Chapter 132 - Conflict
Bassik and Rityn, two humans hailing from the so-called savage tribes on the eastern shores, consider themselves very lucky. Bas is a slender male, his pale skin outlining wiry muscles under his simple clothes. Rit is a pudgy female with pale purple skin, covered in many small scars.
Their village got raided by a group of unwashed ruffians led by a mage. The spectacle the wielder of mana put on display was enough for their village head to realise they were screwed no matter what and decided to save lives by surrendering. This is how the engaged couple was shackled and kidnapped from their simple life in a coastal village.
Until they got kidnapped again, this time by a cultivator of - literally - immeasurable might that liked to call himself Teach. All in all, pretty unlucky and very lucky indeed.
“This is absolute mutie shit. Nothing is accounted for, and everyone is just doing whatever. I’d never allow my village or even my household to be in such a horrible state.”
“Now, now, dewdrop of my heart. We should be thankful to the good man for-”
“Good deeds or no, he has no grip on the situation! Even the lousiest leader of hunts has more powers in guiding than that fool. He thinks too much, that’s what I think.”
The couple is walking along the beach, small suns shining down on the warm waters and fine sand. Bas picks up a shell, oddly shaped with random growths. Snorting at the obvious traces of mutation present in the remnant, he tosses it back into the moving seawaters.
A clucking sound, coming from the inland forest line, has them alert and in combat stances the moment they hear it. A large bird covered in scales crashes through the underbrush and onto the sand as one of the patrolling cultivators beats it to a pulp. The large man with furry ears breaks its neck pretty quickly and slashes open its skull with a gleaming axe as his arm bones glow. He retrieves the small mana core inside its head with a quick movement. Wiping the small gem on his dirty shirt, he nods at the couple and walks off. A green skinned woman scurries after him.
“At least the beasts are being dealt with.” Bas comments.
“More chaos. The one good thing coming from that event is that the qi levels are rising again. Are you filled up?” Rit takes another deep breath as she glances upwards, to the moon.
“Yes dear, we can go back now.” A tired look in his eyes, Bas picks her up with surprising ease and jumps. They launch into the air, their upwards momentum-halting a dozen or so meters above the sand. Then a white glow surrounds them, and they speed towards the moon, the large circular tract of land centred by the enormous Tree growing smaller below them.
They land on white rock covered in a fine layer of white dust minutes later. Dusting off her clothes, Rityn strides off towards the empty horizon, the buildings not visible because of the small moon’s strong curvature.
“Is it me or has the moon been growing?” Bassik looks around with a frown on his face.
“It's surface area has been growing a sizable percentage every day, a linear growth line.”
“Normal words please, I've got a heartcore now, you remember? At your insistence no less.” Bas grumbled some more as he walks after the woman.
“I need someone to protect me. You were miserable while having to do all that thinking… It’s a bit bigger each day.”
Bas keeps a sullen silence as stark white buildings rise over the horizon. The large apartment complex that they all woke up in is no longer the only building on the moon’s surface. Surrounding the square piece of functional architecture is a smattering of smaller buildings and demarcated areas. Groups of people have gathered around one such area, a fighting ring in which two figures are beating on each other.
Bas looks at the fighting pair with interest in his eyes, Rit snorts and increases her pace. Soon they arrive at a white building, a hodgepodge of architectural styles in smooth white stone. Workers are stacking and fusing bricks to the side, adding yet another room to the growing structure.
The couple waves and greets a few people as they enter. They walk through the large hallway and through one of the doors to the side. The room they enter is filled with tables and cabinets, all kinds of equipment and odd items covering the shelves and working spaces.
“Get that glass tube,” Rityn commands as she sits behind one of the desks. She fills a glass beaker with a large pitcher of water and puts it on a stand.
“Yes, dear, the one with the fluid metal?”
“Mercury, yes. The one with the lines.” She grabs ice cubes from a blue box and drops them inside the beaker. A minute of vigorous stirring later, she drops in the glass tube and picks out all the ice. She looks at Bas while pointing at the hollow tube. “Heat it till the metal reaches that point.”
“Yes dear.” Holding out both hands to the side, qi starts streaming from his skin. One hand is under the beaker, heat distorting the air between his palm and the glass. A glowing orb of energy starts coalescing above his other hand.
Sweat starts to bead from his forehead as he does what is most difficult for his heartcore, external qi manipulation. He collapses to the floor as the expanding metal rises in the tube, reaching the line. Panting, he looks up. “Did you get it?”
