Chapter 111 - Patterns
I look at the statistics ticking by with a fraction of my concentration. Some more beastkin have proven to the database that they have a solid grasp of basic knowledge. My students are now messing around with them. The only two humans who have been allowed to make the trip from the moon to Tree's lands are Valerius and Ares’ old master, Danarius.
All in all, only a couple of dozen people have been ferried over out of the few hundred I kidnapped in total. The beastkins got really pumped after that little beast girl was the first to succeed, but I also see that some humans are working hard.
As for the old fogies, it turns out, the mages are too stuck in their old ways and thinking patterns to admit to not knowing basic knowledge. The only mages in my school are Ares, Valerius and the old guys about to become crystal skulls. I’m guessing that the crystallised part of their brains set their characters traits, literally, in stone. I did a little bit of research on that subject and have found nothing so far to disprove that hypothesis.
The forming mana core is at the exact location where I can sense the soul. The middle of the brain, above the brainstem, seems to be the place where the soul has the most solid connection to the material plane.
I learned quite a few new bits of information about the soul these past few days, much to my surprise. I sink further into meditation, closing off the weird sounds penetrating my castle walls, as I prepare my next experiment.
Breathing out, I dump an immense amount of qi into the atmosphere. Reaching the foundation realm with the concept of nothingness and pure potential did away with any solid form of my cores. To be more precise, I can make my braincore whatever I need it to be at the moment. I can shape it into a book, similar to my previous cultivation, without much effort. A few seconds later I can turn it into a sword, vastly increasing the cutting power of my qi. Then I could switch it to an ever-burning fire, etcetera. It’s slightly less efficient at those tasks than a dedicated cultivation method, but the pure versatility wins out in the end.
My heartcore is somehow still there, largely unchanged except for a massive increase in power density. The few body cultivation methods I found all focussed on training the physical body, so that makes sense to me.
I shift my focus away from my heart and shape a sensor array in my braincore, making detailed models of spying apparatus. I focus all the dishes, antennas and telescopes on Tree, aiming at the one dimensional portal inside its large trunk. The ship becomes clear in my mind, now a lot closer to the other continent. Still no land in sight though.
The wave passes across the ship again. Now only passively observing instead of letting it wash over me, my soul and mind remain unrattled. I notice a slight variation, the surreal feeling the entire thing gives me feeling slightly different from any wave I have sensed before.
I collapse the cloud of qi into a single rope and snake it towards Tree. That single rope contains more qi than this entire dimension, let's be careful now. I mentally chuckle at that. I poke it through the portal while keeping the feeding line underground, splitting it in two the moment it emerges from the necklace. I thread one rope to the bow, the other to the stern of the ship.
Then I weave the complex interlaced structure of the rope tighter, completing the core. A highly dense ‘T’ shape of qi now extends from me. I shield the entire thing, only letting the two ends of the ‘T’ open to outside influence.
Qi can transmit information, but like sound, the speed of said transmission depends on the density of the material. Sound travels through metal nearly fifteen times faster than through air. Information like mental images moves through qi based on some sort of vibration. These vibrations can propagate much more easily when there is a lot of the medium to propagate through.
The scanning process I made when walking through the forest I found Lola in worked at half the speed of sound. For this test, I will need to measure speeds at significant fractions of lightspeed. The speed of light is nearly nine hundred thousand times the speed of sound through the air.
A quick bit of math tells me that in order to be able to measure one hundredth the speed of light, I’d needed to have increased my qi density by five thousand fold. Luckily for me, I have more than accomplished this task. The qi I used for scanning was a faint cloud, I will be using compressed wires this time.
Still too fast. The wave hit both of my probes at what felt like the same time. I expel more qi and weave the rope even tighter. The density of qi in the middle of the ropes increase once again by a couple of folds. I increase the length of both ends further, making them both float over the sea as I extend the horizontal bar of the ‘T’. This is starting to strain my con-
Got it! That wave is going at zero point thirteen c. I just barely managed to measure a slight time difference between both measuring points. Satisfied, I retract my experiment while my enhanced senses fade as I release the sensor array. The gaseous qi I breathe back in turns into a sloshing ball of liquid centred in my brain.
