“Cultivation manuals suck,” Arthur said, letting his head flop onto the floor. He watched as frost puffed from his mouth and had to contain the shivers that kept running through him. The entire room was cold, frost riming the wall. The bedroom door was propped open, and there was quite the crowd outside, enjoying the accidental air conditioning created by Arthur and Uswah’s attempt at the Night Emperor cultivation technique.
“This does seem more complicated than normal,” Uswah said, her voice soft. He could hear the hint of an Australian accent from her time overseas as she came out of her own attempt at cultivating. She was, as usual, clad in tudung—the headscarf that was an expression of faith and modesty among Malay women. “Do you want to return to refining cores?”
Arthur absently tapped the pouch by his side where he kept cores. Nearly a day after he had started reading the manual, he had to admit that his progress was definitely sub-par. While he understood cultivation in general, the whorls and loops and mindset required for this particular cultivation technique were rather complicated. The actual processing of energy to make it Yin was the easy part. If anything, Arthur could tell it was more efficient and faster than the technique he usually employed—which was, of course, part of the problem. Being faster and more efficient meant that he had to handle the transformation of Yang into Yin at two to three times the speed that he was used to.
But that was just the processing section. The utilization section was even worse and entirely new. Part of the reason why it was so complicated was that the cultivation exercise was making use of waste Yin energy, the portion that was not going into his dantian for storage, by pouring it through his body. That helped refine his body further into a proper Yin Body, permeating cells with cold, death energy. It was what had created the cooling effect in his room.
“What time is it?” Arthur asked, continuing to stare at the ceiling.
“Eleven p.m.,” Jan said, legs propped across the doorway. Along with Yao Jing, Jan was his other self-appointed bodyguard. It still itched him, deep in his soul, the idea that he needed one. But discomfort was not sufficient reason to add risk to his life and the new organisation and all those it supported.
“Christ. Day two.” He closed his eyes, then called on his status.
He grunted, eyeing the percentage progress of his Yin-Yang Energy Exchange technique, which had decreased. One of the negatives of studying the Night Emperor was that it seemed to conflict with the Yin-Yang Energy Exchange.
He assumed it was because part of the goal of the Night Emperor technique was to prepare the body for the second transformation and rebalance the flow of chi, and the more Yang energy there was, the greater the difficulty in adjusting the body. Still, watching numbers go down was never as fun as watching them go up, so he focused his attention instead on the much larger amount of basic energy and refined energy he now had.
“I actually need to refine the rest of this energy,” Arthur said eventually as he opened his eyes. He considered clambering to sit up, but he could refine just as well on his back as he could sitting up. And it was, frankly, more comfortable. After sitting upright for hours on end, his butt was beginning to hurt.
“Very well. I’ll continue to try to puzzle out section four,” Uswah said, picking up the scroll he had rewritten the technique onto. Unfortunately, she could not read the original cultivation scroll gifted to him, what with it being keyed by the Tower to his aura. Rewriting the technique was the best he could do. “Are you sure you copied this exactly?”
“For the hundredth time, yes,” Arthur said with a huff. “There’s just . . . stuff too, you know? Impressions and visions and that 3D scope of the body that goes in and out of meridians…”
“I do.” Placing the paper down, she shifted her only remaining hand onto her lap in preparation for cultivating once more. Like Jaswinder, Uswah had lost part of a limb.
“Finally. Some of us are trying to sleep,” Mel’s voice drifted over from her room. Of course, she had left her door propped open, what with the nice cooling effect they were offering.
Arthur turned his head sideways, eyeing a trio of newcomers who were either snoring just outside his door or cultivating and ignoring the byplay with studied casualness. These new Durians were second-floor Thorned Lotuses and hadn’t been willing to wait for Jaswinder to make up her mind whether she was going to swallow Arthur’s insults or not.
Though from everything that Mel had said, the answer was likely yes. Jaswinder was just looking for a way to do so without losing too much face. At some point, he’d send Mel to deal with them. As for Rick . . . to his surprise, the gunslinger hadn’t returned the next day. He’d disappeared, and Mel hadn’t been able to figure out where he had gone and Arthur did not have time to deal with it.
His disappearance did make collecting information on Rick easier, in theory. Except for the fact that his main spymaster was here, cultivating beside him.
Personnel problems. What a pain.
Snorting to himself, Arthur rolled his head back in line with his body. He reached within himself, gripping the cold Yin energy within and began compressing it, running it through his meridians as he refined it once more.
After all, if he was going to practice this new technique more, he needed space in his core for all that energy. And there was only a day and a bit left before Casey would demand their presence.