Chapter 198 - Resumption (6)
She is still sporting a wide grin when she shows up at the north pole. The good humour she is in thanks to the banter with Drew vanishes the moment she drops in, appearing under the patrolling drone with a dull blast of displaced air. The south pole had smelled of blood, on account of the few naturally occurring animals that got too aggressive for their own good, but it hadn’t been anything like this.
This is war, plain and simple. The piss and shit and fear of beast, dragon and construct dying, filled with resentment, anger, and broken hope. She feels it seep into her bones, the hopelessness and emptiness of life as it is snuffed out without rhyme or reason. She has been on battlefields before, but nothing like this.
The presence of qi and her sensitivity to it pours buckets of emotions and pain directly into her soul. She sees the same wildly growing and developing monsters and ice constructs that they had fought on the other side of the planet. She also sees how badly the Flight is faring against the mad wave of beings.
She quickly re-checks Database, unwilling to believe that the clinical report she had read encompasses the bloodbath below. As she confirms that the report is factual, another of her flying kin is bitten in half. She recognises the corpse of the All-Dragon, his large frame still bleeding from the gaping and ice-crusted wound where his head used to be. She spots her ancestor, one of the few dragons of sufficient mass to be able to stand his ground. She winces as she sees another dragon go down, a chunk of thrown ice clipping it’s wings.
She stares in horrified fascination as the true power wielded by the wildly mutating beings hits home. Drew and Lola made light of the large constructs, but that was only because they, and she herself, had the power to do so. None of the dragons here are competent qi users, not a single one using their cultivation base in an efficient manner. Instead, the emotional turmoil she senses in the air is enough to tell her that the Flight, in general, is stuck in their ways of mana usage, and have not yet started following their own path in any way, shape, or form.
She should just tell them what to do, she thinks. Tearing through the air, flinging qi constructs of compressed wind downwards by the dozens, she realises that she should just take over.
Each Flight member has multiple genetic fail-saves in the very make-up of their being, a few of which she could theoretically use to control them. Then Re-Haan realises what she just thought, and immediately stops that train of thought. Spooked by how easily she slipped into the mind of a brutal tyrant, she decides to just focus on fighting for now.
Speeding across the battlefield, she performs four tasks simultaneously. Firstly, she is constantly shaping new air projectiles, simple strings of symbols that guide a speeding ball of explosive air to a target. Hitting joints or weak spots, she can take the most dangerous of mutants and golems out of the fight with minimal power expenditure.
Secondly, she is taking in the battlefield, prioritising where to fire her projectiles and making rough predictions.
Thirdly, she is breathing out as much qi as she can reasonably spare, shoving her spiritual sense outwards in a wavering front. She uses this sensor network to increase her battlefield awareness, imposing order upon the wild qi in the meantime.
Fourth, she is evaluating strategies. What she can do in terms of combat capability is limited. She could switch to her dragon form, but she feels that giving up the majority of her battlefield awareness capabilities just to become another single target cannon is not a great idea. So she is taking in all she can see, trying to determine the optimal way to limit bloodshed.
She might not ever have felt very welcome in Flight Mountain, nor does she have many fond memories of the sleepy place, but they are still family. The All-Dragon might have been a major asshole, but he was kin, and seeing him dead on the ice does spark a small twinge of pain in her heart.
So she plans ahead, trying to think up a way in which she can provide backup and Intel to the many dragons flying around.
“Hail, ancestor,” she shouts as she comes to a stop above the largest dragon present.
The massive brown head looks upwards, tail and claw continuing to swipe at the surrounding ice monsters. “Re-Haan,” is his answering rumble. “You are late.”
“Why are you here?” Ignoring the remark, she continues to launch purple streak after purple streak, demolishing the largest threats in a radius kilometres around her.
“Check that fool’s corpse.” Indicating the dark shape of the headless All-Dragon, the massive Flight ancestor moves away. Re-Haan looks at the ancient and taciturn being for a long moment. Clicking her tongue, she launches another volley of air spells, increasing her range with each mass artillery strike.
The battle in a widening circle around her starts turning for the better. Instead of barely managing to defend themselves, the dive-bombing dragons in the air can now take the occasional breath. Instead of furiously needing to run around to keep alive, the grounded Flight members can take stock of their surroundings. The strategically hitting purple explosions launched by Re-Haan turn the tide, preventing more casualties.
The dragon turned woman in question lands near the headless All-Dragon, eyeing the black body with a mix of distaste and sadness. Then she smells it.
The process that she put in place to give the dragons around her intel stops. Not that it makes a difference anyway, as not a single one of the winged lizards has listened to a single thing she has displayed in front of their eyes with purple text and lines. The constant barrage of wind explosions falters as a familiar smell enters her nose.
Looking at the red splattered ice, she sees that there is too much blood for just a single dragon here. Looking further, she sees a thin silver band around a black claw. Quickly checking Database, she finds that the pompous bastard is not yet given a storage ring. And yet here he has one on his claw, one of the larger ones too.
Trickling a strand of qi into the piece of transformed jewelry, her heart freezes. The partially frozen and severely damaged corpse of her uncle is inside the ring, freshly dead and still bleeding. She pulls on the object with a mental tug, and the familiar face of the old dragon flops down on the ground.
