Chapter 143 - Sparring
Man, cutting loose and venting every single frustration through the medium of raw physical violence is extremely gratifying. The fact that I’m furthering my own cultivation at a neat clip while discovering how Lola and my new sword interact is a nice side-benefit.
“Ice,” I bark at the small rabbit. The red fire in her eyes is replaced by a cold blue immediately while my sword gets bathed in red flames. Good thing I made my clothes fireproof, or I’d be fighting in the nude right about now.
The qi swirling in my brain allows me to consciously observe the slimy worm that’s shooting towards me. My heartcore and it’s accompanying instincts are already turning my core, setting my centre of weight at an angle to the incoming beast. I pull my sword forwards, leaving a scorching trail in the air.
The purple and blue worm flies into the glowing edge, causing two massive halves of cauterized mutant to shoot past me. I only needed to keep the sword steady and reinforce the ground under my feet. There are few trees left standing around me, but the sheer face of rock behind me is less easily flattened. I start moving preemptively.
The two worm halves smash against the cliff, spraying water and air mana infused goop in a wide semicircle. Lola freezes the large splash about to cover her and kicks the chunk of ice towards a dark green slug-bear hybrid.
I let my sword’s momentum swing it in a circle, releasing a furry centipede of a few of its many limbs. Lola squeaks, so I prepare for the shift. The qi flow in my sword reverses as all the fire energies are sucked into that horrible, terrible fucking stain on my otherwise majestic sword. A flood of biting ice - absolute stillness in a vicious blue - surges from the other abhorrently shameful and mortifying emblem on my sword.
The red bunny cartoon fades while the blue bunny cartoon starts glowing blue. The silver tree connecting both now contains more blue than red as qi circulates through its internal circuits.
I take all the anger, shame and fury I feel at this fucking piece of metal and what Lola has done to it and use it to power my next swing. A cone-shaped patch of forest fifty meters long and ninety degrees wide turns into a winter wonderland. Lola smashes from the sky like a flaming comet, her large red horn impacting the still tableau of blue and shattering every single being, plant and clod of dirt in a massive incinerating shockwave.
I only feel my anger grow. She keeps using that horn even though she knows I despise it. She took on a dual fire and ice cultivation, knowing full well that it’s a smack in the face of rational science. Intermingling fire and frozen water is not special or powerful, it’s just matter at discrete thermal states, god damn it! And the worst part, SHE RUINED MY SWORD RAHRAHGAGHGAAAAA!
I pull at the two embedded sources of power in the sword, intermingling the red and blue in a twisting, raging stream of power. Lola plops to the ground, the jet of fire she was using to propel herself suddenly vanishing as I take control of the two types of qi intent. I start using the large slab of alloy as a counterweight, using it to keep balance while I begin spinning. I build up momentum in a few hasty circles like an Olympian hammer thrower on - literally - all the steroids. I let my heartcore do all the heavy lifting on this one, my braincore shudders at the impractical nature of this skill, but I’m pissed, so I don’t care.
Lola looks my way with large eyes. She immediately lies flat on the ground, covering her ears with her front paws. I double check my position - away from the cliff and surrounded by massive beasts running at me - and let all the energy in my sword flow through the very tip.
The centrifugal force aids me as the stream of power explodes from the blade, forming a cutting sheet of power a mere few molecules thick but a full three hundred and sixty degrees wide. The blue and red power is still at odds with each other, so the dual coloured circle of light shooting away from me disintegrates into a ring-shaped explosion as it travels a hundred or so meters.
I drop the sword to the ground, letting the shameful iconography be covered by a spray of dirt. All the large animals in a circle around me fall to the ground, cut in half by the blade of pure energy. I wait for the dust to settle and see that everything beyond a hundred meters is an absolute wasteland.
Lola hops on my shoulder, her blue and red forelock now slightly dimmed and faded. Aww, she is still so cute! I’m about to pet the little thing when I remember I’m putting on a show. I fall on my knees, bash the ground with my fist a bit and squeeze out a few tears for good measure, pretending to be absolutely drained and near powerless in the process.
“NOOO ANGETAAAAA! Why were you so angry all the time? Why did you have to cause me such grief and delay all my plans for this planet for hundreds of years, why Angeta, whyyyyy?” I dramatically pound the ground a few more times and do some dramatic sobbing. Lola nibbles at my ear, almost as if she wants to ask me what the hell is wrong with me.
“Why do the good ones always die so young. Sleep well, my beautiful princess.” I check and still feel the extremely subtle influence steering me into a direction of pure anger and destructiveness. No time to be sad then, let’s not make it any more suspicious than it already is.
