Chapter 214 - Reciprocation (4)

“KETTY! WHERE AAAAARE YOU?” Shouting at the top of her lungs, Tess nimbly avoids hitting the crystal as she plummets from the sky. She'd seen something like this coming and had prepared accordingly. Teach is completely capable of making people hit themselves in the crotch while they make use of his outrageously expensive teleportation services; she had rightfully predicted.

Instead of sinking into the shadows between the ornate filigree decorating the building below her, she admires the difference between the static object she is rushing towards and her own speeding self. The nebulous shape of her cultivation base roils around her stomach as she feels the concept take hold of the world around her. Landing on the tiling with a gentle crouch, the distinct contrast between violently crashing down and landing elegantly empowering her slightly.

She takes in the sights, a city unlike any she has ever seen spreads around her. Standing on top of one of the highest buildings around, she has a rather good vantage point from which to observe the new place she has found herself. A riotous collection of clashing styles, colours, and shapes makes up the first ring of gardens, compounds, and buildings she sees. Beyond that, it’s as if the realities of life got a hold on the architecture. The second row is much more muted in colour and shape, the rows beyond changing into simple houses, dishevelled and badly maintained shacks beyond that.

A cool sun shines down on the landscape of ice, snow, and scarce patches of tundra she sees. Small patches of evergreen forest and shining lakes connected by dark rivers break up the view some more. A decent wall surrounds the entire town, the relatively low and thin construction a good indication that the yearly mutant-led beast hordes are less prominent of a problem here.

Looking down below, she briefly wonders how she didn't see the absolute state of madness the entire town seems to be in earlier. The fights seem rather odd, though. Well-armoured and armed troops line up in neat rows, only to be bowled over by chaotic groups of people in little more than rags. Pompous officers direct immaculate guards, only to spectacularly fail in subduing the brawlers clad in simple clothing.

Shifting her cultivation to her nose, as Tes has found that establishing the beginning of her concept and foundation has let her manoeuvre it freely again, she takes in the smells. Weird things happen to her body as she smells a certain boy. Sniffing again, her gleeful expression turns thunderous as she notices that his scent is hours old at the minimum. Glaring at the crystal slowly rotating above her, she asks Database what the hell is going on, and that he better have a damn good explanation for this.

Finding out that Ket transferred to her cavernous mountain hours ago does not lift her mood at all. Instead, when she finds out that Ket was in the city as she sat upon the mountain high above, looking out over the valley, her anger only grows. She is not sure what to think when she pays for some more information. Ket apparently arrived near the crystal, only to spend hours with the mayor. Instead of looking her up, Ket started fondling the old man as they sweated and banged together, joining their energies.

“KET, I WILL ALSO KILL YOU! HOW DARE YOU FALL FOR THAT OL-” At this point, Database informs Tess, for free, that they sweated and banged in front of the forge. The joining of energies was done because of near-toxic mana buildup, and the need to make an external cultivation base for the old coot. Tess calms down slightly, the scare of her first boyfriend suddenly turning gay for a geriatric dwarf leaving her shaking.

Looking around, she sees that the entire town is now still. Not a single person is fighting anymore. Instead, every single eyeball in the city is fixated at the terrifying cloud of absolute blackness that is encircling the central trading building. Tess breaths in, retracting her billowing cultivation base back into herself. She takes note of the fact that the difference between the current stillness and the chaos not seconds earlier adds another small strand of power to her cultivation.

“Hai, everyone! My name is Tess. How are you?” Stilling her shaking hands, Tess decides to go for the friendly route. Instead of the confused yet interested reaction she had expected, every single person in the city falls down on their face. A thundering shouting fills the air as every single voice suddenly shouts in unison.


“No need for that, ple-”


“No, no. Please stop-”


“Right. You all are ju-”


“Oh, FUCK OFF!” The silence following her outburst allows her to land on the streets below. Breathing in deeply, she glares at everyone who even looks like they will start making a noise. Only then does she realise that the qi here flows oddly. She didn’t notice earlier, because of the proximity of the qi sucking crystal hanging above the town, but all the power in the air seems to flow in one direction. Looking behind her, she immediately senses the buildup of power inside the biggest building of the town. 

