Bào bǐ followed the energy, looking around in wonder. This ended up leading him out the front door. The energy seemed to lead away his house, collecting in a field outside. When he traced the trail back to the source, he found the spot his father usually meditated. It was an area about one hundred meters from the house. The energy there was incredibly thick. Bào bǐ could see this, but at the same time, it didn’t block his vision in the slightest.
It was dark outside, but his eyesight also seemed to have improved a bit. At the very least, he could see his father clearly, who was out at night doing his daily meditations. He could see his father sitting there on a stump, his legs crossed and his eyes closed. Curiously, Bào bǐ approached his father. He had been told in the past to not disturb Xaoi Yun when he was cultivating, but at the moment, he was more interested in the energy he only now could see and feel. The thick energy building around him felt somewhat comforting and alluring, like a fresh mist on a hot day. Neither Bào bǐ nor his father would know this, but the spot where the energy was most condensed from was the exact spot that Midnight had opened a portal into this world over two years ago.
“My son, I felt the disturbance of spiritual energy in the house.” Xaoi Yun suddenly spoke up. “You can see spiritual energy?”
Xaoi Yun opened his eyes and looked over at Bào bǐ. He had honestly been quite surprised when he had felt the movement of spiritual energy coming from his home. His wife rarely cultivated. She didn’t have the curse, and could quickly pass over her husband in cultivation if she wanted to. Not only would this further shame him, but it would cause more troubles for both of them. Xaoi Lan was already a beautiful woman, and increasing her purity would make her even more beautiful. The thing she dreaded most almost happened earlier that day. If some cultivator fancied her, there was little she could do. The cultivation world grew more dangerous the higher you climbed, and that was double so for women, which men liked to use to dual cultivate. Simply put, it was in her best interest to remain a low level cultivator, less she draw trouble to their family that Xaoi Yun lacked the power to defend against.
Regrettably, she couldn’t help her husband cultivate in the matter of dual cultivation. She had already performed a hundred strokes with him before she had started cultivating. She hadn’t known of such concepts when she started her relationship with Xaoi Yun. If she knew, she surely would have cultivated aggressively for several years, and only slept with Xaoi Yun when she could help him grow his cultivation by several levels. Of course, if she did that, Bào bǐ would never have been born, and that was a sacrifice she wouldn’t trade for the world.
Bào bǐ nodded to his father in confirmation, gesturing to the sparkling energy around them. “Father, what is this?”
Xaoi Lan had explained to Xaoi Yun earlier than Bào bǐ’s vocabulary had spontaneously expanded, but hearing about it and actually experiencing it were two very different things. He could only shake his head that his son’s mind had expanded so quickly. With him breaking through and cultivating for the first time tonight, Xaoi Yun assumed that the two must be related. Whatever allowed Bào bǐ to have the capacity to cultivate at such a young age must be related to his strange development.
Even if it was odd, it was also a blessing. Now that Bào bǐ started to cultivate, he had no choice but to continue. Xaoi Yun worried that his son could be hurt, but he had no choice but to teach him everything he knew. Since that was the case, Xaoi Yun would have a head start on most kids. While it was true that children were supposed to start being taught at ten, the wealthy and powerful often pushed their kids to start earlier to get a head start. Whereas Midnight wasn’t willing to risk the death of Bào bǐ, many fathers would push their sons into cultivation around 6, even with a death rate of around 5%. Of course, that rate also depended on how quickly the kid matured, and whether the family could afford medicinal pills, herbs, and safe techniques which were often safeguarded by powerful clans.
The earlier a cultivator started, the more potential he had, and every parent wanted their kid to have the most potential. For some families, the success of their children was directly proportional to their family’s future status. Once a year, the local Xaoi sect would take in mortals with potential, but the truth was, no one would be selected unless they at least reached the stage of seeing energy. They were not true cultivators yet, but they’d taken the first step. A couple who entered the annual Xaoi admittance competition were even at the first stage of purification and usually ended up as the leaders at the top of the outer sect disciples, and were the most likely to become inner disciples.
