Chapter 148 - Dominance
“Dricky, let’s leave already. It feels so stuffy here. I hate this qi-less air.” Rodrick ignores the woman clinging to his arm and continues staring at a small grey beastkin female. The glow in his eyes is barely perceptible as he studies the innocently smiling woman from afar.
The moon has seen a lot of development lately, but one thing stayed the same. The large rectangular apartment complex surrounded by a strip of grass is still unchanged. Every single person who initially woke up there after being kidnapped is now a cultivator travelling back and forth between Tree and the moon - except for the old mages.
All new arrivals are placed in one of the rooms, letting them read the information on the piece of jade they received for themselves. There is one group that didn't go through this procedure, and it shows - the inhabitants left in the ruined beastkin village Treefields where dumped on the moon without much ceremony by Teach. He told everyone to go and show them the ropes but one single grandmother - a woman by the name of Menrah - put a stop to that.
Rodrick had kept an eye on her since that moment. He even paid Database a rather large amount of points to get constant updates on what the woman was doing. He also glued a piece of jade to his forehead to keep up to date. Honestly, it all painted a rather sad picture.
Rodrick might have been banished to the border years ago, but he still had a lot of contacts back in the capital and other influential towns. He had managed to acquire information about the woman, none of it pleasant.
The red-furred pointy eared caste she and Ferah belong to used to run a thriving leatherworking empire. Until the matriarch made a power grab that she couldn't handle in the wake of the previous tooth’s disastrous demise. The newly appointed Tooth swept through what was left of the upper echelons of beastkin society and installed his own people everywhere. Their caste was beneath his notice until she brought doom upon their entire tribe by grabbing more than she could hold on to.
Rodrick has to conclude that the old crone learned very little from her abject failure. He looks over the information once again, sending his mind into the link with the moon under his feet. A list of conversations pops up, all extremely innocent but filled with hidden meaning. The old woman has been going around and talking to everyone on the moon willing to listen.
There are two main factions residing on the moon. The biggest one is the working cultivators, happily cultivating on Tree and travelling to the moon when they want to do endurance training or experiment without the influence of qi. Crafters have been using the moon to test the durability and functionality of their creations in the power draining environment.
The other faction is made up of the naysayers. They preach doom and gloom to all who will listen, unwilling to adapt to a world filled with qi and mental fuckery. All the cultivators have been laughing in the face of Menrah when she tried to get them on her side. Everyone remembers the speech Teach gave or the absolute carnage the guy and his rabbit inflict on a regular basis.
“Stop staring at that old woman. You already have me at your side!” Rodrick shoves the clinging waste of space away from himself and walks over to where a lanky beastkin is warily watching the environment.
“May your teeth never grow dull.”
The beastkin jumps a bit but relaxes as he sees Rodrick. “And your claws ever clean.”
“You really answered me with that one? Wouldn't something like ‘and the trees ever falling’ be more appropriate?” Rodrick waves at the axe on his hip.
“Drick, I know you refrain from politics as much as possible, but I can't stay out of this one.”
The green woman looks between the two chatting men in utter confusion. Rodrick sighs and rubs his eyes. “Look Nyf, I have no idea what she has been telling you, and I don't care. All I ask is that you do the test that Database prescribes and see for yourself. I’m unwilling to meddle, but it pains me to see you fall under her nonsensical spell.”
“My mind shall remain my own. This mental magic is the domain of the Flight, and I am not willing to meddle.” Nyf looks extremely assured in the correctness of his statement.
“Teach has a dragon for a mate,” the green woman interjects.
“Don’t tell him. He needs to figure this out for himself.”
“What proof do you have?” The beastkin snarls at the woman as he lowers into a combat stance.
“She transformed into a dragon a while ago. I’m not sure how many days ago, as that is hard to tell in this place. Here, look at this.” The green-skinned woman pulls a stone from her cleavage, puts it to her forehead and flicks it towards Nyf.
The struck beastkin freezes at the sudden projectile and is unable to dodge it. His skin grows pale as the mental images are thrown into his focus. “That’s the human guardian. And she was fighting with a rabbit? What in all the scales...”
“Hahaha, I like him Dricky. He looks just as confused as I felt the first few days.”
Rodrick shoves the laughing woman away and pulls the stone from his friend's forehead. “Please, I know my talent with words is absolute mutant shit compared to the old hag, but please believe me on this. Do the fucking test and see for yourself. Please.”
