Chapter 12 - Crawl
These floors are pretty big. A lot bigger than the tower’s external size shows, that’s for sure. The amount of stuff that’s bigger on the inside than the outside seems to be related to the amount of magic in the atmosphere. It was everywhere in the cultivation world. I’m not even a week on this planet and here it is again. Both planets have prodigious amounts of magical energies floating in the air so that hypothesis is quickly confirmed.
Lola has just now head-butted her hundredth dog monsters to death. I hope that horned rabbits are not a thing on this planet. Head-butting would be a lot more lethal but dangling from your own horn stuck inside an enemy seems like a bad idea. I skinned a few more of the dog things but stopped after I accidentally poked my finger through the separated hide. Their leather is thin and of a shit quality, curing it would just make it weaker or brittle unless extreme care is taken.
I hum a tune from the distant past while walking on. I have the majority of this floor covered with my qi. Keeping it away from the walls is harder than expected. If any of my qi even brushes the wall a large section of it fades from my control. Is that the dungeon’s doing or another phenomenon? I’ve got the majority of this floor mapped out, painting a nice floorplan in my mind. I would describe this level map as a natural maze. Twisting corridors form an interlinked network of paths with a few dead-end tunnels thrown into the mix. I approach the only tunnel leading downward and start walking down the stairs, Lola hopping along behind me.
The second floor has perfectly smooth floors with roughly hewn walls. Internal consistency is not a big selling point for dungeons, I conclude. My qi clad eyes pierce through the darkness, showing me a humanoid shape.
“Oh god, Lola, close your eyes! They have furries here!”
A dog-snouted being slowly walks in our direction. A white blur streaks across the tunnel and the dog snouts length is reduced by half, crushed back into its face. I get closer to get a proper look, waving the slightly stumbling Lola away from the body. It’s like the racoon badgers from the first level decided to walk upright. They have slight differences in their bone structure, allowing them bipedal movement. The rest of the body seems to be left as dog-like as possible.
Scanning it with qi shows me what changed. Their pelvic bones and shoulder joints got the biggest modifications, the rest of its body is still distinctly canine. Is this dungeon retarded? Simply forcing a dog to walk upright would destroy a large portion of their firepower, right? It can't grip anything with its paws and standing on two legs halves their jumping and lunging power. Shaking my head in confusion about this development I make a cross sign towards the cooling corpse.
“Yiff in hell, you poor bastard.”
Curious about what else this place has to offer I release a wave of qi. I might as well train while Lola mops up all these scrubs. Instead of spreading it out like a wave of gas I construct small wires. Chopping them into ten-centimetre-long pieces I float them into a triangular grid. Stopping halfway through I realize that I don't need any structural strength for a scanning method, so I guide them into a more space efficient square grid. The points where six wires come together gets a disconnection rune, this way only the wires touching the walls will get eaten by the dungeon, leaving the rest of my detection grid intact.
I hear another crunch and my little murder bunny sinks in another skull with her own. I do notice that she projects a tiny bit of qi forward through her head on attack, basically pulping anything she hits with her noggin. The result is another standing, now laying, doggy with a caved in snout. She does learn from me but uses this info in her own way huh. That is… absolutely perfect! Think for yourself little bunny, don't let the world tell you what to do!
I focus on creating a detection net generator rune. I don't want to individually manage each and every strand of qi, a central control centre that I can just pour power in is much more comfortable. I tell it to do four things. First, it checks if there is a wall in the way. If the area is clear it will copy itself ten centimetres in front of itself and create a qi wire in between. Then it rotates 90 degrees in order to form the next spoke of the grid. A simple countdown eliminates the creation part of the spell after five uses, letting it die after all new angles are covered.
Walking around while keeping the qi grid stationary relative to the world is slow but good training, but this floor is already bigger than the first, so I want speed. I stand still and activate the spell. As I keep walking to the middle of this floor the spell constructs itself around me and a few seconds later it overtakes me and begins spreading out. A perfect detection system, and it looks like a hologram.
Lola is freaking out now though. Head-butting does nothing to the glowing wires, swiping and kicking seems to have no effect either. She darts through the perpendicular lines, small enough to fit in between the gaps.
