Chapter 195 - Resumption (3)
“I just want to get a clearer picture first, calm down.”
“No! There are at least a hundred ice-based creatures about to reach Rityn’s place. They’ll flatten the place without breaking a sweat.” Rhea is actually biting her nails, this must be bothering her more than I’d thought it would.
“Have a little faith in the woman, please. She isn’t one of the top earners for show, you know. And just in case, you’re not the only one keeping an eye out.” I point towards the ground, where a small thin figure is hiding behind one of the many frost covered boulders.
Rhea and I are hovering in the air, partially hiding in the low hanging clouds, looking down on a rather frosty landscape. Far in the distance, the frozen tundra turns into towering walls of ice. Rivers of frost water bring their sparkling bounty down through wide waterways that meander through the snow-covered terrain.
Down below, a siege is playing out. A village of what can only be described as a combination between bears and Vikings is going to town on a steady stream of polar-themed mutants and weirder constructs. Animated chunks of ice and rock approaching the stone walls of the town are a good indicator that the qi levels are rising disproportionately rapidly over here.
“Why did it take this long for your drones to find the anomaly anyway?”
Looking over at Rhea, I see her huddled inside a luxurious fur coat. Eternal Moonglade Ghost Cat fur is as expensive as it is warm and comfortable. I keep my smirk hidden as I conclude that dragons are cold-blooded, after all. “The poles of this planet are weird. I don’t think this chunk of rock should have an electromagnetic field, as the only volcanic activity I have seen has been artificial, and there is no continental drift.”
I wait for Rhea’s aura to flicker, as it always does when a mind cultivator speeds up their perception of time in order to research something. The fluctuations don't happen, and I remember that the agreement not to go on solo-crawls is still in effect. She just keeps looking at me, ignoring the carnage and slaughter that’s happening below us.
“This planet doesn’t seem to have a molten core. It’s as dead as a doorknob. We should all be frying from the cosmic rays put out by the sun, but I think that - once again - the moon is doing some weird stuff in that regard. Or maybe the satellite network? Long story short, the amount of harmful radiation touching down on the north and south pole is enough to destroy the finer components of my drones.”
“Those x-ray, beta- and gamma-ray things?”
“Among others. The poles also seem to be some form of dumping grounds, as the amount of falling stars and meteorite impacts is way above the norm at the terrestrial poles.”
“That’s why this is happening now? How bad is this?”
“Not that bad. The mutants are all specialised for cold survival and radiation resistance. The ambient golems will either melt or become inefficient due to the fact that they’ll need to expand massive quantities of qi to keep themselves cooled the further north they go. The animated piles of rock might be a problem, but not really. They are extremely easy to take down once you know how to handle them.”
“Does this usually happen? Why wasn’t the cultivation world covered by the things?” Rhea waves at the fight happening below. The partially fur-clad people governed by a rather soft looking purple-skinned woman are holding the line with surprisingly little effort. I observe the much-changed place once again.
Looking over the earliest photos I have on file for this place, I recognise very little. The main road is still here, the previously dirt path now paved by neat cobblestones. The largest of buildings also still remain, if much changed. What used to be a small collection of wooden huts and longhouses is now a thriving late medieval settlement. Stone huts have replaced wooden shacks, and the amount of places belching thick clouds of industrious smoke into the heavens has gone from one to dozens.
Even now, while under attack of a medium sized wave of mutants and qi beings, I see minecarts filled with ore returning from the mines. Large and bulky men and women carrying logs over their shoulder, returning from the retreating forest line. I think its hilarious, how they look like murder hobo’s while gingerly avoiding all the newly planted saplings. Others are working neatly cordoned fields, using their scarce qi to coax the plants into growing. Smiths, woodworkers, masons, all kinds of craftsmen are busily hammering, sawing and carving away. The town’s growth is visible to the naked eye, and at the centre of it all is a single purple woman.
“These beings,” I reply while gesturing to the mixed crowd of hostile creatures below, “only spawn in areas with large concentrations of qi that’s gone totally feral. The most energetic parts of the otherwise inert matter are multiplied many times over. Bacteria, for example, all either break stuff down or eat other creatures. If a particularly aggressive type of bacteria is prevalent in an area, there’s a good chance its nature starts to override the meaning behind the local qi with some aspect of this bacteria. Often, the cores of those golems are small critters that got in over their head or clumps of native life that grew out of control.”
