Chapter 173 - Accounts
Rodrick’s large chest is heaving up and down as he crests the cold hill. The slender beastkin male following him is breathing like his life depends on it, obviously unable to keep up. A small beastkin girl runs past, laughing as she twirls around, her hands dancing through the softly falling snow.
“Hey, Dricky! May your breath come ever easy! Hahahaaa!”
“Huff… And may your tail never catch fire...” Rodrick shouts after the giggling girl. He pulls his friend up by the scruff of his neck.
“Stop it, you’re not my mother...” he weakly protests.
“No Nyf, I am not. But a small girl is besting us both. Come now, ‘tis but a stroll.” Rodrick throws his friend over his shoulders and starts walking down the rocky incline.
A fetid swamp stretches out beneath the walking trio. Coming down from a rather unfriendly mountain range, the wall of rock stretches into the horizon on both sides. The sharp mountains taper off into low foothills, which in turn fade into damp, marshy forests down below.
Far off, partially hidden by the fog of sheer distance, two silhouettes tower above the horizon. A massive tree stretches naked branches into the sky like a many-fingered giant. Its intricate silhouette seems mocked by the sheer simplicity of the second shape, a stretched oval that towers many many kilometres above the misty forests below.
“Come, guys! I wanna be back before the week is over! We just gotta check the tree and the egg thing, right? The cooking guys and Valerius promised me a lot of food for any new tasty plants I bring. Let’s go down!” Happily running around, Ferah seems to be a never ending stream of energy. The lithe body under her clothes occasionally lights up with a fine pattern of rings that flow from and towards her spine as she keeps walking.
Rodrick just chuckles and Nyf, now lying limply across his broad shoulders, just groans silently. Ferah stands still long enough to study a small plant with white flowers, before making it disappear and running off again.
“Still… Couldn't I at least get to bonecore forming first?“
“Nonsense! It took me weeks, nay, even months to get to this stage. And you kept chatting with that old bint. I had to get you away from the moon. And I knew you couldn't resist finally getting to explore the famous southern mist lands. And look, isn't this view worth the trip alone?”
Nyf groans as Rodrick handles him like a puppet, showing him the rather impressive sight. “Stop touching me all over! Why didn't you bring that Vox guy you seem so fond of?”
Rodrick chuckles some more. “Ah, Vox… He is quite cute, no? But seriously, I don't understand why everyone is hooking up all of a sudden. Even Green has been flirting her selfish little heart out. We are cultivators now, no? Reaching the foundation realm will make all of us biologically immortal. We have an eternity to get down and dirty. No, I’d rather do some more travelling before Teach’s chaos infects the rest of this planet.”
“I have regrown my toenails seven times now! This is not a fun trip, no matter how much that red-tail seems to enjoy this massive journey...”
Rodrick puts the beastkin back on the ground. “Okay then. I forgot how much of a whiner you can be if things don't go your way. You’re at the equivalent of the qi condensing stage, so you should be able to handle everything out here. We will go ahead, do the mission and then pick you up again.”
Nyf takes a deep breath. “And I forgot how much of a practical asshole you can be sometimes… Not every problem must have an immediate solution implemented right here and now.” He continues breathing deeply, his depleted bones slowly filling with qi as he filters mana from the air. His sternum glows softly as the slim beastkin slowly regains his power reserves.
“Hah! I forgot how you like to complain and complain like a woman sometimes. There's a problem? Fix it! Whining about it isn’t going to solve anything...”
“ROOOO! INCOMING!” Rodrick turns away from his friend, wiping the smug grin off his face as he grabs his trusty axe. Ferah is legging it towards his position, running like the wind. Squinting his eyes, he doesn’t even need to infuse them with qi before he can see the problem. A collection of mountain-dwelling mutants are chasing the girl, all of them bleating angrily.
“What did you do? Pull their tails?”
“NOOO! I just took some of the plants they were eating!” Ferah skitters to a halt, hiding behind the lumberjack’s broad back.
Nyf’s eyes regain their clarity as he draws the slender sword from his sheath. Ferah is hopping from foot to foot, not drawing a weapon.
“You will need to fight one of these days, girl.”
“Nuh-uh! Miss Re never fights anymore. She just lays around! I wanna do that but then walk around everywhere without doing anything.”
Rodrick sighs deeply, tightens his grip on his axe and starts running towards the oncoming herd. Nyf and Ferah are left behind, one panting while clutching a sword, the other grinning while running in circles.
“Look Nyffy! I got you some food, and now we will rest. Give me my points later, okay?”
Grinning back at her, he nods. “Good job girl. I knew I could count on you.” The two bump fists conspiratorially while Rodrick chops the stampeding horde of mutant goats into steak.
“So, you agree then. Starting with a bloodcore is the best.”
“No, you stupid piece of mucous membrane, listen to what I say for once… Bloodcore is the most effective cleansing base, but its rather gruesome way of ejecting impurities will cause a lot of traumas.”
“So bone core then? That one is the most comfortable...”
“NO! Teach save me from this idiot. That one just shoves impurities around and doesn’t actually eject them untill the later stages. I suggest that everyone starts with a braincore in order to manually cleanse the body.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening. I’ve just finished correlating definite proof that choosing an initial system that's not fully the subject's choice has rather detrimental effects. Look, see for yourself.” The white robed beastkin tosses a green rock to his colleague, who catches it and puts it to his forehead.
The two discussing beastkin are once again arguing inside their laboratory on Tree’s moon. The large windows show a little less sky this time. More and more dark blue endlessness is taken up by towering structures and tiered pieces of architecture. The overall shape, height and homogeneousness of the buildings has improved massively. Where makeshift shacks used to stand, sturdy constructions have taken their place. Mashups of random styles are transformed into pieces of engineering that no longer look like a rich kid’s toy box.
