Chapter 189 - Intruding (3)
I’m paralyzed. The violet around me vanishes, swapped for a deep blue palette through which I can barely sense the world around me, my body in a prison made from inertia. My arrogance swapped for fear, the moisture in the air still allows me to observe Rhea’s disappearing form.
She still has her arms wrapped around me in a hug from when she smashed into me. Her hands are stretched out in front of her, to my side. The world outside my visual senses is made up of blue volumetric fog, a rough form of my spiritual sense telling me what’s going on. Sensing water mana is less accurate than feeling for air, but the mental strain that comes with emotionally faking is lessened. This entire situation does scare me, after all.
Instead of uselessly worrying and fretting over things that are happening, I start thinking up and calculating my way through possible solutions again. The Nexus and the qi-empowered core are communicating still, through a rip in the fabric. Doing some more observation tells me that the only thing disintegrating right now is Rhea. Shit, the second knuckle of her pinky just vanished…
Stamping down on the swelling surge of panic, I keep going through the motions. I see flashes of bright meaning each time a part of her disintegrates, why would that be?
My braincore is still a partial eyecore, I notice. Grasping onto this thread of hope, I continue the process of forming a detailed model of an eye inside the core. The world around me lights up with vague threads, the area between the low moon and the core a blinding pillar of data. I stop when my mind feels like it’s cooking, the pressure of having to keep track of octillions of atoms now replaced with the density of the communication I’m sensing and seeing.
Then I feel entropic contrast build up around the core, and I know what is about to happen. The flash of meaning and reality that warps another piece of Rhea into nothingness is over before I can stop it. Another little bit of Rhea’s middle finger is just gone, the only indication it was ever there the small bit of vacuum before her open wound.
The blue fades as I get angry. The fear of losing her, and also my own life, clouding out my panic. The blue haze is entirely gone by the time I spot the second flash, a few subjective minutes of mental stewing later. This time, I nearly see it happening in time. Like a galactic clock cycle, another small bit of reality is rewritten.
The third time I see a bit of Rhea disappearing only serves to piss me off even more. I’ve kept running through all kinds of scenarios at this point, extrapolating all kinds of possible solutions to this predicament. I’ve come up short every single time.
Moving into Tree is the most obvious solution, but forcing myself through that portal in space takes time. Rhea will only be left with half a torso in the best and most optimal scenario I could come up with. Other tricks, such a deploying a new protective weave or just legging it, all come to the same conclusion. There won’t be enough of Rhea left to heal before I can accomplish what I want to achieve. My anger has only grown. I’m now furious to such an extent that I can see the small strands of dark mana generated by the bacteria and fungi present in the soil below.
The large weave around us is still rotating at an impressive speed, and the protective formation will move between the core and the moon in but a fraction of a second as the hole rotates away. Rhea will be just a head by then, though.
Another piece of flesh vanishes in a flash of meaning, and I have had enough.
The buildup of meaning happens again, the black rectangle bathed in a vicious light of information, and I refuse it. I throw every single speck of anger, willpower, life experience, and discipline I have at the stupid fucking thing.
“YOU CAN NOT!” I shout.
The buildup falters, unable to reach the critical momentum where pure information becomes such a burden upon reality that it folds. I refuse it with all my might, using nothing but sheer pigheaded willpower to deny.
“YOU MAY NOT!” I bellow.
The beam of power coming from the moon intensifies, channelling more meaning into the core. I refuse it from happening, unwilling to let that thing continue.
“YOU WILL NOT!” I scream.
Then the entire world explodes into white, and time resumes its inevitable march. I feel warm and cold all over as my blinded vision returns to me, and I see that the world is slowly starting to move again. Rhea continues tackling me, her clothes slowly flapping in the wind. Cracks form across the field of shimmering stars, shifting dots of light refracted by fractures in the black surface of the core in front of us.
Blearily, I realise that the woven shield has rotated, and is blocking the moon again. I watch in passive fascination as an emergency process makes me hold on to Rhea before calling out to Tree. The only thing I consciously manage to do is to raise my middle finger to the dungeon core, a small bit of glee in my heart as I see cracks slowly running through its outside.
The world reduces to a point as darkness closes in, I see a single image of Rhea, clutching her bleeding fingers as a golden glow is all around us. Then darkness takes the last bit of light I see.
“…the scuffle. We were just shoving qi inside the thing, when everything went white, and I suddenly stood right here. The fact that my fingers were gone was a little more pressing than asking Drew - who is still unconscious - why he didn’t take you. Now stop biting me, you stupid fuzzball!”
“I don’t know! He’s perfectly fine now. I managed to keep him together, so calm yourself!”
The world wobbles around me as my consciousness emerges from thick tar.
“Snort yourself. He did that all by himself, he doesn’t need us mothering him. I mean, how many times did he pull your bacon out of the fire, miss Lola?”
I hear some unintelligible yet cute sounding grunting noises. I feel like something weird is going on, but for the life of me, I can't remember why I should give a single shit.
“It’s safe. What do you mean, your old home? Isn’t this your home?”
More weird squeaking noises follow the lovely voice.
“The necklace isn’t your home. Stop accusing me of random stuff and help me figure out why he isn’t waking up. Tree, you big lump of timber, you help too.”
A lot of odd things, but I can’t find it in me to care, so I roll over and go to sleep again.
