Chapter 21 - Soar
The mountains I am currently climbing are starting to get impressive. In contrast to the small lumps of rocks I saw when reaching this planet, these ones are starting to become more than ten kilometres high. I have spent the past day scaling these walls of rock, keeping a vigilant eye out for any interesting plants.
Looking inward I check the results of my insect scanner. It gives me a neat little list of every insect type it encountered. My eye twitches as the first animal I killed on this rock tops the list, the big ass wasp. A further look tells me my automated thought process included anything with even a hint of carapace, feelers or faceted eyes. With an internal sigh, I limit the maximum size to a basketball, I can't see any car-sized insect going around pollinating everything. That might just happen given the bizarre variety of beasts I have seen around though…
Looking over the rest of the list brings me no closer to any answers. Any form of body parts related to pollination seems to be missing, bigger and sharper mandibles and spikes must have taken their place. The lack of variety is also puzzling, I can only divide the entire insect group into carnivore or herbivore. There is a lack of omnivorous insects for some reason. For now, I decide to figure out how trees have sex at a later date.
I exhale a misty breath of air and stop and take a look around. I’m in the middle of a mountain range to the north-west of my starting position. I look back at where I came from and only see mountaintops with the dungeon’s tower peeking over. I didn't catch a glimpse of these impressive rocky specimens when I exited the mountains of my beginning valley. That's pretty weird because I should have seen the tops sticking up from the horizon from that location. A lot of energy in the air can do weird things to the horizon, I think it causes air to refract light harder. I’m not sure because I only studied these type of physics on the small scale. Large-scale extrapolations like that are less than accurate - once again thanks to the higher energies in the air.
The peak I just reached is the highest in the vicinity. It has some spots of snow here and there, proof that I am reaching the snow line. My solid core has almost grown to twice its original size with the help of Tree. Anytime my core isn't completely filled with liquid qi the growth stops, so I syphon some qi from Tree at that point. I pump any excess back into the medallion when I'm full up, so it's a net gain for my perennial friend. My core size should allow me to successfully fly though, so I begin humming and burst into song.
“I used to think that I could not go ooooon.”
The combination of my aerodynamic knowledge and the fact that I’m a mind cultivator will allow me to do this. I’m going to do some more graceful falling. I breathe out half of my qi and shape it around me. A week ago, I used to be able to walk through the air like strolling across land. The fact that I’ve been stuck here down below, rutting around in the dirt, is getting on my nerves.
“And life was nothing but an awful song.”
A pair of white glowing wings attach themselves to my arms, my imagination needs a few seconds to form flaps and a vertical fin on my back. I place some rudders and ailerons on my body and finish it off with two hollow tubes, these will act as engines.
I hum the rest of the tune as I reinforce the entire thing with triangular struts. The entire thing goes from a floppy hollow shell to a rigid but flexible structure. I run a small aerodynamic simulation in my mind and change the structure here and there, fixing some minor problems.
“If I just believe it there’s nothing to it.”
As my voice starts increasing in volume I bend through my knees and prepare my heart. At the last moment, I pull Lola from the necklace and place her on my shoulder, tying her down with some bands of qi. With a bellow, I jump from the peak.
“I BELIIIEEEVE I CAN FLYYYYYY!”
The wind whips past my face and I quickly construct a thin qi screen that acts as goggles. A small squeak is barely audible over the wind and I make another set for my passenger.
“I BELIEVE I CAN TOUCH THE SKYY-HYYYYYY”
I have fallen a quarter down the mountain now. I made sure to jump of a steep cliff, but the ground is getting closer fast. I send more qi to the two tubes on my arms and spin them up. Focussing on Lola tells me she is staring bug-eyed around herself, at least she’s stopped screaming right next to my ear.
“I think about it…”
The tubes start giving off a high pitched whirring sound. I force their internals to spin harder and adjust some flaps. My arms catch the wind and as I bend my body to start levelling out, the tubes start making more noise. I lock up my arms as my qi engines start generating thrust.
“…EVERY NIGHT AND DAAAAAAY!”