“My son, you have taken your first step into the world of immortal cultivation. As you may know, I was once a cultivator of the Xaoi sect. When I failed to progress, I was kicked from the sect for good. That was why I came to live out here and work among mortals as a loose cultivator.”
“I’ve heard the term cultivation a lot.” Bào bǐ decided to stop hiding his true intelligence and ignorance for that matter from his parents. “Is that the thing where you absorb spirit energy and grow powerful?”
Xaoi Yun raised an eyebrow in surprise. “So, you’ve reasoned out that much? Good… good. However, power is only one of the desires of a cultivator. Naturally, the ultimate goal is immortality!”
Immortality? The ability to live forever. Bào bǐ thought back to an event years before. A terrifying woman threatened to meet him in heaven. If Bào bǐ became a cultivator and achieved immortality, wouldn’t that mean he’d never die? That meant, he’d never have to see that woman again!
“So, dad and mom will live forever?”
“Geh…” Xaoi Yun grunted and put on a wry smile. “Actually, while immortality is the goal, no one has ever reached it. However, an extension of life is guaranteed. Your mother and I will likely live well into our nineties, wheras most mortals are dead by their 50s. If we kept progressing, we could live hundreds, if not thousands of years.”
“What would you do with a thousand years?” Bào bǐ pondered out loud.
“Naturally, you’d cultivate! And ponder the universe.” Xaoi Yun declared.
“Becoming a cultivator requires constant cultivation. It’ll take thousands of years to increase your cultivation.” Xaoi Yun expained.
Bào bǐ frowned. “Wait a minute. What you’re saying is that by cultivating, you increase your longevity, so that you have more time to cultivate?”
“Isn’t that like working, so you can pay for your car, but only needing your car to get to work?” Bào bǐ suggested, frankly unimpressed.
“What is that? What are you implying?” Xaoi Yun frowned.
“I don’t know… I just think you can do a lot in a short lifetime. Spending a hundred years ‘cultivating’ so you can live for another hundred years to ‘cultivate’ is a bit of a waste. I prefer to live my life fully. I’d rather spend those one hundred years seeing the world, meeting people, sleeping with beautiful women!”
A vein was popping on Xaoi Yun’s forehead, who realized his son just wasn’t getting it. “Of course, everyone wants to sleep with beautiful women all the time! And why are you thinking about that, you’re three!”
“Eh? Even Dad? But you have Mom?”
“That’s not the issue! Most powerful cultivators have a harem of women at their beck and call anyway! With power, comes women. Even grandpa has concubines!”
Bào bǐ’s eyes narrowed, “Oh, so you want to cheat on mom with other women, that’s why you cultivate?”
“Bào bǐ!” Xaoi Yun clenched his teeth, although he wasn’t really angry at his son, more himself for failing to portray the grandeur of cultivation properly. “What I’m saying is that with the power that comes with cultivation, you can do anything!”
“So, there are only a few cultivators then?”
“No…” Xaoi Yun frowned, not sure where Bào bǐ was going with this. “There are billions upon billions of cultivators, some have powers so incredible we couldn’t even imagine them.”
“Then, if you practice cultivation, won’t you just move from being under a mortal’s thumb to being under a cultivator’s? And in fact, if everyone becomes a cultivator simply for power, wouldn’t that mean the billions and billions of cultivators stronger than you are just going to boss you around.”
“That’s why you become stronger!”
“But… unless you reach the top, you’re always going to be someone’s bitch.”
“Where did you even learn that word?” Xaoi Yun interjected.
“Isn’t that the word you called mom last night while you two were…”
“Ahem… moving on…” Xaoi Yun blushed. “You were saying…”
“So, given that a small number of people ever reach the top, doesn’t becoming a cultivator instead make it more likely you’ll be subjugated by someone stronger then? You’re more likely to be one of the billions on the bottom rather than one of the thousands at the top, right?”
