The day after he accepted William as his Master, Noah went early in the morning to the guards building as per William instruction.
The previous morning he explained the situation to his mother and, seeing the new bruises on her body, he could not help but feel gloomy.
He entered the building and went straight to the first floor, apparently the men guarding the stairs were informed of his arrival and let him pass without troubles.
Before he put his foot on the last step, he heard the voice of William at the end of the corridor.
Watching the yawning figure that was now his master dressed in a white gym suit he felt a bit of trepidation.
He put up a serious expression and did a slight bow with his left fist in his right hand.
"Disciple was eager to learn, Master"
William didn't even look at him and gestured to follow him. Together they entered a spacious room with weapons on the walls and some wooden dummies sparse around.
Suppressing another yawn, William pointed at the floor:
"Sit, I'm not really good at mornings so I wish to explain everything just once, then you can ask me questions"
Noah almost immediately sat cross-legged on the floor. Yearning clearly visible in his eyes.
William sorted his thoughts for a little and then started explaining with a serious face:
"First, I want to make sure that you understand the reason why the captain chose to let you enter the guards. We can't have people scamming men for their rightfully earned techniques, especially a kid with your position. Weighing the pros and cons of the situation, we decided that it was better to use that greed of yours for our needs rather than punish you. So, remember to thank the captain for allowing you to keep your hands, when you see him."
A drop of cold sweat ran through Noah's back, he finally realized how reckless he was.
'The facade of the kid can't work against powerful people, maybe it's more right to say that they don't care that I'm a kid'
"Second, we won't gift you anything, a guard has to gather merits to obtain rewards and you will be no different but since you are now my disciple I will give you something to start with. Consider it as a loan that you will repay through serving in the guards. Do you understand me? You will have to spill blood for your family to obtain what you want"
William looked at Noah's eyes with probing intention. His situation wasn't exactly a secret, so it was reasonable to question his will to protect the Balvan family.
'I know what he wants to say. He is afraid that since I'm a bastard I might have accumulated hatred towards the Balvan, and use the guards as a mean to strengthen myself only to get revenge. He is not wrong but he totally missed my reasons.'
Looking conflicted and in thought, Noah lowered his head only to rise it with an even more determined face.
William stared at him, trying to decipher his face.
'If he is lying, he sure is good at it.'
Then he gave up on understanding the kid in front of him and resumed his explanation:
"Then it's settled. You are now the youngest member the guards of the Balvan family ever had. Our duties consist mostly in solving issues with bandits and magical beasts in Balvan's territory since it's the duty of the troops in the inner circle to personally protect the family members. I will explain more about missions later, now pay attention, I'm starting with the part you almost lost your hands for."
Needless to say, Noah's attention skyrocketed.
"You read the Yin-Yang system so I can skip the part about the "Breath" and elements. Human cultivation can be divided into 3 centers of power: dantian, body, and sea of consciousness that are deeply connected to each other."
"The dantian is in your lower abdomen and it's usually formed by the age of 15. It is the place where cultivators accumulate the "Breath" and, once accumulated, it will nourish the body and the mind as a result."
"The body is the shell of a cultivator, it can be nourished by flooding it with "Breath" and the stronger it is, the more stable your dantian and mind will be. You have already started nurturing it with the Ice-Fire revolving technique."
"The sea of consciousness is at the center of your brain and it's the place where your mental energy is generated and accumulated. Enlarging your sea of consciousness will not only give you more space to store mental energy in and raise its production, but it will also sharpen your senses and fasten your thoughts. It is said that at some level you can even start predicting imminent dangers."
"Now, you can start with your first round of questions."
Noah closed his eyes and repeated what his master said in his mind in order to memorize it. After scanning through the pieces of information a couple of times he found two things he was unsure of.
"Master, I have two questions: haven't you said that the Ice-Fire revolving technique is just an imitation of a cultivation technique? If the dantian is formed at the age of fifteen, does this mean that I cannot cultivate for the next five years?"
William's answer was immediate, as he had probably foreseen the doubts coming to his disciple's mind a moment earlier.
"Real body-nourishing methods use the "Breath" in the dantian to flood the body and nourish it. In comparison, the Ice-Fire revolving technique is just a process to forcibly store "Breath" in the body that will be naturally used as nourishment. The difference lays in the quantity of "Breath" used, besides the fact that the technique you practice can only accumulate a tenth of what methods using the dantian can accomplish. Moreover, you can clearly feel that that technique is bound to the physical limits of the body, while real body-nourishing methods can allow you to break those limits."
"As for the other question, yes, the usual age at which a human has completely formed his dantian is fifteen. Yet, as I told you, the three centers of power are deeply connected. Probably you have already sped the process of creation of the dantian up by practicing the Ice-Fire revolving technique. Who knows, you might have gained some months of growth already."
Hearing this, Noah's eyes lit up.
'This means that I can speed the process up by training the other two centers of power. Wait, something is strange, doesn't that mean that when someone trains all three of them at the same time his growth will be exponential?'
A confused expression appeared on his face. Eyebrows knitted together, he looked at his Master and was about to ask more questions when he got interrupted.
"You will understand more once you start practicing. Cultivation is innately an act of defiance against Heaven and Earth since we take its power and make it ours, so the process is extremely long and painful. Therefore, since the three centers of power are connected, if it's true that empowering one will affect the other two, it's also true that leaving behind one will slow the growth of the other two. But as I said, you will understand it once you step on the road."
William then sat on the ground and took out a pile of sheets from beneath his suit.
"I will give you a training method for the sea of consciousness and let you choose a martial art and a body-nourishing method that doesn't need a dantian out of the ones I sorted out for you. These sheets are only the general description of the techniques so come closer and read them carefully. Remember to pick those in line with your personality and needs."
Before he could even put the sheets on the ground, Noah was already sitting on his knees in front of him.
'This fucking kid didn't even run this fast when he was running away from me'
Releasing a soft sigh, William added:
"Take note that you will have to change the body-nourishing method once you form a dantian and that the martial arts use "Breath" to express their true power, so for now you are limited to the one you accumulate in your body."
After the last warning, he laid the sheets on the floor, with body-nourishing on the right and martial arts on the left and watched with a slight smile this disciple of his reading them with fervent eyes. It seemed he could consume them with just one stare.
'He sure has the will of a cultivator, I wonder how far he can go'