Chapter 106 - Reconstruct
Red faces scream at me. Blood splash-
“...IN DIE. DREW! WAK...”
That sneer. That incredible sneer. Those bored eyes devoid of-
“...INK I WON’T KICK THE SHI...”
And the pain. The pain that’s every… Not everywhere. Just my gut?
“...SHOLE YOU BETTER F...”
Wrong nightmare? Yeah, I think so. The shouting sounds oddly sexy though, that’s new.
“...TREE DON’T JUST STAND THERE DO...”
So not the beginning of my second childhood then. This is similar to the many times I got my cultivation base crippled. A small alarm goes off somewhere, and I feel my arm shoot out as it catches something.
I crack open an eye and am blinded by the intense golden glow everywhere. I feel like I am slowly being grated down into a fine paste and my legs and crotch are already a fine mush. My stomach is pure torture, and I feel nothing below my belly button.
Focusing on other sensation than the pain, I feel I am holding something soft but firm. Two solid rods surrounded by muscle and skin? An arm, I'm holding an arm. Why am I holding an arm?
Memories trickle back. Then I remember that I have qi. I summon it and swirl it through my head. I look at my surroundings and smile at a furious face.
She freezes as I try to sit up. Yep, that is not happening anytime soon. I separate a strand of augur from my brain and poke at my heartcore. It should still have compartments for each cell and fibre I lost. A bit of poking later and I have found a small section of the core that seems dull. I start prodding it a bit more and sense the lost connections. I can only detect a minuscule part of the core before my braincore is overloaded with sensory data, so I set up a process to rebuild my lost parts. It connects each new cell to the heartcore compartment as it regrows them.
“No need to worry, you should know that this happened to me a lot in the past, right?” I speak by channelling a stream of air past my vocal chords and into my lungs. No need to do more damage by breathing manually. I slowly let go of her hand as I feel my cells being rebuilt one by one. I really should do something about my organs though, they are… spilling.
Should I call my qi clone over? No, absorbing that amount of qi won't do me a lot of good now. The step I took in cultivation power is a power increase of several factors. I absorbed absolutely massive amounts of mana in the last parts of my breakthrough. It all seems a bit far away though, I feel lightheaded for some reason. Concentrating is hard, even with braincore qi going through my head.
I start going through my processes one by one. One downside of automating a lot of functions is that prioritising them in a rigid system is not smart. One detecting danger, let’s say a dagger shooting towards my kidneys, could take up all my attention, causing me to miss the arrow being shot at me from far away. When shit goes down, I simply sort through all the alarms one by one in battle mode. All of my warning signals are going off now. I sort through dozens before I find the blood-loss alert. That might explain a lot, yeah.
I recall a scan of my body and overlay it on my current form. I am missing nearly all of my small intestines. My large intestine is cut in half. My bladder is shredded. My stomach muscles are just shreds of flesh, and I'm missing several vertebrae. Let's patch everything up first.
I spin a fine web of qi threads, piercing through flesh where needed. I spend a bit of time calculating the best way to pull all the loose bits back together. Then I slowly tighten the threads.
There are various types of pain. Pinching your skin is a surface pain. Sure, it hurts and feels like sharp stinging, but it will go away soon. Breaking a bone causes a dull, throbbing pain that comes from deep within. I think it’s caused by the difference in nerve or tissue damage. What I am feeling is all of those combined and a whole lot of types of pain piled on top.
My various bits and pieces sliding back into place cause all of this and more. The wrongness of having my body hurt so drastically lessens a bit. I add a small clause to my healing process so that it fixes pain receptors and nerves last. Regrowing nerves on a burn victim is one of the worst torture techniques I have come across so far. I can bear pain but don’t enjoy it.
I start weaving a superficial skin to contain everything. I spread some qi around me and feel large volumes of blood seeping into the dirt. The waves of qi emanating from my lifeblood is noticeably elevating the energy levels inside this pocket dimension.