Nyf shakes his head, obviously conflicted. A sudden shrill voice breaks the tense mood. “Rodrick, another Capital dog begging at the heels of a human. Nyf, did they take over your mind yet? Or are you still with us?”
“You stupid bitch! It’s your fault Dricky is staying on the moon. I should beat you down, you manipulative b-” Rodrick grabs the furious woman by the scruff of her neck and holds her back.
“You know what? I challenge you in a duel.” Rodrick looks at his friend.
The old woman’s eyes flash with uncertainty for a second before cold calculation takes over. “Accept it Nyf. He never could beat you. All of this… qi business is just trickery. Nothing can be above the Flight.”
“Okay Rodrick, I accept. Let’s see if you finally managed to learn something.” The slender beastkin hunter lowers into a combat stance again. He had sparred enumerable times with the large lumberjack, his swiftness and better coordination always winning over the brute force of Rodrick's massive frame.
“Okay. Let’s go.” Rodrick’s bones glow with intense light for a second before Nyf finds himself suspended from his ankles. “There, done. You owe me a favour now, and I’m cashing in.”
Baffled as to how he suddenly lost, Nyf is silent as he is carried towards the moon’s busiest spot. He is silent as Rodrick moves him inside a small room and drops him on the bed.
“Teach should have put everyone here instead of leaving you all alone.” And the big guy leaves him alone. The last thing Nyf sees is the green woman waving at him.
“Will that work?”
“I hope so. I don't really care about the rest of that village, but Nyf was a bit of a friend. Also, I’ll be calling you Green from now on.”
“What? No, you can’t do that, that’s seriously demeaning! I have a name, you know!”
“Which you still haven't told me...”
“Mister Rodrick? Hello?”
Rodrick turns to the new voice and sees a redheaded human youth looking at him while blushing. “Uuhm… Vox was it?”
“Yeah… I was wondering if you and miss Green over there would like to go on a mission with me?”
“A mission? Outside? Can we go to the wilds?” asks Green with shining eyes.
“No Green, I’ll be visiting the Capital.”
“Which one?” asks Rodrick.
Vox looks confused at Rodrick's question, until understanding dawns. “The human Capital. The one with a capital ‘C’. Anyway, you two need better clothes. Green, do you want a fancy dress or a maid uniform?”
“What do you think, boy?” deadpans the woman.
“Oh, and Rodrick? I wouldn’t worry about what that grandmother of Ferah is doing. I think Teach knows and he doesn't seem worried, does he?”
The trio stares at Tree with six glowing eyes and spot Teach still cooking up a storm. “I know someone who's great with sewing. You should know her Rodrick. Her name is Ragni.”
The large beastkin casts one last glance towards the apartment building before looking towards the isolated group of beastkin people. Finally, Rodrick lets his eyes rove over the young man for a good few moments. He firmly nods.
“Alright Rhea, I’m done. Wanna go on a holiday?” I look at Re-Haan who is… gone? I’ve spent the last few minutes scrubbing all the pots, pans, and cutlery I’ve used, putting them back into my ring all clean. She was hanging around just now, but I can’t see her at the moment.
She has been doing something though, the pile of rubble around me is shrinking at a visible rate. There are a lot of heart-, gut- and, to my amazement, even a few braincores hauling stone. The rewards must be pretty high for braincores to be willing to do such mind-numbing work.
I also spot some heartcores tossing wood, metal and other materials towards the moon. Bord is throwing entire tree trunks upwards, covering them in an auburn glow before launching them. He still has a few frozen fish stuck to his back.
Then I receive a notice from Database. A weird notice. It feels like a mental process letting me know that some task has been completed, but the process is running on another mind. I trace the feeling and notice Database trying to make a direct connection with me. Curious… I accept.
“Hey, get over to the moon!” Rhea's voice sounds in my ear. Uhm, that feels… I ordered Database to whitewash every single scrap of data it processes, so her voice sounds like a flat and tinny audio recording from a crappy speaker.
Keeping the connection going, I put together a text package. I place an acknowledgement first, then a first-person singular pronoun combined with a possessive contraction followed by an expression of approach.
I pat myself on the back for crafting the most complex description of the sentence ‘okay, I’m coming’ ever. I send the package through the connection while jumping upwards.
Halfway to the moon, I receive another message. I open it, and a sentence appears in my mind. ‘Good idea. Much better than using audio. I’m stealing this.’
