Chapter 113 - Doorway
This is infuriating! My soul connection is too strong? What kind of baloney is that? I calm my roiling temper and try to find my centre again. Sitting on the bow of my ship, I let the sea breeze cool me down. Ignoring Rhea’s hair tickling my neck, I clear my mind as much as possible and let it all fade out of focus.
A wire extending past infinity shifts into view, stemming from the centre of myself. The centre of my physical body is the stomach. The centre of the body’s strength and vitality is the heart. The centre of the spiritual self is the brain. The last one is the centre I need.
Looking closer, I see a collection of wires clustered together inside the plastic casing. Looking even closer, I sense sixteen separate signals inside the cable…
Didn’t cat six cables have eight wires?
Wait, there are fifteen signals going back and forth? What the heck? I count again and find fifteen active channels. That's not right at all. I start pumping my qi through my mind, blasting my brain with concentrated liquid power. Only when I have three-quarters of my foundational cultivation base rotating inside my brain, do I sense the direction in which information flows.
Six signals uploading, nine are downloading. What the fuck does that mean? This is not making a lot of sense, why do I have a lot more bandwidth going in towards me than going out?
“Rhea, this isn’t making any sense. I have six outgoing and nine incoming data streams.”
Pale eyes blink open and look at me. “What did you have before?”
“Don’t know. I only did stuff with my soul, never really developed it. Every time I tried peering into my own soul, the world itself rebelled. There were some heavenly laws soul-blocking everyone, I think.”
“You reached a much higher level of power before?”
I nod in return. “Yeah, this is nothing compared to what I had.” I clench my fist as I fight off the fear and dread. I will find a solution to the lack of power, even if I have to speed up the pollution of the sun. Reaching the foundation realm required me to syphon off significant percentages of this world’s power. And the foundation realm is basically the start to true cultivation.
“Then your soul must still be vast. Your current level of power is not sufficient to require a lot of uploading.”
I wrinkle my brow. “It’s not that simple, right?”
“I have commanded my soul to be a rope. It narrows down my view. I do not like it. I am going back to the pile of treasure.”
I'm halfway back to looking at my soul when what she just said strikes me. It narrows her view. Sometimes having a lot of experience is detrimental, it blinds you to new possibilities.
‘LET THERE BE A HUNDRED SIGNALS’
The cat cable bulges as it expands. And I see everything. Things I didn’t quite put together through brute force thinking are clear now. An overview of my knowledge is just there for the taking. I grasp the entirety of what I know about atomic physics and realisation strikes me.
This is what the law of multiple proportions truly means. Oxides with one, two or three oxygen atoms. I nearly giggle as I truly understand this implication.
‘BACK TO THE NORMAL AMOUNT OF SIGNALS’
And I am dumbstruck with how dumb I just was. Of course, that’s how atoms work, you idiot! I shiver a bit. That’s how heartcore cultivators must feel all the time. The knowledge is all there laid out before them, the size of an ocean. It’s just a shame that it has the depth of a puddle.
It’s a hyperbolic curve once again, a spectrum of two extremes. I narrow the number of connections down to ten total. I feel my mind speed up, thoughts flitting by faster and more precise. I introduce connections one by one until it feels comfortable. I check and see sixteen wires inside my soul cable.
This is pretty messed up. Focus or oversight. Specialisation or generalisation.
“I’m done with soul research for now. This is stupid. It’s all the same in the end.” I sulk a bit while wrapping insulating foil around my soul connection. I let a trickle of the soul radiation seep through my hat and sense it bouncing of off the protection I put in place. “Anyway, try insulating your soul in some form or manner. Maybe surround it by a glass vault? I wrapped my own cable in shielding metal, and it worked.”
Rhea takes her hat off at the same time as me. She twirls it through her fingers and puts it back on her head. “That worked. It lowers the connection’s efficiency by a couple of percents though. I'm keeping the hat.”
I shrug as I put my own headwear in my ring. “My efficiency loss is a negligible statistical error, probably because of the powerful soul thing.”
We both stand up and look towards the horizon. The sky far away is looking odd. The ordinarily blue sky is starting to take on sickly green and purple tones ahead of us. I think I see the tops of rounded mountains peek over the horizon.