I take my stinger spear from my ring and throw it into a fat walking dog. The hard-headed rabbit is still darting through the grid while I pull my spear free. A pulse in my mind notifies me that the grid is no longer growing, all active spell instances eliminating themselves upon completion of their tasks. This floor has wider and longer corridors and is twice as big as the first floor.
The death of the fat dog seems to have scared away all the other creatures. These walking dog people are gnolls or kobolds, right? Kobolds are dragon people if I recall, so I hereby label floor number two as the gnoll floor. I assume the fat dog was the king or something so I take a left turn and begin walking to the only place with stairs going down. I wave my hand for effect and dismiss the grid. A thump followed by a small ‘squeee’ sound followed by an impact on my butt signals discontent from a certain freeloader.
“Shut up ungrateful cretin, I’ll do it again next level.”
White ears twitching she looks me in the eyes. I scoff and continue walking.
I’m on the seventh floor now and things are heating up! The third floor was made up of big square tunnels. A few meters wide with a similar height ceiling. It hurt my eyes though, everything was slightly crooked. I never had many compulsive tendencies, thank god. That floor would have driven me mad. Walls did not join at ninety degrees, floors weren't level, etcetera. It was inhabited by bigger gnolls. These fellows started to have some streaks of colour in their fur. I assumed it was a sign of things to come and the fourth floor proved me right.
The fourth floor looked weird. Think of a natural cave, including stalagmites and stalactites, made up of red brick and grey mortar. Beautiful dripping pillars, carved from red brick walls. My eyes hurt again for a few minutes until I decided that this dungeon is pretty cool for pulling the style off. It was inhabited by bigger gnolls and big ass pigeons. Big ass pigeons that could use magic. Lola made short work of them though, so all I saw was the gathering of some mana to begin a spell followed by a lethal white streak.
The fifth floor was the worst eyesore yet. Lola beat up the giant pigeon and we descended to the next floor where a truly horrendous sight greeted my eyes. The floor was made from stairs, the walls where stair-like, the ceiling was smooth and flat. And everything was made of gold. I put my finger to the wall and forced some qi inside. Before the wall could cut my connection I could feel that it was pure gold, about ten times more compact and massive than ordinary gold. I don't think a nuke could have knocked off pieces to loot or made a crack in the stuff.
It's enemies where golden puppets. They were basically moving mannequins. Made from normal gold though, so they were soft as butter once the magic operating them stopped working. I couldn't loot them because they melted into the floor as soon as they were slain. I had to walk carefully again as the length of the steps were just wrong to walk on comfortably. Lola had no movement issues whatsoever and we could walk to the exit pretty quickly. There was also some massive golden boss thing, but I just threw my spear through the most magically charged place, making it collapse at once.
I’m not talking about the sixth floor. As soon as I saw eight pairs of eyes staring at me I created a flamethrower formation and an air bubble and burned the entire floor down.
Now we’re on the seventh floor and I can't control my laughter. I am standing in ankle deep water. Lola ignored this fact and dashed down the stairs. Seeing her crawl back up, absolutely soaked and dripping was hilarious. I shook her dry, spinning her around at high speed while keeping hold of her feet, which she seemed to enjoy. I then placed her on my shoulders.
Standing in the middle of a large room I take her in my hands again. “Time for another lesson, look at my feet.”
I pulled one foot from the water and pushed some qi through.
‘WATER SUCKS, SURFACE TENSION RULES, COHESION AND SHIT’
Shouting some encouraging words in my heart I lower my foot and step up and out of the water. Now standing with both feet on the liquid I cast my reconnaissance formation, causing a flow of light blue lines to appear around me in a grid. As it picks up pace and speeds through the tunnels I realize that this floor is bigger once again.
Lola seems agitated while looking at the lines. She shuffles around a bit and jumps off my shoulder. “I can see where this is going...”
I pull the dog leather from my spatial ring and hold it in front of me. A fraction of a second later a deluge of water is caught by the fur. I lower the hide and look at the result. Lola is floating belly-up in the water. She is breathing even faster than usual and looks pissed off. She flops around and I pull the hide up just in time to catch another wave of water.
“Push your qi out slowly, you dumb piece of fluff. Don't head-butt the water with your feet. Use your damn feet to push on more water than what is directly below them.”
