Chapter 197 - Resumption (5)
I’m pumped. For the first time in a long time, I'm faced with a wholly novel challenge. The task set before me is just so odd and so specific that I'm at a slight loss as to how to achieve it. I need to know what kind of material is at the centre of the dungeon core processors. The atom distribution in the square miniature cores that seem to make up the insides of the quantum supercomputers is all kinds of weird.
The way the supernatural infrastructure on and around this planet is made has been an eye-opener for me. I honestly thought that on material planes, like the Cultivation World and the one I’m currently on, any form of crafting needed to be done through qi enhanced mundane materials. My sword is a great example of this. It’s a rather ordinary alloy slab with some solidified energy matrices inside, enhanced by lots of qi. I’ve been pouring and channelling my cultivation base through the weapon near constantly to refine and strengthen the thing, and to help Lola. I never thought to improve the base materials in a manner as dumb, effective and wasteful as all the trash here, though.
Instead of optimising material strength using ordinary means, the beings in charge of this shithole of a magical planet seem to have used energies from higher planes to bully stuff into being stronger by forceful compression. Now that I think about it, I suspect that the dungeon cores operate on a similar principle. Their operating methods are just wild guesswork at the moment though, so I stop fantasising about quantum physics and focus on the present moment again.
Bending low, I crawl through the frozen tunnel I have been creating. Lola has a firm grip on the icy side of the power flowing through the sword on my back, so I’m making do with the steady supply of heat energy I can channel from my blade. I’ve been making my way down through the ice crust, analysing each piece of dumped trash I come across.
I also figured out why none of the pieces of debris have sunk through the icy crust. Putting pressure on ice tends to melt the top layer, which is how hard objects will slowly yet surely be pulled under by gravity. This has not happened to any of the current items decorating the south pole’s ice planes, as they are supported by a seemingly endless layer of random stuff.
I’ve been making my way down through this three-dimensional maze of supernatural dense things, melting the ice between gaps in order to find my way down. Looking backwards, I see a narrow tunnel going upwards. Dark mechanical shapes surround me, wiring sticking out of some, while others are mind-bendingly complex sets of interweaving curves. Everything is encased in translucent ice. I’ve been keeping the way upwards clear by constantly boiling new water, blowing the tunnel clear and keeping the way back open.
Slowly but surely, I've been able to piece together parts of an image of what might have been happening on this planet. It’s still just parts of an image, though - a rather minuscule part of a massively complex sprawling panorama. Instead of finding what I suspected I’d find - lesser and more experimental parts - I see more refined and ever more complex items the further I dig down. I have not found the expected curve of advancing technology the deeper I dig, instead, stuff is just getting weirder and weirder down here.
The items up top look machine-like and complex, but understandable. My latest find and excavation, a crystalline sphere that’s threatening to make my eyes bleed, is the most convoluted thing I have found so far. I can’t even penetrate the thing a single picometre using my augur before I get overwhelmed by its absurd atomic density. Everything I know about elemental particles is apparently wrong, because this tightly packed cluster of neutrons and protons makes a neutron star look like a particle wasteland.
The entire order of complexity seems to be reversed, and the only reason why this could be is too dumb to contemplate. Did some creature from a higher plane visit, and they were too dumb to understand how this entire reality worked? Did they have so much trouble trying to create normal ordinary items fit for this level of existence, that it took them thousands of years before they even got close to producing something normal?
It’s also possible that their goods and tools simply ran out, and that they had to switch to lower level equipment after all the good stuff got used up.
I tear my eyes away from the insanely dense globe of madness-inducing crystal - a rough estimate tells me that it should weigh as much as an entire moon - and continue making my way downwards. I’m still looking for my own personal Rosetta Stone, and I’ve not had much success yet.
Ideally, I’ll find something a little under twice the density of normal matter. I then, hopefully, can start making comparisons between that item and something of a similar composition. Then I can start attempting to figure out how to identify and classify atoms through something else than their respective and individual radii. I hope…
I hum a silent melody to myself as I continue working, pouring qi through the molten part of my sword before sending it downwards at a diagonal angle. I help the steam along by channelling fresh air in through a tube formed from qi. I can hold my breath for a few hours easily, but getting my feet wet is irritating.
