Chapter 181 - Circulation
I breathe out more qi, thickening the amount of power I’m spreading through the fog of corrosive poison mist by tenfold. What I expected to be a barren wasteland appears to contain small traces of life, much to my amazement. Natural selection still works in places with higher levels of higher power, even when those places are filled with hyper acidic poison, it seems.
A bug here and there, a few birds, a couple of rodents, and even a single deer-like mutant have survived this local acid-apocalypse. The numbers check out, I realise. Only a fraction of a per cent of beings would have the lucky combination of genes, constitution, and affinity to survive this extraordinarily caustic and toxic environment. This fraction lights up my spiritual sense, moving, alive, and kicking.
I relay this data to Tree, and I get a rather expressive ‘duh’ in response. Excuse me, mister super-powered tree, but human common sense does not dictate that bugs can survive a bath in pure sulphuric acid…
Relieved that my planned course of action will not form a permanently dead object inside Tree’s dimension, I commence the task. I breathe out the majority of my qi towards the centre of the mist bank. Golden streams of power shoot from my necklace and I watch them join my own streams of qi. It costs me quite a bit of effort to start the transfer from up here, but I'm not willing to go back down there. Neither am I willing to risk exposing my necklace to long term exposure of magical acid.
I sense a rather embarrassed and distinctly bald dragon woman floating up through the poison acid mist, but I can't really spare the effort to laugh in her face right now. I also sense Lola - once again covered in fur and cute as fuck - jumping off my shoulder, speeding towards the floating woman. I ignore the ensuing cat-fight and focus on controlling Tree’s ingress point and the general shape of the poison cloud. The necklace in my hand shakes a bit, and I get a sternly worded message, signed by a certain golden tree. Sighing slightly, I throw the black medallion, chain and all, towards the bugs at the centre of this entire mess. I was secretly hoping that I could fumble the transfer and accidentally kill the multi-legged queen in the middle of all of this, using the long distance as an excuse. I can see that the acid spewing monstrosity once started as a spider variant. Ah well, can't win them all.
I keep track of the black necklace as it lands. I focus my concentration as Tree starts taking action. My attention is riveted to the centre of the cloud, observing as Tree pulls in the queen bug. The entire colony disappears with disquieting little noise or pomp. The expanding circle of murky fog then halts its outwards progress and starts retreating with an eerie silence. In the middle of all of this, Tree is busily and enthusiastically sucking up all the air, mud, and animals it can get its hands on.
And to be honest, I can sort of understand the guy. I would normally be the last to claim an understanding of a plant’s thought process, but this one, I get.
Previously, nearly all the power generated by the interplay of qi-powered physical processes inside Tree got absorbed by cultivators. The sea circling Tree’s flat landmass generates a fair bit of power. The heat from the volcano is transported to the ice mountain, where it clashes. The ice-laden water is then rotated over to the volcano - circling around the new massive hot desert - and more energetic reactions occur. The air is also circulating, forming the occasional cloud and fall of rain.
Qi clashes with qi, producing more in the process. This is a rather small amount, less than a fraction of a percentage of all powers involved, but the important point is that it’s a percentage. A rather famous physicist from Earth is said to have called compound interest the most powerful force in the universe. I totally agree with that assessment.
I have been halting Tree’s growth rather harshly so far, finding all sorts of qi sinks. Adding tonnes of new material to Tree causes ambient qi to seep into the qi-less matter. Introducing new cultivators who keep sucking up power and taking it for themselves was another good break. I’ve also been concentrating power into the moon, the very design of the thing based around qi absorption.
Now I’ve shifted gears, though. I did this for a couple of reasons, but the main one was that Tree had reached a sufficient level of maturity. I can now safely start power levelling Tree’s dimension in a controlled manner without fear of my control and Tree’s consciousness being washed away by rampaging ambient power. All buildings need a proper foundation, and compensating for lack of stability by just piling on building materials is a surefire way to make a mess.
Also, I've been feeling a bit skittish without a proper qi clone around. It has been greedily absorbing all the power coming near to the moon, but even now it’s only halfway to the foundation realm. Ten days ago it was at less than one-tenth to the foundation realm. The reason for this increase in power growth can be attributed to the crystals I've scattered above all the settlements on this planet. It took me an inordinate amount of theoretical work and testing to get those working, but they’ve been paying off so far.
The crystals are pieces of the moon, linked to Database, and thus my qi clone. I keep a small metered connection going between them, limiting bandwidth so that only basic information can be transferred. The crystals are also the source of a continuously running formation of a power-sucking nature. It leaves the power in the open air and living beings alone. All the power and energy fully enclosed - indoors - is greedily sucked up and transferred back to Database.
Which means, I’ve transformed this entire planet into a power farm! I'm sucking up power from across the continent, funnelling it directly into my qi clone who transforms it into qi with my own fingerprints.
This, in combination with the massive amounts of raw matter and large beasts that I've been importing, is still preventing Tree from gaining too high qi levels too quickly.
I fly towards the necklace, still keeping my attention focused on the vacuum it generating. I pop inside Tree once I get near, appearing beside the golden trunk.
A stream of filthy looking gunk appears out of nowhere just above Tree’s crown. The flow of mud is then guided upwards, surrounded by golden threads. The mana crystal formation is still floating above Tree, now looking rather small.