Saying something in a confident matter is usually more important than getting the message across when talking to animals. The result speaks for itself. The first attempt after my little speech has Lola shooting out of the water and into the ceiling. She makes another splash as she falls down, I can't help but burst out in laughter again.
Walking on, I remake the mapping spell, this time with half a meter spokes. These floors are getting too big for a grid resolution of ten centimetres. Now exponentially faster, the entire floorplan grows into completion.
“Exit is this way, follow me when you can, sucker!”
With a crooked grin on my face, I wave to the swimming bunny and stride out of the room. I pull out my spear, ignoring the splashing and whining behind me. Shouting 'SHARP THINGS' at some qi I create small pellets just in front of the spear tip. My detection net picked up flying enemies the moment I send it out so I’m preparing for ranged combat.
A meter-wide pigeon with a blue beak flies towards my chest with wild abandon. I point my spear and flick my wrist, giving it a shake forward. A single qi packet cuts through the feathered beast, slicing into its body just between its eyes. A few more blue streaked bats fly low over the surface, causing big ripples to follow them.
I think some panicked thoughts and watch the blue flow of mana materialise before my eyes. The bats are brimming with the stuff. Fearless thinking shows a fainter, lighter blue. The positive side of water seems to have nothing to do with the bats. I let some dread creep into my heart. Thinking about how small you are in this massive magical universe usually works. Shoving my hand forward I project all the panic through my palm. A blast of blue sends the water into a frenzy.
The pigeon hitting the water surface seems like a start sign for a whirlpool to appear. A small ring of water begins just in front of me, shooting towards the bats while growing. The bats can’t avoid the improvised deluge and by the time they react, they are already caught in the maelstrom. All the water in the surrounds seems to be sucked up by the ever-growing twister of water. The bats are shredded instantly.
This tunnel goes about halfway to the stairs. My map tells me it's a few kilometres long with various grand chambers and sprawling roads branching of off it. A massive sound along with a fierce wind hits my face as the improvised spell roars ahead of me.
I close my eyes and focus on the sensor network. I sense the tsunami with ease. It somehow feels like I used an enormous pressure washer to flush out the tunnels. The roaring of dying and breaking beasts is followed by a gentle wave filled with feathers and scraps of beasts washing over my feet. I hear a ‘squeeee’ sound with a question mark at the end.
“Not a clue what that was. Let's experiment with this world's magic later, kay? Kay, good idea, good idea.”
I put Lola on my shoulder before the slightly bloody water can drench her. I really don't know whether I should feel extremely excited or extremely worried. The moment the spell stopped functioning a massive wave of panic crashed through my brain. It seems like strict mental discipline is required for any type of mana use. A mortal would have been driven insane by such a backlash of raw emotion, so I count myself extremely lucky that I didn’t try that a few days ago. I haven’t found any large academy-type buildings so far, something to look up later. I did hear some questionable sounds coming from the tower I sat on while spying on the city.
The interesting thing about using mana is that it's a pretty powerful result at the cost of relatively little power on my side. I don’t take the emotional strain into account here. It feels more suited to brute force usage. I usually need to direct every little detail of how qi function, but this type of magic seems to work on instinct and raw force of will - or rather, emotion.
I let some more qi flow through my feet while I skip over the water, enjoying the feel of soft, young fur under my fingers. She seems to enjoy the qi laden scratches but also glares at me. Stop it you mind reading rabbit. We are halfway to the stairs now and the water here doesn't have the rose tint it did before, so I put Lola down again. She stumbles around a bit with her feet half sinking through the water.
A little later I reach the stairs and Lola can run on the water surface. Any type of lunging or turning too quickly still sends her swimming, but it is admirable progress for a creature a few days old. Her mum would have eaten her anyway, so I don't feel guilty about fucking up her life with some weird alien energies known as qi at all!
While halfway down the stairs, I spot a shred of spider webbing. I stop myself from creating a few thousand ‘BURN EVERYTHING’ formations by sheer force of will. Something seems off here, let's investigate before nuking this floor too. There is also a weird smell in the air. Lola sniffs the air and squeaks. She softly head-butts my cheek and jumps down. I follow her as she takes the first corridor to the right.
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