So what does this mean? I will need to do a lot of tests in order to measure the effect of air, water and mana density on this radiation. What would speed it up or slow it down? Radiation that I suspect to be mana leakage. Pumping a lot of energy into, let’s say, iron makes it glow. It starts dumping energy in the form of visible radiation.
Qi does something similar. Powerful cultivators release this energy automatically unless suppressed. Not being able to sense someone’s higher power level simply means that your senses are overwhelmed and thus blinded by the radiation intensity.
I'm assuming that mana has similar properties. The wave of soul-stirring radiation is slower than both electromagnetic and qi radiation. I sit there for quite some time, inside the stillness of these stone walls, just listening to the variations in the waves with a small qi probe. The single person couch… I'm sitting... Shit...
My entire thought process grinds to a halt as I find yet another inconsistency in the English language. A two-seater couch is a love-seat. A three-person version is a sofa. A single person couch is a… Not a recliner, you need footrests for those.
With a bit of irritation, I add this conundrum to the ‘do not think about’ list and try to move on.
The comfortable chair I’m sitting on supports me as I analyse the patterns. Each wave is slightly different, but they never stray far from each other. They seem to be based on a procedural pattern, each wave a slight variation of the baseline instead of a compounding changes system.
That makes this entire problem a lot easier. And it reminds me to choose true, incremental mutations instead of variations of a baseline. I’m guessing this system was implemented this way to prevent creatures from developing a resistance, so it’s fine for whatever this stuff needs to do, but it’s still a security risk in my opinion.
Whoever made this shitty planet was no braincore cultivator, too many things are not thought out to their logical conclusion.
Now that I have all the data, the solution is pretty easy. I reverse engineer the formula that would generate all the possible generations I have found so far. I create a process that records the waves and checks it against the algorithm. Then I offload it to my qi clone. It’s not working anywhere near capacity, even with Ket, Selis and Ares accessing it nearly constantly, so it has processing power to spare in spades.
I then run some simulations and find a pattern that blocks all mana radiation. Like a faraday cage, the complex three-dimensional interweaving of small qi lattices nullifies any radiation in the mana spectrum.
I then add a detection method. This actually took the most time. I tried messing around with triangulation or trilateration. The fact that this would expose the user to a minimum of two waves without protection due to the need for accurate measurements threw that concept out of the window. More so if the user was standing still relative to the radiation source.
I then slap my forehead and plug the amount of mana absorbed at various points into a small processor. The front of the absorber will receive more radiation, limiting the initial exposure to less than one. Then I remove this design as I make a simple mana radiation absorbing structure which rotates. Checking the small formation's angle when a power spike is spotted makes for a deceptively simple detector.
I feel a hand tousle my hair as I am putting the finishing touches on my design. I wake from my engineering stupor and check my surroundings. Rhea is standing behind me, her bedhead and tired eyes indicating that she just woke up. I check with my qi clone and notice that I spent hours on this problem.
“Good morning. Wanna go outside? Also, what kind of hat would you like?” I grab her hand and stand up. I put some meaning behind my words, lacing them with qi filled with intent.
“A couple of hundred years ago I saw a queen who wore a diadem, silver with purple gems.” She looks to the side, spinning an image into existence. It’s an ornate filigree tiara made from silver wire and interwoven cut gems. “It caught the sun, making it look like she had purple freckles.”
I look at the dragoness in astonishment. There was this side to her too? It’s a shame that a little thing like that won't work. “No, I mean a… hat...” This time, I project a headcovering piece of apparel, like a baseball cap, bowler hat or a flat cap.
“Maybe a sunhat?” I shape a straw hat, one of those floppy ones with a wide brim.
“Or a military cap?” I show her the cool version of a baseball cap.
“I could do a phoenix crown.” I see her frown at the ornamental ball of gems, gold, gaudiness and tassels, so I remove the image.
“Or maybe you’d like...” I suppress my own laughter. “...a fedora? Hehe. Maybe a knitted wool hat? Nice and warm. Maybe a santa hat? A beanie?”
She points at one of the hats now floating around me. Wow, that got away from me quick. I'm a small fashion show, with all the headwear images floating around me.
“You want the fedora?” I stare at her eyes. In her sparkling, enthusiastic eyes. Aw man, I can't tell her that used to be a symbol of bearded necks and loneliness, now can I?
