Chapter 103 - Progress

Chapter 103 - Progress

There is this concept called the pole of inaccessibility. That imaginary pole is the hardest to reach place in a landmass, the piece of land most distant from any coastline. You can invert the concept and figure out the spot in an ocean that is the furthest away from land.

This is relevant because we have reached this place.

Rhea gave me a lot of information when she blasted my mind into the next dimension, including a rough world map. The ocean on which a large part of my adventures so far have played out sits in between two continents and is a roughly square shape. I filled in some blanks using my upgraded scouting drone and figured out the spot that is the furthest away from any intelligent life.

There is no point on this half of the planet that is further away from land, unless you go into space. This trip took a bit over two weeks. A lot happened. I could summarize it all, but that would be pretty boring.

I scoot over to Rhea, give her a squeeze and jam a fake microphone in her face.

“Hello, miss, could you give me and the viewers at home an update on what happened on this little journey of ours?”

I manage to keep a straight and semi-professional journalist face as the ticked off dragoness starts fighting back. I can see a flame starting to smoulder inside her pupils as I feel her up while keeping her in a reporter's hug. Ha! That’s what you get for rejecting half my qi, woman!

“What is it now, you insufferable a-”

“Recap of what happened the last few weeks. I’m keeping a logbook.”

“You know very well what happened, you Dick. Leave me alone.”

I feel my temper flare at her abuse of my name, I heard the capital D in the way she pronounced it. Rhea looks away from me, ignores me totally and acts like the steering wheel needs all her attention. Alright then, let’s start plan number two.

“Pleeeeeaaaaaaase?” I look at her with begging, innocent eyes. I draw a slow-moving band of qi through my eyes and make them water a bit. ‘I’M FUCKING CUTE, CAN’T IGNORE ME, PUPPY EYES’

She stares at me. She blinks a bit. She ignores me again, the ocean taking up her full attention.

“I reformed my cultivation base, my previous double core base’s qi intent was largely sexual. Great for having fun, useless for fighting. I reformed a braincore with a pure air focus. I tried a heartcore and a gut core. I will reform the double core setup when I reach past the foundation realm.”

I was about to leave and pester the others but she gives me a recap anyway. I’ve still got it, aw yeah! I smile and kiss her on the cheek.

“Thanks, hun, you sure you don’t want to join me up there later?”

She nods, a smile creeping up her face despite the fierce glare she is still sending my way. “Yes. We’ve got all the time in the world, right? I also am a massive cuntface.”

I grin back at her and walk downstairs, a jump in my step. I dodge the burst of hyper-condensed air while remotely sending the implanted process into hiding again.

Selis and Tess are sitting on a bench in a dark space. Ominous shapes surround the duo as they peer into a large cauldron, eldritch lights playing across their fascinated faces. Selis grins an evil smile while rubbing her hands, Tess peers into the murky mixture while rubbing her fingers, letting a fine powder fall from between her digits.

“A pinch more!”

“I’ll add a dash of this too!”

”Don’t mess with the balance too much!”

“Oooh, this one is turning out great!”

They both look at each other and start cackling like mad witches. The mysterious liquid they are bent over flickers with an eery light as something builds up.

“Tess, here it comes!”

“Control it! I will catch it!”

A thump sounds and the large cauldron shakes a bit. A thin strand of smoke start rising from the surface, menacing shadows flickering through the wafting fog.

Then the entire thing explodes. The rapidly forming water geyser seems hesitant to form as Selis spreads her arms wide. The fluid explosion freezes as the blue-haired girl's eyes glow for a brief second. A shadow flashes through the frozen water and Tess appears in the dark cabin, holding an odd shape with two pinched fingers.

“Let’s see. Ow, note this one down Sel. Water and darkness make it ghostly looking. And it seems to glow? Why is it glowing when we added dark darkness mana and light water mana?”

Selis hops over and studies the wiggling thing squeezed between Tess’s slender fingers. “This looks like something deep sea! There is no light there, so some fish do this… uuuhm… bio… numyremins? Biorumi… nence… thing to create light. Yeah, bio-ruminence. The light attracts prey or is a warning signal.”

“Hmmh, can we learn something from this one?”

“Nope, it doesn't really confirm any of our theories either. Toss it.”

“Yessir!” The fish and her hand turn to black fog as she sticks both through the nearest ship wall. Seconds later a splash is heard as the freshly mutated fish suddenly finds itself outside the ship and falling into the ocean. “What combination do we do now?”

