Chapter 127 - Initiation
“Hubbahwa what? What’s happening?” Pulling strands of white hair from her mouth, Rhea jerks awake. “Stupid human, let me sleep.”
I ignore her whining and stand up from my bed. “I’m going to tour the world. Would you like to join me?”
She throws a pillow at me. “Sleeeeeep.”
“I spent a long time thinking this through. Wait, what happened anyway? How come we are in my castle?”
Sighing deeply, she drags her body in a half-upright position. “You locked yourself in your mind, leaving us to fend against the beast hordes you antagonised.”
“That’s not right. I left the beast transport processes running.” I dodge another pillow.
“You left us to fend against the hordes you pissed off, so we dragged your unresponsive corpse around until all the beasties had jumped us. We discussed what to do for a bit and decided to evacuate into Tree. Ket managed to drag you and your necklace through the portal where we found the rest of your disciples fighting against the last remnant of the mana muties. The kids are all out fighting or doing random stuff.”
“That’s when you decide you had an unscratched itch?”
“It’s the least you can do for me.”
“I’m not complaining.” I dodge the third pillow with a wide smirk on my face. I'm suddenly surrounded by a rain of feathers. I turn around and look at the spot where the pillow impacted the castle wall. Let’s ignore that massive crack. How hard did she throw the bloody thing?
I step outside and stand on my porch, just soaking in the sights. Tree is glorious as ever, shining with a soft golden glow. Someone must have gone on a mana crystal delve, the crowning formation above Tree is slightly bigger.
The houses of my students are still there, an odd collection of freaky architecture. I see a new building near the garden, smooth wooden planks giving the square building a clean look. I check in with Database and learn that that’s where Danarius and Ares are messing with plants and medicine.
That is good news. The current state of Tree's apothecary is just embarrassing. I had sugar pills made and stuffed a lot of qi inside of them while mentally screaming ‘HEAL’ at the things. They heal mortals and qi condensers easily. They are horribly inefficient though, a more targeted application of that amount of qi could save a solid core practitioner from the brink of death.
Looking further, I see the library. Its white greek style facade still has signs of scientific graffiti and I am happy to see that not all who walk inside are robed braincores. I see a few people going back and forth from the moon, their jumps assisted by Database. Gravity is a fickle thing here, being largely made up by me and Tree's will.
I also see a large dirt wall surrounding the main buildings. I walk towards Tree and jump up. I grab its trunk the moment my upwards momentum bleeds off and look around.
Small groups of human and beastkin are working on the wall. A few beasties come close, but they are fought off without much effort. Looking further, I see that the more powerful animals and mutants are starting to claim territories and are digging in.
I change the blank space of my core into a duplicate of the brand placed inside every animal’s core location. I sense them here and there, a few thousand strong still, scattered across the kilometres of ground around Tree.
To the south, near the ice mountain, I see a small settlement. Those should be fans of Rhea, right? I look to the north and immediately spot Lola sitting on a lava stream bubbling from the volcano. She turns her head, and I catch a glimpse of a dissipating horn. I glare at the minuscule form far away. She just wiggles her nose at me. The red streak of fur looks kind of cool, I have to admit.
I look upwards, to the moon. Small buildings have sprung up beside the large apartment complex. I spot a few areas in which people are sparring, small fences marking the round fighting arenas. Things have calmed down again, now that there are a few safe spaces on Tree’s lands, and people seem to have a purpose now.
What that purpose is, I don’t really know. A lot has happened, it seems.
“Oh, hey Teach! Nice view, no?”
I look upwards and see blue locks surrounding a cute face. Selis is sitting on one of the lower branches, also taking in the view. Her aura is brimming with silent contentment. “Hey Selis, you seem happy.”
She smiles wider. “Nearly all the mages are gone from the Capital. I think that your skull rampage has them scared.”
“Your parents must be doing great then.”
“They are doing fiiiine.” She waves my sarcastic concern away with a dainty hand. “I’m at core forming now!”
“I noticed. Ket too. Congrats. Work hard in the future, kay?”
“Why did you forbid us from killing intelligent beings, by the way? You didn't really mind us bashing animals of all sorts?” Her demeanour turns a shade more serious as she stares at me.
“Sapient beings are not wired to kill others they perceive as fellow intelligent beings. A race where the majority can kill eachother without any remorse or guilt wouldn’t last a dozen generations. It breaks something, killing another being without absolute cause snaps a certain barrier.”
“Oooh, oooooh! Some people feel broken? Like their aura has a crack or something.”
I nod at her response while swinging myself up on the branch she's sitting on. “It’s a shift in perspective. Other people go from sacred and independent entities to walking flesh machines that can easily break. You’ve got one of the guns, right?”
