Chapter 193 - Resumption (1)
Her stomach a churning mess of unfamiliar feelings, Re-Haan continues hiding in the bushes. She is staring at a figure far away, small distortions in front of her eyes telling of qi powered lenses of distorted air. The small shape, a man casually slamming a hammer down on a rather oversized sword, is enlarged to her eyes, allowing her to see each follicle of hair and every single pore of his skin. And the sight is hurting her something fierce. The small rabbit laying near the man, her fluffy ears and white tail wincing with each hammer strike, is only adding to the gut-roiling anguish.
The dragoness in human form is learning all kinds of new stuff, yet she really wishes that some lessons could be learned by merely studying. She knows that the over enthusiastic wind attack she launched at the sparkling black core did allow Drew to scan the thing rather quickly, but it also caused the protective weave to spin out of control. She should have seen it coming, and thus she berates herself once again, blaming it all on herself. The only times when Drew got injured was because of her, after all.
First, there was the enforcer squad that nearly killed her, way back when in the vicinity of the Tower. Drew had saved her, and she had been aware of the lengthy healing process that he had gone through after that bloody episode. He had needed to give up half of his cultivation base to keep her dying body from giving up, and she still sees the mental effects that these measures had cost him to this day. Her lazy disposition to sleep the years away is thoroughly stamped upon his psyche now. The fact that her own actions have become much more impulsive, and that the imperial arrogance so natural to dragons is fading by the day goes beneath her notice.
She can call up a few more examples like this, but the entire thing with the external dungeon core that they had gone through a couple of days ago takes the cake, as Drew sometimes says. She had caused the data link with the moon, which they both had spent quite a bit of effort on negating, to be reestablished. She herself doesn't really recall a lot of what happened, all she knows is that they both had been in a rather deep crawl, qi spooling through their brains, when they had put qi inside the thing. It seemed like a good idea at the time, somehow.
The next thing she knew, is that she was standing inside Tree, all of her fingers missing and her hands bleeding profusely. She had started screaming and becoming furious when Drew had flopped down on the ground. He’d been stripped of any energies she could sense. The only qi in his body had been his structural qi, and that had been slowly seeping out of his flesh and bones to replenish his dry cores. He’d woken up and then had done nothing.
He had literally done nothing. She had felt for his heartbeat, and noticed that it was only beating once every half hour or so. His pupils had shrunken when exposed to light, and she had seen a spark of intelligence in his grey-blue eyes, but he’d just gone to sleep again.
So she had taken measures. She had spent two entire weeks getting into a bigger state of panic, going mad while thinking up more and more elaborate reasons as to why Drew was just sleeping all the time. The only muscle movements he had performed were the minimum amount of heartbeats to stay alive, and the occasional shift in posture in order to get into a more comfortable position.
Healing and regenerating her own missing fingers had been extremely easy, but the mystery of where her digits had gone to baffles her even now. The wound had been perfect, cells cut through the middle perfectly, not a single geometrical imperfection in the slice through her bones. It had only taken a few huge meals and a lot of qi to repair her fingers to their previous elegance. This had allowed her to go completely crazy of the past two weeks.
She had relived the Tower incident many times. She had berated herself for throwing away the cultivation base he had bestowed upon her, just so she could form her own foundation. She had combed through her memories of the siege at the Mana Dungeon, the looks Drew had in his eyes when he had appeared near her, completely beaten up and extremely dishevelled, just wouldn't leave her mind. That, she had caused too. In that incident also, she had taken down a weave protecting them from the moon’s information transmissions.
She had gotten truly desperate then, managing to rouse Drew from his slumber less and less. She had destroyed his ship, his tools, had taunted him, beaten the shit out of him, done everything to make him wake up.
And now, here she is, spying on the man as he repairs the damage caused by her. Even Lola, the innocent little animal with the power to destroy cities, is suffering as Drew fixes the sword the bunny is interlinked with. The extensive web of cracks is closing slowly, the blue and orange glowing coming from the damaged areas fading slowly. Each hammer strike, each sweatdrop, and each ear twitch might as well be a direct punch to her gut.
And he had no idea why she is feeling this way. She had made some mistakes, sure. No, they might not even be called mistakes. They’re all more oversights than anything else, maybe? She should have kept watch for an enforcer squad, maybe should have taken Bassik’s rapport about light coming from the moon a little more seriously, and perhaps she should have been a little more careful with her wind attack. Bure surely, everyone could have made those mistakes? They didn't contain any malice, after all. It had merely been some stupid things that had happened, and she only had a hand in not preventing them. She didn’t cause any of this, after all.
Then why does her stomach not feel any better, if she is truly blameless? Why does she still feel like absolute shit, even though she is pretty sure she isn’t sick. Keeping a hand on her stomach, she is totally lost.
“Hey, Rhea. Are you done with your one person pity party yet?”
Whirling around, her fast reaction caused the bushes she is hiding in to explode into a flurry of green leaves and snapped branched. She stands completely upright, fiercely staring up into Drew’s eyes. How did he get over here? Wasn’t he over there just now? Quickly peering over her shoulder, she sees the spot he was before, the improvised forge still smoking. “What,” she asks while narrowing her eyes back at Drew, “did you just say?”
“No need to feel guilty. Shit happens,” shrugging his shoulders, Drew twirls the repaired sword through the air a few times before slinging it through the loose loop of fabric on his back. “Thanks for pushing the data to the moon, check what I discovered.”
