Chapter Twelve: The Hope Not Lost
Valerian was floored by this news. It was downright unbelievable, but he knew better than to doubt the man. If he said he had advanced then he had. But when? How? These were just some of the questions whirling through his head. Unfortunately he did not have time to ruminate on them though. His uncle was advancing towards him with a furious look on his face.
“What. Did. You. Do?” the man enunciated.
Fear rushing straight from his heart Valerian retreated even further whilst yelling out, “Nothing! I swear!”
“What nothing? You were told not to take any more stupid risks and not to attempt qi cultivation until a solution had been found”, his uncle growled.
“But I didn’t! I only cultivated my arcane energy!” Valerian yelled frantically. He was right and truly scared in the face of his uncle’s wrath. It was not the first time the man’s anger had been directed toward him. It was the second. The first was back when he first woke up after the cultivation accident. Back then Valerian thought he was going to die.
Apparently his uncle had meant it when he told Valerian to come to him with any problems or questions regarding his qi cultivation. He became very mad when he realised that all the problems, or at least most have been avoided if Valerian had just come to him with his problem. It was a side to him that Valerian had never confronted before that day and one he had hoped never to again. Too bad things never worked out like planned.
Seeing that he was scaring his nephew Richard forcefully reminded himself that despite his maturity and talent Valerian was still only eight years old. He could not always bark at him like he was a subordinate officer. So he visibly calmed himself before inquiring.
“What are you not telling me?”
Valerian scrambled for answers. What could have caused his advancement? What had changed since the last training session? Then a lamp lit up in his mind.
“I’ve formed the perfect arcane vessel in my arcane cultivation manual!” he blurted out.
Richard’s eyes bulged out. A perfect arcane vessel! He knew what that meant. It meant that the person’s entire body, cells and all were capable of channelling arcane energy and absorbing world essence. He knew that Valerian was training in the Manifold Elemental Incarnations, the same method as his brother. It was hypothesised that the method could possibly allow someone to fashion his body into a perfect arcane vessel but that had never happened.
Not to his knowledge at least. What was the perfect vessel? It was the pinnacle and not something so easily reached. The average method allowed a person to create channels in the body for the purpose of conducting arcane energy. The wider the channels the more energy could pass through them. The more numerous the pathways, the more energy that could be absorbed from nature.
This meant that person could cultivate his arcane energy faster and control it better. Bear in mind that was only with a normal method. Someone with a perfect vessel would have a training speed tens of times faster than normal and an arcane pool dozens of times greater. For Valerian to manage this. Something no one it the clan had done before…
Still that did not explain how he had advanced to the middle phase of the bone transformation stage. Having a perfect arcane vessel was a boon to arcane cultivation not qi cultivation. Or was it? Richard’s mind spun. Dual force users were practically unheard off. Who knew what having both forces present did to the body especially their essence.
Sudden comprehension dawned within his eyes and he turned away from Valerian and started walking out of the courtyard.
“Come with me!”
Valan looked at a departing Valerian with a pensive but hopeful look. The entire family, Valerian excluded were all in the hall with him. They had all conducted independent tests and confirmed that indeed the boy had not only achieved a perfect arcane vessel but had also advanced to the middle phase of the bone transformation stage.
Funny how they were more excited by the latter, an ordinary achievement instead of the former, a feat no one in the clan’s history had ever accomplished.
Valan faced his family with a small smile in his face, the first one in a week. Unconsciously his back straightened up and that often seen elegant air wafted off him. “Richard! You brought the news, any thoughts?”
Clearly, for this moment at least the magistrate was back to his usual self – Aptly playing the wise man. It raised the spirits of everyone present. Seeing him despondent over the last few days had brought the entire home to a new low reminding them how his antics livened up the household.
“I am not sure but I think there has to be some synergy between his arcane energy and his qi. We all know that while a person might have only one force cultivating it indirectly cultivates his essence meaning that he gains both effects albeit at a much lower level. An arcanist increasing his arcane energy, strengthens his essence thereby gaining a small boost to his physical form. That is why sage tier arcanists can have bodies on the same level or stronger than entry level tellurian lords.
The effect is probably stronger in Valerian’s case since he has both forces”, Richard speculated.
The magistrate revealed nothing only saying. “Good. Good. That’s a reasonable hypothesis. Jonas, you?”
Jonas exchanged glances with his brother. Both of them could clearly recall the times as kids when they were queried in pretty much the same way. The three-way competition back then had been very intense. Now they were older, Valiant was gone and still they continued. To their uncle every event was an opportunity to teach them and test their knowledge.
“You always say that the simplest solution is the probable one. In forming a perfect arcane vessel Valerian obviously upgraded his bones in a manner not completely unlike bone transformation and thus elevated their change to the middle phase. After all, both processes require flushing the body with essence and so whilst the Manifold Elemental Incarnations may not be meant to improve strength and toughness it brought them up a grade”, he proclaimed.
The magistrate nodded slowly giving nothing away before turning to face Alfred. The child minder hysterically shook his head and shrugged to show that he knew nothing. To his great fortune the magistrate chose not to press him.
“It’s nice to know you still remember my lessons on essence theory”, Valan begun. “Your answers were spot on. Each addressed a different yet plausible reason. That is how advancements are made. It why I always remind you, start with a plausible statement hoping to explain the phenomenon then rigorously test…”
“Spell it out dear!” his wife interrupted. Everyone was eager to know the truth. She in particular was too anxious to listen to him circle the issue.
The magistrate blushed slightly and after a small cough continued. “You were both right. The synergy between Valerian’s forces is there and the two forces are indeed complementary even more so than you realise, but that is an issue for the higher tiers not the stages of the first. Also, by flushing his bones and transforming them according to that arcane method Valerian did indeed improve his bones just not in the way you think.
That does not mean that your answers did not cut the heart of the matter far from it. You just neglected a small piece of information that would have guided you to the truth. That piece of information concerns Valerian’s special physique.
Let’s ignore the Steelborn legacies and even the O’be curse for now. What have we overlooked?”
“His mother’s legacy!” both brothers exclaimed.
“Yes! His mother’s legacy. Need I remind you that his body was already transforming itself even before he begun actual cultivation. It was absorbing world essence on its own to alter his bones. Forget whatever small increase the essence flushing did for his bones or the negligible increase in physical form. What do you think is happening now that he has a perfect vessel and his essence absorption has multiplied by a hundred fold?” the magistrate elaborated.
“So basically the more essence his body absorbs the more it transforms”, his wife clarified.
Valan lips twitched. He nearly pouted at having his momentum upset twice in a row but he didn’t. Clara loved to mess with him and she’d only do it more if she realised that it got to him. Not that she wouldn’t anyway.
“Yes”, he ended up affirming.
She frowned. “That poses a problem though”, she started. “His initial growth was so slow we almost missed it. All this time he was still transforming unconsciously and yet remained at the very beginning; the preliminary phase of the first stage of the first tier. He might have gotten a boost now but it will wear off quickly.
Each successive breakthrough will require many times as much essence as the one before it. He already has the perfect vessel. He can’t improve it further and its main yield is to his arcane energy. The tellurian aspect is just a side effect. Very soon his essence absorption will not be able to keep up then his transformation speed slow down to what it was previously, maybe even slower. At that rate it will be a decade or two before he is a consolidated practitioner”.
The faces of everyone present fell at this. Well, nearly everyone. The magistrate still had his easy going smile on his face.
“It seems another person has benefited from my lessons. Wait! She was already brilliant when I married her!” he said teasingly.
“You have a plan” Clara stated.
“Of course! I always have a plan”, Valan confirmed.
Silence settled into the hall while they waited on him. However it soon became evident that the old magistrate was not going to say anything. Everyone tuned to his wife knowing that if she didn’t intervene they’d have to resort to /that/. Understanding their intent, the magistrate’s wife prodded him.
“Well what?” he shot back.
“What’s the plan?” she asked.
“Plan?” he asked in a confused tone. Inwardly he was rejoicing at having at least gained some payback for earlier. Interrupting him…humph!
“Delrein’s sake Valan! Cut it out or so help me…”
On hearing her tone the magistrate immediately decided that maybe he shouldn’t push her too far.
“The solution is simple!” he announced. “If all he requires is essence then we just have to supply it”.
Jonas was startled. “Would that really work?”
“It should”, his uncle confirmed. “Thus far he has been working with world essence unfortunately like your Aunt pointed out that would not remain effective for long. However if we were to supplement his essence intake somehow then…”
“His body should be able to work with that”, his wife finished. Unable to help it he shot her a dark look. She just smiled demurely in response.
Ignoring the old couple’s play Richard couldn’t help but point out, “That seems a little….”
“It should. The process would be very wasteful. It doesn’t matter what we get him. Pills, elixirs, daemon meat, cores, spirit herbs, what have you he will only be able to half refine them at most since he can’t move his qi and he definitely shouldn’t refine them into arcane energy. Even if he could convert them to qi we would then have to determine whether the process would work with qi instead of raw essence. However it is the only thing we can do to help him”, the man admitted.
“We should go to the clan, tell them what we have found. If we get them to reinstate the provisions for his tellurian cultivation and even increase it we would not have to worry…” Jonas tried to say before he was interrupted.
“NO!” the old magistrate yelled emphatically. “We have been insulted enough. I am not ready to go back and grovel before those myopic cretins. Besides, do you really think those elders would sign off on such an experiment? Even if they did I would not accept it. Let them continue to fund his arcane studies Clara and I will pick up the cost of the materials”.
He glanced towards her as he said this and she nodded to indicate her support. She even moved closer to him allowing him to wrap an arm around her waist.
“It will be very expensive!” Jonas reminded them.
He understood were the man was coming from but he also loved his uncle and didn’t want him to make any rash decision out of pride. A decision he might regret later. In spite of this, when looking at the old man he saw nothing but grim determination and so he had no choice but to assent to his decision. Richard on the other hand was wholly in support of this. It showed in his eyes.
“Don’t worry”, their uncle assured them. “I have a lot more saved up than you realise. In addition, Valiant’s fortune is still with me and it is untouched. While our belts will be tight for a while, we will not go hungry”.
Seeing the sombre look on Jonas’ face the magistrate merely laughed and said, “Don’t worry. Really it will be fine. Remember that before the true depth of Valerian’s talent was discovered your Aunt and I were going to fund his education on our own.
For now, you should focus on Valerian’s training. In the meantime, Alfred I will write down a list for you. You will then go the market and purchase the items we need to test my little theory”.
Soon the talk in the hall dissolved into planning and suggestions on what they should do. Meanwhile, on the other side of the North wall of that very same hall, a young boy opened his eyes. The intense expression of concentration left his face and he pushed off the wall to walk back to his room. His talent for eavesdropping was proving its worth. He had heard all he needed to hear.