Sorry for the brief hiatus, I caught COVID and chose to spend the month to recover.
But now I'm back and ready to throw a bunch of chapters at you guys. Look forward to it!
[End Author Note]
I move to the second floor of this hospital and then downward to the first, to get around the people I have recently healed. Luckily, Wei had the foresight to move to a nearby, but quieter, area for her healing.
A very pleasant surprise, as now I can save time that would have been spent going through the newly healed crowds.
As I approach the room from a distance, I can see a quiet member of my group, Nao, move out of it and down the hall in the opposite direction. Luckily, they don’t seem to notice me, as I am using my stealth abilities to get through without issues.
Right when I reach the door, I peek in to see her just waiting and taking some notes. Her face looks serious, if a bit sad.
“Hey, Wei. Sorry for the wait. What was Nao doing here?”
She rockets to her feet and bows abruptly in a fluster.
“Master, you don’t need to apologize to one such as I!
“And I was just checking on people that could be useful for building out our intelligence, as you had requested.”
Huh. She’s moving pretty quickly on that. I was planning on setting her up with a few people that could help, but it seems she’s already on it.
Maybe this is one of those situations where I trust my people to do something and make a recommendation from time to time.
“Excellent job. I didn’t expect for you to move so quickly. Keep up the good work.”
Her face turns red as she nods.
People don't receive enough open compliments in this world from their leadership, unfortunately.
I continue, waving my hand toward the nearby wards.
“I see you also had all the victims moved over into the group wards. Are you doing okay?”
Her face returns to that same look she had when I walked in.
“Yeah… they’re not as bad as others I’ve seen, so I managed to move them with little trouble.”
Despite her claim, it is clear that she is burdened by it. But not as much as I assumed.
I had her do it, because I already knew from my earlier checks that she is aware of the dark side of cultivator society. Especially, being in the intelligence field. Adding to it, I need someone who can proficiently handle this level of darkness so that we can effectively help those same people.
But to think it had this little effect on her, compared to Sister Nuan, is shocking.
What the heck has Wei seen that is ‘worse’ than this?
I stare at her for a few more seconds in thought, before I realize I should keep things moving.
Well, it’s time to act on my promises.
“Well, I’m sure you are eager to get into Foundation Establishment, so if you could lie back, I’ll be able to optimize you. As a reminder, do not circulate your qi after I’m done, unless you are willing to have a tribulation in front of everyone here.”
As she follows my words, I extend out my qi line toward her. My curiosity rising towards what makes her body different in that she can use spiritual sense at only the Qi Condensation realm. Something considered impossible.
Even I couldn’t do something like that. The closest I could get to it in Qi Condensation would be to throw an enormous amount of qi out and hope some of it comes back, like a radar. But even that isn't truly a spiritual sense, as it's not directed and operates in a different form because of the qi being 'unrefined'.
And when my scan and healing aura dive into her, it only confirms this.
Her qi is already in a refined Foundation Establishment state.
To be specific, Qi Condensation usually has qi in a temporary gaseous form, while Foundation Establishment establishes a spiritual sea in a liquid form.
In general, the spiritual sea is a concentrated, further refined form of qi that can only come from crossing the boundary of Foundation Establishment. Of course, at the peak of the Qi Condensation realm, it turns into a liquid form, but it is still not refined and in a permanent form.
It seems she has a special constitution that refined her qi, but kept it in a gaseous form. A fact that was adding to her struggles to go into the Foundation Establishment realm, as she isn’t able to turn it into a permanent liquid spiritual sea.
My healing aura goes to work on removing the negative aspect, allowing her to change it to liquid and back again.
But the moment I fix that, her qi takes on another change, even without her circulating her qi.
It turns to liquid… and then to ice.
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Right. This is the next level that isn’t normally spoken of. That there aren’t just 8 ranks within the Qi Condensation realm. True geniuses can actually go up to rank 11, with it being theorized that there are further ones above that.
Rank 8, the qi turns into liquid. Being the normal ending point.
Rank 9, it turns to ice.
Rank 10, it turns to crystal.
And rank 11 is when they consolidate it and go into the next realm.
Considering that her qi is already refined, if she can get to Rank 11 before moving in Foundation Establishment, her qi will actually be even more refined than normal geniuses. And even more subtle with her spiritual sense.
I finish up with the rest of the optimizations before letting her know she can sit back up.
“… my qi. Did it actually change form to the next rank? And that easily?”
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised she would know of it, being an intelligence operator. There being higher ranks than 8 isn’t really a secret. Just a not well-known fact. Something easy to find for someone in her position.
“Yeah. With your improved body, you should be able to reach rank 11, albeit with some pain. But that is normal for anyone attempting that rank.”
She looks down at her hands, and I can tell she’s looking through her body carefully, without circulating her qi. I give her a bit to get used to it, before speaking back up.
“As you might guess, with having moved to rank 9 and having broken through the bottleneck, you can circulate your qi normally. Just don’t change it into a spiritual sea.”
She nods her head, as if in a daze as she immediately tries switching her qi into different forms, before coming back to her senses. And throwing herself to the floor before me.
“Thank you, Master, for this amazing gift! I am undes….”
I’m never going to get used to this, will I?
I already find myself reaching down to stop her and pull her upwards. She fights the action a bit, but relaxes a bit as I speak.
“You don’t need to worry about such things with me, Wei. As you’ll see, I want everyone in our group to have a relationship where helping each other is more normal. Just keep working hard and try to do the right thing where you can.”
Her lip quivers a bit, before she whispers something that only my scan catches.
“… I’ll do anything for you, benefactor.”
The typical action, if this was a slice of life or rom-com, would be to ignore this potential red flag. I’m not going do that.
I give a sigh, before grabbing her shoulders and making sure she looks me in the eye. Using my abilities to say the right things.
“Wei. I understand you are appreciative of what I’ve done, but don’t put me on a pedestal. Okay? I’m just doing what I can. I hope that you can help our group grow and do similar things for others.
“I don’t want you to live your life tethered to mine in a strange way, from just something like this, alright? We’re all in this together, as a team. Things like this, I want to be more normal for everyone.”
She stays quiet for a moment, as it seems my words have gotten through to her.
“… I understand. I’m sorry to show you such an unsightly part of myself.”
“No, you misunderstand.
“It’s not unsightly. Not even slightly. I see your appreciation and felt glad that you are looking out for me. And words like that are touching. But you deserve to see things clearly and not be burdened by gratitude, when it’s just something that we all should do for each other.
“I’m looking forward to working with you, Wei, and seeing all that you can become.”
After staring at me for a little longer, she finally gives me an understanding smile and a much more confident nod, giving me the confidence that I can move to the other things that need to get done.
The first of which is the flesh slaves.
Originally, I was planning on saving their healing until after everyone outside the contract left. However, I find myself in front of the doors of the ward they are in. Walking through them to hear and see the victims in front of me.
Soft labored breaths come from the person to my immediate right. Despite being healed of the pain that plague them, they are still molded into terrible and unnatural shapes. Including their internal organs.
Such changes make things more difficult.
… I thought I could wait, but these people have waited long enough. They don’t need optimization. They just need to be seen as people again.
But before I do that, I need to take care of some things.
Luckily, Wei is still in the hospital, so I grab her and have her bring some people over to help manage when they reach consciousness. Simultaneously, a considerable number of my favorite people come over to see me here.
Ai, Lin, Shi, Mei Lin, and the hero troop.
I feel an enormous smile cover my face, as despite the short time we’ve been away from each other, I still missed them quite a bit.
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