Chapter 136 - Shocks
“Gran, stop sleeping! I’m back! It’s rude to just go to sleep, you know.” Every single person in the clearing is frozen, staring at Ferah as she shakes the fallen woman’s arm. I put my hand on her small shoulder, pushing her backwards. My hand crackling with small electric arcs, I put it on the laying woman’s chest.
She spasms, and I press against her chest, making sure not to crack anything. Ferah struggles but is powerless against my heartcore enhanced strength. Sinking some augur into the woman, I guide the electricity to her heart. A focussed shock later, it starts beating again.
She gasps for air as Ferah starts pulling on her shoulders again. The old woman opens her eyes, keeping them focussed on Ferah as soon as she sees her. She does quite a bit of gasping, sputtering and coughing before getting herself under control. A warm smile on her face, she starts talking. “Welcome back, my dear. Now help me up, I need to do some guiding.”
Ferah’s tail puffs up as she assists the ageing woman upright. She then covers her ears as she slinks away. The old woman takes a deep breath. “ALRIGHT YA NINNIES, BACK TO WORK. I AIN'T PAYING YA’LL TO STAND AROUND WITH YAR THUMBS UP YER ARSES!”
Yep, her voice is the shrillest, most penetrating voice I’ve ever heard. Even my enhanced ears hurt. The surrounding people all jump and start running again. The imposing air around the grey lady disappears as she turns to Ferah. “Come here sweetie, tell me what happened. And tell me who those nice people are.” She waves a hand at Rhea, Angeta and me.
“Ah, excuse me, miss. Greetings.” She does a stiff curtsey after taking a closer look at Angeta, who nods and looks away.
Ferah hurries over and presses herself against her grandmother. She starts talking, full of enthusiasm, but stops and looks at me. “I’m not sure if I can tell, but he saved me and took care of me.”
“Call me Teach. I saved Ferah and some others a while ago. Might I ask if anyone from the beastkin authorities has come to check on you?”
The old woman frowns. “Not from around here, eh? I’m Menrah. Nobody checks on the border villages. You don’t end up here if you have good connections.”
Angeta frowns at this. “My dad got promoted to a border village chief.”
“And I’m sure he had no powerful enemies. Was he happy about that promotion, at all?”
This is interesting! I like this kind of politics, the intrigue and backstabby kind. I’m afraid it will get boring pretty soon though. Angeta frowns deeper as the grass and trees around her start to rustle. I see Ferah’s grandmother take all of this in, barely changing her expression as she observes the power flowing from Angeta.
“And your father told you everything that happened? STOP DAWDLING AND GET THAT ROOF COVERED BEFORE SUNSET! Excuse me for a bit. I need to sort some people out.” The old woman storms off while shouting more orders.
Angeta falters a bit. “But we were ordered by the Tooth himself. He showed me a marked writ.”
Man, her anger problems are already an issue, mostly thanks to the nature affinity she has, but this is not likely to improve her temper. “Is this why you are so angry all the time? I don’t mind that you stand up for yourself, but those explosive rages have to come from somewhere?”
She looks at me incredulously. “I do NOT get angry easily, why do people keep saying that!”
I feel a tugging at my sleeve. I look down and see Ferah, still slightly shaking. “What was that blue loud light from your hands?”
“Lightning? That's just the loud stuff that happens when there is a high enough difference in electrical charge between two separate zones, like the clouds and the ground.”
“What’s lightning?” Ferah asks.
“That stuff only happens over the sea. And that’s this electricity thing Database is filled with? Ah, that makes sense now...” Rhea immediately goes off into her own world, qi spinning through her brain.
I rub my temples. I got so used to the cultivation world that I forgot what a massive pain in the ass these kind of differences are. I managed to get by pretty well so far, but there is literally zero reason why there would be any overlap - cultural or physical - between different worlds if there are higher and magical powers involved. I actually consider myself extremely lucky that I managed to land on a world that has human-like beings. That happened twice now...
No lightning over land? Self-regulating grass? Beastkin obviously inspired by animal archetypes who refuse to acknowledge this fact? Quantum dungeons?
I sigh, deciding not to think about that stuff for now “Lightning is just free electrons moving around. Hold your hands forwards.” I do so, and Ferah haltingly follows my lead.
“Now imagine that there is power that really wants to jump from one hand to the other. It would love to travel through metal, but there is none available. It would also love to travel through your body, but that could stop your heart, so you don't allow that. Now increase the power and encourage it to jump through the air.”
I observe the power running through her channels and the electrical charge that’s building in the air. “You’re doing pretty good so far, but instead of imaging that power like a big boulder that you throw slowly, think of it like a grain of sand going faster than you can see.”
“What nonsense are you spouting, red-fur?” Asks Menrah.
“EEK!” shouts a startled Ferah.
*ZAP* Goes the lightning.
“HNNNG.” cries Menrah.
And grandma is falling down again, clutching her heart for the second time today, two black smoking spots indicating the place where the lightning running from Ferah’s hands entered her old, heart attack prone body.
I sigh again, my own hands crackling with lightning. Again...
“You filled up your heartcore? With liquid type qi?”
“Yes, hun! I feel like I could step into core forming any moment now.” Bassik is nodding to himself. His chest is puffed out as he brags to his wife.
“But how can you be certain, did you even measure your qi levels? Come with me to the moon right this moment. We shall see how much power you’ve accumulated.” Frustration visible on her face, the purple-skinned woman starts pulling on the thin man’s arms.
