Chapter 110 - Instruction
The fact that the sun will be polluted by qi is freaking me out. I keep assigning a disproportionate amount of processes to simulations and predictive systems. Dyson sphere designs alternate with self-replicating space drones, all to find ways to keep the power of a qi radiating sun contained.
Back in the cultivation world, I used to avoid looking at the sky too much. Especially at night. It was a well-known secret among all cultivators. Mortals didn’t have eyesight sufficient to spot them, but solid core and up cultivators rarely looked up when the sun was down. All to avoid seeing the planet-sized monstrosities roaming through the solar system.
An asteroid that gets bombarded by supernatural high energy solar radiation eventually develops some form of consciousness or intelligence. Rocks on the planet itself don’t develop in this manner because nature takes that spot. Any potential life developing forms of qi are sucked up by random bacteria or fungi when no larger forms of life are near.
In the blackness of space, there is nothing to stop the development of gas giant sized Lovecraftian monstrosities.
And I might have condemned this entire planet to eventual ruin by introducing qi. This planet has no moons weaving a protective web against astral horrors. It will probably take a very, very long time before the first specks of space dust start to take independent actions, but that is still a responsibility I am not keen to have on my consciousness.
I could harness the power of the sun to speed up my construction effort by making qi powered solar panels. A zero gravity assembly line would be pretty useful, maybe start mining the moon and shoot raw materials into orbit? Harvesting the power of the sun would only give me efficient returns if the sun got a power-up. That would mean infecting the sun with more qi, forcing me to speed up my own efforts.
Recognising the vicious thought cycle for what it is, I forcefully terminate that line of thought. All of this is useless speculation anyway. I will need to get past the orbital defences first. The chance that those automated railguns are the only orbiting weapons is nonexistent in my opinion. I am sure that they’re just the first line of defence.
A small line of qi travelling towards my head shakes me from my stupor. I calm the roiling power inside my head and return to the present. The world around me speeds up and I feel the miniscule probe attempt to pierce my mental defences. Tracing it back to where it came from, I see Ares and Ket looking everywhere but at me.
I stare at the duo for a bit while I analyse the probe. A thick shell of qi surrounding a single sentence of obtuse symbols. I partition a section of my mind and let the probe break through its defences. A soon as it enters the small think space, the thick shell dissolves and the piece of code fragments. Each fragment takes a bit of shell energy to form small, swimming probes.
Ket made a brain virus! I thought the shell was just a clumsy attempt at hiding the content, but he used it as an energy source.
Only then do I notice Ares’s attempt at intrusion. The effort she made seemed too pathetic to take seriously. She managed to slip it through my outer mental defences, flying under my radar. Her probe smashes against my authentication process and halts.
I purge both attempts by flushing the infected areas with caustic qi and smile at the duo. “Very well done. Making a self-replicating process and hiding a process by fully enforcing its own patheticness is genius!”
“I was furious at you two for messing with my mind, but you can't really do a lot to someone else's mind.” Ket rubs the back of his head while looking down from the castle balcony we are on. He looks at Tess, who is listening to a lecture by Selis. Tess, Bord, Vox and Angeta are all sitting on the grass, looking at the shapes of water Selis is using as a blackboard.
Rhea is sleeping in my castle, cultivating on autopilot, while Ket, Ares and I are having a little discussion.
Ares chuckles once. “I tried to make Bord do things, but his thought processes are so incredibly huge and massive, it takes all my focus to change a single thing.”
Ket nods. “Yes, Bord and Vox are thinking thoughts that are multiple factors bigger than even the gut core cultivators. I can’t convince Tess to do something she does not want.”
“Instinct versus awareness. Automation versus control.” I nod sagely while blocking more probes. Ares comes at me with a deluge of small attacks, each more sad and harmless than the last. Ket attacks with a mathematically random prodding pattern.
“Subtlety or raw power. You could brute force someone’s brain, but that would be similar to forcing them to move their limbs. People notice and start fighting back. Influencing someone subtly prevents you from making them do something against their nature or will.”
Filtering my eyes with a bit of qi, I sense a line of communication between the two. I attach my own qi thread and intercept their manner of coordination. Performing a man in the middle attack, I feed both wrong data and make their attacks collide and cancel each other out.
We have been at this for quite a while now. I am training my own fine control while they keep coming up with new ways to attack.
Selis got bored of it a while back and decided to teach the other students. I can see veins bulging on the blue-haired girl's forehead as Bord makes another dumb comment.
A shrill scream ends with a dull thud. I glance at the furball sprawled along the grass and request an update from my qi clone. Database sends me a packet of information, and I raise a single eyebrow. That’s faster than expected!
“So the double point thing is the same as the crooked line?”
“Yes, Angy. The double points with a line between them are also dividing.” Selis forces a smile while adjusting the floating water symbols.
“Because that’s how you write them down? A half is a one above a two.”
“Thank fuck! Yes, thank you for understanding!” Selis’s smile is now filed with relief as she addresses the beastwoman.
“What comes after nine again?” Vox raises his hand with a deadpan expression.