The orb in his hand disappeared into the ground the moment he lost focus, sucked up by the moon’s core. Rityn nods as she effortlessly produces an orb of the same size and power density. Pulling out another beaker, she repeats the entire experiment herself.
“That confirms it. Your heartcore qi has a different feel to it, but the same energy density. You expended the same amount of energy to heat the water halfway to its boiling point as I did.” The woman smiles as she compares both orbs of energy.
“Now we need a gutcore to confirm.” Bas looks tired at the prospect.
“No need, I already had someone do that. They used the same amount of power. Let’s submit it to Database...” Putting a green stone to her forehead, her speech halts.
Bas looks at her while communicating with Database himself. “WHAT?”
“HAHAHAAA, WE DID IT!” Rit takes Bas into a smothering hug and spins him around, scattering equipment everywhere.
“Please be silent, we are doing scie… Bassik, Rityn?” The intruder halts halfway into the doorway, freezing at the sight of the usually frigid couple embracing each other.
Bassik breaks away from the woman with gentle ease, his face now even paler than before. “Dear, check your points.”
“Ah, we gained a few thousand points. Who cares. Check the section of data on… ‘thermodynamics’? Yes, thermodynamics. It’s got so much info!”
“A few thousand? We gained fifty thousand points! Who cares about thermo... thingies? We are rich!”
Holding her husband by the shoulders, Rityn stares him in the eyes. “No you foolish oaf, we can now measure cultivation bases and quantities of qi! That’s something even Teach never managed to do! There is a lot of theoretical data, as usual, but we just managed to make it measurable. Now we need to find the ratio between qi and.. Joules? Maybe we should use watts instead? I need to study electronics now...”
Lost in her own thoughts, she doesn’t even notice the large crowd gathered outside the door of her laboratory. Bas sneaks off, not willing to spend more time in that boring place. Ever since restarting his cultivation with a heart focus, mental pursuits have lost a lot of their previous fascinating lustre. And he has a lot of points to spend now, after all.
The previously pompous nature mage and fidgeting metal mage are frozen in shock, staring with open mouths at the behemoths thundering their way. They both break from the paralysis at the same time, the green-clad man running while holding his robes, the female giggling maniacally as she scampers to her carriage.
The soldiers, also pale as a sheet and pissing their pants, drop their weapons and run after the green mage, quickly overtaking the old man. The woman is now hauling a large metal tube out of her carriage, grunts interrupting her mad laughter. She drops it on one of the bigger stakes, flips out a reticle and takes aim. She locks the base in position and takes a few steps back. Taking a rod from her waist, she uses it to press a button on the massive tube while keeping her distance.
I'm blinded by a blast of mana that could probably kill a core former. The leading beast, a suspiciously large but otherwise normal looking elephant, stumbles as the bright beam hits it in the head. The horde behind it splits and allows it to stand up again.
The metal mage is now gibbering in terror as she stares at her ineffective shot. Casting a single glance at the equally terrified Valerius, she runs off with an ear piercing scream, leaving me alone with Rhea and my students.
“GUARDS! COME BACK HEEEEERE HOW DARE YOU LEAVE THIS NOBLE SON TO FEND FOR...”
Except for that brat who just jumped out of the middle carriage, running off. Ket stumbles from the carriage next, fending off a handsy Tess. “Stop it, no need to act anymore. And put on some decent clothes.”
Ket’s red face and near desperate attempts at fending off the stronger girl only seem to spur her on. I decide to interrupt the pink atmosphere by coughing. The pair freezes as they see that every single person still standing around the carriages is staring at them. Before their heads explode from the excess blood going to their faces, I decide to intervene. “So… This is new...” I point at the rapidly approaching horde of massive mutants.
I hear ripping cloth. Then Angeta is crouching next to me, squatting on my bear’s shoulders, snarling in my face. “You will NEVER USE ME AS A SLAVE AGAIN.” Spit drenching me, I blink a bit. She then roughly grabs my necklace and pulls with all her might. I am still stunned that she just ripped the softest cloth in the universe in two. That piece of dirty looking fabric is worth more than this entire fucking kingdom!
My sudden bout of petulant anger distracts me for a bit. Why is she holding Bord? How did she manage to grab him and pull him from Tree? What? Next thing I see, the fatty is sent flying towards the approaching monsters. Angeta roars as the grass around her jolts into action. It surrounds her in a storm of green, cladding her in a thick layer of writhing vegetation. Bord careens into the large elephant, knocking it down again as Angeta speeds off in the same direction.