I grin at her response and scan the moon with my eyes. All seems the same but for one new area, a large rectangular building. I can make out smooth walls, a slanted roof and a large opening in the front. I shoot towards it, dodging a flying tree on the way, and slow down before landing gently.
I spot the tree that nearly smashed into me as it is being carried inside the large building as a whole crowd of students mills about a large painted circle. A burly human - his skin a normal light brown for once - stands in the middle, licking his lips and wringing his hands as he looks up. Then a tree smashes into his face, light traces of dark red qi sinking into the moon as fog wafts from the large trunk. The man is cheered on as he hauls the tree inside while holding his bloody nose. A new contestant steps up, and the scene repeats itself.
“Hey, come look at this.” Rhea darts over and grabs my arm. She leads me inside where I see a skeletal rib cage made from wood. Sawdust is flying everywhere, and I spot a large selection of students working on timber and cloth.
“You should read up on the subject of dust explosions.” I quip while approaching the wooden frame. A ship around fifteen metres in length is being assembled before my very eyes. I spot some suspicious stuff - like a massive king sized bed, a massage table and a large shower - but decide to just look at Rhea with curiosity on my face.
Instead of satisfying my desire to learn, she is running around while waving her hands. She jumps and kicks at the back wall, opening a large hole in the thick stone. Everyone freezes at the sudden loud and violent sound. “Continue working! Check the section ‘dust explosions and why they are bad’ on my Database page to see why.”
She returns to me and points at the ship. “Look, despite everything that happened, I loved the time we spent sailing around. You told me that you wanted to go towards the mana dungeon, so I thought, why not go in style and comfort?”
“So you decided to immediately go design and outsource the production of a ship? Alright, I can respect that.” I nod a bit to myself while inspecting the work being done. It’s total chaos, but there seems to be a certain order to things. I look at Rhea and notice that she looks kind of vacantly happy.
I sharpen my qi senses, trying to get a grip on what is going on here. Instead of spinning my qi through my brain, I spin it through my core. The space around me comes alive with mental interference, Rhea a blazing centre of projected thought. Each working person has a piece of jade placed somewhere on their head, either stuck to their forehead or pressed inside an ear. Rhea doesn’t, and seems to communicate with Database through brute mental power alone.
I look at the scene with new respect in my eyes. I see a tree being carried in by a sweating beastkin who drops it in between six students. The small group starts cutting into the log at seemingly random places using crudely smithed saws and chisels. Seconds later, other students start taking away parts to benches where they are smoothed and finished.
Each finished piece of wood, no matter whether it’s a large hull beam or a thin part of a plinth, isn’t left alone for more than a couple of seconds before someone takes it away.
I am looking at the opposite of what Rhea told me she aspires to do. I’m looking at a highly choreographed piece of performance art. The stream of instructions flowing from Rhea to Database is near blinding to my senses.
The results are highly impressive though. She must have been doing this for no longer than half an hour, and the boat is taking shape at a rapid pace. The frame is pretty much done, the hull planks are already covering the keel up to the waterline, and they are already hauling the mast into place.
I spot a few figures sitting silently to the side, their heads wrapped in large wet cloths. One single little beastkin boy is running back and forth exchanging hot steaming towels with new dripping wet ones. I focus my senses into their direction and notice the edges of a vivid mental discussion. They are using Database as a communication medium and are designing the ship as it’s being built, I realise.
The current argument is about which design for the wastewater system is better. I put together a data packet - a small disintegrator formation that barely needs any qi and can handle all kinds of biological waste - and slip it into the discussion. They freeze and glance into my direction. They nod and continue glaring at each other. I focus a bit more and try to follow their conversation.
‘Fuck you, you hairball. I told you we should have gone for simplicity.’
‘Shut up you dragon cursed smear of slime. That self-powering steam boiler stove burner was a great design!’
‘Your mother should have thrown herself off the stairs after all, my fathe-’
I stop listening and focus on Rhea again. Ah, her nose is bleeding. I pull a handkerchief from my ring and start wiping. The big construction pieces are done, and now she’s nearly frying her brain trying to coordinate several interior designers, a plumber or three, a couple of sculptors making fancy woodwork panelling, and half a dozen painters.
I sit her down in a chair and stroke her hair. Her diminished conscious mind smiles happily as I sense her many processes working overtime. The ship should be done in an hour or so. I’m sure she’ll hold out. Loss of control and confidence is scary after all.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter