101 A Short Reunion, A Small Breakthrough
Jam approached the large gates which closed off the cultivation academy, but as he crossed the 100 kilometer mark, a grand formation silently sent an alert to the formation keeper within the academy. Before long, a fleet of Saints led by a single Sage flew out from the academy to go meet the intruders.
Jam's group had barely crossed a kilometer since the alarm went off when, from a distance, they could see the fleet of seniors from the Cultivation Academy shoot towards them at supersonic speeds. Everyone stopped to meet the fleet on good terms, and as they stood waiting, the Saints all stopped about 100 meters away from them, but…. The Sage kept flying towards Jam with an unidentifiable glint shining in her eyes.
Jam was suddenly stuck immobile as a familiar face stared into his eyes and a gentle hand lifted his chin. Not at all bothered by this suggestive position he had been put in, Jam smiled as he looked in a pair of golden eyes he hadn't seen for eight years. Still in this position, Jam said "I'm glad to see you too, but right now isn't the time to be gazing into each other's eyes..."
Jam's words made the Sage before him slightly tremble as she pulled back her swarthy hands. She didn't stop staring at Jam as she pulled away from him, instead saying "So you guys didn't die after all..." Then against all expectations, she punched Jam right in the shoulder. There wasn't much force or energy driving the punch so Jam barely even moved. But along with that action, the Sage said "You… where were you hiding for the past eight years…"
Jam was unsettled as the tone of the Sage's voice didn't at all convey joy for his return or sadness that he was gone. Rather, it seemed like she was mad at him for something… "Because of you… we… we..." Anger and "killing" intent that rivaled Jam at his peak began to overpower everyone for dozens of kilometers "WE LOST."
Finally, Jam couldn't help but ask "Latoya, what are you talking about?"
"Che! You were my hidden ace! The best up-and-coming alchemist our academy has seen in centuries! But you just had to up and leave in my time of need." When Latoya's killing intent finally reached its max output, she smiled a devilish smile and looked at Jam like he was a sacrifice, continuing "Don't worry you've come back right on time for the next Quinquennial Alchemist's Gathering. You'll surely get us back to the top five..."
'This fucking… she'll get me killed...' Jam was sweating bullets as he was helpless before Latoya. She might be a reclusive Alchemy Head, but her cultivation as a Sage was the real deal, and going by the pressure she caused him, she most definitely surpassed the Greater Sage mark…
From the sidelines, a half-dead Rina slouched over to Latoya's side, saying "Hi… master..."
As if she had seen a weaker, more helpless prey, the savage that was Latoya practically screeched "Oh? ANOTHER ONE?" In truth she had noticed Rina way before she saw Jam, as master and disciple, she had spent much more time with Rina after all. It's just she wanted to reserve Rina's bashing for another time, perhaps to not embarrass her like she did with Jam…
"I'll deal with you after I'm done with my little Jam over here..." Then Latoya proceeded to explain to Jam what the Alchemist's Gathering was. As Jam heard more and more of what would take place in just a couple more months, a mixture of fear and anticipation painted an abstract picture on his face.
The Alchemist's Gathering would be just one small part of the Quinquennial Gathering of Secondary Occupations. Every five years, all the orthodox sects and clans across the entirety of the Mortal Plane would get together to show off their younger generation's strength. It was common knowledge that the younger generation would eventually replace the old, thus the best way to see how sects would compare in the future would be with the younger generation.
Secondary occupations were a cornerstone of cultivation in general, so comparing which sects had the best alchemist, refiners, incriptionists, and so on, would set a precedence for how the sects would fare against each other in a couple hundred, thousand, or tens of thousands of years down the line.
Jam was naturally scared of the gathering as it meant that he would probably face similar reactions after he entered the sect, as he was practically the most talented person in each category of secondary occupations. However, he was excited in anticipation of the fabulous rewards he would be award not just by the event itself, but by the academy for advancing their rank.
One thing that confused Jam as he was escorted back into the academy by Latoya, was… Weren't they at war right now? How would they have time for some gathering if they were at odds with some other faction?
Jam naturally asked this question which brought about a dark look from Latoya. As she explained it "The war this time around isn't really a war per say… rather everyone is just fighting over some Immortal Treasures that appeared… eh? They appeared on your home planet now that I recall… Earth was it?"
Jam eyebrows curved up in query as Latoya continued "Wait… now that I think about it… the Immortal Treasures appeared eight years ago, right around two weeks before you guys were supposed to leave from the Titanic Beast Mountain Range."
Immortal Treasures appeared two weeks before Jam's group was suppose to leave the pocket dimension to return from their expedition? Jam had many thoughts run through his head as the date line up almost too perfectly… However, none of that would matter for now as he could only get answers to his questions by visiting Earth personally.
As the group progressed on their journey to the front gates of the academy, Kirin from the back of the pack asked "Wait… If there really isn't a war ongoing and all that's happened is a fight over treasures… why, then, were we ambushed by Sage Elders from Alex's Clan?"