“And will we need to fight this stuff everywhere?” Rhea is thumbing her earlobe again, something I've started recognising as her worrying about something she cares about.
“They all come from afar. The ambient qi needs to go totally feral, sapient beings that use their spiritual senses prevent that. Higher concentrations of qi can still cause it when the cultivator residing over that area is too weak, though. This is also why people tended to cluster around powerhouses back in the Cultivation world. The qi was already pre-chewed, so to say, less wild and less tempestuous.”
“Rityn has submitted some reports to Database,” Rhea slowly says after some more minutes of spying on the town, “but her reports are a total understatement. I want to help them.”
“No need. She isn’t here by accident, you know. Even Bassik is keeping an eye on her, and he won’t miss a thing. Have you seen his village, by the way? They got so sick of him knowing everything about them that they all either became eyecore’s or they just left. Eye-based powers are super weird.”
“Stop thinking of all of this as funny, Drew!”
“But it is funny! Everyone has it all well in hand. Except for Bord maybe, but he is doing fine in his own way, dragon or no. We just need to make sure that the seeds we sowed can keep growing, and that we take care of the true threats that can wipe them out before they can put up a fair fight.”
“Is that why we're all the way down here? Not even the Flight dares go very far south.”
“With good reason. I’ve seen surprisingly little measures against excessive DNA damage inside your body. Except for your dragon form reproductive organs, they could survive a nuclea-” My clinical analysis is interrupted by a furious Rhea, her face red as a beet as she madly tries to claw my eyes out. “Alright, I’ll stop talking about your bits! Stop assaulting me, Bassik has noticed us!”
Seeing a lost battle when I see one, I decide to flee. I wave to the skulking man far below - who hesitatingly waves back before shaking his head and returning his penetrating gaze on his wife - and start flying further south. I keep dodging Rhea, who has partially transformed into a dragon at this point, as I deflect the most dangerous attacks with my sword.
We fly over the slowly encroaching groups of monsters, coming across more and more elemental beings the closer we get to the vast ice planes. Pretty soon, the rocky tundra below us is replaced by thick ice, and the amount of randomly milling about beings increases the further we go. My drones managed to map this area just fine. It’s when they got within a few thousand kilometres of the geographic south pole that they started having all these mysterious failures, most just straight up vanishing without a trace.
And the south pole is pretty large, without any human presence like the Inuit back on Earth. The most southern signs of life I have discovered is the village we just left behind, well taken care of by Rityn. “Wait a sec, Rhea. I promise that I won’t make fun of your draconic stuf- Yes, yes, stop throwing Lola at me, I’ll shut up.”
I really need to stop grinning at the woman. I catch Lola, who I narrowly dodged a few seconds ago, and appease her by scratching her between the ears. If only all females were as simple at this shitty little rabbit.
“You better. Is that what you wanted me to see?”
I nod. “Yep. It’s a mess down here.”
“Totally. So, any guidelines or advice or something like that?”
I shake my head. “No. For some reason, there are relatively massive amounts of qi coming down here, along with all kinds of space debris. The amount of meteorites landing here is insane. All the friction might have caused a bit of the qi increase, but as you can see, this is a bit much and will get out of hand.”
Around a thousand kilometres from the most southern point on this planet the sheets of ice have started changing. Instead of the endless stretches of blowing snow and ice flats, structures dot the landscape here and there. Some of them are even moving. Actually, the only ones that are moving are made entirely from ice, and are just random chunks of compacted snow. They’re all either a general blob shape or are attempting to take the shape of the animal or insect that got overwhelmed by the ice intent qi that’s getting overwhelming here.
“We might want to call Selis?”
I mull that suggestion over in my mind for a bit. “Not her thing, I think. Sure, she uses water and ice and stuff, but there’s too little difference between fluidity and rigidity here.”
“Are you drunk again?” I flinch at her sudden question.
A carefully crafted look of wounded innocence on my face, I turn to her. “No?”
“No. She’s doing her own thing.”
“And hating it.”
“Good. That works out perfectly then. We are here to bring some order to this stuff. I realised I need to do two things. The first one is to cultivate. Actually sitting my ass down and building my foundation into something more than just a blank space with potential. And secondly, I need to train my augur. Or liquid Will, whatever. I think that some of these things have the answers.” Pointing at the random pieces of debris, I see if she has caught on yet.