I jump upwards myself, looking around for a bit. The lands surrounding Tree now stretch for a few hundred kilometres to either side. I do a quick scan and calculation, the small process telling me that the landmass has a radius of over two hundred kilometres. The newly added desert forms a somewhat asymmetrical bulge near the volcano, but that will be fixed later.
Looking up, I see the new celestial body forming. It hangs opposite the moon, which is beneath the horizon at the moment. The dark brown sphere looks rather drab, the only decoration being the occasion withered tree or plant that’s somehow still managing to cling to life in the toxic atmosphere. The green and grey mist surrounding the orb isn’t helping its sickly looking exterior any.
A bird crackling with lighting flies past, causing all my hairs to rise. I smile at the rather fetching looking beast. The white and purple striped eagle ate a piece of my stomach, after which I gently invited it inside Tree. It’s brain - and every single nerve cell in its body - is marked by my power. The way the control and paralyse formations are embedded in the cells guarantee that it won't be able to shrug off my control without out levelling me by several realms at the minimum.
The lands below me are now filled with such beasts. The groups of docile mounts that my students had been raising are all walking around Tree. The central part of the landmass has turned into some form of neutral ground, no beasts or mutants even daring to fight in a large radius around Tree.
I recheck the poison moon and see the large queen insect busily digging a new hiding hole, her large hind section spewing forth acid and eggs. I wonder how she is going to feed herself, but realise that the mud still contains a large amount of dissolved organic matter. The few sickly animals and insects still living on the moon will start reproducing soon enough, I guess. I’m hoping the general process of evolution will force the ecosystem to begin developing poisons and acids of even higher potency as better defences evolve in tandem.
Another odd thing I noticed, many of the enforcer mutants seem oddly quick to learn how to incorporate qi in their beings. Animals usually pick up cultivation faster than sapients - two times faster at the minimum - but the large mutants seem oddly adept at it. More questions…
I look around one more time, taking in the not much changed but much-grown environment. I breathe out the majority of my qi and let it seep into the atmosphere, breathing in harshly as I take in the ambient qi that has gone wild. I spin a chaotic mess of neutral and influenced qi through my brain while letting some seep into my heart. It transforms into my own power slowly, after which I store it in my cores again. Cycling my power like this is another safeguard. Having a large portion of my qi with my fingerprints - and thus eager to obey me - be present in this dimension gives me another layer of control.
That done, I wave at Tree and pop back outside again. I ignore the fight unfolding between a rabbit and a dragon in human-ish - Rhea’s wings and nails are getting rather large - form and look around. Bare ground stretches around me, dark soil interspersed with bare rock as far as I can see. How long had this bug been spewing gas for? My drones picked up that something was wrong here just a day ago, surely that wasn't enough time for a single being to dissolve this much jungle?
Deciding to double check that state of the other impact sites, I check my drone network. I’ve got the entire planet covered in the things now. Since the entire planet is basically getting infected by qi anyway, I started steeping the autonomous drones in qi too. This has made the entire design a bit more efficient. Instead of having to run at cruising speeds, the engines can now go full blast without falling from the sky at night when the solar panels don't supply power.
I check the myriad of locations I cleaned the past week and a half. Gaping holes, missing mountaintops, missing patches of forest, and temporarily lowered stretches of ocean all flash through my mind’s eye. Each spot was the landing place of a fragment of my body. Small specks of blood and flakes of flesh and bone are constantly falling to the ground by now. It all seems rather odd, like some force controlled the bits and pieces long enough to make sure they would all enter the atmosphere roughly at the same time.
“You guys done with fighting? And Rhea, I’m expecting an apology.”
Rhea halts combat as she hangs upside down. Lola bites down on her finger and jumps away. Rubbing her aching digits, the bald woman looks around sheepishly. “Hehe, done already? Uhm, surprise! That was a joke. It was a funny joke, right? Letting you jump inside a poisonous gas cloud with a negative pH level is humorous, right?”
I keep staring at her.
“I’m sorry that I helped melt your drone.”
I keep staring at her some more.
“Okay… That I helped melt your first prototype drone with which you broke all kinds of speed records and that you built by hand. And I’m sorry for causing you to become naked, Lola.”
I keep staring at her, slowly lowering my gaze. I thought it was a pretty good prank, to be honest. I'm just enjoying the fact that she’s entirely naked right now. I let my eyes roam across her body, taking in her timid expression and dejected stance.
Then she catches my eyes, sees where I’m looking, thinks for a bit and becomes angry.
“Good prank. Also, I’ve got good news! That was the last of the potentially dangerous sites. There are other places with high qi levels, but none that can grow out of control like this one. Which means we finally got some free time!” I smile at her, enjoying the show as she grumpily puts some clothes on. I point at her head, and she feels her naked scalp. She combines a scowl with an awkward smile as she regrows her hair.
“So Drew, why am I looking at a couple hundred critical alerts when there is free time to be had?” Now she’s looking at me with a deadpan expression. Hundreds of critical alerts? What is she tal-
Then a process which I had muted previously notifies me that although the current continent might be deemed relatively safe, there is another landmass on the planet. Rhea and I are currently on the continent of order, where the dungeons are inside the buildings and sapients rule supreme. The continent of chaos - where the dungeons are outside their buildings and monsters are in charge - has several thousand critical situations that are developing.
I fall backwards, unwilling to face the fact that I’ve got months of work ahead of me. Should I let this planet die? I groan while getting up. I'd probably go crazy before the cultivating beasts developed enough intelligence for me to have meaningful conversations with them. At least I get to play around with the development of an entire dimension.
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