The world stops as multiple processes start spooling qi through her brain. The noise and world around her grinds to a discordant halt as her eyes are stuck on a single rivulet of blood running between dull scales. Her heart stops between beats. With all her might, she wants to look at the old dragon’s eyes. She wants to stop staring at the point on his nose. She might not be too late. She might yet save him.
Then the data provided by her other senses trickles into her consciousness. She feels the way her uncle is nearly cut in half, a massive ice-encrusted tear running straight through his sternum, across his belly and thought his hind leg. There is simply no way that he is still alive, his top-level qi condensing cultivation base already dispersed and vanished. Now she is just staring at a hunk of dragon meat, not a single hint of aura, emotion, or life emanating from the scaled husk.
Why was her uncle in the All-Dragon’s ring? Why did the black bastard have her uncle’s ring, for that matter. Didn’t Drew build some form of ownership system into the spatial storage devices? Where are the rest of her nearest family members? How come she didn’t notice the large amount of Dungeon-won books scattered around everywhere? They should have come from the stolen ring, she slowly realises.
And whose idea was it anyway? Why is the Flight here at all?
None of this should have happened. Her uncle shouldn’t be dead. The All-Dragon shouldn’t have had her dead uncle in her uncle’s ring around his own dead claw. The couple of dozen other dead dragons scattered in the area she is currently covering with her qi shouldn’t be dead. None of this should have happened.
Is this Drew’s fault?
Where did that thought come from?
How dare he have this care-free aura about him, pretending like the world isn’t a terrible and foul place. How dare that little fucking rabbit be so cute and how da-
How dare that moon influence her thoughts again? How dare she forget that that white asshole in the sky is situated above the northern hemisphere. How dare this entire planet.
Ignoring the many, many processes that are generating all kinds of alarms, she starts a plan. If this world isn’t the way she likes it, she just has to make it the way she likes it. And the movers and shapers of this place are the Flgiight, right? How curious is it then, that she just happens to know the way to bring this element to heel.
Bringing up the DNA sequences that are the most likely to work, she starts crafting a system. That ancestor should come first. Afterwards, she should take control in descending order. Combat effectivity of the entire Flight will rise a couple of hundred per cent by her rough estimates. Casualties are just wasted resources, so those should be avoided too.
And then, when the north pole is free, then she’ll be able to…
Then her uncle will still be dead.
Tears streaming down her face, Re-Haan takes control.
Twisting branches of white coiling through the air like furious snakes, the Flight has turned into an extremely effective killing machine. It sent chills down my spine, seeing the mute and mechanically perfect moves. Like a complex ballet, each monstrous piece of ice and mutated animal and insect is turned into free qi once again. This qi is then channelled into the many dragons patrolling the sky in lock-step.
Although the outlying members of the Flight try to flee, the undulating mass of white branches catches up with them one by one. Looking down, I see a massive network of power, each node and draconic endpoint pouring power towards the main stem. Re-Haan is still sitting in front of two stacked dragon corpses, tears freezing on her cheeks. The white pillar of power shooting skywards from the small shape is nearly too bright to look at. And not because of the amount of light it shines with. I’ve tried to get near at least twenty times now, and have not succeeded once.
Every single speck of wild power on the north pole is being pulled towards Rhea, and I can’t interfere. Even Lola - back in her small shape - is oddly silent, not making a single move or sound since we arrived here. I’m sort of at a loss here, not sure how to move forward.
I try to come near the silently crying woman again, but the amount of pressure exerted on me is too much. The amount of energy radiating from her form it just overwhelming. I struggle forwards, but I can’t move any closer once I get within a few meters of Rhea. The physical, emotional, magical, and existential pressure wafting from her in a constant wave is just too massive.
Casting one last look at the pile of dead dragon she is staring at, I pour my senses into my ring. Wrapped in a dense network of qi and Will, using a simple piece of jade as a physical anchor is a collection of soul points. Two of the couple dozen connections I have trapped remind me of the two large corpses she is staring at. The brash and insecure one seems to fit in the black body that’s missing a head. The aged and restrained soul seems to want to return to the dragon that’s cut open from groin to belly. I stop myself from going over all the necromantic and resurrection secret manuals I know for the hundredth time. The ice will keep the bodies fresh.
I pet Lola, who is now silently shaking, and look at Rhea again. Her white hair is slowly floundering in the massive flow of power around her. It feels wrong to me. Not fundamentally wrong, but more like something I don't personally agree with. “I’m not following you in this one, love.”
A tendril of light speeds towards me, only to caress my face. Not bothering to shield myself in any way, shape or form, the white branch lingers on my cheek for a bit. I sigh deeply, and pull a few of the many cloth shields Rhea and I have designed from Tree’s storage barns. I toss the bundles into the shining pillar shooting into the sky from the still woman. They speed off, one starting to spin above Rhea, between her and the moon low.
The small branch wipes at my face, and I notice that I’m crying too. Deciding that this is all a bit much, I walk away. I pluck Lola from my shoulder and start strolling into a random direction. Each step propels me a hundred meters, my heartcore now knowing how to employ the efficient walking technique without my conscious input.
Lola is well and truly into the second step of her foundation, and Rhea seems to be working hard too. I guess I’ll need to start cultivating seriously for a bit. I don’t want to be left behind, after all. Petting the fluffy rabbit, I start thinking of the best ways to advance.
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