Chapter 109 - Launch
Ferah opens her crusty eyes with difficulty, rubbing the grit accumulated from a long slumber. She blinks as her pupils dilate while they adjust to the bright surroundings.
Then adrenaline starts bursting through her veins as she remembers what happened. Now wide awake, she panics a bit. All was fine and well until the town guard ran yelling through the main street of her small village. Then she saw horses, ridden by pale skinned beings covered in glistening metal. Then she saw the wooden club in front of her face.
The next thing was a cart. Dirty wooden planks hiding the sun. Hiding the metal shackles. Hiding the slowly dying villagers she barely even recognised. Hiding the fact that her grandma was nowhere to be seen. Hiding her desperate sobs and tears.
Rough hands dragged her into the blinding sun as she barely registered a harbour and a boat. Then there was more waiting and barely any food in a dark hold.
Then there was a blue haired girl? And a bearded man that seemed immense and not there at all.
And now there are clean sheets, a soft bed and white walls.
Absolutely confused, on edge and clean for the first time in weeks, the small beastkin discovers that her chafed wrists are raw no more. Hunger overwhelms the girl as her sensitive nose picks up something delicious.
A small plate with simple food sitting on the square nightstand is pounced upon and swiftly devoured. Licking her fingers and feeling a bit better, the half-starved girl looks around the room.
Four white walls, a glowing sphere on the white ceiling and a cold dark grey stone floor make up the medium sized bedroom. The bed is white stone, a simple frame topped with the softest mattress she ever felt. Sinking her hands in the luxuriously dense fabric, she wonders if there is more food to be had.
Ah, no, that would be bad. She is starved enough that refeeding syndrome would be a problem.
That mystery solved, she pats the wrinkles out of the white, smooth sheets and turn-
She freezes, wondering what in all the tails refeeding syndrome is.
Ah, it’s just the effect of an overabundance of nutrition on a starved metabolic system. The sudden restart of the digestive system can fatally imbalance mineral levels in the blood.
AS IF THAT WOULD BE FINE! How the fur does she know this? Tail puffed up in panic, she jumps under the bed.
Ah, no, it’s just the small stone stuck to her forehead.
She hesitatingly feels above her eyebrows, finding a small and smooth object. As if touching the thing made it real, she suddenly realises the small amount of information stuck to her brain. She pulls it away, and the small repository of knowledge vanishes from her mind. Putting it back, it sticks to her fur-lined brows, and the few paragraphs of basic information return to her mind's eye.
That is really freaky. The panic turns to intrigued anger as she explores the data held within the small stone.
Someone from Earth would recognise it as the very basics of education. It contains the basics of numbers, math and an alphabet. Some base knowledge about starvation and nutrition in combination with more primary school knowledge.
That all is capped off by the current situation. Kidnapped from the kidnappers. Unslaved. Freedom within bounds. A cage with a clear, demarcated path to outside. You may leave, but right now you can’t. So try hard.
The combination of words, images and concepts held within those last sentences confuse the girl for a bit. Ears and tail twitching, she lies beneath the bed as she tries to comprehend what is going on.
The surface meaning is clear to her. She was somehow freed, but not really. The last sentence eludes her though. Try hard? An open door? The feeling of a walkway and stairs going down, then a plaza?
Rubbing her slightly aching head, she crawls from under the bed and opens the door a single crack. She nervously slides her hand down her sides, only now noticing the white dress she is wearing instead of the dirty leathers and furs she had on before. Sniffing herself, she concludes that someone cleaned her.
Someone cleaned her and changed her clothes.
Now very wary and on the lookout for perverts, she tiptoes into the empty hallway. Quietly walking across the smooth, dark floor and past closed doors, her sensitive ears hear other people eating and making a fuss. One door shakes a bit as muffled screaming and thumping comes from behind it. The hall ends in a broad stairwell which she swiftly descends. Another hallway is ended by a bright light.
Blinking against the brightness once again, her bare feet feel soft grass and sturdy soil. Her eyes adjust slowly as she squints, trying to take in her surroundings.
A deep, dark blue sky is above, a smattering of small, bright suns off to the side shining light down upon the environment. Behind her is a stark white block without windows, grass that is way too green and way too short surrounding it. A white stone fence surrounds the field surroundingthe massive building.
Is the fence curving? No, the entire field is slightly rounded. People are standing on a dais opposite the door she just exited. Eyes now adjusted fully, her jaw drops as she sees two mountains floating in the sky. A golden tree sticks up from between them, surrounded by a forest and hilly grasslands. The white and blue foam of water seems to swirl around the entire stretch of land, mountain and plant.
A gasp behind her shakes her from her revery, making her spin about. More people are now exiting the large complex, all clad in simple, clean clothes. More shades of fur than she can count and a wide variety of skin and hair colours, the slow trickle of humanoids is anything but homogenous. All have a small stone on their forehead or clutched in their hands.
Ferah, in the meanwhile, has sidled up to the two people sitting on the raised dais. A bearded man is talking with a pale-haired woman.
“Those old fogies are not calming down at all. This will take hours at this rate.”
“You should learn from me and not fuss about a mere couple hundred years.”
“So I should go to sleep now? That is your solution?”
“Tsch, one of your… rescue cases is coming here. Why not just let the world turn to qi-fueled chaos?”
“Point three per cent of your kin would survive.”
An annoyed look flashes across the woman's face at that. Sensitive ears twitching, Ferah is pretty sure she was not supposed to hear that conversation.
“Whatever. If those decrepit fossils don’t appreciate being rescued from a crystal fate, that’s their problem. Hey Valerius.” Peeking behind her, Ferah sees an older man in a brown robe staring at the surroundings with dull eyes. He looks at the bearded man with building animosity.