“Food.” I spare a bit of my focus to make a request. I will need large volumes of water and nutrients to regrow my lost organs without cannibalising myself. I thank all that is holy for the fact that cultivators digest food in a less messy way than mortals - less bacteria and poop, more disintegration into pure energy and useful biomolecules. Washing half digested shit from my shredded flesh would not have been fun.
I sink my focus back into my flesh and start addressing the massive shockwave damage done to the rest of my body with meticulous patience and care.
Re-Haan’s mind is a mess. The usually ordered chaos of her mind-slaves obeying her absolute commands is now just chaos. Dragons never die. Dragons never grow old. Dragons never lose someone. They just sleep more.
Bonding to a mortal is the dumbest, most retarded thing a dragon could do. There are no legends about a dragon and a mortal falling in love. No romantic stories about the star-crossed lovers fighting against the impossible odds. That would be like a human and an ant eloping, it’s just not feasible.
The fact that this man lying on the grass in front of her is a thousand years old saved her self-confidence in her mental capacities. Only after listening to the possibilities of becoming biologically immortal thanks to qi did she even consciously entertain the idea of a relationship with this… human.
And now this impossible human is lying here, face pale, turning a large circle of grass blood red.
And she has no idea how to handle it.
Like Tess before her, she was a textbook example of the stages of grief. Disbelief and denial set in when she observed the bloody mist and falling necklace when she peered through the complex construction of miniature air lenses she was using to scan the sky.
She ignored her kin circling the sky and shot towards the falling trinket at maximum speed. Transforming partially and using the air intent qi in her braincore allowed her to fly faster than she ever thought possible.
The rest was a blur until she landed in the clearing and saw this scene, dense qi waves of a different quality battering against her own cultivation base. A mass of golden threads hanging above the form, unable, unwilling, or uncertain to come closer.
She stood there for a split second, her brain stuck in her own version of combat mode. The semi-intelligent fragments of her mind went into overdrive as she lashed her mental whip. From her perspective, she stared at the bleeding form for hours. Enough to immediately switch into the anger phase when she snapped out of it.
So she shouted for a bit. She raved at the stupid piece of shi... Then she wanted to hit him, to wake him somehow. Then he caught her strike, opened his eyes, smiled that really stupid grin and greeted her. His stomach started knitting itself back together as he grew paler still. Then a white skin covered the entire mess. A pale and half translucent shell containing spilling gut, its immaculate whiteness contrasted by the large amounts of blood covering everything.
He then croaked the word “Food”, closed his eyes, and fell into a trance.
She tried to give him her own qi, but the rippling waves of power emanating from his body where enough to rebuff her attempts. So now she just sits there, in the middle of the bloody grass, looking at the frozen, white, and bearded face.
The shock to her mental faculties was so great that she went through the other stages anyway. She bargained a bit with herself, trying to undersell the impact this event had on her. She felt guilty for a bit, remembering the long story he had told her. He had done this multiple times, regrowing pieces of his body or repairing damage to the gut area after he was crippled for some reason. That bizarre culture of face and surface honour deemed being powerless worse than death. Something Drew had taken liberal advantage of when he had pissed off another sect or mighty figure.
After the small bout of depression came acceptance. To be honest, right now she is kind of annoyed with herself. She decides to do as he asked and walks away, blood dripping from her clothes. She returns not a minute later with food and drink and feeds him slowly as colour creeps back on his pale skin.
I feel some sort of goop slide in my mouth. I am busy with stretching strands of spinal fibre down to my pelvis, so I swallow in a distracted manner. The damage to my cells, in general, is not helping either, I'm spending a large portion of my will on fixing my damaged DNA. Crunchy bits scape against my throat in an odd manner, so I spare some of my focus to sense what is going on.
Rhea is not near me. Who the fuck is feeding me?
*HURK* “TREE WHAT THE F-” *COUGHCOUGH*
I slump back from the sudden jolt of pain as the brittle bones I managed to form shatter under wild muscle contractions. I let my head fall to the side, forcing the brown goop to dribble out of my mouth. Why would Tree think it was a good idea to start feeding me random stuff?