“I’ll take these corpses with me, so I can beat them up some more for killing poor, poor Angeta! I will make sure their vile spirits won’t rest in peace!“ Because I’ll make sure to make most of them rest in pieces, in my stomach! I suppress both drool and laughter from coming out of my mouth as I keep a snarl on my face, collecting all the tasty looking animals one by one.
I suck one more six-legged white and green cow the size of an apartment block into my ring and decide that that’s enough. There are still a few large spider, slug and worm type corpses left in reasonably good shape, but no thank you. Meat is meat is meat, I know, but I’m not going to honour any spider with the privilege of being cooked by me.
With one last angry and dramatic shout, I step back into Tree.
“Stop looking at him. Are the clothes done yet?” Re-Haan puts a hand on the shoulder of a transfixed beastkin, turning the furry woman to face her.
“Ah, miss Re-Haan. The clothes were done hours ago. You can pick… them… Oh the dragons above, that smell...” The woman’s head turns as she starts looking away from Re-Haan and starts staring at the spectacle again.
That insufferable man Drew is always doing something to draw attention to himself. This time he is standing in the ruins of his freshly demolished castle, surrounded by a wide array of fresh ingredients. He’s moving around like a maniac while manhandling a wok the size of a person, moving it over a brightly burning bunny.
“Stop complaining, and no you can’t go take a lava bath. This is the least you can do for defacing my sword. And the last time you went to one of the thermic mountains, it blew up. You are banned from going near either one until you stabilise that mess of a cultivation base.” Teach shouts at the grumpy rabbit as she continues to emit a steady heat.
“I can pick up the clothes where?” Re-Haan pulls the woman away from her entertainment once again.
“Ah, so sorry miss Re-Haan! You can pick them up from the main building on the moon. They are still being drained of their loose qi up there. The structural formations in them seems to be holding up, so we finished up the requested batches before we got the final testing results ready.” Having said her piece, the beastwoman turns to observe Teach again, just in time to see him dice a large haunch of meat with superhuman speed.
Rhea is about to leave when she feels a tug on her sleeve. Turning, she sees the beastwoman again, the redness on her face even visible through her fur. “Sorry ma’am, b-but might I ask for a point advance? I just realised I haven't eaten in two weeks and would very much like to purchase some of that.”
Rubbing her temples, Re-Haan mentally gives the woman half of the points awarded for the mission. The woman smiles like she was just handed some life-saving treasure and storms off to go stand in line, her stomach growling all the way.
Re-Haan snorts but stops herself. Teach does indeed know how to cook, and he has been cooking up a storm since he got back. He disappeared for hours after the entire sword incident happened, and just when things calmed down a bit, and Re-Haan was getting the castle reconstruction going, he showed up with a limp bunny in tow and built an impromptu kitchen from the half-cleared ruins.
Now he is cooking what Rhea recognises as those enforcer mana mutants using Lola as a cooking fire.
“You can't even control the flame. You nearly burned the veggies! No, you ate enough already. No, you can’t go play with Selis. Your ice control is even worse than your fire control. She wouldn't survive the rough-housing of a foundation level numbskull like you.”
Teach pauses his cooking frenzy long enough to address a few bystanders. “Go fetch some more vegetables. Time for Valerius to earn his keep. Lola, continue freezing those fruits slow and steady without freeze-drying them instantly. I can't make sorbet with cryo-desiccated produce.”
Re-Haan rubs her stomach. She really shouldn't be pissed at him. Her ring is full of food he shoved at her. She wipes the last trace of sauce from her lips and starts walking away while stroking her thumb across her ring.
The glorious, glittering ring that he gave her. Rhea would never tell him, but she researched the significance that comes with ring giving. She had found out that rings are generally given to people that belong to a family or organization. The black rings with Tree’s silhouette embedded in silver that all the students need before they are allowed outside are obviously the allegiance types.
Hers isn’t. He’d given it to her as if it were nothing, like it had the same significance of passing a dish during dinner. She’d known him long enough by then to immediately pick up on some clues, however. He was obviously not looking at her, but her qi senses told her that Teach was focussing a rather sizable chunk of his mental prowess on observing her reaction.
Then he had noticed that she had noticed his focus of observation. He coughed once, basking in the obvious awkwardness of the situation before walking off after grinning at her.
Rhea starts floating upwards as she commands the winds to lift her to the moon. She holds her hand in front of her face, inspecting the elegant lines that make up the piece of jewellery. Three bands of black and silver metal twist and dance in a complex pattern around her finger. An exquisite crystal tree sparkles on the ring’s face - one band flattening into a black and silver oval.
She had thought it strange that he’d given her a ring different from the others. The equivalent features - an ample storage space with frozen time - costs a million points when she checked Database.
