Chapter 116 - Devising
“What’s his name?”
“It’s a her. I haven’t given her a name yet.”
Ferah is furiously rubbing the massive black tiger, stroking each and every fur and feathered covered surface her small hands can find. The rumbling noise coming from the big cat is loud enough to rattle her teeth as she hugs the fluffy beast.
Three people are standing on a small bleached moon as it circles around a pancake of dirt containing two mountains and a tree. The big cat licks the small girl as she pats the white dust off of its fur.
“You should give her a name.” Now staring daggers at Tess, Ferah continues to pet the tiger with all her might.
“Yeah, Tess, why haven't you given her a name yet? Shame on you.”
Tess punches Ket playfully in the stomach. “Shut up, stupid.”
“Cough… Ah, that is why I don’t tease Tess, nearly forgot.” Something other than physical pain flashes across Ket’s face as he tries to get his coughing fit under control. ”Please mind your strength. Braincore, gutcore. Gutcore, braincore.” Ket finishes pointing first to himself, then Tess, and then himself again.
Tess smirks apologetically at this. Turning back to the small beastkin appropriating her mount, her face turns serious and solemn again. “Listen up Ket. Tower city is doomed if we don’t act. I saw a hundred full muties out there.”
“A hundred? The Neutalinn guard and dungeon delvers handled that number ten years ago.”
“On one mountain. Each leading a group of demi muties.”
“A HUNDRED? The Goodsummer protectors can’t handle that many!” Ferah is now standing on top of the tiger, looking distressed.
“Additional information submitted, five points awarded.”
Tess looks down in response to the flat and lifeless voice sounding out. “Dee-Bee, any relevant quests?”
“Yes,” is the synthetic reply.
“Don’t get uppity with me, you stupid...” Tess mumbles to herself as she puts a piece of jade to her forehead. Ket and Ferah follow her example as they see Tess start to smile a smile that is dripping with greed.
Wiping her mouth with a slurping sound, Tess nearly starts yelling. “I’ll accept them all!”
Tess coughs a bit. “Sorry about that, I’ll accept Goodsummer scouting and the subjugation one.”
“Group?” asks the Database.
“Me!” replies Ket immediately.
“ME!” Ferah jumps from the tiger as she puts the green stone back in her dress pocket.
“We need to get you some gear. I wonder why Teach gave this escort mission such high rewards?” Tess looks around, observing the absolutely barren landscape of the moon. “Dee-Bee, how do we get back to the mainland? And maybe do something about the exposed portal?”
“Thanks, that was very useful.” Now glaring at the centre of the moon, Tess starts walking.
“Where you goin’, miss?” Ferah follows the tiger as it plods after it’s rider.
“Getting under Tree. Jumping straight up is easier than at such a sharp angle.” Pointing at the pancake of land containing Tree, Tess’s arm is stretched out at a diagonal angle.
Ferah jumps on the tiger’s back again. “I’m going to call you Blacky.”
“You are not calling my mount Blacky.”
“Don’t listen to her Blacky. She doesn’t appreciate you. Become my mount, please!”
Tess looks at the small beastkin with a thoroughly annoyed expression. She then shrugs her shoulder and casually jumps, speeding up into the sky.
“Wait! How am I going to get baaAAAAAAAAH!” Ferah’s complaining tone turns into a scream of terror as the cat she is sitting on follows its owner in jumping upwards.
Ket looks around, seeing that they gathered quite a crowd. The grass around the white, square apartment building housing all the stragglers is covered in gawkingg observers. Ket gives a lazy wave, drops a coin at his feet and slowly rises into the air. Fierce glares follow him as he speeds towards the mainland.
Angeta throws a seed at the newest group of reinforcements. The glowing kernel explodes into a constricting web of vines. “Tsk, so annoying.”
“Wha… wha… wha...” Gaping like a fish, a lightly furred humanoid with excessive female curves stares at the spectacle.
“So, you coming or what?”
“But… why? You stole my boyfriend...”
“That was before we all got enslaved, so forgive and forget, right?”
“Five times. Five times you snatched the guy I was going out with. You used your goons or your daddy to keep me down and-”
“Town’s chief daughter or baker’s daughter… They all knew who had more power.” She points at the beastkin in chains.
A vein becomes visible on the voluptuous female’s forehead, even under the matted fur. “You little shit… Free me already. I promise I won’t beat you up like I used to when we were alone.”
A wide grin spreads across Angeta’s face. “That is precisely why I am here! I want you to beat me up in front of a large crowd.”
“What weird fetish is that? I know you’re jealous because of your lacking assets, but I’m not into that kind of funny stuff, you know. And what will freeing me even accomplish? The tribes are a long way away and it’s beast horde season. Some magic seeds are not going to protect us from a mana mutant.”
“Oh, hohoho, you have no idea.” Angeta looks at her surroundings again. Fearing the worst, the gutcore cultivator had swept through the pleasure district stuck between the slums and noble portions of the city. Sowing chaos everywhere, she thanked her lucky stars that none of the empty-eyed slaves were people she knew.