“And what can I do? Managing the entire world is rather fun, but why did you drag me along?”
“I’d be too lonely without you. I actually only need Lola here,” I tell her while sneakily grabbing Lola at the scruff of her neck. “Because Lola here also needs to go do some cultivating. There’s too much qi here. Go kill those things and take their power. I choose you!” Shouting a catchphrase that not a single person on this planet knows, I catapult the rabbit towards one of the large mushroom shaped blobs.
The fluffball hits the overpowered fungi colony head first, melting a hole right through its centre. The flurry of snow that was being held in place by superpowered biological processes that were never meant to hold so much matter crumble immediately. A large cloud of qi is freed from the collapsing snow heap, all of it swirling towards Lola’s glowing horn. I can see her big beady eyes stare up at me, promising revenge at a later time but acknowledging that power levelling like this is pretty nice.
With a smile on my face, I observe the adorable critter murder rogue qi golem after rogue qi golem. It can’t really help settle my feeling of unease, though. There shouldn't be this much qi here. I haven’t looked at the debris lying around, but none of it looks natural. I see crumpled pieces of framework and large slabs of dark metal, a faint inner translucency reminding me of the dungeon cores.
I tap into a bit of the fire coursing through the sword on my back to combat the cold at this height. I look over to Rhea, and see that she’s lost in her own world. She’s just floating in the air, buffered by a steady breeze of purple-tinted gusts, her luscious fur coat fluttering around her. The translucent tree slowly grows out of her entire frame as she starts communicating with Database and the students scattered across the globe.
Looking down, I see that were still a couple kilometres high up. I let go of the air around me and start dropping like a brick. I let myself feel the thrill of skydiving for a bit, the ice-cold wind cutting into me numbing my face into a rubbery mask. Twisting my shoulders and hips, I slowly rotate my body, pointing myself to the area that Lola just cleared.
A faint film of my qi across my eyes prevents them from freezing and drying out, allowing me to keep track of one of the more interesting pieces of debris. Then another realisation hits me. How is all of this stuff still here? I’m pretty sure I remember something about Antarctic ice core drilling, and they would measure less than two centimetres of ice per year.
There is a lot of heavy looking objects own there, and not a lot of it seems to be buried by snow. There is a definite wind, but I don’t see any clouds here at all. Checking the data my drones have brought in confirms that there had been little precipitation around here. Stopping myself from making any hasty conclusions, I prepare for my landing.
I swing my sword free and twirl it in my hands. I start spinning myself, using the sword as a counterweight to keep myself stable. Spinning like a madman, I decide to just go with this impulse and start releasing fire from the back edge of the blade, sending me spinning in a blazing arc. Not sure if I am screaming or if that’s the wind tearing through my hair and clothes, I give in to my heart cores' instinct and trust my body.
In a fiery explosion, landing like a comet, I fail to land at all. I somehow put all my downwards momentum into the sword swing and am now standing on top of the black blade as the ice is shattered for meters around me.
My heartcore is a drama queen, got it.
Stepping down towards the shattered ice, I pull my sword free and sheathe it on my back again. I ignore the devastation my improvised landing caused and walk to the nearest - now ice blasted - piece of foreign material.
What I find is absolutely fascinating. I lose myself in the study of the artefacts, rummaging through the high tech trash like a kid in a candy truck accident. Then I feel a hand on my shoulder as a concerned voice speaks out behind me. “Okay Drew. I know that you're usually full of shit, but this time you might be right.”
“I’m not full of… Ah, you are talking about the humongous ice structure coming this way, right?”
“Yeah. The one which exudes a solid core aura.”
“The smaller one seems to be of low foundation realm strength,” I comment.
“Yeah… Thought so.”
I grab my sword. “I did offer to make you a weapon, you know.” Grimacing at the absolutely massive army of new enemies emerging over the southern horizon, I start circulating power through my sword and my heart.
“Oh. We’re about to fight the most powerful enemies we’ve ever faced, and you’re giving me snark?” I look at her, but before we can fight, Lola jumps up between us, landing on both of our shoulders. A blue and red horns spins into being on her forehead, and my sword coats itself in blue shards and orange flames. With a battle cry that’s honestly way too cute, she speeds off towards the approaching front of free qi.
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