight had changed the very nature of the pill, and Bao bi didn’t extract her vital yin. Instead, she had created a time-delay that only blocked some of the chaotic power. It still wasn’t pleasant, and Bao bi finally keeled over, coughing up blood. This startled him, and his eyes opened once again.
“I’ve had medicines cause bloody stool, but this is the first time I’ve coughed up blood. Are you sure?”
“Fool!” She hissed. “Concentrate or you’ll lose…”
“Aggggghhhhh!” Bao bi had let his concentration slip, just as she had feared.
He had always been someone who was easy-going and didn’t try to force things. Meanwhile, the strength inside him was something that required extreme focus and a tenacious spirit. He had to wrestle with that power, bending it to his will. This was simply not something in Bao bi’s nature. Up until now, he had never truly needed to fight profound energy. It had always flowed through him naturally, and even after repeated warnings, he hadn’t taken Liao An too seriously.
Had it been Tigra, she understood Bao bi the best. However, it was Midnight in control, and she neither understood how to deal with ten-year-olds, mortals, or men.
“Concentrate!” She snapped.
“Agggghhh… it hurts!” Bao bi bellowed.
“If you keep it up, you will die. You must control things properly!”
“I can’t, it’s too much!” He screamed.
He was now writhing on the floor, and after losing control of the energy, it became even more chaotic. Midnight grew extremely confused. This was supposed to be moving from the 1st realm to the 2nd realm. This was hardly worth concerning herself over. Although the pill originally had faults, Midnight had resolved those faults flawlessly, so Bao bi should have been able to absorb the pill smoothly. Midnight didn’t make mistakes, so why were the results not working the way she expected.
Bao bi began beating at his chest, his nails digging at his chest and tearing out pieces of skin. He felt like his chest was about to explode. This was many times more painful than when he died. That had only been a heart attack. This felt like a heart bomb.
In her million years of life, there were few times when Midnight had felt this strange feeling inside her. Did it feel like… helplessness? She felt anxiety and fear. She had already spent ten years preparing this boy, and if he died, then her ultimate goals in life would never succeed. How could she fail so soon in her journey? She had never faced a setback before, and now that she was faced with one, she truly didn’t know what to do.
She could reach in a pull the power out, but this would irreparably harm his progress. They’d be back to square one. She’d need to do many special things to repair his body, and then recreate a dantian. That didn’t account for the heart demons he would face as well. It would be ten times more difficult to progress with him in the future. She had no choice though. She would need to take a firmer hand in this world. She would need to lead him like a baby. She felt a bitterness inside of her. Ugly feelings came boiling to the surface, feeling the Midnight Queen hadn’t felt in her entire life. It was the feeling of defeat.
She gasped as a hand touched her shoulder. Midnight turned to see Tigra looking at her.
“Let me control Liao An.”
Midnight’s face flashed in fury. Was Tigra mocking her? Did she think she could do something that Midnight could not? She was just about to lash out, but then her eyes met Tigra’s. They were incredibly calm. They didn’t hold her typical fear or her foolishness. They held compassion and peacefulness that Midnight had never see before.
Down on the surface, Liao An’s expression flickered, and the rigid, high-strung personality seemed to melt into a coldly aloof one. Liao An looked down at the writhing Bao bi with a gentle smile. She kneeled and put Bao bi’s head in her lap.
“Bao bi… listen.” She spoke.
“Please, focus on my voice.”
Bao bi’s cries started to weaken. He could hear her calling him through the pain. Something deep inside him told him that he had to listen.
“You need to tell me what it feels like.”
“I need you to explain how it hurts.”
“B-burning… I can’t, I can’t move it to the cells, it won’t go fast enough…”
Tigra frowned as she scanned Bao bi’s body. Her fingers gently stroked his hair, now slick with sweat. She was vaguely conscious of the Midnight Queen staring at her on the ship, but her focus was entirely on him at that moment. After checking everything, a realization suddenly came to her.
“The cells in your body… they already contain profound energy!” Liao An spoke. “A normal body has no profound energy, so the cells eagerly accept all of the strength. However, you had already created an external dantian by absorbing profound energy into your cells. You’ve simply run out of space. They are no longer able to be filled anymore.”
“Of course…” Midnight’s eyes widened, feeling both shock and surprise that she hadn’t realized it herself.
“Bao bi… expel all the energy in your cells. Just force it outside of your body. Don’t worry, I won’t allow it to be lost.”
Liao An began to make various hand gestures above Bao bi’s head. Bao bi forced himself to regain his reason and then did as she asked. With a roar, he began to push out. An explosion erupted from his body, but just a few inches from his skin it struck a barrier. This caused Bao bi to glow like some kind of angelic being. As the profound energy was released from his body, it created a highly concentrated layer over his skin. It was akin to bathing in profound light. Meanwhile, his cells that had expelled all of the energy previously began to soak up the energy from his core, creating a state where pure energy was linked through his body.
In those moments, his physical form began to blur, and he began to merge with his environment. It only lasted a fraction of a moment, but it was enough to cause Midnight great shock. Such an event like this didn’t happen until someone left the mortal realm. Abandoning your mortal shell and becoming one with the universe around you was the primary step to shedding your mortal life and becoming a heavenly being. It might have only been for a moment, but Bao bi was only ten and this was only the 2nd realm. Such a thing should have been impossible.
As Bao bi continued to baptize in profound energy, Tigra and Midnight began to relax. He was no longer in danger. The majority of the profound energy from the pill had been absorbed already, and in a short while, he’d be reversing the flow, creating his dantian. In Bao bi’s case, however, at this rate, his dantian would be near twice the size of a normal dantian.
Tigra had predicted that Bao bi’s ability to hold energy in his cells would function as a second dantian, providing him an edge over his peers. Although by the time he reached the 4th realm, the advantage would be so slight as to be meaningless. However, she never would have predicted that this same function would also allow him to create a far larger dantian than a normal person, as well as beginning the signs of forging a link with the universe. It seemed like the benefits of his peculiar body were only starting to reveal themselves, and this might cause a cascade of effects down the line, making him grow exponentially more powerful. Bao bi’s future was uncertain, and there was no telling how far he would go in the future.
Of course, Tigra already knew the end of his path. She glanced subtly toward Midnight. At the end of it all, he would become merely a stepping stone for Midnight to achieve godhood. That was how this was always going to end.
Bao Bi’s energy finally began to reverse, and as everything was sucked into his body, the glow outside began to dim. His skin had softened and whitened by several times, and all the scars and imperfections on his body had been washed away. Deep inside him, a spiritual sea began to churn. His dantian had been made and connected to his veins, and it was near twice the size of a normal dantian. On top of that, his body could still absorb even more profound power. Bao bi had reached the 2nd realm, he was now in the Mortal Origin Realm.