I continue humming a random melody as I delve deeper through the random odds and ends. I climb across perfectly smooth cubes, avoid razor-sharp clumps of random spikes and weave my way through the perfectly recreated metal tree stuck in the ice, upside down. I see the occasional item that I can guess the purpose of. I occasionally see slotted rails that remind me of magnetic accelerators. Here and there, I come across the same type of bullets that shot me through the gut. I also see what I suspect to be fin-guided rods of the gods here and there, heavy poles that can strike with massive kinetic energy when dropped from space.
I’m around two kilometres below ground when I find what I need. A small rectangle of similar proportions as the dungeons cores' is squished between what looks like a fluted heatsink and another ball of crumpled metal wires. It’s a tenth smaller than the black slabs of translucent mystery stuff, ten centimetres by forty by ninety.
The moment I probe it with my augur, I know I hit gold. As in, the thing is literally made from gold, at a little less than three times its normal density. It takes me just five minutes to free the item from its icy prison, and I gleefully stuff it inside my ring. Threading tendrils of exploratory qi through the ice, I find that the trash heap continues on downwards for at least a few more kilometres. The amount of qi stuck between these devices is rather amazing, though, but I’m also starting to form theories on why there is such an overabundance of the spilt power here.
Qi is influenced by everything. The fields generated by conscious minds, and especially sapient minds, is very influential to the complex form of power. The random parts made from super-dense matter all around me are also influencing qi, and the fact that using qi breeds more qi, somehow, seems to play off of the volatile way all this stuff is being kept together. Madness inducing amounts of power are needed when crafting stuff on these density scales, even by my most conservative and optimistic estimations.
I let all of these theories and suspicions percolate through my mind and Database as I continue digging. I’ve now found a piece of matter over twice as dense, but the next least dense item is around fifty times more compact than usual. That’s a bit of a big gap to bridge in terms of training, so I keep digging as I muse on life, the universe and everything.
I continue searching until I am interrupted by a couple dozen processes. Alarm bells going off inside my mind, I check what they want as I stop lifting a flat plate of metal many meters wide.
Rhea is in trouble? I double check the data and corroborate the claims. I triple check, as I fail to see how she would be in danger. A few of my monitoring and predictive processes, both in my own braincore and on Database, are throwing all kinds of red flags though. Looking down at the unexplored masses of random stuff stuck in the ice below me, I sigh and start speeding back up.
I do stop a few times to forcefully pry free a few of the larger and more interesting items. I didn't want to risk everything collapsing and turning unstable when I was descending, but now I can use brute force.
From the moment I see faint traces of sunlight, I hear a low sound. It’s not a rumbling noise, more like a steady background hum that some cheap speakers or audio amps would make. I move through the tunnel a bit faster, slightly worried for Lola. She might be able to kick some serious ass, but the little rabbit isn't yet a year old, after all.
I’m enveloped in an oddly warm yet pleasantly cool pile of softness the moment I emerge from under the ice. The sun remains largely blocked, and the odd stuff surrounding me is only letting faint traces of cold blue light through. I start preparing to free myself from the oddly clinging fluff when I sense that the mass is vibrating. I send more qi surging outwards as I train my focus on my surroundings.
“Lola? Is that you?” The low rumble gains in volume and the pressure surrounding me increases. I grab a handfull of down and lift it above my head. Then I take a few more handfuls and start throwing it upwards when that initial action didn't have any effect whatsoever. The rumbling only increases in oscillation and pitch, gaining an odd quality that sounds like laughing to my ears. “Right then…”
I release a diffuse blast of qi upwards, both of my hands aimed towards the sky. I blink against the brightly shining sun and its glare on the white ice. Looking up, I see a large and extremely fluffy bunny wriggling in the air. “Lola, what did you do?”
