BK I, Chapter 10: Complications II

Starting with arcane cultivation, Valerian circulated his energy according to the [Manifold Elemental Incarnations] hoping to complete his arcane baptism. Under his efforts, all the pores in his body began to open and close. His body began to expand and contract as well in accordance with their rhythm. It was like he was breathing with his entire body.

Anyone looking at his body in the essence spectrum would see world essence entering his pores whenever they opened. Moving in myriad ways under the compulsion of his cultivation method to transform his flesh into the perfect vessel for the accumulation and channelling of arcane energy. This was the true arcane baptism, only Valerian’s was quite special.

Ordinary methods would create a differing number of channels for energy in the body or transform the skin to allow world essence to seep through but the [Manifold Elemental Incarnations] was different. It changed the entire body. Flesh, bones, blood vessels, organs, pretty much every part of the body became capable of absorbing and channelling arcane energy. That was the only reason Valerian was still at the arcane baptism stage.

He had not yet transformed his entire body. Never mind that his current self was far better than many could hope for. It was better than even Jonas’ but he was supposed to keep practising this stage so as to gain the best transformation possible. Even with the method not everyone could achieve such a state. The elders hoped he would be able to completely transform his flesh, and Valerian would not disappoint.

After a couple of hours he apprehensively switched to his qi cultivation method. Unlike his progress on the arcane path his tellurian cultivation was at a complete standstill. He had kept it a secret but he had not improved even one bit since he started cultivating. This was very frustrating for Valerian who was used to being the best at everything he did.

He tried and tried but he was unable to make any progress. Unused to failure he became increasingly disturbed. So much so that it was beginning to seriously affect his confidence and cultivation as a whole. That was why he questioned his grandfather the way he did. He had hoped to be told that cultivation was unimportant so that he would feel better at failing to cultivate his qi. However confronted with it’s true importance, he couldn’t afford to fail.

His prospective tests had shown his unparalleled potential as a tellurian. He had the full backing and resources of the clan and a high tier cultivation method innately suited to him and his bloodline. There was no reason for him to fail. He would not let himself fail.

Previously no matter how he channelled the [Great Monolithic Art] his qi refused to respond but this time he would make it respond. Calming his mind and focusing his will he forcefully grabbed hold of his qi and with willpower alone he begun to move it around his body in accordance with the monolithic art. Soon he was covered in sweat.

The force fought him the whole way. It completely refused to follow his commands and if he did not have such a strong hold over it would have slipped back to its special pool. Unwilling to lose he dragged it millimetre by millimetre along the route it should go. The process brought him immense pain but he ignored it in favour of his progress.

He reminded himself constantly of the stakes he was playing for. That in a few circuits he would finally be able to push his qi into his bones and begin bone transformation. That there was no gain without pain. He ignored the way his blood roiled and boiled. The way his body protested and the pain that wracked his form.

Anyone still watching at this point would be shocked and appalled at the changes in his appearance. Valerian’s teeth were so clenched his gums bleed. His hands grasped his knees so tightly they looked bloodless. His body shuddered visibly as he tried to ignore the pain, and his clothes were completely drenched in sweat. If his eyes were open the watcher would see how bloodshot they were.

Too bad Valerian had never watched someone cultivating qi before. If he had he would know that what he was doing was more akin to self-torture than cultivation. Sadly, he didn’t know so he continued with what he was doing. Sometimes he lost ground and the qi retreated yet still he preserved. There was no question that his will power was incredible. Not even grown men would be able to endure what he was going through.

Valerian’s mind was totally clear and focused. He wholly ignored the pain and protest his body was enduring and forcefully moved his qi. All his thoughts were turned towards the task at hand and he was succeeding. He was nearly there. His qi was about to make a full circuit. He would have smiled if he could however as soon as the circuit was accomplished his body twitched and despite himself a sharp cry burst from his lips.

The painful, loud cry rent the air disturbing all the people in the household. Quickly locating the source the guards led by his grandmother and his uncle Richard broke down his door. However the moment their eyes met the sight that awaited them they couldn’t help but recoil in horror. Clara gasped and covered her mouth whilst everyone else stood slack jawed.

Valerian sat there on his mat still in a cultivating pose. Motionless, hands grasping his knees, wet with sweat and blood bubbling past his lips. She rushed to him screaming for help to find him unresponsive and unconscious.

It was only a week later that Valerian finally woke up. Raising his aching head from the pillow his eyes swept the unfamiliar room. A pure energy filled the place. He could feel it work on him, entering his body on its own volition and soothing his internal injuries. He traced the energies to several elaborate arrays that covered the floor, walls and ceiling. This was more than enough for him to deduce that he was in an infirmary of some kind. A high class one by the look of things.

“Young master, you’re awake!” a voice exclaimed.

Slowly Valerian turned his head in its direction to see a young man in bright cream coloured robes. He tried to ask where he was but found his tongue to be heavy and unresponsive and his mouth dry.