Tess has disappeared in a black flash and Ket is now surrounded by a large amount of floating metal objects. Is that a horseshoe? Ferah has both arms in the air, yelling encouragements at Angeta. Vox appears next to us, looking around bewildered. “Bord just vanish- what’s that?”
Selis flies by, water churning around her. I feel sharp things poking me in the back, and my head woodenly turns. A true horror show of protruding fangs and enormous teeth, spikes and vicious scales grins at me. Then she Rhea gone, a whirlwind of sharp edges speeding towards the fight. I suppress my shivers. I will have to educate her some more later.
DANGER. Spool qi through brain, hundredfold slowdown.
Put bear mount in Tree. Wait for qi to cover subject… Wait some more… Done. Begin evasive manoeuvre. Observe projectile. It’s Bord… See source. Elephant is glowing grey and forefoot is raised. Anticipate upcoming fight. Nothing. Feel grief for loss… mana senses overwhelmed. Stop feeling grief.
Feel other emotions. Other animals are similarly mana filled. Compare relative energy levels. All big beasts have mana equivalent to core forming. Scan backwards. Bord will hit carriage, no casualties. Observe fight. Angeta’s armour withstands one hit and crumbles. Tess pierces hide of elephant with dagger, no effect. Ket uses arms as railguns, even less effect. Action plan?
I decide not to form an action plan. Dropping out of my personal time warp, I watch in awe as the strongest beings I have seen on this planet beat the shit out of my students. Tess barely manages to get away from the elephant's back as five-meter thick snake tailwhips her. Ket’s projectile rain makes one twelve-legged spider stumble, but now he is without ammunition. Angeta is running for her life, using the grass as springboards to prevent being stepped on.
I rub my eyes, but the scene remains the same. Then Rhea arrives and grinds a hole through the elephant. Blood sprays everywhere as the large beast collapses, Rhea bursting through its back in a rapidly rotating shower of gore and blood. That must have taken her a lot of power. My guess is immediately confirmed as she flops to the ground panting. Selis has formed a large array of ice daggers, but none of the ones she throws do any real damage.
Vox is still beside me, frozen halfway into beginning a sprint, eyes wide open. Ket is running to the carriages, and I sense him spreading qi around in a thick blanket. Every single magnetic object covered in his spiritual sense starts floating beside him. I sense Tess traversing through the shadows in the grass, her aura weakened greatly. Ferah has stopped cheering and is also staring wide-eyed at the failure of a fight. Selis is now poking an oversized scaled woodlouse with a large ice sphere, to little effect.
Pulling these monsters into Tree would mean an absolute massacre. I don't think that even Tree would survive a run-in with these absurdly powerful beings. Where the fuck did these things even come from?
Various scanning and predictive processes alert me to the fact that people will die if I don’t act. Everyone still near the horde is now retreating like hell, but the massive mutants are gaining on them. Bord is only now bouncing to a halt, many kilometres beyond my position.
I sink qi into the ground, rooting my feet. I bring up one of my modified jumping techniques suited to the early foundation realm. I almost start running through the massive checklist of muscle contractions before I remember my heartcore.
I keep the list in mind and trust in my heartcore. My muscles vibrate in a complex pattern and next thing I know, I’m hurtling towards the chaotic fight at Mach speeds, the wind fighting me. Adjusting my trajectory by bending the resistance around me, I slam feet first into a grotesquely large grub. The fat yellow monstrosity lets go of Angeta’s ankle as it flies backwards, slamming into a down-covered sloth.
Analysing Angeta’s bleeding leg, I splint it with some rigid qi and throw her towards the carriages. Rhea is nearby but about to be swallowed by a snake with wings, spikes still jutting from her skin notwithstanding. Taking another quick step, I slam into the spiked dragoness, ignoring the sharp protrusions poking into my body and face.
The ground shakes behind me as the snake bites dirt while I throw Rhea towards the carriages. Selis is already retreating, large sheets of ice helping her skid along the ground as she flees. Finally, everyone I care about is out of the way.
I pull at the qi in my braincore and pour the liquid into my body. I shift my core into a symbol of masculine strength. The small image of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan in my core does odd things to my appearance and the environment.
Grass flattens for dozens of meters around me as the giant beasts around pounce, the blood still falling getting in my mouth as I smile in glee. Finally a chance to cut loose with enemies that can withstand a beating.
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