She used a piece of jade to the forehead to pose important questions, such as: ‘Wanna get out of here?’ in order to find the ones who still had some fight left in them. Teachs' lessons in aura sensitivity also helped, she avoided a few of the bright-eyed captives due to a heavy aura of malice and beguilement. Some types of people thrived under such circumstances, Angeta found out.
She hid the ones she deemed worth saving in leaf cocoons covered in crude stealth squiggles. And then she found her old rival. The one girl in the village who didn't care for her position and kept beating her through hard work and willpower alone. Angeta knows deep down that she never beat the woman once in a fair manner. She always needed her connections, social power and lackeys to come out on top.
Oh, how the roles have reversed. Or have they?
“Please learn to look past the past?”
“‘Oh dear Ragni, please learn from the past and stop getting in my way’” The chained female’s tone is thick with mocking. “You said that each time you ordered your lackeys to block me.”
Angeta rubs her eyes a bit. Maybe she was a bit impulsive in her youth? Maybe she let her position as the chief’s daughter get to her head a bit? Maybe her jealousy of certain physical traits influenced her a bit much? “What’s important is that we beastkin have to stick together.”
“Now my dull and lacklustre fur isn’t an issue anymore? Or my disgustingly big glands?”
Maybe she also was a bit racist? Ah, no, Angeta tells herself, that’s going too far. All fur grows equal, but some fur is more equal than other fur.
“I’ll stop remembering that you threw all my school projects in the mud and stamped on them.”
Angeta thinks that these memories getting dredged up are a bit unpleasant. Instead of listening to the irritating accusations, she crouches down and puts a hand on her chest.
“Now that’s going too far! You know I like me-”
“Shut up, you hussy. What is the most important aspect of strength?” Angeta tries something she saw Teach do - layer her voice with power. The wooden planks around them turn a shade lighter as the green tinted qi flows from her mouth. A single leaf starts growing from a floorboard.
Angeta inhales, retracting all of the expended qi at once. “Connections? Braincore, then. Build one on your own later.”
Dazed from the display of coercion through brute force, the beastkin named Ragni - the old rival of the chief's daughter - is assisted in forming a braincore. “Now follow me, we have some new students to transport and you need to beat me up in public.”
Dizzy from the sudden widening of her senses, Ragni stumbles as her chains stretch taught. Looking into the piercing eyes of the single most hated creature in her youth, she listens as she receives a crash course in fighting dirty, cultivator style, as they rampage through the city.
The chaos around the trio dies down as everyone looks at the small, trembling beastkin girl. Hands shaking, she stretches fingers out towards the glossy and shining metallic equine. Ket wiggles a finger in his ear while scowling. “Database, is she really required?”
“Unit named Tess holds administrative rights over quest.” The dry voice sounds from a small fragment of jade Ket put in his ear, only audible to him.
Looking at the single person he doesn’t want to know about his misgivings, Ket decides to try some things. Face schooled into a crooked grin, he asks “how you doing?”
Tess looks at him with an odd expression. Did he not get the inflexion right? The secret section of information he got access to in the Database had clear instruction about the intonation. The ‘you’ had this inflexion, with the ‘doin’ part lowering tone in a sultry manner. The grin was also quite tricky to get right. Ket thought he found the right balance between charming and intimidating.
“Why are you looking at me like I am a pile of numbers?” Tess, on the other hand, wondered what had gotten into him. “Ferah, stop bothering Ket’s horse. You need some stuff for the road.”
Tess has to drag the giddy girl away from the shiny beast. Ket follows the duo, who is then followed by the black tiger and metal horse. They walk through the small collection of odd houses into the open air storage area. The ruckus behind them slowly resumes as new students get inducted and debates get physical.
“Database, can you ask Teach to provide a ring for Ferah?” Holding a finger to his ear, Ket talks to himself. Ket then nearly shits himself as a hand falls on his shoulder.
“No need, I’m coming along!”
Ket looks up at the bearded visage and frowns. “Please don’t. You should try and bring some order to this madness.”
Teach seems to contemplate this for a moment. “Haha, no way. That sounds boring. Have you seen the progress everyone is making? The way qi influences species differently is also fascinating. And you are responsible for one of the major factions, take responsibility.”
Ket replies with sarcasm dripping from his voice. “Haha, no way. That sounds boring. And secret section four-oh-twenty-alpha-blue-”
“You didn't do it right. That one’s a classic. It always works.” Teach cuts him off, looking around shiftily.
“I did it like this. ‘How you doo-in?’”
“Just like that, Tess didn't react?” Teach and Ket are now whispering softy, heads bowed together.
“She basically asked what was wrong with me.”
Then Ferah appears in front of them, swinging a large axe with extreme enthusiasm. Tess runs after her like a worried mother hen. “Stop! Tell me where your core is, that’s important for choosing a weapon or armour!”
“No! It’s a secret!”
“Drop that! It's sharp! No running with swords!”
Tess and Ferah jump around the piles of stacked goods. Then everyone freezes as a blinding purple light floods everything.
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