Selis’s eyes sparkle as she rummages through a box, shoving tinkling crystals out of the way. “I wanna try a triple combo again.”

“But Seeeeliiiiis, the last twenty exploded! I’m fine with it, but let's do a fish again. Exploding squirrels are horrible to clean.”

“I’m sure that the combo of bright nature mana along with dim earth and metal mana will create something viable!” Selis holds a trio of crystals clutched in her fist as she kicks the cauldron over, causing the mana rich water to flow through a clearly improvised drainage hole.

I stare in horrified fascination as the two girls continue experimenting. Wait, I am peeping on two girls through a crack in a wall. Am I a creep? But this scene is just so… fascinating. My students took to the mission I gave them with gusto. These two have been messing with mana and small animals pretty much non-stop. Angeta has been doing the same with plants, but we’ll get to that later.

For now, I kick open the door to the room in the ship's bow. The two girls freeze, huddled over the large bowl of freshly poured seawater as they crumble mana crystals on top of their newest experimental subject, a small grey fish.

“”TEACH!”” They both scream. Tess drops her half shattered crystal. The water starts to boil furiously for a split-second and explodes at once.

“Ah, ignore me, girls. I just want to hear a status update from you two.” I stare at the two sorry figures expectantly. I ignore the dripping water, along with the small bits of fish guts that just now plopped to the ground from Tess’s shoulder and repeat my question. “Status update from when we left the mage isles please.” I smile at them broadly. “You have an… eye on your forehead, Sel.” I point at the glistening piece of fish, slowly sliding from a wet hair covered forehead.

She wipes it away while looking at me with eyes just as dead as the fishes. “Reached condensation stage. Am filling core with liquid water intent qi with a focus on the many forms of water. All three normal phases and variable liquid properties, except for plasma and crystalline structures. Tess, just give him an abbreviated version. He won’t go away until we tell him.”

Tess is trembling, obviously keeping her face blank with effort as she looks at Selis with the corner of her eyes. “Angry Selis is cute too, hmm.”

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to hear her mumble that to herself. I see Tess take a deep breath to get herself under control.

“I’ve filled up half of my core with sublimation shadow intent qi. I’ve got nothing new to report besides a lot of experiments on the properties of mana.”

I give the duo a thumbs up and walk towards the edge of the dark room. I knock a finger on the small green dome and it opens up a crack, thick wafts of mana seeping through the opening. I look inside the dark little room and smile at the angry, furry face peering at me from the dark. “Hey Angeta. How’s it going?”

“I’m working on plants again. Stupid fucking pieces of goatshit.”

“How many did you manage to mana mutate?” I ask the irate woman.

“Two… I managed to make two fucking plants mutate in three fucking weeks. And there goes this one.” She covers her face in both hands as the plant she was staring at withers and crumbles in seconds. “A single blade of grass needs incredible dense amounts of mana for at least a day to mutate.”

I look at the mix of fury, resignation and excitement flickering across her face with interest. I am recording this, of course, I’m not doing all this for nothing after all.

“I’d stop, but this is helping my cultivation base immensely. Making qi from loose mana this dense is faster than turning wild qi into my own. I’m past the halfway point of filling my core with liquid qi, so that’s pretty neat I guess...”

With a tired look of suffering on her face she pulls another small blade of grass from her ring. She then takes shards of mana crystal and starts grinding them between her fingers, filling the small pressure cooker made from leaves she is sitting in with mana again.

“Cultivation is still based on aspects of plants, like Selis but with plants instead of water. Now leave me alone for a few days, I wanna make fire and metal mana grass before feeding it qi.” She waves her hand and the slit closes.

I stand up and smile at the two girls, who are ignoring me. I take another bag of mana crystals from my ring and place it on the floor. I hear distracted words of thanks as I quietly close the door on my way out.

“Just leave, go bother someone else!”

Vox looks horrified as his sister berates him. He looks around the clearing as if to leave but ends up sitting down a bit away and closing his eyes.

“Leave him. He has a heartcore after all.”

Ares looks at the other person nearby, Ket. He is sitting on his haunches, peering into a large chunk of sparkling, semi-transparent green stone that is lying in the grass. Ares also hunkers down, touches the stone and closes her eyes. Light start to flicker inside the stone, strands of grey light intertwining with streaks of white.

Vox looks at the still scene for a bit before standing up and walking away. He freezes as he sees me. “Couple of braincore nerds, am I right?”