Selis rubs her ring and nods.
“Pulling on an aimed piece of metal is also different from stabbing a sharp implement in someone until they die. In my previous world, it was impossible to reach the core forming stage without killing someone. Too many people were fighting over too few resources, the powers that be encouraged it as a form of population control.
“But that’s not really important now. The gathering and condensing stage are the formative stages. It took me a lot of time and research to find out that our entire cultivation path gets set in stone in those two realms. If someone slaughters their way through these two… The only way they will reach immortality is through a river of blood.
“I don’t want that kind of school… You would need to kill beings as powerful as yourself to advance. The only beings that will be that powerful in the later stages are your fellow students, Lola, Re-Haan and me. Do you get what I am saying?”
Selis swallows audibly. “We would need to cannibalise ourselves to grow stronger. There would just be one of us left in the end, stuck at that level forever... Unless they started a school...” She glances at me furtively.
I nod in return, a grim smile on my face. “That seemed like a pretty fucking bad idea to me, so I decided to go with a non-killing policy.”
“The pirate captain?”
“I had a solid core back then. And I made a thorough cost-benefit comparison.”
Selis is silent for a bit as we both stare at the forest below us. I ask Database to give me relevant info and start receiving data about tasks and quests that are active. Working on the wall gives someone a point an hour, I notice. I can nearly see the data flowing between Database and the small medical laboratory. The old light mage seems to have roped in his previous student, Ares, in his medical research efforts.
Valerius is puttering about the herb garden while Angeta is soaking the newly planted saplings with her green qi. I see a large beastkin using one hell of a fancy axe as he chops down trees. Focussing on him, I see that he sends a stream of qi from his… bones? What? He sends qi from his bones into the axe.
Not only did someone invent another way of cultivating, but that dude is also now turning a marvel of modern science into an artefact. I rub my eyes for a bit. That axe was a theoretical design I came up with centuries ago, incorporating all my knowledge about modern earth materials while using the mundane table of elements.
Making mystical materials such as Ever-Burning-Hell-Metal or Moonlight-Shining-Steel takes a lot of time. Put normal iron in a qi-rich volcano, wait a thousand years, and voila. Mundane and simple matter plus qi plus a lot of time will net you esoteric and rare materials. I am almost afraid of what type of fearsome weapon that axe will become after being swung about and infused for a thousand years.
“Did you check how the king was doing?”
“Alright. Cya later!”
“Bye!” Selis waves at me as I drop down from Tree’s branch. I turn around and land softly on the ground, pushing against the soil with my mind and will alone to stop my fall. I smile widely. I missed being able to influence the universe with the power of my mind. Feels pretty good.
I spot Rhea walking around, still looking sleepy with rumpled clothes and messy hair. I walk up to her and start fixing her appearance. “I know that you’re a dragon and care little for human weaknesses, such as appearances, but this just looks slovenly.” I tut some more as she bats my hands away.
She starts glaring at me, but my grin makes her smile too. “I’m off to bother the king of Shie-Eit.”
She shrugs. “He’s a lion surrounded by snakes. Scavenging snakes who depend on him without wanting that to be known.”
I quirk an eyebrow. “Why so?”
“The Flight has an agreement with the First Defender. The mages also. The nobles keep trying to usurp him, but they are ignored by all parties that actually matter.”
“That makes sense now! He is so angry and pissed off all the time. He is invincible but powerless. This is going to be fun. What are you going to do?”
“Ket and his braincore cronies have been doing all this theoretical stuff without thinking of the practical applications. I think that’s stupid.”
“Ah, the good old science for science sake versus applied science argument. Fundamental research is good, applying those discoveries is also good. Have fun!” I give her a kiss and a slap on the ass. I stroll off before she can get her hands on me.
“Drew! Give me rights!”
I halt as she shouts at me. “What rights? And call me Teach you stupid dragon.”
“Database rights. You might want to fuck off and muck about with the world while leaving this place to govern itself; I do not have such faith in mundane beings.” A trace of the dragon she truly is once again comes to the surface, a condescending sneer on her face.
What’s the worst that could happen? I mentally shrug my shoulders and give her administrative rights to Database. “Okay. You now have access to all info and missions. Don’t go power crazy please.”
She nonchalantly waves at me while striding off, heading towards the library. I admire her retreating assets before heading towards the moon.
“GODS SHITTING ON THE TOWER AND IN THE HOLE FUCKWIPE HORSESHIT MAGES!” Roaring furiously, the noble and elevated king, the First Defender of the human kingdom Shi-Eit and revered representative of the mage isles curses some more.
