Back at the truck, Nikki suddenly asked, “Who’s going to drive?”
Her face was the picture of innocence.
She didn’t fool Mike for a second. Little by little he was coming to understand Nikki’s personality. She was equal parts selfish and naive but she was hardly malicious. In fact she seemed to believe everyone was good on some level.
What she was asking wasn’t who is going to drive. She was asking if she could drive. She just didn’t want to owe Mike a favor if he said yes.
In this case her selfishness worked for him. So he gave in without bothering to confront her over it.
Rolling his eyes Mike said, “I don’t care, I’ll be in the back meditating. Radio, in a bit someone will probably bring down my ax. You get it, don’t let them disturb me.”
“Wait. If you’re going all silent running mode, then tell me where we’re going now. I’ll have to bother you when we head out otherwise.”
Seeing her point Mike thought for a moment. The Boss had said Troy was fine. Amy and Vanessa should be in the suburbs which was in the same general direction. It made the most sense to loop around starting with Jessica’s group. Radio could direct her towards them, after contacting the satellite officers.
He as much and Nikki agreed. She wanted to stop by her precinct on the way, which Mike had no problem with. Everything settled, Mike crawled into the canvas roofed bed of the truck. He walked to the back and took a seat.
Behind him was a small rectangular window he could use to talk to Nikki and Radio in the cab. Otherwise, he would be alone.
A few moments after he sat down, he fell into the void state. Taking the opportunity to observe his body he sighed. He’d just broken through into the first phase of demonic transformation. That meant it would be a considerable amount of time before he could advance again.
In cultivation there were a total of nine realms, ten if counted from the absolute beginning.
Mike had broken through into the zero layer, becoming a practitioner through the clumsy method of circulating the latent qi in his body. It was a method only possible for him because of the skill, qi manipulation.
But this had only brought him into the very beginning of cultivation, it was only after he accepted the breathing techniques of the [Six Phases Demonic Transformation] that he had fully broken through into the first phase.
Under his cultivation method, the first layer was called the evil spirit or ghost phase, and it like all phases, could be broken into three subdivisions or layers, of low, middle and high. He was currently in the lower layer, a true beginner.
Mike had chosen his cultivation method because it was part of a larger method known as the [Nine Phases Demonic Transformation]. The complete set of phases were relatively straightforward.
- Zero Phase – Human Cultivator / Qi Sensing Stage
- First Phase – Evil Spirit / Ghost
- Second Phase – Lesser Demon / Imp
- Third Phase – Common Demon / Demon Soldier
- Fourth Phase Greater Demon / Demon Commander
- Fifth Phase – Noble Demon / Demon Lord
- Sixth Phase – Royal Demon / Demon King
- Seventh Phase – Imperial Demon / Demon Emperor
- Eighth Phase – Immortal Demon / Demon Saint
- Ninth Phase – Holy Demon / Demon God
Even if he never purchased the further three phases, by completing the first six, he would already have story book levels of power. Cultivation felt more and more like a cheat the deeper he got into it.
It made him wonder about other abilities. Magic was likely comparable, but what about someone who took the path of a warrior or barbarian? Were they shooting themselves in the foot or did they have a comparable system of growth?
He did vaguely remember Troy saying something about there being nine circles. Assuming circles were equivalent to his phases then Magic was a cheat as well.
Did Jessica have nine levels of technology she could upgrade through? What about Trisha who used ice manipulation outside of magic, did she have nine levels to advance though too?
Mike didn’t know the answer to his questions and had no idea how to find out. Which only annoyed him more. Still if he was forced to guess, he’d assume that most powers had nine levels, in favor of balance.
It wouldn’t surprise him to learn that was not true though. The system hardly seemed fair in general. It stressed Mike less to consider it generally fair than to consider other possibilities.
Feeling the jerking movement that indicated the truck was finally in motion, Mike grunted.
Letting his mind wander wasn’t getting him any stronger, so he filed everything away. He’d get answers eventually, but for the time being he’d focus on cultivation.
Seeing his qi was already circulating slowly Mike felt quite pleased with himself. The implication was clear, he would grow stronger constantly as long as the qi circulated. the faster it circulated the more his body would absorb, and the greater the amount of qi he could handle would become.
At its current pace, he wouldn’t break through into the next phase for several years. But that was its unconscious flow. Diving into the stream, Mike began to force it to speed up. Ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred times. by the time he allowed himself to pull his consciousness back once more, his qi was whirling through his qi channels like it was on fire.
He could feel a vague sense of discomfort as the wildly moving qi bruised and battered at his meridians. It wasn’t quite at the level of painful.
Mike knew that by tempering them even a little now, as his strength grew the abuse they could handle would grow exponentially alongside it. If he was truly diligent, he’d never reach a point were he was limited in how much of his power he could bring to bear at one time.
His qi channels would never be in danger of rupture from overload.
In short, the uncomfortable training was exceedingly important to his future. It would not show its worth for some time, but once it did, it would be more than worth the effort.
In a sense it was like maintaining a healthy body through diet and exercise.
When he needed to be in shape for an event, if he always dieted and exercised, then he wouldn’t need to expend much effort. But if he’d neglected constant upkeep, he’d have considerably more work to put in at the gym and with extreme dieting, to get to the same point.
Before the system, Mike was the kind of person who ignored such things in favor of comfort in the moment. His choice to batter at his meridians now, was only one in an endless example of ways the system had changed his outlook on life.
In that sense the system was not all bad. Though he would never argue the point out loud. It was too small a benefit to justify the thousands of deaths that had occurred so far in the city, much less the world at large.
“Mike, Radio just saw something,” Nikki’s voice floated from the front cab into the back, disturbing him from his meditative state.
Mildly annoyed at the vagueness of her interruption, Mike called back, “What!?”
His irritated tone didn’t seem to bother Nikki at all as she said, “There was a hotel back there, surrounded by some sort of goblin looking monsters.’
“So? You want to fight them or something?” Mike asked confused.
“Someone already is Mike. Shouldn’t we help?”
Mike thought for a moment. It was a little cold, but their mission wasn’t to rescue survivors. Their mission was to find his team.
“How many of the goblin things?” he demanded, trying to make his choice based on more than his instinct to rush in and save everyone in trouble.
Radio was the one who answered him, his voice almost cracking from the emotion in it.
“There were at least thirty of them. But I’m sure with my gun and Nikki’s bow we can thin that out for you Mike.”
Mike grunted at that. He’d made sure the kid got a couple of skills he could use in combat. With the limited credits at his disposal he’d only been able to get him the lowest marksmanship and knife fighting skills. He had been able to take a semi automatic rifle, a side arm, and three grenades from the armory to compensate though.
Radio to his credit, didn’t seem to be eager to try out his new skills so much as to rescue the people in danger though. Mike liked that attitude, and it pushed him over the line.
“Let.’s go see if we can save the poor bastards the. Radio, hand me my ax,” Mike said.
He took the ax as Radio handed it through the window and then added, “I’ll hit them first from behind, you guys keep me from getting surrounded.” And with that he invoked his demonic transformation and breeze stepped out the back of the truck.
Faintly he heard Nikki swearing behind him as she pulled the truck to an abrupt stop.
This chapter is not actually late. I’d intended to move release time back for a while now. This is simply the first time I’ve followed through on that idea so far. Thanks for reading.
Author : The Steve