“How is your school doing?” An expectant grin is on her face.
I avoid her gaze as I peer inside my necklace. I flinch. “Nothing special is happening, why?”
Sending out the calming elements - my students - on missions might not have been the smartest idea after all.
“Doggies! Come heeeere! Auntie Selis want to huuug yooouuu!” A blue-haired girl saunters through a neatly tiled walkway, stopping at a crossing to yell a bit. A crown of water adorns the girl’s head, bright crystals reflecting the dim light in a colourful array. A faint howl sounds from one direction, causing the girl’s ears to prick up. She turns into a blue streak, trails of water following behind her.
The shard of ice leaves an arterial spray in its wake as it decapitates a dog. The other animals in the spacious room are quickly put to death by the small girl.
“Floor twenty-nine is easier than I remember! Boss, where are you, doggie boss!” Cupping her hands around her mouth, Selis walks on, the animals vanishing unseen behind her.
Minutes later, she enters a room that is larger than the rest. Elaborate tiles decorate the space in dizzying patterns. The two-headed dog breathes some flame as it stands up, it’s glowing red stripes casting light in the room.
Half a second later, it's pierced by a dozen ice lances.
“NO LOOT, MANA CRYSTALS! NO LOOT, GIMME MANA CRYSTALS!!!” An immaterial, blue pressure springs from Selis as she starts dancing while chanting. The large dog disappears, and several times it looks like the space behind her takes on the shape of normal items. After an array of possible items such as swords, food and raw resources get snuffed out by Selis’s qi, crystals tinkle to the floor.
“Thank you very much, Dungeon!” Picking up the crystals one by one, she places them in the water crown around her head. The pattern in which the shards rotate changes to accommodate the newcomers. Every breath she takes, the crystals shrink by a minuscule fraction.
Whistling, she walks down the stairs.
A young man skulks through dark streets. The sun is out, but the bright rays seem unable to penetrate the damp and dirty surroundings, casting the brick and wooden shacks in gloom. Although the man is very suspicious, carrying a few large chests of fine make, he is ignored by all. Huffing and puffing, covered in a grey sheen, Ket walks up to his old home.
He softly kicks the door open. It falls off its hinges and crashes to the ground. The chests are thrown to the dirt floor, metallic jingling sounds hinting at their contents. Sighing, Ket weaves an illusory door from threads of qi. He closes his eyes for a bit, simulating the colour brown is pretty hard, after all. The door flashes green and blue before blending into the surroundings.
Now alone in the small, ramshackle home, he sits down. Small lines of symbols appear in the air around him. Closer inspection reveals that each small spell is made up of an ear, followed by two letters and a book. He looks at one of the lines and wipes the two letters away. He then replaces the ear with the symbol of a single sound wave.
Satisfied, he waves a hand, and the dozens of small spells speed away.
The next hour he just listens and processes the information flowing through the recording spells. The underbelly of the city is the best place to get useful information, after all. Criminals are less likely to colour their information in the manner that the nobility tends to.
Abruptly, he stands up. Irritation flashes across his face, but it vanishes as he picks a complicated stone out of his pocket. Other emotions are barely perceptible as he stares at the object in his hand.
“Pfff. Why do I even care about this shitty place?”
Ket shrugs and walks through an empty doorway to the other room in his small house. He drops the stone, grabs the top and starts to pull. Putting all his strength into pulling, he nearly falls as the stone fails to resist.
Recovering from his stumble, he pours qi into the stone. He puts it on the ground and starts to pull again, the stone this time remaining stuck to the dirty floor. He pulls harder. Muscles and veins display an obvious strain as he throws all his power at the stone, without much effect. The runes carved across the round object flash but it refuses to move. A faint line starts to separate the top and bottom half as the intricately carved lines light up further.
Pulling on the top of it with all his might only causes the top half to rise by a single hair. Grey light glitters across his frame as he gets a better hold on the small thing. He tries again, this time separating both halves by multiple centimetres.
Rubbing his sore muscles, Ket frowns deeply. Pulling a sword out of his ring, he stuffs it between the two halves, only for the top part of the blade to fall to the ground. Eyes wide, Ket crouches and looks between the two semi-spheres.
A thin white line connects the floating half with the lower half or carved rock.
“It’s cutting through space? The decad-damned...”