But for some reason, all the buildings are still white. The only colourful buildings on the moon are the pieces of pre-fab that are being mass produces for use elsewhere.
“Okay. I give up. Forced or second choice systems have on average ten per cent power loss. What do we do now, then?”
“Educate the masses. The new data packet containing required learning for new students has already been updated and approved.”
“So all this research has been for nought? We suffered through that impurity collection and analysation process for nothing?” Horror now dawns in the scientists' eyes as he realises that the last week of work might have been entirely useless.
“No, no. There is still merit in our findings. The conclusion that each cultivation system rejects different types of impurities is really helpful. Recultivating always comes with a long period of sickness. The recovery period has reduced by three quarters now that we know which nutrients to supplement based on the cultivation base change.”
“Ah, yeah. Re-cultivating is indeed really shit. Good to know that we helped with that...” The two beastkin look at each other, sharing a moment of camaraderie in shared suffering.
“But that theory of relative qi transition based on intent categorisation is absolute trash. You, your mother, your grandmother and all your offsprings should feel ashamed for that garbage theory.”
A fire lights up in their eyes, burning away the previous sappy moment. “You’re one to talk! What about that chemical unity experiment you proposed. I’d say you’re looking for a way to kill us all!”
The two start bickering again, the other people in the lab continuing their work with relieved hearts now that the duo is cursing at each other.
“Honey! How long are you going to remain angry?” Bassik dodges another supersonic projectile while lazily ducking. He's running beside his mount, another of those long-legged birds. He is thankful for the fact that they just arrived on land, the lethal attacks his wife keeps sending his way are a bit harder to dodge while travelling across the sea.
“A HUNDRED YEARS, YOU UNFAITHFUL CUR!”
Smiling as he listens to the soothing shrieks of his wife, Bassik dodges another projectile. “Mind the bird, honey. It didn't do anything wrong!”
“Don’t you dare be snippy with me. I didn’t re-cultivate without telling you! I didn’t go and earn the biggest point reward ever given out while you were sleeping. HOW DARE YOU!”
Rubbing his head in embarrassment, Bas looks around. He dodges another thrown rock as he scans the area. He might have been a bit hasty in switching over to his current eyecore system, but that does not mean he regrets it. It took him quite a while to adjust, but he is pretty sure that he will keep this system forever.
Blinking once, he switches off the layer of hypernatural sight. Walking forwards a bit, his feet shift in the loose sand as he surveys the desert stretching out in front of him. To get away from things a bit - and to let his wife vent her fury - they had taken a scouting mission. First, they had visited their previous village again, seeing it abandoned by all.
They left after Rityn had thrown half the buildings at him, heading to the northeastern desert via the sea. Bassik agreed to steer close to the shores, and Rityn agreed to stop throwing things with lethal force.
Hopping back on his bird mount, Bassik steers it back to the shore. He blinks again, another layer of vision immediately overlapping his natural sight. A streak of information passing through his head tells him to dodge, so he does so. Seconds later, his hair is ruffled by a speedy rock flying by.
“Now now, honey. That was rather fast, you know. I'm not a sturdy heartcore anymore.”
“AND THAT’S EXACTLY MY PROBLEM!” Rityn shouts her grievances out for the world to hear. “I could have understood you choosing to go down any other path, but why the eyes! And why did I not think of that earlier? So simple yet so smart...”
“And why would you want an eyecore, then? You were always the thinker, I was the watcher, no? I think this works out perfectly. Here, take some more points.” With a big smile on his face, Bassik waves his ring-clad hand towards his wife, who physically recoils.
“NO! I can handle the fact that you can see better than me, even though you only use it to avoid your just punishment… I can understand that you got a lot of points for pioneering this cultivation base and I understand the rewards you got for seeing the planet’s communication lines. Also, the satellite locations, that's worth a lot of points too. I understand...”
“Then, I will ask again honey. Why are you so angry, my snoozlepoodle? What has you so grumpy my munchkin? Here, have some more points, pudding.” Bassik looks at the purple-skinned woman with all the warmth and love he can muster while transferring a hundred more points to his wife's account.
“THAT! YOU’RE NOT MY SUGAR DADDY!” Now grinning at his furious wife, he keeps dodging and deflecting all the projectiles she throws in her rage. The meaning and understanding that the missiles will fly through certain points in space is all too clear to his power filled eyes.
And Rityn might seem mad, but she is still a braincore and in full control of her faculties. Bassik is actually looking forward to tonight. He caught on to the fact that Rityn is merely testing his capabilities in a myriad of ways. The items she throws have been increasing in speed, size and trickiness slowly, allowing him time to adjust and practice his sight in combat situations.
Bassik just wishes that she could show this affection in other ways sometimes. Something in his wife’s mind prevents her from openly showing affection. Instead, she will surely pretend to be exhausted again later today. Like the evening before, she will probably insist on finding a cave and then insist on acting all sleep-drunk. And when Rityn is sleep-drunk, she gets touchy-feely.
Bassik can handle it, though, and showering her in points is just too amusing to stop. Bassik tries very hard to hide the smile on his face as the duo continues travelling north at high speed. The jungle - their scouting destination - comes into view by the time the sun has started setting. A few places need to be explored, some anomalies, a few possible settlements locations, and the strange, star-shaped, geometric and enormous pillar sticking above the treeline.
Smiling widely, Bassik leads his half-mumbling wife and their mounts into a cave he saw from kilometres away.
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