Eyes once again gleaming with a near-manic light, Re-Haan looks at Drew as he weaves a densely populated cloud of dots in front of himself. “I’m not feeling guilty,” she defends herself as a slow realisation that she might very well be feeling a bit guilty dawns on her. Dragons have no evolutionary need to feel guilty. But Drew pretty much proved to her that her entire race is designed from the ground up, so that excuse might not fly. But then again, why would a designer put something like guilt in the template?
“Yes, you are. Denial is fine too, though,” murmurs Drew. He dramatically moves his hand around a bit as the cloud of randomly distributed pinpricks of light follow his gestures. He rotates and expands the qi illusion a bit before throwing his hands to the side, enlarging a specific cluster of particles in an impressive visual effect. “Can you tell me how you found the slightly bigger particles inside the core?”
“I am not feeling guilty. Maybe you are projecting your own guilt to me?” Re-Haan replies, now sure that she is feeling guilty, and projecting her denial onto Drew with that statement. “And a process found it for me. I’m sure I deleted the small anomaly finder a while ago, but it somehow came back.”
“Projecting your projecting, that’s the textbook definition of advanced denial, you know.” Stepping closer to the huffing woman, Drew points at one particular dot. “Processes tend to come back once they’ve been around for a while unless you’ve got a process monitoring process in place. It’s like you formed a habit, and it sticks in your subconsciousness a while. So this is one of these slightly larger particles, can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture? Pretty amazing that you found this.”
Eyeing the speck within a sea of similar specs, Re-Haan thinks for a bit. “It’s not amazing,” she said.
“No, this is pretty amazing. It would have taken me ages to check for something so simple and stupid.” Drew roaches out a hand, and Re-Haan flinches back. A hurt look on his face, the bearded man retracts his hand. “Yeah, you are guilty as fuck. You nearly killed us both, you know.”
Her mouth falling open, Re-Haan is at a loss for words.
“You unthinking stupidity nearly killed me, Lola, yourself, my students, Tree, and probably a lot more people, you know.” Staring into her eyes with an unflinching gaze, she can’t help but keep her sigh locked upon his icy gaze. “I might be pretty socially retarded, but you’re just a ticking time bomb at this point.” Snapping out his hand faster than she can react to, she feels his large yet slender hand grasp onto her shoulder. She moves away instinctively but is held in place as her other shoulder is grasped by Drew’s other hand.
Thoughts spin through her mind, panic taking hold as she starts raising her own hands. To her horror, she finds herself perfectly locking in place, the two hands grasping at her upper arms preventing her from doing anything at all. The Drew’s unmoving face comes closer, the hardest gaze she has ever seen in his eyes. The knot in her stomach unravels briefly, only to spread out and reknit itself into a much more painful knot, now all over her torso.
Then she enveloped in a hug, arms clasping around her own frame like a drowning man would grab onto their rescuer, firm without being painful. “But who cares. We know souls exist. We both know there is a connection in these mortal coils of ours to somewhere else, somewhere that can hold unlimited amounts of data, memories, and more. This all is just a phase in our existence. All we can do is stumble through it blindly, trying to not stumble over the same rock twice. But still, I just figured something out, and I want to brag a bit, so bear with me for now?”
Fighting to keep her cursed weak human shaped flesh under control, she just nods.
“Thanks. Anyway, what I found is that the slightly bigger atom inside the core is stuck inside a pattern. Do you wanna try to see it?”
“No,” she croaks out.
“Okay. Man, and I was looking forward to this. I had this entire speech and explanation planned, you know. This epic question and answer sessions that would slowly illuminate the truth of the matter.”
Then it is silent for a little bit. Re-Haan manages to collect herself bit by bit, her braincore’s fondness for cold logic reasserting itself slowly. “Wait a minute. So you are telling me you wouldn’t mind dying?”
Drew lets go of his embrace and takes a step back. He looks embarrassed and avoids eye contact. Somehow feeling a bit better, Re-Haan really looks at him. She sees large bags under his eyes, accompanied by visible wrinkles. The gaunt look on his face is also one she hasn’t seen before. Touching her own countenance, she feels similar puffy eyes and hollow cheeks. “What really happened? Don’t fob me off with nonsense like you did before.”
“I think I used up all my augur somehow?”
“You told me that your augur is a finer version of qi, right?”
“What?” True bafflement is on his face.
“Augur is something else than qi. It’s not some complex energy that listens to the fields generated by consciousness.”
“It’s not?” Drew asks, only looking more befuddled.
“I know what your qi feels like, I used to have half of yours, remember?” Re-Haan waits for the slightly embarrassed nod before continuing. “That wasn’t qi. That felt like your mind, not your body.”
“My mind, not my body?”
“Yes. How did you explain it again?”
“Like qi is a ball mill, and it created this near infinitely fine powder, that is augur? The qi going through our brains loses very fine particles, and thi-”
“That’s not it at all. Let me try something.” At this, Re-Haan sits get ass down with gusto. Next, she musters up her will. Instead of influencing the extra layer of reality that qi allows her to feel, she tries to reach higher. She forgoes anything physical and ignores the shining hoard that is her soul. Instead, she uses what she was, is, and what she will become. She forced this essence of her into a single spot, right in front of her face.
Without any fanfare or special effects, a small droplet forms. The feeling she has when she controls the wind is somewhat similar, a simple application of will. “It’s not anything special, you dummy. It’s just condensed Will,” she manages to say to Drew before falling unconscious.
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