“Leave me be for once, woman! I know this, I feel it. I could sit down and advance right this moment!”
“How can you be sure without empirical proof, you fool! That speech was just a lot of pomp and show, pretty words to-”
“No! He spoke what he saw as truth. This is his place, and it saw what he said as truth. Don’t you feel it? There is something more to this place now, a layer of… realness. Previously, this place felt too clean. Very busy, filled with energy, but without any real weight. Now it’s… more.”
Rityn stares at the man, mouth agape. “What kind of unverifiable nonsense are you spouting?”
“Let’s do as we always did, you handle the counting, thinking and scheming. I will hunt, stalk and provide information.” He sighs while grabbing her soft hand in his slender fingers. “I miss those days, back when we knew what to do - our little hut on the ocean cliff. You, thinking of how to best get one over on our neighbours. Me, listening in and asking innocent questions about how they are doing.”
Rityn’s eyes grow soft, her face losing its previously stern cast.
“You forced me to cultivate a braincore; I was miserable. I complained but didn't change. You forced me to pick something else, so I went for the heartcore. Heartcores are all about instinct and intuition stuff without really thinking about it, right? You do the details, I do the big picture. Like old times.”
Hearing his soft words, Rityn moves to hug her husband, only to stop after glancing around. The couple is still standing near Tree, on the grassy clearing surrounded by a wall. The entire place bustles with activity, the very air filled with a restless energy of excitement.
“I will trust you with your cultivation,” Rityn deflates after managing to get those words out.
Bas smiles, the expression reaching his eyes for once. “Thank you. What’s next?”
“What project are we tackling next. I need new points.”
“Where did those fifty thousand points go?” Eyes wide, Rityn’s face starts going red.
Bas nervously hides his ringed hand behind his back. “Stuff. Cultivation stuff. What’s our next project?”
“We will talk about the points later. And we should study qi mutability, I think. Start mapping all possible permutations? Yes, that would be interesting. Teach’s endless neutrality would be the middle path, then plan out a shifting tree of intents.”
Bas nods along sagely until his eyes get drawn to the moon. He points to the large object floating above, towards a large group of figures that appeared near the small building housing all the portals. “Newcomers! That reminds me, I should hurry and advance to core forming quickly, that’s when we are allowed to go on recruitment missions.”
Rityn’s eyes start gleaming. “Then we could...”
Bas grins. “Oh yes, introduce the bastards to this strange environment, we will get to show them the ropes.”
“You will advance in one week. I’m nearly at qi condensing, that will allow me to leave with you as escort.” Fire in her eyes, Rityn starts thinking furiously.
“Did you spend any points? Most of them need to go towards a ring.” The two huddle closer as they start planning and dividing tasks furiously.
Nearby, a large and well-muscled beastman is looking at the whispering duo with suspicion. Suppressing the shivers somehow running down his spine, he looks at the moon again. His entire skull glows for a second, shining through his fur before the light travels towards his eyes. He puts a large hand above his brows to cover them from the sun, his irises shining brightly.
“Big round-ears, red pointy-ears, no black on orange and white, a few big eye jumpers, grey pointy-ears… Border village, which one though… No long-ears, no black-eyes, lots of horned mono’s… One of the northern border villages then.”
“Talk clearly, you big oaf! What did all that mean?” A green-skinned woman kicks against his shin, interrupting his thoughtful monologue.
“Stop kicking me. And see for yourself.” Rodrick points at the moon, indicating the large group of newcomers standing around.
“I can't bend light without a braincore, ho-”
“Pull the power in your skull to your eyes. Flight abandon you woman, do you need to be told and shown everything?” Rodrick growls while his free hand fingers his axe.
Huffing in annoyance, the woman’s skull flashes green before her eyes start glowing also. “How did a dumb-skull like you conclude that they are from a northern border village anyway?”
“They’re all castes that have fallen out of favour with the current Tooth, may the Flight eat him.”
“The Tooth is the big guy in the beastkin capital?”
“The closest one.”
“Why doesn’t he just have them killed?”
Rodrick chuckles a deep, rumbling laugh. “His assassins are already overworked. Why kill entire castes if you can ship them to the humans for political gains?”
“Is that how you ended up here?”
“Why so curious? You haven't even told me your name yet. I should tell you all this why?”
“Ah, that’s true… Didn't really think about it. I was so busy all the time, you know. First I got enslaved, then all of this stuff, you know... My name i-”
“AHUM, THERE’S SOME NEW GUYS. PLEASE SHOW THEM THE ROPES, EVERYONE! AND SOME OF YOU ARE ABOUT TO START CORE FORMING I SEE, THAT’S GREAT. OVERSIGHT BY A CURRENT CORE FORMER IS REQUIRED WHEN DOING SO FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT’S PRETTY DANGEROUS OTHERWISE. KAY, BYE!”
The small figure of Teach, barely visible to Rodrick’s enhanced eyes, stops shouting, bends over and whispers to a grey and red-furred beastkin female before turning around and disappearing. A few other follow him, leaving a large group of stunned, bewildered, and panicking beastkin behind on the moon.
“Leaving us to clean his mess as usual. Come, woman, let’s go and welcome the new guys. I see some familiar faces. Maybe I’ll get a fellow bone cultivator who’ll actually innovate and think up techniques on their own.” Rodrick grabs the woman and jumps, ignoring her complaining as they shoot towards the moon.
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