I put the finishing touches on the qi enchantment and put it on her head. A matte white fedora with purple edges and a tree logo now sits on top of Rhea’s head. It looks quite dashing, I have to admit.
I pull on my own dark grey army cap and let her adjust it. “Keep your hat on at all times when on the second continent. Glue it to your skull with qi. Do not take it off. Soul damage is really, really terrible.”
She gives me a serious nod and I sense qi threads sprouting from her head as they interweave with the hat. I do the same to mine and check the qi formations one last time. The complex web of mana radiation dampening lines and the small processor both pass the small army of tests I put them through. I take her hand in mine and walk through my castle’s front door.
What greets us is chaos.
Eerie chanting sounds throughout a grassy clearing, a golden tree looking over the sunny field. Mysterious and foreboding lights spill from a majestic library, dark symbols scrawled along its white walls. Complex and arcane words whispered and shouted with fervour such as ‘hypothesis’, ‘derivative’ and ‘factorial’ cause the symbols to pulse and shine.
Ket is sitting in the middle of a cleared space, bookshelves pushed to the sides, its contents stacked everywhere. Complex symbols are drawn around the seated figure. Energy pulses through them as shady characters chant and walk around the sigils.
“Drew, what is going on?”
“Hmmh? Nothing special, sweety. Why?”
Seated on a massive throne sits a humanoid blob, fat people running around, all carrying food. The large wooden construct groans under its occupant, the triangular building blocks just barely able to keep the fat boy aloft. The pile of food gets handed to him at a rapid pace, only pausing the feast to give some inane sounding advice now and then.
One of the beastkin reaches out a hand towards a tasty morsel. The boy flicks a finger and the resulting gale sends the skinny person tumbling backwards. He then mumbles something about braincores not deserving food as he licks his fingers.
“Even you should realise that there is a lot wrong with this picture. I was wondering where all those sounds came from, but this is a bit much, no?”
“What are you talking about? I just queried Database and all my school’s students are advancing at a rapid pace! The new guys are learning skills and cultivation faster than my original students ever did.”
A buff and tough looking beastkin sidles away from a certain redhead, unable to escape the much faster boy’s amorous advances. The dilemma obvious on his face, the muscled beastkin’s eyes plead for help to everyone near, only to be ignored. The inane chatter that should resemble flirting seems to drive the big guy slowly but surely insane.
A black haired girl flits about the edges of it all, unwilling to get involved. All the other beastkin are trouncing through the jungle, chasing a certain beastkin by smell alone.
“Poor Angeta, beastkin think strength is attractive, after all. At least it’s good for Bord!”
“Just ignore them. Database is keeping track. Everyone is gaining knowledge or strength rather fast. Except for one guy, though.”
The couple walks past a bunny who is being pampered by a troupe of beastgirls. The white animal is stretched out lazily on top of a luxurious heap of clothes and furs. Large leaves are used to stir up a cooling breeze as one of the attendants hand feeds the animal polished blades of grass.
Behind the massive tree, a blue-haired girl pesters a brown-robed man. He ignores her with all his might as his frenzied eyes roam the myriad plants in the garden. An old man in a robe is sitting beneath the tree, the picture of tranquillity. A massive human and an even larger beastkin stand guard beside him. They both look at the couple approaching them and grip their clubs tight.
“Stop. Lord Bord forbids anyone from entering.”
“Halt, none may pass on Lady Angeta’s command!”
“Look how cute, my students even know how to delegate. It’s good to know they take the few commands I give them seriously.”
“Drew, this is not normal. Why aren't you worried?”
The duo of large men is sent flying with the casual wave of a hand. “Good job guys, keep guarding this tree. Danarius! How are you doing?”
The old man cracks open a single eye. “Ah… Teach, was it? Fascinating stuff, you got here. Where is this, another planet or dimension?”
“Haha, just a small pocket dimension. Keep guarding Tree, let no one through. You will die if you pass through, and it will hurt the whole time you are dying.”
With that, the bearded man puts a hand on the golden trunk and disappears, pulling the woman behind him. The old mage blinks a couple of times, looks around, sighs deeply and closes his eyes again. “I’m too old for this shit.”
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