“I feel like we’ve started this conversation on the wrong foot.” Xaoi Yun sighed, putting his palm to his forehead. “How about we try this a different way.”
He stood up and walked over to a nearby tree. He moved into a position not completely unlike the one Bào bǐ himself had used on that kid earlier that day.
“AAaaaaaaahhhh!” his father let out a shout as he let his fist fly.
His fist moved incredibly fast, with enough power than some of the air blew back Bào bǐ’s hair. Overall, it was quite an impressive scene. The sound emitted from his fist was like a whip, and he hit the trunk dead on with a crack. When the air settled, a moment later, the sound of wood groaning could be heard. There were more cracks, and finally, the large tree broke in half, collapsing on the ground. Punching down a tree in a single hit was certainly an impressive feat. Even Steve needed a few seconds.
“So, cultivation is about woodchopping without an axe…” Bào bǐ mused.
He was honestly just joking, as this was a bit impressive, but his father didn’t know him well enough to catch on to that. He gave his son a look like he was going to vomit blood, and then immediately turned around.
“Follow me, Bào’er, I want to show you something.” With that, he headed back into the house.
Bào bǐ followed closely behind, still contemplating the amount of strength his father had put out with his fists. He recalled when he had struck that boy earlier that day. His fist felt like it was hitting an anvil. He didn’t make a big deal of it at the time, but it had hurt his hand a bit. He was used to ignoring pains when it was convenient though, so he hadn’t let it slip.
The location his father was guiding him turned out to be his study. He went back and grabbed one of the empty scrolls that Bào bǐ had tried to read once long ago. Carefully unfolding it on his desk, he beckoned Bào bǐ over. Bào bǐ wasn’t expecting to see anything, so he was quite surprised when he could see the text on the scroll, which seemed to glow slightly.
“It’s written in spirit energy.” Xaoi Yun explained. “These words were written in spirit ink and could only be read once someone had gained the ability to see spirit energy. I shouldn’t even have these scrolls, as they are of the Xaoi sect, but when I was banished, I managed to make copies of all of the techniques I had access to. It’d be enough to start a small clan if the Xaoi sect wouldn’t learn about their techniques being emulated and wipe us out in an instant.”
“Wow…” Bào bǐ was seriously impressed as he looked down at it.
The words were legible, and they felt somewhat profound to him. He almost felt a pull, a tug to try to contemplate their meanings. Looking at it, he felt like his understanding was just on the cusp. It was like a magic eye image, where starring at it long enough could unveil a hidden picture underneath.
“This is what cultivation is about.” Xaoi Yun said finally. “True, people cultivate for power. They cultivate for women. They cultivate for immortality. For strength. For money. However, at its core, it is about fundamentally understanding our universe. It’s about gaining knowledge and using that knowledge. Do you understand now, my son?”
Bào bǐ nodded dumbly.
“A mortal’s path to becoming a heavenly cultivator is a long one, which takes nine great realms or acts. Each realm performs an essential step needed to reach the next, with the final step being to ascend to heaven.”
Bào bǐ blinked. Heaven? Heaven was a place in this world? Not death? He didn’t have long to dwell on it though, as his father continued.
“The first realm, the one you took the first step towards, is the realm of purification. You clean your body, removing toxins and waste. You refine your body into something different. You won’t absorb much spirit energy at this stage, but spirit energy can help siphon off and expel waste. After you’ve expelled 50% of your toxins, you will become a 1sttier mortal purification cultivator.
“Every three tiers gives the potential for a bottleneck. This defines the lower, middle, and high section, which includes an impressive increase with each. That is why I have remained a third tier of the mortal purification realm. I haven’t been able to take the next step to fourth. It’s also why I was kicked out of the clan. The number of resources it would have taken costed more than the Xaoi clan was willing to stomach, especially after my father exhibited similar problems.”
“If grandpa also has these issues, why was he not kicked out?”
“Grandpa had managed to increase his rank until an accident damaged his veins, so he is much stronger than I am. He’s also married to my mother, who is a normal cultivator, although not particularly high ranking. They tried to prevent my exile from the clan, but Mother is not a Xaoi, and uncle hated and was jealous of my father, so he made sure I paid the price of failure. As for my grandfather, your great grandfather, he disowned us both the moment our veins were damaged.
“What are veins?”
“Veins is the means of moving spirit energy. If you manage to make it through the Mortal Purification, the next great realm involves forcing open your spiritual points. There are nine spiritual points, each one leading from the outside world into your veins. Once all nine are open, you can absorb spirit energy at your maximum. That is called Mortal Origin realm.
“What are the other realms?”
Xaoi Yun chuckled. “Ambitious, are we? The third realm is Mortal Maturation. In essence, you accumulate spirit energy until you can swell and grow your veins. The forth realm is Mortal Condensation, you condense your spirit energy from a gas to a liquid, and finally, form a solid known as the spirit core. The fifth stage is Mortal Revolution. You spin the core, drawing spirit into a spiritual sea. I wouldn’t worry about any more than that.”
“Why is that?” Bào bǐ blinked in surprise.
“Even grandfather is only at the low-tier Mortal Revolution, and he’s the strongest in the sect. If you could reach that tier, the Xaoi clan would take notice.”
“There is a difference between sect and clan?” Bào bǐ blinked.
“This world is very large, my son.” Xaoi Yun smiled. “There is more out there than just Demishire. Our sect only controls Demishire and the surrounding region run by my grandfather. That sounds small, but our territory actually engulfs three entire mortal countries. Demishire is the only city where mortals and cultivators can communicate in a 3000 km area. The reason it is so small is that the Xaoi sect limits the population of mortals allowed to live here. Only the most wealthy and connected can enter Demishire. Most mortals will never see a cultivator in their entire lives. In some parts, people don’t even believe they exist. This is the world you were born to, the world beyond the world.
“The Demishire Xaoi sect is one of twenty sects loyal to the main clan. The clan is vast, and covers a territory unfathomable to the likes of us.”
“So, the Xaoi clan rules the entire world?”
Xaoi Yun chuckled. “You’re still thinking too narrowly. As I said, this world is far larger than you can imagine. If a man were to start walking, he’d never return to where he started, not in a hundred lifetimes. The Xaoi clan was founded by our family’s forefathers almost two thousand years ago. We have much history. As a Xaoi family member, you are part of that history. However, if you want to find out how far that history runs, your only chance is to cultivate to a level high enough to visit the Xaoi clan. It’s an honor even great grandpa has never had. Despite being two hundred years old, grandpa is still trying to reach the next level of cultivation and be noticed by the main clan.
“Two hundred!” Bào bǐ let out a sound of disbelief.
Xaoi Yun nodded. “I said longevity increases. In fact, grandpa will likely live another hundred years given his level!”
A three hundred year lifespan! It only soured Bào bǐ’s mood slightly when he realized most of that time was going to be spent cultivating.
“So, son…” Xaoi Yun put his hand on Bào bǐ’s shoulder. “Will you join me? Will you become a cultivator like your father?”
There was a flash of those terrifying eyes from his past. The scary woman wanted him to join her in heaven. He now knew that heaven was the endgame to mortal cultivation. However, it was a goal completely out of his reach. Bào bǐ didn’t know if he wanted to cultivate forever, but Bào bǐ was already familiar with the first realm, detoxification. He’d gone on many detoxes during his time as a porn star. Who knew that getting the shits and wearing magnets was cultivation that made you stronger?
“Yes, father.” He finally nodded, deciding it was worth a shot.
If Xaoi Yun had really known the thoughts going through his child’s head, he would have been stunned speechless.