“Sorry about freezing you, but it was easier for me this way. You can start gardening whenever you want. That will be your garden.” The man is pointing at the floating island, now showing a portion of its rounded underside as it rotates far away.
Oh, no, we are rotating around it, Ferah realises as she mentally looks at the relevant information in the stone. The robed man shrugs and sits down on the soft grass, giving the small leaves all of his attention.
A cough, sounding larger than life, deposits the small beastkin on her butt as she falls backwards. The sudden gale rustles the grass as every single head snaps towards the bearded man.
“I see most of you have calmly gathered here. For the ones still inside, the room will not let you leave unless you are calm and composed.”
The man’s voice is not loud nor is it soft. Instead, it flows through the air without any resistance. Ferah has the feeling that she would hear him even where she leagues away.
“Each and every one of you, I took from a situation of imminent death or slavery. This means that I control your fates now. That’s a lot of effort though, so I give it back to you. You all can leave if you have the capability. In return for this, I expect you all to obey my rules as long as you are my guests.”
Ferah has a lot of things to say about that. She is no slave. She just got captured. Balling her fists and about to open her mouth, the man continues his rambling speech.
“I'm starting a school in which everyone can learn whatever you want. I have gathered a massive amount of information, data and skills and am not using it properly or efficiently. Instead, I am curious what you all can do with it. You all can leave when you have shown a sufficient mastery over the basic subjects. Everything but knowledge will be sealed or retrieved if you choose to leave.”
The woman pokes him in the side after the bearded man zones out for ten seconds.
“Huk, stop that. Then my rules. I have only three. The first one is; do not be an asshole. Don't be a bad person. If you do something, first think to yourself: ’would a bad person do this?’ If the answer is yes, do not do that thing.”
Nodding to himself, the man continues.
“Secondly, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Would you love it if someone gives you good food? Do that for someone else when you have a lot of good food. Don’t like getting robbed? Don’t rob. Don’t like getting punched in the face? Do not punch people in the face.
“Would you like to get a bag of gold out of nowhere? Give the bag of gold you have uselessly lying around in a vault to someone. Do you enjoy pain? Don’t go and hurt others, idiot. Get your head checked, what the fuck is wrong with you, liking pain? That is the exact opposite response that pain shou-”
The woman jabs an elbow in his side. The movement seems normal, but Ferah feels like a massive amount of force was used, somehow… The man rubs his side with a pained expression on his face while furiously whispering something to the woman. He coughs and continues.
“And finally, understand the why! Find out why you are all here! Why is that thing floating in the sky? Why are there a lot of small suns? Why are you all staring at me with such retarded expressions? Why would I, an incredibly powerful and handsome being, bother with rescuing what the world sees as useless people like you? Why is this planet such a dark mana infested shitshow?”
The man throws his hands in the air as his speech finally reaches its climax. “Not this planet, this is a pocket dimension of my own making, I mean the planet you all were born on.” Now pointing randomly towards the crowd, the man starts pacing back and forth on the small podium.
“Anyway, the piece of jade you all have contains the barest of essentials when it comes to knowledge. Master that and you will get access to the database in the core of this moon. Prove to it that you are worth expending energy for and you might just be able to convince it to let you start cultivating.”
Tapping his foot on the dais, he now points down. Ferah barely pays attention to the rest of the incoherent speech as she delves the small stone for knowledge. She glanced at the number theory previously, but now she knows how to get out of here. She needs to get back and check on her grandma, after all.
“And I swear to god, if any of you are long lost princesses, abandoned young masters or recently betrayed main characters, never ever tell me and leave me alone. Okay, I think I have confused all of you enough for now. The database will be keeping tabs on all of you. I have a soul pulse thing to research.”
With that, the man jumps into the air. He looks down, floats for a bit and drops down. “You coming?” The woman has a few veins bulging on her forehead and seems to be gritting her teeth.
“Even I know that was utter crap. You know about crowd manipulation theory, why not use that?”
“That’s no fun at all. I want researchers and independent thinkers. Not a bunch of single-minded zealots.”
“And the fact that half of them have ears good enough to hear this conversation is also included in your calculations?”
The man dramatically puts a hand on his heart. “Ah, you wound me with your suspicion. Of course, this is all accounted for.” Ferah ignores the quick glance cast her way. She is too busy figuring out what the crooked cross thingy is supposed to do to numbers to pay attention to her surroundings.
The man and woman start floating in the air. Pretty soon, they are specks in the dark blue of space, moving towards the massive pancake of land surrounding an equally massive tree.
Re-Haan breaks the silence when they are halfway between the moon and Tree. “So what spurred this on? Why can’t we go outside and why the sudden hurry?”
I have my reply ready, so I respond immediately. “Two main reasons. The involuntary redistribution of my midsection sped up the inevitable ascension of this world to a higher form of energy by hundreds, if not thousands of years. And secondly, the continent we are now sailing towards is spreading some sort of soul mutating radiation.”
“Yeah, messing with the soul connection is one of the few subjects that are truly dangerous, I think. Qi is controlled by our will alone, so what happens when that will can’t be applied properly?”
“Through ineptitude, incompetence or ignorance? The potential held within qi goes on a rampage?”
“Something like that. Higher amounts of energy means bigger consequences when something goes wrong. Anyway, that is not really relevant right now. Your kin represents order. Steady, predictable growth over a long period of time. The other continent then should represent chaos. Wild and uncontrolled evolution and mutation.”
I see the beginning of understanding dawn in her eyes. “How can we use that as a training ground when that soul radiation is happening?”
I grin at her while we land on top of my castle. “That’s the best part. There is a lot of soul related research to do!”
Something truly new to develop after all this time of simply reiterating knowledge. This is going to be great!
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