“Tree, what are-” I spit out some more bits. “-you doing?”
The golden glow around me recedes as the flowing mass of crushed bits falls to the ground. I hear some un-ladylike snorting coming from my right. Turning my head, I see Rhea trying to keep her laughter in. I glare at the woman while spitting more crushed insect paste on the grass.
She drops the food she is carrying and starts pounding the ground in laughter. The shock waves coming from her fists jolt the outline of organs I have made in my stomach cavity. I reinforce and freeze them, temporarily pausing the growing process. “I’m glad you are having fun.”
One hand clutches her stomach while the other wipes away the tears streaming from her face. “Hihi. Tree must...” She takes a deep breath while trying to get her giggles under control. “Tree must have seen me feeding you. It was just trying to he-” And there she goes again, rolling on the floor with laughter.
Emotional doutbursts like these are to be expected, I guess. I was pretty out of it, but Rhea seemed pretty strung up when I came to and stopped myself from bleeding out.
I take stock of the progress I 've made so far. My organs, muscles, skin, vertebrae, and connective tissue are all laid out in thin strands of their respective cell types. It’s like a hollow paper model filled with blood and organic goop. The paused processes were slowly filling in the missing parts before I brought them to a halt. “I lost track, how much time has passed?”
“Teeheee, half an hour, or so.”
I spit out the last part of bug shell while letting my healing processes continue. “How are they doing outside? I saw some dragons going towards the ship?”
“The ship’s shield alone will hold for days. Don't worry about them, oh mighty eater of bugs and layer of dragons.”
I try to think of a retort, but nothing good comes to mind. I did just eat bugs, and I did lay a dragon…
She starts spooning a thick soup inside my mouth. I taste something like fish while my pain receptors and taste buds flare both hot and cold. This is… I swallow quickly. “Lava ice chilli!”
Her smile is just as wide as my grin. “Great recipe. Tree brought me the ingredients. It should have the perfect combination of protein and chemicals to help you regrow your wounds. Also, fuck me up the ass.”
The spoon freezes halfway to my mouth. I stretch my tongue and start licking up the delicious meal, enjoying every little taste I get.
“I DESTROYED THAT PROCESS!” Her hands fly to her head, as she closes her eyes.
“You destroyed one process.” I decide to take fate into my own hands and mentally lift the bowl of thick soupy stew. Lava and ice chilli con peché. Absolutely delicious!
Ten minutes later, Rhea is still combing through her own brain for the many, many surprises I left for her there. Sweat has started to form in beads on my face as I rethink my life’s choices. That spicy stew was delicious, I admit. The large volume of qi enhanced capsaicin now floating around in my still raw wounds is a little less so.
Normally, I could disintegrate that pain-inducing compound without much trouble, but I can't spare that much thinking power without setting back my progress a lot. I also can’t shut off the still functioning nerve signals, I need to feel if my repairs are going well.
I will have to compromise for once.
“I will not activate any processes in your mind for a day if you help me get rid of the chilli oil in my wounds.”
She looks at me for a long time as I start sweating more and more. “Make it two days. And teach me how to send an implanted process into hiding, Ket and Selis find every process I put in their heads.”
She smirks evilly now. “She is soooo much fun to mess with.”
“One day and a starting guide on stealth processes.”
I allow her qi to seep into my stomach and feel the pain lessening. She drops a piece of jade on my forehead while giving me a meaningful look. I load the stone up with a wide variety of mental viruses. These little buggers will swarm her mental space the moment she puts it to her forehead. They won't do any harm but will allow me backdoors into her mind for years to come.
Ah, nearly forgot. I also put ‘messing with someone’s mind for dummies’ in there. She snatches the stone and puts it to her forehead. I feel the new processes slip through her mental defences as she focuses on the information.
One by one, the old stealth processes I put in her head start vanishing as she learns what to look for.
Meanwhile, I send my new batch of surprises into hiding.
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