Bord replies to the question. “I know this one! It’s zero one! You add a zero when there are no numbers left.”
Selis splendidly ignores the two heartcore cultivators and focuses on Angeta and Tess. “It’s all in that Database thing. Teach set up this entire system where more knowledge unlocks when you’ve proven that you understand. Just spend some time studying and doing the exercises, Database will recognise it when you have mastered the subject.”
Tess fiddles around with a green gem. “But there is so much! A literal sea of things to learn!”
“Do one of the starter tests, that way you can easily figure out what you enjoy and what you are good at.” Selis weaves an intricate web of water, pointing here and there. “I really enjoy learning about physics and the way water moves.”
“I like learning about plants and the way stuff reacts with stuff,” Vox interjects.
Selis shoots him a condescending smile. “That’s great, Vox. Angeta, look at section twenty-four thirty. That is the start of all the plant knowledge I have found.”
The beastwoman puts her own piece of jade to her forehead and scrunches her eyebrows. Selis turns to Tess. “Tess, look at section ninety-two hundred-twelve. Shadows and darkness are the absence of an electromagnetic radiation range.”
Selis then turns to Vox and Bord. She is silent for a bit. ”You guys should just go and have fun or something.”
Vox stares Selis in the eye. “Don’t look down on me. I made my heartcore with a focus on being smart.”
Despair flashes across Selis’s face. “That means that you are one of the smar… What’s that?”
A small figure falls from the sky, landing spread-eagled on the grass with a dull thud. Vox disappears and is crouching beside the crumpled form a split second later. He touches the furry mess. “She’s fine. Just a bit dazed.” He gives a single glance towards the group and wanders off.
Selis runs towards the small heap, fingers twitching. She looks towards Vox and shrugs. She then hauls the small figure upwards and starts hugging it. “You look so much better all clean and clothed and without the collar and chains. Aaah, so cute! Come, sweetie, tell auntie Selis your name! You are the first one to prove to Database that you have mastered the basic knowledge, where is your key?”
One arm holds the furry girl tight while the other roams the small body. A small hand reaches the small green stone stuck to the beast girls forehead. Selis then touches her own forehead to the still dazed beastkin and smiles.
“Ah, your name is Ferah. Nice to meet you, cutie! You put a lot of effort into learning. You should totally become a braincore cultivator like me!”
The small girl looks down into the smaller girls' eyes, shining with expectation. Seemingly struck mute, Ferah shakes her head. She weakly struggles but is completely unable to free herself from the blue-haired girls' grip.
“Grandma gotta find grandma! Heartcore is the strongest.” Ferah mutters to herself, still half dazed.
Selis holds her like a ragdoll with mounting horror. “No, no. You should form a braincore. They are the best! Please don't become another dumb brute like those fellows.”
Ferah looks up as Selis turns her around. She sees a fat boy picking his nose, a redheaded boy waving while smiling, a dark-haired girl rubbing her temples and a beastkin whose ears are twitching. Ferah’s ears start twitching in tandem, both pairs of furry appendages flicking through a wide variety of poses before the smaller girl blinks once slowly. Angeta seems to lose interest at this and starts talking to Tess.
Selis drops the girl with a dejected expression. Then Ferah’s tail straightens and she turns to Selis. “Dee-Bee told me that I needed to learn stuff before I could leave. How can I learn the fastest?”
Hope rekindled, Selis starts a lecture on the many advantages of braincore cultivation. She only stops when Ferah falls flat on her face, twitching uncontrollably. Selis fusses about frantically, until a large hand lands on her shoulder.
Teach glances at a fidgeting Selis while laying a hand on the spasming girl. “Time to earn your keep, my students! Guide the fellow members of your school in forming their first cultivation base. Database, or Dee-Bee as she called it, only grants new school members access to Tree when they pass a test. It then stresses them to pick and start a cultivation. She would have started that the moment she landed where she not distracted by someone.”
Ferah opens her eyes slowly, clarity sparkling behind her eyes. She sits herself in a seated position and closes her eyes. Seconds later, her breathing becomes shallow. “Thanks...”
“No problem kid. Congratulation on being the first to show a modicum of intelligence.” I grin at the small seated figure of the first addition to my forces. Looking upwards, I spot the majority of ex-slaves and other unfortunates milling about uselessly. They are slowly exploring the barren moon.
The biggest disappointment so far has been the old mages I picked up from the nexus skull rooms. The skulls themselves disintegrated during my breakthrough into the foundation realm. The fact that the only things I have left of that undertaking are still unable to cope with their changed lot in life leaves a sour aftertaste. They have been bitching about being unable to use their mana powers. Only one is seriously studying so far.
“As for the rest of you fellows, I’ve put up the first missions in Database. You can earn points to buy stuff and dangerous knowledge, just ask it.”
A serious lack of enthusiasm greets me. I look at my castle where Rhea is sleeping. I feel rather lonely. “You can buy food with points.”
Nanoseconds later, the only one not communicating with my qi clone is Ferah.
I need a drink.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter