Now that he had nothing more to focus on than just drawing the energy, Arthur found himself able to improve the Yin-Yang Exchange at a more efficient and faster rate. The influx of Yang energy into his body, the way the Yin-aspected cells drew it in and transformed it took him a while to understand and grasp, to manipulate such that it could be used to speed up.
The conversion process was a draining, as the energetic Yang energy slowly lost its luster, growing slower and colder, cooling down and transforming as it did so. The conversion process then was a question of redirection, of shifting the extreme heat and energy of the bled off energy to another location.
At first, Arthur attempted to contain the energy in one location, bleeding off the high-energy to his dantian. However, all that did was increase the amount of pain he was feeling. In fact, he could almost believe that by adding the energy to the core of his dantian, he was creating a mini-sun within himself.
Useful, perhaps, for another cultivator. Incredibly painful for Arthur such that it had left him curled up, pounding the ground in pain once again till he had it under control.
His next attempt was to shift it to his extremities, to the outer layer of his skin and then his aura. That was somewhat more sucessful, since the process of exchange with the outside world, with the Tower was constant. It did mean that he literally put himself in a sauna, his skin red and flushed as he processed the refined energy into Yin, with a rather significant loss in energy conversion.
He could not, of course, get a proper measurement of how much he loss, but it seemed of the Yang energy – about half of the core in most cases – he only recovered about twenty percent via this method. The rest was either stuck in the growing ball of energy within his dantian, to be converted by his body at a slower rate or worse, radiated from his skin.
Of course, at some point, Arthur figured he would need to get a grasp of whether the basic laws of physics were in play here – specifically, that of the conservation of energy. In other words, was everything that was being converted a matter of eventual loss due to the conversion and transfer, or was there a secondary intake of refined energy happening? At what level of conversion was possible?
He had no idea, nor did he even understand what the energy that he wielded and pulled into himself really was. There were, of course, theoretical discussions. Some went esoteric, calling the mana or the lifeblood or the gods or qi. Others spoke of quantum potential and entanglements.
None of it, he had understood or cared to study. In the end, for Arthur, the fact that the energy was present, could be cultivated and refined and then poured into his body to strengthen it was what was important. At least, he had thought so.
Until such time that he found himself able to pour that energy into his body directly. When he started messing with Yin and Yang energy, potential and active, stillness and chaos at the same time. When theory became important.
But that was always the trade-off. He could have studied all this, but then how would he have found time to work, to scrounge for food to feed himself? To pay for the lessons that taught him how to fight or that gave him even the basic understanding of the Tower that he had gained?
It was easy, for those who had all their needs taken care of, who sat in comfortable chairs and picked at the food that was brought to them, to discuss better, more optimal options. In the midst of chaos, when shelter and meals and safety were more a question than whether a girl liked you or a piece of clothing was fashionable, ideal gave way to expedience.
How many idiots had he ever come across, who declared themselves rational actors – when their ‘rational’ or ‘correct’ options presupposed dozens of advantages that many others had not. Like the child who ate a marshmallow now, rather than waiting for an eventual pair of marshmallows later; who’d learnt months ago that adults could not be trusted with their word.
“Rational, fractional. Only when one’s rich, can you be a bitch,” Arthur sung under his breath.
Rational – to take the short term gain, because the future was always a question. Stability – a pipe dream, a promise only the advantaged could have.
No. Regret over past choices, taken in a time and place and constraints that were not repeated again, could be set aside. He was here, now. And he had the knowledge that he had, the experiences that he had been given.
An understanding of pain, of its transitory nature. That allowed him to lie here, as molten metal ran through his meridians and collected in his dantian.
Fine tuned body awareness, that allowed him to pick the flow of energy in his meridians, the beat of his heart, the thrum of energy through muscles and even the ache of his bones as energy passed through him. It allowed him to shift, to divert, to close off portions of himself through trial and error to optimize the path of energy flow.
Knowledge, because he had some. Not the theoretical one, but the practical knowledge of the Tower, of Yin and Yang energy as not opposite sides of a coin, but different states of the same energy. Such that he only need convince the energy to transform, to alter itself between one state to the other.
A quantum change, a flip of a switch.
The air burned around Arthur, as he drew in the core energy, pulling at the refined power into himself and separating the strands. Yang energy twisted, pouring into his body, priming it for potential change. Excess heat, escaping into the air, into the Tower itself and his aura. At the same time, excess chaos, excess potential dissipated and a colder, more steady alteration occurred in those very same muscles and portions of the body.
A priming, that Arthur noted. A twisting of potential, that had begun without him realizing it but he now guided and improved upon.
Core after core, the entirety of the team’s acquisition by his fingers – minus the tithe – and all that had been added since then, in a tiny pile by his side. A pile that diminished as the hours passed, as the guard changed and the air within his room grew choking.
Until Arthur’s hand fell down by the side, and not a single core lay awaiting his grasp.
And only then, exiting his cultivation frenzy, did he note the replete, stuffed sense of his own dantian. Of himself. And the notifications awaiting him.