“Don’t try to speak, just wait! I’ll bring Healer Brian shortly”. The young man warned.

In less than a minute the previously empty room was filled with people. His grandparents were there as well as the three elders that often came round the manor and his uncles were leaning against one of the walls. However aside from the young man from earlier there were two additional people, one female the other male both middle aged. The man wore a monocle and cream robes in the same style as the young man only with mantle over it. Clearly he was Healer Brian.

Healer Brian was currently bent over him running hands glowing with a bright yellow light over his body. The light brought Valerian great comfort. It was warm and soothing and best of all it removed the dull pain that he felt in his insides. Once that was done he was made to drink a pale blue liquid from a crystal phial.

The moment the healer straightened up though, his grandfather’s voice rang out.

“Is he going to be alright?”

“Yes! He will have to refrain from using any of his forces or cultivating for a day or two but aside from that and a little soreness and stiffness from being unconscious for so long there’s nothing to be concerned about. His meridians are fine and his internal injuries are nearly gone”, the man answered. Then fixing his monocled eye on Valerian he continued.

“Our concern should be what caused his injuries in the first place. I confess to never having seen cultivation injuries like those before.”

Everyone’s attention was immediately caught. They were curious too. What could have so ravaged his insides and put him in such a state.

Somewhat anxious the magistrate couldn’t help but ask rather loudly, “Valerian what did you do?”

“Nothing”, he replied with a confused look on his face.

“Come on boy, nothing would not have wounded you like you were. I saw your injuries myself. We won’t punish you we just want to know what caused it” Elder Foreson told him.

“Truly! I didn’t do anything. I was just cultivating”.

“Valerian please! Just tell us. There is no way that just cultivating could injure you so”, his grandfather pleaded.

“Wait!” Healer Brian called out. “Just how and what were you cultivating?”

“Healer Brian! Are you saying cultivation caused this?” Elder Foreson asked incredulously.

“It might be possible. We need to know more.” The man replied. Turning back to the bedridden youth he asked again. “Just how and what were you cultivating?”

Valerian thought back and answered truthfully. To be honest he was a bit hesitant to tell them as they would then know about his difficulties cultivating but he knew he must. Evidently, something went wrong it and it was best to figure out what. Besides he couldn’t hide this secret forever. So he began to tell them all about the trouble he faced when he tried to cultivate his qi and how it refused to respond to the cultivation method no matter what he did.

It was here that the strange middle aged woman finally spoke up. She was dressed just like the elders only with a special maroon cloak. It completely set her apart as someone with authority and when she spoke everyone went silent and focused on her.

“That is impossible! What you are describing is a rejection and there is no way that any metal attributed clan member would suffer a rejection from the [Great Monolithic Art]. Especially not one who has been confirmed to have the blood legacy”, she said.

“It is an art that originates with our earliest ancestor and one we have practised for as long we have existed. It not only trains our qi it enhances our strengths and bloodline and awakens our legacy. There has never been a rejection when practised by a metal attributed clan member”.

Valerian digested what she said. Then slowly and firmly he said to her, “It still happened”.

Seeing that the woman was about to erupt Healer Brian quickly interjected. “That still doesn’t explain your injuries young man. Don’t beat around the bush. Go straight to the point!”

Valerian shifted, ill at ease under the stern, fixated gazes of so many people. Nevertheless he continued. “I’m coming to that sir. You see after nearly two weeks of trying with no success I was getting desperate. Since channelling the [Great Monolithic Art] did nothing to budge my qi I memorised the path it was to take and then forcefully dragged my qi along that path”.

Loud gasps filled the room at his proclamation. It was easy for them to see how his internal organs got mangled now. A dark look even covered his grandfather’s face and he went completely silent. However in the midst of the stunned silence came a question asked in a curious tone.

“How far did you get?” Healer Brian asked tentatively.

Valerian thought back, a pensive look on his face. It was hard for him to recollect those final moments before the blackness. In fact a normal person would probably have blocked those memories. But fortunately or unfortunately, Valerian was no ordinary person.

“The last thing I remember is completing the first circuit before I lost control over my qi and then nothing but blackness until waking up here”.

This time even the maroon cloaked woman appeared stunned. Her lower jaw hung loose and she looked at him as if he was a monster of some kind. The others might not know what it meant but she and the healer knew full well what it would take to circulate qi that way. Especially according to a method his body was actively rejecting.

Before the meridian opening stage, qi remained a wild force in the body. This was why there were particular methods required to circulate it. The meridians weren’t open yet so there was no proper channel for it. The most a person could do was push it into the bones or flesh to refine them. If one wanted to circulate it then a method was needed. For a child to be capable of forcefully circulating his qi thus was definitely some she had never heard of.

She exchanged a glance with the healer. It was remarkable and something that will be discussed in the meeting of the elders. Despite this, it was not something that should be encouraged.