“Yeah, I did take control of the fire this entire time…”
“No need to accuse me of that. You did this yourself. Who told you to just absorb all this qi without turning it into your own qi first? Of course, your cultivation base is going to take ste-” The rest of my words are swallowed as the large blue bunny kicks against the air and smothers me again.
It seems that the little shit has taken a step on her path. Instead of slowly consuming and controlling the overabundance of cold aspected qi around here, she just greedily guzzled the stuff down. It seems to have had quite the effect on the little thing. I push both hands upwards again, recreating the same blast from before, only twice as powerful. “Just reabsorb that stuff into your core!” I shout at the swiftly flying critter.
I eye the low hanging sun for a bit. One way to balance her would be to supply her with an overabundance of energy that will counteract the cold aspect of her current imbalanced state. Tossing her into a massive ball of plasma might just do the trick, right? First I’ll need to get to space, I guess. I’m still working on that, but first I should check in on Rhea.
Releasing the firm mental grip I have on the flows of heat power running through the sword on my back, I notice that the flow of icy qi has indeed grown a bit wild. Looks like I’ll have to teach Lola control all over again. Pushing away that tedious task to the back of my mind, I jump up, following behind the still descending fluff ball.
She has turned rather cute, I must say. She’s about a dozen meters long now, her fur probably accounting for more than half of her mass. Pale blue and fluffy as all hell, Lola hasn't changed much, except for tint and size. The horn is still on her forehead, unfortunately, and the strand of red oscillating through it is nearly non-existent. We are definitely going to have to fix that at some point.
Ignoring the low yet cute sounds coming from the tumbling rabbit, I grab hold of the cool fur and pull us both towards Tree. Immediately upon landing inside the clearing around the golden giant, I grab the item that has just finished production.
A black ball. This little radiation shielded targeting beacon contains a miniature and exact copy of Tree, some of its qi, and a neat scala of scanning and mapping formations. I toss it through the impossible rip in space and time Lola and I just stepped through, dropping it in the middle of the south pole. I send its activation signal through the thematic link it has with Tree, and notice with satisfaction that it starts streaming its sensor data directly to Database.
That taken care of, I touch Tree and pull myself through the link to another drone, this one a couple of thousand kilometres away from the north pole. The sheer distances involved in the dimensional jump takes a rather large amount of power from Tree’s dimension, but nothing we can’t afford. These costs will only rise as the entire magical planet gets saturated by qi, as traversing through high energy space and time costs more energy. I’ll just need to stay on top of the power curve to keep these quick trips affordable, no biggy.
The aura of true battle, blood, and death hits me the moment I pop into existence above the northern ice flats. The scenery is similar, endless white and blue ice and snow interrupted by the occasional piece of debris or randomly dumped equipment. The hypothesis that this entire planet is some form of overfunded experimental dumping ground gains probability as I take in the sights.
Dragons are everywhere, and they are getting creamed. The largest specimen, a massive brown example of winged fury, is surrounded and getting hounded by a never-ending stream of ice elementals and a disproportionately large amount of qi infected mana mutants. I even spot the occasional plant-based being, their partially frozen limbs and greenery slowing them down. A colourful collection of dragons is making attack runs around the large earth dragon, their breath attacks obviously not yet adapted to qi.
I sense a couple of loose souls floating around, impressing upon me the fact that there seem to be no universal laws concerning the mystical things on this plane. I think of the massively complex soul entrapment techniques and rituals needed to even slightly influence the supernatural nexuses back on the Cultivation World. Quickly stripping away the majority of the methodologies, only keeping the core essence of soul capture and preservation, I use qi, Will and liquid augur to put the slowly fading sparks into stasis.
Off to the side, I sense Rhea. Looking over while storing the soul connections, I see her standing in the remains of a battlefield, the scoured ice and scattered bodies and ice everywhere proof that a pitched battle went down there. I spot the battered and broken body of a dragon that looks similar to her too late. The chaotic swirls of qi, mana, emotional breath attacks and general struggle happening below prevent me from sensing the sheer mass of anguish and fury before it’s too late.
A white tree explodes from her lithe humanoid form, and my heart bleeds as I see a tyrant being born.
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