“And now I’ve had enough! You get up right now!” A roar shakes my bones, the vibrations tossing me around and lifting me from the ground. Isn’t an earthquake supposed to be over after a few seconds, though? And I really should have hit the ground by now. Instead of landing on a hard surface, I seem to be floating on a rather soft bed of feathers.
My eyelids fall open, and I see a furious face centimetres away from mine. My mouth curls into a lazy smile, but I don’t really know why. There’s lots of stuff behind the woman too, but nothing interesting. A rabbit seems to be biting my nose, but that’s not interesting either.
“Drew, what’s wrong?”
My mouth smiles wider, but I don’t reply. My eyes fall close again as I tumble around, and I let myself fall into another slumber.
“I’m breaking your ship. Drew, you shit, I’m actually going to destroy it, you know.” I’m being held aloft as my eyes are wormed open by a force I can’t see. I seem to be facing some form of wooden construction. I know it from somewhere. Once again, I don’t care. The woman steps back and lifts a finger. I feel like I should reach out to her, maybe I should stop her? Her fist shoots out towards the pristine hull, smashing a good five rows of planks into smithereens. I feel a faint twinge, but nothing more.
I idly wonder why the woman seems to be spraying the shattered remains of the boat with water coming from her face? She really went to town on the thing, screaming all the while. Now she’s just sitting there, letting water drip from her eyes.
Ah well. Sleep overwhelms me and I welcome it.
She’s back again. This time, the little white critter has joined her. The tall one is carrying a large metal slab, orange and blue lines intermingling on its dark surface. What seems to be a tree is inlaid in silver along its length. Two pictures of the white creatures face are also present, one glowing a warm orange while the other glows icy blue.
The female raises the thing high into the sky, only to smash it down on the ground. Everything shakes for a bit, so I take a look at the object she is slinging the large slab against. The anvil made from a dull, pitch black material sinks deeper into the ground each time she brings the objects violently together. The violent explosions of pressure and noise pound through my chest each time the heavily breathing woman brings the slab down.
The white little thing comes closer, and starts annoying the busily working woman. They bicker a bit, one shouting and the other yelling even louder. I’m ready to let my eyes close, but something seems to prevent my eyelids from falling, no matter how heavy they are. The spectacle continues, and I can’t help but watch on. She bashes the long thing against the small thing over and over. After a while, she has started leaking something wet from her entire form, making her clothes stick to her body. I feel a slight hint of something in my lower body, but it’s gone before I can grasp it.
Then things come to a point. The white little one has been getting more and more restless, hopping around and nudging the tall one. Then a single crack appears in the long slab of metal. Then the woman smashes it down again.
A small explosion of red and blue sends everything flying, including me. Finally able to close my eyes, I let sleep tak-
A slap wakes me. Dishevelled white hair rims a pair of red and puffy eyes that burn with purple inner fire. I am hauled upright again as the woman stumbles off. She stops, picks up the now brightly glowing long metal thing and starts shuffling back to my position. She lifts it with trembling hands and brings it down. I can see that the glowing spiderweb of fractures will land right on the anvil. I know that it’s going to break.
The white ball of fluff comes charging in, looking equally dishevelled. Patches of fur are missing, an orange and blue horn sputters in and out of existence on her forehead, and I can see a crazed look in her little black eyes. I can tell that the small rabbit will land between sword and anvil, and I know that it will do actual damage to all involved if this strike continues.
That’s when I realise. I don’t want this. I don’t want the glowing metal slab to explode in a deadly concoction of mana stone, metal alloy, and compressed qi. I don’t want the woman to be torn to shreds. I don’t want the small little thing - Lola, I belatedly realise - to be hurt. I don’t want my own sword to break. How dare Rhea try and smash that thing. Does she even know how long I worked at that? At least several hours, and now she’s trying to destroy it?
For the first time in an eternity, something flickers inside of me. A piece that I didn’t even know was missing trickles back into place, and it has the gall to pretend it was never there.
“FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!” I shout with all my might. I let the single syllable rip through my throat as I force more air through my vocal cords.
“WHAT THE SHIT!” I continue my tirade. “What in the everloving…” Out of breath, I fall to the ground. Then I realise that standing is a lot of effort, and why should I bother? I'll just fall asleep again. This is followed by a small trickle of power from the very core of my being slapping that lazy version of myself in the face.
“Drew!” Then I’m smothered by long limbs and a small furry body. As I fall backwards onto the dirt, the last few hours come back to me. The horror at the bizarre state I was in is only lessened when I realise what Rhea has been doing.
“Miss Re-Haan…” I slowly ask. “What did you do with my ship?”
A fist slams onto my chest. “No.”
“What happened to Tree?” I ask while taking in the situation around me. The entire dimension has gone to shit. I'm reminded of the time when I sucked up all of its power to fuel my step into the foundation realm. The lack of power in the air had let everything float off into unstructured chaos. Looking around, I see streams of water floating alongside rows of trees, thick wads of dirt still clinging to their roots. I even see a few mutants here and there, flailing around as they float.
“No. Just…” The emotion in her voice stops me in my tracks.
“Okay. Let’s just lay here for a bit, okay?”
I feel a tearstained face rub against my chest as she nods. I put a hand on her back and relax a little, processing what just happened.
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