“Never, ever do that again! You are lucky that you only managed one circuit and that the clan had the healers and resources on hand to cure the results of your foolishness. Even so you can clearly see what happened to your body. Any successive attempt would be several times worse and at that time even if the clan wanted to help we would be unable to. At best you will be left a cripple or a dullard, unable to cultivate, move your limbs or think correctly ever again. That is if you do not die”.

Valerian nearly panicked as he listened to the healer. Had he really been that close to death? The very thought sent ghostly fingers running up and down his spine. There and then Valerian made a resolution to be more careful with his cultivation. He hadn’t realised that just sitting down channelling energy carried such a high risk.

“I’m curious though. We might have answered the question about how he got injured but there is still no explanation for why his body rejected the [Great Monolithic Art]” the maroon cloaked woman pointed out.

“You are right!” Healer Brian conceded. “There is no reason it should. Young Valerian is a true Steelborn. He carries our blood and the Steel Monolith legacy, and possesses an innate metal attribute. I can attest to that. He should have no problems channelling the method”.

It was at this point that the magistrate finally spoke up. He had said nothing thus far and had merely wallowed in the suspicion that he was the reason that Valerian was lying in the infirmary. If he hadn’t gone on and on about how important cultivation was and how terrible it was to not do so maybe Valerian would not have been pressured to do something so risky.

He too knew the full ramifications of what his grandson had done and what it meant that he had even been able to do it. He was an acclaimed scholar after all. But he said nothing of the matter. The only reason he was speaking up now was to help find a solution to Valerian’s problem.

“Perhaps his mother’s legacy is not as compatible with ours as we originally thought”, he suggested.

Healer Brian and the woman in maroon mulled this over. It was possible that both legacies were clashing somehow in Valerian’s body suppressing each other and preventing him from accessing either. It would explain why the steel monolith’s transformation had not awakened despite all the signs that he had it. If so he would require some special methods that didn’t favour one side, catered to both and did not provoke any adverse reaction.

The problem was that no one knew what his mother’s legacy was. How would they find a suitable method if they had no clue what they should be searching for? The maroon cloaked woman was just about to voice this out when someone said something.

“Yeah right! The problem is from his mother’s legacy”, one of the elders said with a sarcastic sneer. Valerian’s eyes shot to him identifying him as the elder that had called his grandfather a wastrel the other time.

“What are you trying to imply?” his grandfather questioned angrily.

The man didn’t hesitate to make his disdain plain to see. “Isn’t it obvious? The grandfather’s body cannot hold arcane energy and the grandson’s rejects qi training. The connection is clear. What mother’s legacy? That’s just an excuse! I just can’t believe you actually passed your filthy blood down and ruined a peerless talent for the clan”.

“Y-yo-YOU!” Valan spluttered.

“You think because you’re the patriarch’s son I wouldn’t dare. Just look at the boy and what’s happened. It is obvious he carries your taint. The only question now is if his children would be similarly crippled or if it would skip a generation like it did with your son”.

A chair screeched as his grandmother shot to her feet with a face so furious it looked like she would spit lightning. Richard pushed off the wall, an immense tower shield and a spear appearing in his hands out of thin air. The crystal at the top of Jonas’ staff lit up casting red light everywhere.

Seeing that a fight was going to break out the maroon cloaked lady quickly intervened.

“ENOUGH!” she yelled.

Waves of power accompanied her voice and suppressed everyone in the room. It was as if they were standing right next to a ringing church bell. The word rang in their ears and shook their very souls. It took several seconds before anyone could shake off the disorientation. Luckily thanks to her control everyone experienced the same degree of effect regardless of cultivation level. So the weaker ones among them did not have their brains dribbling out of their ears.

“Elder Grant, you are out of line! Richard, Jonas stand down. Now!” she barked.

The elder looked affronted and the two brothers still looked murderous. The former because he didn’t understand why he was being chastised for saying what was obviously the truth and the latter two because they, like everyone else from the magistrate’s household knew just how hard the elder had poked the magistrate’s weak spots.

“Grant you will report yourself to the listless cavern for one month’s punishment effective immediately! Valan you will come outside with me!”

“But…” Elder Grant tried to get out. He was nailed with a dark look from the maroon cloaked woman and ended up saying. “Yes Great Elder!”

Grant looked like he was about to protest, Valan looked gloomy, the members of the magistrate’s household still looked furious, Foreson, the other elder and the healer were decidedly uneasy and the great elder merely strode out the door expecting to be obeyed. All of them forgot about the young boy in their midst. A boy who looked at the door his grandfather and the elder had just gone through with a fierce light and an unnoticed spark of comprehension in his eyes.


Author’s Notes:

I suppose it’s alright to tell you now that ‘Valan’ is also a word from my language. Translated it means ‘reclusive’, ‘shy’, and even ‘timid’ however, in certain contexts the word gains a negative connotation — ‘Shame’. Interesting huh?