As she heard Kirin's question, Latoya's faced morphed into one of disgust as she said "Hmph! In that time where the treasures first arose seemingly from nowhere, some of the first people to arrive at the scene and claim the treasures decided to horde them. Coincidentally, the patriarch of Alex's Clan was one of the lucky few to be near Earth when the treasures appeared, and he decided that he would rather keep the treasures for himself even if it meant becoming an enemy to the academy. Now, we seem to be in a deadlock against them as we're both on each other's kill on sight lists..."
"How can they even put up a fight? They are just one clan against the entire academy?" Kirin really couldn't believe it. Alex's clan while strong might have three or four Sage elders aside from the patriarch. But the cultivation academy? Of those that showed themselves publicly, more five were above the Greater Sage rank. How could the two even compete?
"You underestimate the power of Immortal Treasures..." Latoya didn't explain more than that as she was confident that Kirin would be made aware by his clan, as well as the rest of the returning core disciples by their respective factions.
The group eventually crossed over to within the Cultivation Academy's gates and everyone split off to regroup with their families. Dai Mingzi left with Latoya to be registered as a member of the Cultivation Academy; there's no way they would forget to bring in another ungodly talent, now is there? And Jam… He left to breakthrough into the Saint Realm.
Jam took off to head back home, he walked all the way as teleportation was strictly prohibited during these tense times. Jam entered his old courtyard and walked back to his cultivation chamber. He didn't even bother changing the cultivation-assisting formations as he sat down to make his breakthrough.
Jam closed his eyes and delved into his Dantian's world and began the process of acquiring Saint energy. He used his spirit level yang, time, space, fire, thunder, and stellar energies to expand the boundaries of his Dantian world and transform his Dao Palace. One by one, the runes that restricted Jam's cultivation began to light up and glow in effervescent gold and purple.
Jam had the benefit of conversion talismans and pills — all Tier 5 — by his side, thus he chose to expand his Dantain space to the absolute max, before converting his energy to saint energy. His previous max volume capacity of 999 cubic kilometers, slowly started expanding… 1,100 cubic kilometers… 1,350 cubic kilometers… Only after approaching 1,500 cubic kilometers did Jam's spirit energy start dissipating as a result of not being strong enough to expand the space.
At that moment, Jam took Conversion Pills Type Space, Time, Yang, Fire, Thunder, and Stellar, and wavering spirit energy instantly turned into saint energy. Jam basically cheated his way out of converting his energy by bleeding himself his previously "weak" spirit energy. Now, to further his career in cheating at cultivation, he used his budding saint energy to concoct Saint Replenishing Pills.
Only he would be able to enjoy this luxury as he was the only newly ascendant saint with the experience to concoct Tier 5 pills. Essentially, he had wasted a small portion of his recently acquired saint energy to make a veritable shit-ton with the addition of spiritual herbs. In this manner, Jam eliminated 90% of the time he would have spent converting his energy from spirit to saint.
Now, fully stocked to the brim with saint energy Jam didn't feel his Dantian space reach a bottleneck when he first increased its volume; only using spirit energy. Thus, he made use of his now much more plentiful and potent saint energy to further increase his reserves of power. Again, his Dantain space expanded, only this time it was at a meteoric pace.
1,600 cubic kilometers… 1,750 cubic kilometers…. 2,400 cubic kilometers… His fully supply of Saint energy didn't run out before... CLINK! A transformation occurring within the Dao Palace stopped Jam dead on his tracks to expanding his Dantian space. At the 2,500 cubic kilometer mark, Jam's Dao Palace lit up with the restriction runes indicating he had reached the end of the road for now. The only way to continue would be to increase his Dao Cultivation; a task no cultivator could guarantee completing within a specified time frame.
Still, Jam's breakthrough into the Saint Realm was pretty insane. Through the use of his cheats in alchemy, he managed to skip past that False Saint Stage, after converting all his spirit energy into saint energy. But, that wasn't worth much as many cultivators could do the same with the assistance of their family or sect. What really made his breakthrough special was the sheer increase to his dantian space.
Where a regular cultivator might need to expand their Dantian by 25% to 50%, Jam actually doubled his original volume and then some! Even anomalies like his fellow peers only need to at most double their Dantian space at the Saint Master stage!
Now, that the breakthrough was over and done with, Jam's focus was loosened just enough to let his internal clock inform him of how much time had past. "Oh shit! It's 7:00 AM!" He had spent the whole night on this breakthrough, and if it had gone on for thirty more minutes he would have missed his meeting with the Sect Head!
Latoya had previously told Jam that as the sect's "Shining Silver Star," he'd need to talk with the Sect Head about the Quinquennial Gathering next thing next morning, as the Sect Head would come back from her business specifically for him. Next thing next morning naturally meant 7:30 AM…