I leaned back in my seat in the taxi as I recollected more about my high school days.
By then it had already been three years since my parents had died.
I had already gotten used to my life of being suppressed by all means.
Ever since I got into the house, I would be treated with absolute indifference by my uncle.
He completely refused to acknowledge my existence.
The only reason he took me in was that it was a necessity for taking 'care' of my inheritance.
My aunt constantly compared me to her son and assaulted me verbally day in and day out.
She didn't let go of a single opportunity to try and crush my sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
Her tongue was full of poisonous barbs seemingly full of a never-ending stream of toxicity.
The worst of all was my cousin.
That pig was the reason behind everything wrong with the world.
He would leap at any opportunity to physically beat me up at home and make my life at school a living hell.
I just snorted as I pushed away my black history from my mind.
Once the taxi arrived, I got out of it and entered the mansion.
My uncle wasn't home at this time so the only ones I might encounter would be my aunt and my cousin.
Not that they were a problem anymore.
I entered the house to see my aunt sitting on the sofa.
She noticed me before hurriedly looking away as if she didn't want anything to do with me.
After all, that was the only choice she had.
Suppressing my urge to mess with her, I headed straight for my room.
Just before entering my room, the door to the room opposite mine slammed open as my cousin walked out.
He stopped dead in his tracks after noticing my figure right in front of him.
It was like a deer stuck in front of headlights.
He had already locked eyes with me so he knew that there was no way he could pretend to not have seen me.
"G-Good Afternoon Br-Brother!"
I just gave him a smile that wasn't a smile.
"Good afternoon, Samuel. It's good to see that you are doing well."
"I am fine Brother!"
"A bit too fine I think…"
"I am not fine at all!"
"Oh really… should I do something about it."
I could see the shivers running down his spine as he heard that sentence come out of my mouth.
"No. There is no need for Brother to take any action. I can handle everything."
I stopped smiling and just gave him a dead-eyed stare.
"I will get going now, brother."
He gulped nervously before running back into his room and slamming the door shut.
I just shook my head at his silly actions before entering my room and locking the door.
Of course, neither mother nor son dared to even raise their heads against me.
I had three whole years to ruin their lives for what they had done to me after all.
I started by enticing my aunt into an affair with one of my uncle's associates.
Recording a tape of their shameful deeds was enough to blackmail her into submission.
That's just how blackmail went.
Small requests changed to big ones.
Slowly and slowly until the other person was completely under your thumb.
I didn't really use such barbaric methods anymore...
Who am I kidding, I use it every chance I get.
As for what I did to my cousin?
Well, let's say that becoming the boss of the bullies and thoroughly ruining his social life had a lot to do with it.
The bullies were a lot more useful than one might think.
Just the amount of money they made from stealing lunch money over three years was enough for me to fund my living expenses abroad for my university years.
Of course, I didn't spend a penny on the fees.
I was funded on a full scholarship due to my excellent grades after all.
Well, lunch money had changed to ether pills in this dimension.
Hoping that my uncle would spend even a penny on me was nothing but a pipe dream.
While it was easy to take care of his wife and son, he himself was an extremely tough nut to crack.
It would take me ten more years of using his wife to steal business secrets and selling them to his competitors to bring him to his knees.
The point that I am trying to make was that since I had no source of funding I had to secure them myself.
One thing that I had learnt over the 3 years I spent in their house was that the world was a cruel place.
In order to survive, there is only one eternal rule.
Use others or get used by them.
Hurt others or get hurt by them.
or more recently...
Kill or be killed.
Accessing the chakra art from my inventory I decided to go over the instructions for the core realm once again.
It was finally time to start my cultivation journey!
The core of the ether-cultivation system was the Soul.
Thus cultivation in the core strengthening realm basically involved sensing the ether flowing around me in the atmosphere, and guiding it to my soul.
This ether would wash over the soul, strengthening it in the process. The goal was to try and store as much of it as I could in the core – my soul.
I was to repeat this process until the amount of ether that I could store in my soul and the quality of my soul broke past a certain threshold and reached the energy realm.
While there is no clear definition of what the threshold is, it is explained that once one gets to the energy realm, their control over the energy will become natural and that the soul would gain the ability to replenish the consumed ether on its own.
However, this was only for those using the standard cultivation method.
There were a few extra steps involved in the chakra art.
The Crown Chakra of the seven chakras was associated with the soul.
The Crown chakra is located at the top of the head, and it represents enlightenment and spirituality as well as awareness and intelligence.
It is thus most compatible with soul contracts and soul chain abilities.
Once I was able to sense the flow of ether and the existence of my soul, I needed to guide it from wherever it was floating around in my body to the soul chakra.
Then I needed to use ether to lock it in place and bind my soul which was also my ether core to the Crown chakra.
Once that was over, I could continue the usual process of strengthening the soul and increasing my storage capacity until I broke through the energy realm.
The only difference here is that the crown chakra will also get strengthened in the process and would thus require a lot more effort and resources than usual.
I looked at the pouch of 45 pills in front of me with a wry smile.
There was no way that this was going to be enough.
I didn't even have enough resources to get my hands on a decent soul beast to form a contract with.
Well, it's not like I didn't have any contingency plans in place for this very situation.
Instead of worrying about that right now, a better use of my time would be in using my current batch of resources as quickly as I could.
Sitting down cross-legged on the floor, I took a deep breath before swallowing one of the ether pills and closing my eyes.
I slowly emptied my mind of all thoughts in order to enter a meditative state and sense the ether flowing around me.
While the academy might have stopped us from starting our cultivation before we learned about which mission world we would be sent to, they gave us enough meditation training to be prepared once the time came.
Slowly but surely, I could feel the presence of a stream of ethereal energy circulating around my surroundings and throughout my body.
I focused my consciousness on the stream of energy as I tried to feel it more clearly.
The energy felt fleeting and untouchable in nature, like floating clouds.
I slowly tried to move it around with my thoughts with limited success before the energy vanished from existence.
I frowned before realizing that the effects of the pill must have worn off.
Without the pill, it would have been much harder for me to sense this energy.
I decisively picked up five more pills and shoved them all into my mouth.
This time, the flow of energy within my body was denser and more tangible.
Smiling in satisfaction, I focused my attention on it and slowly guided it all around my body until I found a spot where it disappeared.
Focusing my attention on that spot, I finally found my soul.
As weird as it sounded, I could sense my soul floating around in my skull.
Hurriedly swallowing 5 more pills before the effect could wear off, I started to use the energy to push my soul toward the location of my crown chakra.
It took me 10 more pills before I could finally secure it in place and another 5 to bind it with the chakra.
After sending a little more ether to the soul and confirming that the chakra was also getting strengthened alongside my soul, I sighed in relief and opened my eyes.
Just the initial process of sensing ether and binding it to the chakra cost me more than half the pills I had.
How many more would I need to reach the energy realm?
According to my calculations… a total of at least 500 low-grade pills would be needed.
Or at least 50 mid-grade pills.
Looking outside the window I saw that it was already dark outside.
It was already too late to consider going outside and trying any of my other plans.
Checking the calendar to ensure that tomorrow was the weekend, I decided to continue my cultivation session and finish up the rest of the pills before sleeping.
So much for them lasting me a week.