“THE ENTIRE FUCKING ASS WORLD IS GOING TO SHIT, AND THESE FUCKING VERMIN WOULD KILL EACH OTHER BETWEEN THE DUNGEON FORSAKEN FRAGMENTS FOR THE CRUMBS, RAAAAAHHH”
His speech becomes illegible as he devolves into screaming random noises. Alone in the sprawling royal chambers, he suddenly stops and runs to his chamber doors. Seeing no-one outside but a few of his personal guards, he closes the door again and checks the balcony door. Not seeing a soul, he continues cursing with a reassured heart.
“AND THESE ASSWIPE DUNGEON CURSED IDEAS GAVE ME HOPE, LETTING ME FORGET THAT I...” He pulls a small green coin from a pocket, looking at it with a complex expression on his reddened face. “That I don't actually hold any mana scourged power.”
He sighs deeply, dragging a hand across his tired eyes. He traces his thumb across the smooth stone drawing of a face on the small coin. He moves to put it to his forehead once again, but stops. He knows the mental information by heart already. “Knowledge without the power to use said knowledge is worse than ignorance.”
“Man, do I have great timing or what?”
The king freezes for a split second, his face turning into a macabre mask of hate and anger. Green and red shimmers across his frame as he moves inhumanly fast towards a rack of weapons. He levels the sword he grabs intoo a guarded stance as his eyes scan his chambers.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I gave you that green coin a while back.”
Lowering his weapon cautiously, the king watches as a bearded man steps through his balcony doors. Did he drop in from the roof? Not likely, the wall above the royal veranda is smooth, and the roof is guarded at all times. From below? Is he an escaped dungeon slave maybe?
The king is neither a regal ruler nor a fuming foulmouth as he cautiously observes the intruder. Every strand of muscle is tensed and ready to strike, the little mana he has access to roaring through his system. The intruder and the one being intruded upon study each other for long moments.
“Why give me this information?” Growls the king between clenched teeth.
“You seemed frustrated.”
“So you taunt me with unachievable theoreticals?”
“Ah, no. That was not my intention.”
The king studies the interloper. He sports a short black beard and medium length dark hair in an unruly mop - blue-grey eyes that seem to shine in the dim room. Simple clothing adorns a thin, tall frame - a single black ring on his finger, no other accessories other than a bunny on his shoulder.
A bunny on his shoulder. A white, dungeon-fucked bunny with a red lock of hair on its forehead on his fucking shoulder.
The king throws his hands up in the air, dropping the sword. “Please take this seriously.”
A smile now splits the tall man’s face in two. “Haha, I knew I liked you. How irritating are the nobles these days? And why did the mages leave?”
The king is unsure how to react as the man’s demeanour changes. Previously, he was an unseen figment, hard to perceive. Now he seems a simple man, perfectly relaxed as he seats himself in one of the room's chairs. “I’ve got a proposal. I have found that my explanations focus on the wrong things, usually, so please take a look at this.”
The king catches the piece of clear green stone thrown his way, eyeing it with suspicion. The man is now playing with his rabbit. The king suppresses a shiver, that animal just doesn't look natural.
“Where did all the mages go, by the way? The entire magical wing of this castle is empty.”
“Our… most noble… mage representative deigned to inform me that a general recall had been issued by the mage council. Who knows what those crazy bastards are thinking anyway.” The king then holds the green stone against his forehead, the familiar yet alien feeling of knowledge residing outside his own mind springing into focus.
The next few minutes are spent in absolute silence. The king is totally enraptured by the new information provided; a primer on three different systems of energy gathering named ‘cultivation’. A small addendum shows him that other systems are also viable, two examples being a meridian based flow pattern and a method based on the skeleton. Other than an encouragement to experiment, no additional information is provided.
There is data about a method of producing power from simply breathing, the taking in and conversion of airborne mana. Another section of data talks about the dangers of uncontrolled qi and how to prevent such contamination.
Before diving deeper in the esoteric knowledge, the king snaps his focus back on the present. He opens his mouth, only to be silenced by the total lack of a conversation partner. The chair is empty, a small glowing orb laying on the armrest the only proof that there was a visitor in the first place.
Picking up the orb, the king recognises the small ball of condensed power as qi. Inside the glowing ethereal object, he sees a black ring with a minuscule piece of silver embedded. Imagining the possibilities of personal strength, he clenches his hand a bit too tight. The orb shatters, his surprised inhalation sucking up the wisps of power. The ring fails to fall to the ground, instead snaking its way onto an empty finger.
Trembling, the king remembers the small bit of information about qi poisoning. The king then proceeds to freak the fuck out.
Stories about their ruler being unusually eccentric circulate the guard barracks later that day. The one guard who checked in on the king is silent, unwilling to talk about the shit fest that the royal bathroom had become.