Picking up the fallen piece of sword, he looks at the cut end.
“Perfect… Cut on a molecular level...”
His head swivels back and forth between the sword tip and floating stone multiple times. Carefully, he manoeuvres the blade in between the two halves. Then a wash of grey energy forces the blade upwards. Droplets of sweat start beading on his forehead as the sword slowly pushes both stone halves apart.
The grey swirls sparkle and shudders as the white line extends. Then something clicks, causing Ket to fall backwards. Trembling slightly, he stands up.
“Fuck you Teach. This is not something a qi condenser can do. Core forming is barely enough.” Ket shakes his head. “Your sense of power is messed up by several factors.”
Sighing deeply, Ket walks towards the thin white line. Holding out a hand, his senses strained to the limit, he touches the phenomenon. The small inlaid tree on his ring flashes and the white line separates into a sharp ellipse.
He pokes a finger through. Retracting it, he finds it still attached. Taking a deep breath, he picks up a chest and tosses it through. The dark ellipse widens just enough to let the heavy object sail through.
A shrill scream sounds through the opening. Ket quickly pushes his head through the shining crack in space, getting a proper look of the other side. White rock stretches outwards, a deep blue sky above - a small beastkin girl struggling under the heavy chest. Ket looks at the scene for a bit. His head retracts and more chests fly though, all barely missing the girl.
“Waa, stop! This is dangerous!!”
Stepping through the opening himself, Ket watches it close back to a line. Looking around, he finds himself on the moon. The small moon circling around Tree. Grinning widely, he throws the chests to the side.
“What are you doing back on the moon?”
“Mister Ket? Please go back to the library. The cult of knowledge and knowing stuff is making things difficult.”
“Fay, was it? What cult?”
“It’s Ferah! Remember it properly! The cult you started! They are telling everyone about the path of life and wisdom, that I should follow the numbers and see the forms.”
“Okay, Feekah. Why are you not following the numbers and seeing the forms then?” Grinning at the obvious irritation on the small girls' face, Ket gains some social insights about why Teach does this kind of thing all the time.
“‘Feh’ - ‘Rah!’ Its ‘Feh’ and then ‘rah’. I wanted a heartcore but miss Selis wouldn't have it. I need to find grandma.”
“Okay, Feh-and-then-rah. But why are you on the moon? There is no qi here, only angry people.”
“Grraah! Ferah! And tell your cronies to leave me alone!” She kicks a chest. Her face freezes as she slowly starts rubbing her toes. Stiffly, she turns around and walks away.
Ket chuckles to himself as he watches the beastkin disappear over the round horizon. “See you later, Fay-fay!” His mirth increases as he watches Ferah stop, tail puffed up. A furious tail straightening later, she keeps walking.
“Database, I accomplished mission four three alpha-” Ket halts his report as the qi clone of Teach under his feet initiates a mental connection. He reports his quest progress and dumps his scouting report. Database dutifully informs him that he now has several hundred points to spend. Ket then asks what points can be spent on. The list of knowledge, materials and privileges he receives in reply leave him speechless.
“Why would anyone pay Teach for a massage? What is this privilege, ‘a good talk about life?’ DeeBee, are you messing with me? Show me more information about the restricted weapons category.”
Ket goes pale as he looks at the list of apocalyptic implements carelessly put up for sale. “Teach, now I am tempted to have a good talk about life with you… There must be a set of restrictions on this list, right? Just disciple status? Ah, that is personal disciple status. What else is there? These dishes sound pretty delicious, expensive though.”
Ket rubs his ring as its entire content spills out around him. One of the chests wobbles and crashes to the ground, spilling gold, gems and artefacts everywhere. Now surrounded by a true mountain of treasure, Ket continues his conversation with a qi construct trapped inside the core of the small moon. “DeeBee, how much points for these supplies? Just that much? What are truly valuable resources then? Information and new things, hmm. I’ve got more information about Tower City than the quest requested, how much for that? That’s more than all the treasure I stole combined! This is half of Tower City’s nobles' population wealth, and some rumours are worth more points?”
Rubbing his temples, Ket continues to think hard. The choice between spending points on Teach’s food or keeping those weapons of mass destruction safe is not an easy one to make, after all.
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