I start cutting through the wind, beginning to generate lift. I level my flight off with a third of the distance yet to fall. Keeping my arms stiff I make a slow banking turn, and my flight starts to follow the valley between the mountains.
“SPREAD MY WINGS AND FLY AWAAAAY!”
My face has been frozen in the biggest shit eating grin this world has ever seen. I imagine more intricate scoops and blades in my engines, feeling the increase in thrust with every proven concept I shove into the qi constructs. I lock up parts of my arm muscles as I put all my knowledge about rotors, stators and turbines into both cylinders.
“I BELIEVE I CAN SOAR!”
A certain fluffy soprano decides to make my performance into a duet, her previous fright forgotten… She is only slightly off-key, she’s got a rather commendable tone perceptiveness for a rabbit. I start climbing steeply, trading speed for height. A small portion of my mind keeps tabs on the air pressure, making sure I don't go too high lest I lose lift and breathable air.
“I SEE ME RUNNING THROUGH THAT OPEN DOOHOOOR!”
“SQUEEE SQUEE SQUUEHEEE”
Reaching my previous height nets me a pretty cool view. My qi reserves are running low now, so I level of my flight trajectory and start cruising.
“I BELIEVE I CAN FLYYYY!”
My eyes take in the sight, mountains spreading out below me. I keep climbing slowly while singing. A look back shows me every place I have been to so far. Only my valley of origin is obscured by the mountains, other than that I can retrace every step I took. Looking to the north I see higher mountains, each more snowcapped than the previous. Now I only need to find a volcano and grow some plants, then I can make my delicious icy magma chilli again. A slight bit of drool escapes my mouth and freezes instantly.
Ten minutes later, I am pooped and hoarse. I keep my arms locked up while I retract the qi from my turbines, coasting through the air like a glider. My radar process is doing overtime, building an accurate map while I keep a lookout for anything interesting. I already spotted a ruin or two worth exploring. Whoever build his or her house in such an inhospitable environment probably did it with good reason. I also spotted a few plants with blue streaks running through them, probably a mana adaptation for surviving in a permanently frozen place.
Lola is still looking her eyes out, darting her head left and right. I would like to keep flying like this but my qi is running low, crashing from this height will be painful at the very least. I decide to explore the inner regions of the mountains at a later date, my disciples can use some training in the meantime.
Touching down in the middle of a cold valley I stumble a bit before finding my footing again. My core is pretty much empty, only a small swirl of liquid qi surrounding the crystal at the centre. I request some qi from the Tree and receive enough to fill half my core. Sending a thank you to the medallion I use my replenished qi to make a clearing in the middle of the rocky valley I'm in.
Tess is meditating. She never did it before and never in her life suspected that sitting on her ass and doing nothing physical would be so… addicting. After she shat her guts out she felt better. The fact that it took her half a day to shit her guts out is a memory she is trying really hard to suppress. The stream of stinking black sludge coming from her bottom makes her shiver whenever she recalls that herculean effort of expelling.
Now she is sitting in her barren hut, staring at the log wall. Breathe in. She feels something coming in through her lungs. A faint sheen of heaviness is left behind with every breath. She pulls it down, through her stomach and down into the weird place. Just behind her belly button, a new arm has formed. At least, it feels like a new arm. It’s like waking up and finding out you have had an extra limb all along, you just never noticed it.
Breathe out. The air coming out of her mouth stinks. No, that's not right Tess thinks, it has so little smell it smells bad. An absence of smell so extreme it has a smell itself? The feeling that comes when the faint sheen reaches that new arm is what makes it all alright. A surge of new power follows the moment the new power is sucked into the round little organ in her stomach. It feels so incredibly good that Tess thinks that she’d be okay if this is all she could do from now on.
Suddenly she remembers something the weird bunny petting guy told her.
“Don't cultivate for cultivation's sake. That only makes one better at cultivation.”
It seemed like total nonsense back then, but Tess now realises why he said that multiple times. She was about to do this cultivation thing because it felt good. The feeling of power seeping into her body might become so addicting she won't want to do anything else. She needs a goal, a purpose. Furiously thinking about why she would want to become stronger, she sinks into a trance.
And while she is about to have a breakthrough in her understanding a loud voice shakes her out of her revelry.
“Hey, you all~. Please come out, the freak is gone for now.”
Tess jumps up, startled out of her mind. Furious she throws the door open and stomps outside, walking menacingly up to the red-headed figure.
“What are you DOING?”
She wanted to ask him politely but started shouting halfway through her sentence. She was sure that just another minute of thinking would have netted her an answer. That on top of her almost dying in the dungeon, waking up somewhere strange and getting yelled at, followed by shitting for hours on end has left the black haired girl quite frustrated. This interruption was the tipping point, sending the usually smiling girl over the edge.
With a mind clouded by irrational anger, she pounces.
“Hey, what's your name aga- HUURK”
“I WAS ABOUT TO UNDERSTAND!” Smashing into her target Tess hold the guy up with a single hand.
*Cough cough* “What the, get off of-” The reply gets cut off by a small fist, sending the pale flame-haired youth flying through the clearing. Four other figures step out of their huts.
“What's going on?” A fat kid asks in the general direction of the rest, namely a fur covered woman, a blue baldy and a gloomy dark-eyed kid.
“Humans fighting over nothing as usual. At least they are doing it themselves instead of sending other of to die. And go away boy, you smell absolutely horrible.”
“Well, that is…” The fat kid looks at his grime covered arms while his reply trails of as he watches the two combatants duke it out.
“How are they punching so hard?” As if watching a show, the fat kids’ eyes are wide open as he looks at the scene of two figures blasting each other across the clearing.
“ALRIGHT YOU ABHORRENT WALKING SACKS OF SHIT!”
A voice booms through the entire space. The weird guy appears in a flash, bunny in hand.
“I GIVE YOU ACCESS TO WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY DIVINE ENERGY AND YOU USE IT TO PUMMEL EACH OTHER?”
Everybody is frozen now, Tess has her fist raised halfway to the redheads face while a retaliatory kick is suspended in place. The redhead goes paler than snow while Tess starts to shake.
“YOU KNOW-” *COUGHCOUGH*
Silence hangs thick in the air for a few moments.
“You know what? If you dip shits abuse my hospitality like this, you can fuck right off out of my house.”
Bright light overwhelms every living figure in the clearing.
The moment I finished clearing the space, I take a look inside the Tree’s space and what do I see? Two of my students are beating on each other with such horrendous techniques that I almost puke. Toddlers in kindergarten could have put up a better fight than that. I don't really care that they are fighting but the least they can do is fight in a proficient manner, not this flailing about. So I went inside and dragged them all out.
“You know the basics of qi and have formed your cores. We are in the middle of the mountains. If you want to eat you have to reach me.”
I tell this to the bedraggled group shivering in the cold. We are all standing on the area I cleared of rocks and snow, just enough to allow us all some space. The rocks surrounding us are jagged and hard to traverse. I jump up and start climbing the mountainside at a blistering speed, leaving my disciples to eat my dust.
They all just expelled large amounts of toxic stuff and should need nutrients pretty badly. Forcing them to climb this mountain with just a smidgen of qi and empty stomachs will temper their enthusiasm at their newly gained powers. I stop a few hundred meters away from them and pull a big covered dish out of my ring.
“I’m going to eat this delicious food, so hurry if you want some.”
Opening the lid I use my qi to send the wafting steam in their faces. I see drool leaking out of their mouths at the smell. That should be appropriate motivation I think.
I leisurely climb the steep cliff face while munching on some marinated juvenile dragon steak. I love that my spatial ring freezes items in time, keeping them fresh forever. Hearing the storm of footsteps behind me I speed up while avoiding any snow. A resounding smack from below tells me that avoiding the snow was a good idea. Chuckling out loud at the sight of the fat kid rolling down the cliff, taking the beast girl and gloomy kid down with him, I speed up and take another bite.
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