Feeling eyes on her back, she turns and looks down. Teach stares at her as he stands there, surrounded by rubble. Rhea turns away, suppressing her reddening cheeks, the moment she sees his features turn into that grin. She has a lot to learn about social interactions and emotions indeed.
Feeling his attention shift back to the cooking show he is running, she glances at him again. The massive sword on his back looks pretty imposing as he sprinkles a deft pinch of this or that herb on a piece of meat. Teach has wrapped the thing on his back with a stretch of black cloth. It’s just a shame that two cute bunnies - one bright blue and one dim red - shine through the otherwise opaque cloth.
Suppressing her mirth, Re-Haan schools her face into a stern expression. She has arrived on the moon and has some managing to do. She sends a mass message through Database, asking for updates on the projects still ongoing as she lands.
She looks around at the buildings, all kinds of architecture styles make for a rather abstract and absurd sight. Everything is made from the same white stone as the moon itself, from brick to fence to walkway. The largest among the clusterfuck of buildings is the one Re-Haan is striding towards, a hodgepodge of added rooms, hallways and clashing facades.
Stepping through a door, she takes a staircase downwards and arrives in a large storage space. “Ah, ma’am! Here are the clothes, ma’am!” A fat woman stands up from her chair and runs to a section of the cellar filled with storage racks.
Re-Haan takes all the black bundles shoved in her direction, putting them in her ring one by one. She then nods at the woman and walks off, only to be overtaken by the large female. Re-Haan overhears some disturbing mutters about buying food with points that she completely ignores while making her way upstairs again.
Minutes later, she is standing in a large room filled with benches and tools. “The grip is too slippery. We should wrap it in leather or at least cut some grooves.”
“Nonsense, using qi to affix something to your hand works the best with bare metal objects.”
“Not all of us are slimeballs that produce our own glue like you. Miss, we really shou-”
Re-Haan - fearing another nerd fight - cuts them off. “You will coat the grip in natural rubber. There is plenty growing on Tree’s surface.”
“But that wo-”
“Enough! You have your orders. Prepare fifty at the minimum. I will need them in a few hours.” And Re-Haan storms off.
“That’s not going to work...”
“For once I agree. But we have our orders, let’s get to it.” The two braincore scientists agree for once before they start arguing about the best way to mass produce rubber grips on the grappling hook guns they've been making.
Re-Haan storms through the building satisfied that she is finally getting the hang of this delegating thing. She just needs to make her wishes known and give people clear direction. This glimpse she caught - management as Teach calls it - seemed so imposing and unknowable at first.
She used these past few days while Teach was locked up in his castle by figuring out some base rules. Clarity, she has found, is extremely important. Other people will only do what she wants them to do if they actually understand her vision. Her initial quests were vague in their scope and description. Now she handcrafts all the missions she gives out carefully, removing any need for assumption in what needs to be done.
Things have really moved along since she did that. The clothes got stuck in some sort of developmental quagmire, for example. Every single person contributing to that process only slowed it down, each feature got discussed endlessly, and decisions got postponed as people ran all sorts of useless tests.
Her face schooled into seriousness again; she barges into the laboratory. Items are dropped, and glassware shatters as she looks at the chaos of science and experiments.
“Miss, you are here! Great! Please tell the others that the communication device needs more power. It’s long-range capacities are acceptable, but they don't want to test what materials will interfere with tha-”
Re-Haan almost slips back into her previous mindset, but the red-faced gutcore in a white coat is just rambling while moving around energetically. Holding up a hand she shuts him up. “Are they done yet?”
Another person comes up to her handing her a box. “Here are the first twenty ma’am. We will get you the other thirty in a few hours. Now if I might draw your attention to the adhesion problem, tests have found that the qi formation’s efficiency tanks when applied to fur, we will ha-”
“That will do. Bring the rest of the devices to me as soon as they are done.” And she storms off again, leaving the collection of craftsman and researchers looking at each other worriedly.
Re-Haan ponders why she has trouble with receiving information directly from people when she can process entire books stored on Database in seconds as she walks off. She mentally shrugs and starts looking through the lists of heart- and braincores that have physically focussed cultivation bases. There are those other weird cultivation methods too, like bone or meridians, but she decides that she is working with enough unknowns already.
Now that the nerds and geeks are tamed and working according to her directions, she feels it’s time to get the field-people whipped into shape. She starts calculating the mission rewards and incentives needed to get people enthusiastic but not desperate while selecting her soldier candidates.
After all, her own goal is the Infiltration of the human capital and stealing information from a library. How hard can that be with all the preparations she is taking?
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