Ket snorts and Ares sniffs at my comment. Vox grins widely and nods furiously. “Yeah, those two are extremely boring. They just sit there and stare at that rock.”

I shrug my shoulders at this. “Of course something complicated is boring to the uncomprehending observer. Anyway, how did your cultivation progress for the last three weeks?”

Vox looks me directly in the eye for a couple of seconds and smiles a wry smile. “Honestly, I want to change to a braincore too but I’m afraid I’ll fall behind the rest. I reached liquid qi just yesterday. Other than that, a large focus on buffing and healing is hard to do when there is little need for it.”

I stop to ponder his words for a second. I will need to find or create some proper opponents for my students to fight sooner than later. The dungeons have been good training so far, but their experience in fighting intelligent humanoids is severely lacking. The last time I saw them do teamwork, it was quite a mess. Ket tried to bring some order to the chaos, but there was little actual cooperation going on.

“Do you remember my little talk about lifespan?”

“Uum, sort of?”

“There is plenty of time to catch up later on, don’t worry about that kind of stuff. Check your access jade for the bit about foundation realm and lifespans.” I watch him pull out a small piece of jade with a tree engraved on it. I feel the connection to the main database form as Vox sends an information request through the small transmitter.

Turning to the duo of braincore nerds, I ask the same question again. “I’d love a status update on your cultivation progress over the last few weeks.”

“I steered my intent back to magnetic metals. The small bit of utility influencing non-magnetic metals gave wasn't worth the magnetic efficiency loss. Braincore is two-thirds filled with liquid qi. I noticed a relation between intent specificity and cultivation speed. I have a few processes running tests, would like to discuss that later.”

“I tried changing my mindscape.” Ares looks around at the two boys nearby. She flushes a bit before putting a small piece of jade to her forehead. She hands it over and I check it with a strand of augur.

Basically, her mindscape was based on begging and pleading. She tried changing the way her mental processes worked with disastrous effects. It worked, but the efficiency was horrible. So now she is back to begging and bribing her own mind. I knew she was a weak-willed doormat coward, but having to grovel in front of your own mindscape is a new low…

“Maybe you should consider reforming your cultivation base again.” I stare at the pitiful girl with pity in my gaze. I then shake my head and move on, leaving the boys to stare at Ares with questions in their eyes.

I crouch low and jump, calling upon the ambient qi inside the ground and grass to prevent it from shattering under my feet. The wind splits at my command, causing me to speed upwards. Pretty soon I am looking out over the entire domain, Tree sticking out of the forest from in between two massive mountains. It grew quite a bit in these past three weeks, but that’s not what's relevant right now.

I look upwards and see a massive, bright, pale object. It’s Bord.

Technically it’s Bord who is sitting on a massive artificial satellite I created, but that is not quite as funny to say.

I land on the large sphere, kicking up a large plume of dust. A few square blocks are scattered on the white surface, breaking up the monotonous bleakness. Looking upwards nets me a gorgeous view of Tree and the surrounding forests.

“Hi Teach! Can you throw me back?”

“Why? You got here on your own.”

“Angeta will beat me up again if I use that method again.”

“She won’t know, she’s in the ship’s hold.”

“She’ll smell it. Please just throw me.”

“Sure, just give me an update on how your cultivation has progressed the past few weeks.”

“Ah, no problem! I uuuhm...” Bord then takes a very thoughtful pose. A rogue wind ruffles his blonde hair, making a tranquil scene as he seems to ponder the mysteries of the universe. “I ate a lot.” He nods firmly to himself. “I ate a lot and did stuff with triangles. That’s it. Explosive triangles.”

This response was within the probabilities I predicted, but it still leaves me speechless for a few seconds. I decide to shrug my shoulders and grab him by the shoulder. I then throw the fatty up into the air.

“THANKS TEEeeeeaaaaa….” His voice becomes inaudible as he speeds away. I see him land inside the lake near Tree. I have a soft spot for obese heartcore cultivators with a triangle obsession so I made sure he didn’t land on something hard.

I then take a deep breath, inhaling the air totally devoid of qi that’s hanging around the small moon I am standing on. I have to say, creating a supercomputer inside a moon was a stroke of genius on my part. Well worth the effort of importing and filtering tonnes of seawater and seabed mud.

I sit down and make a connection to the moon’s core. I observe the data structures and permission shell, going over the stored data and its systems one last time. Now I only have to quickly reach the foundation realm before activating the entire thing. It’s gonna be great!

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