Pointing at the central structure, she starts walking to it. “I’ll be in that building. Stop shouting stupid shit like that.”

A few of the more ornately dressed people stand up slowly, hiding bruised ribs and bleeding cuts. “Get out of my way. Why are you all twitching and fumbling like that, are you spastic?”

Blood nearly spews forth from the house heads' mouths. Tess wonders why they all look like she just slapped them in the face, but decides to ignore them by briskly walking towards the gathering qi.

“Nay, Sage Ke- Tess. It is merely our desire to know if we can be of assi-”

“Stop wasting my time. I don’t need anything from you. And stop twitching like that, it's annoying.” Ignoring the stiffly dressed wriggling fops, Tess strides past them. Stepping into the most prominent entrance, she is briefly puzzled as the slowly growing feeling of power is off to the side, not in the back or upper parts of the building, where usually the biggest rooms would be. The man nearly called her sage Ket back there, so they obviously must have put some importance on the metal-headed idiot.

Instead of finding lavish rooms and decorated chambers, she finds spaces that are little more than repurposed storage areas. She quickly finds Ket’s handiwork, as the spartan rooms she ends up at is covered in formations. Qi pulses subtly through the geometric lines of inlaid metal, something only someone with a ridiculous amount of control over the materials could have possibly made. Instead of painting or inlaying stuff, these spells are woven through solid metal. The amount of mind-numbing work that must have gone into lacing the thick stone with metal filigree of such detail is mind-boggling to Tess. Just the thing that she can expect from a one-track idiot like Ket, though.

The only piece of decoration inside the few rooms is an ornate throne. Tess feels a headache coming on as she puts some puzzle pieces together. The different classes fighting each other, the weird way in which those important seeming people wriggled, the overpowered strength of everyone that wasn’t dressed in silks… “Ket, please don’t follow in Teach’s footsteps any more. Please don’t…”

Tess sits there for a long while, slowly calming down and processing all that has happened. Her point total is absolutely annihilated by that teleportation, and she isn't even where she wanted to be. On the one hand, she feels like she has only herself to blame. She could have done one last check of the dwarf city before leaving for this place. Instead, the moment she had built even a slight sliver of her foundation, she ordered Database to take her to Ket’s city. Ket also could have first explored the city, and the entire mountain, before starting to fondle the town’s mayor. But, Tess knows that isn’t a fair accusation.

On the other hand, why the flipping, flying, everliving fuck didn’t Database warn her of this? She had locked in the destination, sure, but it could have warned her, right? Her sullen musings are interrupted by a soft and feminine cough. A very annoying and irritating cough, Tess thinks. Opening her eyes, she sees a sluttily dressed bimbo with her tits half exposed staring at her. “What?”

“So… who are you?”

“What’s it to you?”

“I am Shadi, first servant of Sage Ket and most powerful cultivator in this town. What is your business here?”

For some reason, Tess only despises this uppity wench more and more with each word rolling out of her filthy mouth. “That is none of your business.”

The two stare at each other for a while. Then Tess notices the other people. A group of roughly dressed workers is pushing and shoving for position with a group of gaudily dressed people that obviously never worked a day in their life. “What?”

No-one dares saying a single word. Instead of becoming annoyed at this, Tess’ interest is piqued. The reactions she sees at her brusque question are varied and interesting.

“So, you are here for Sage Ket, right? And he left you behind?”

Her eyes narrowing at this accusation, Tess stares at the annoyingly full-chested woman.

“He also left me behind, you see.”

Tess has known enough braincores in her time to know when they are doing their crawling thing. The near imperceptible power radiating from their heads when they do their time dilation stuff is easy to notice once you know what to look for. “Spill it.”

“We shouldn’t fight. We should band together.”

“I think I see what you are trying to do here, you bimbo. Well, tough luck.” Tess smiles sweetly at the half bowing woman. “I’m joining you.”

“That is too bad, I will destro-”

Tess feels the air gain a sharp edge as Shadi starts churning even more power through her cranium. Tess waits as she discards all her previous plans, this sudden reversal is obviously not a possibility she had planned for. Tess tries very hard not to smirk.

One of the family heads starts moving forward, but rough, uncultured hands keep him back. Before he can start shouting at the peasant to release him, he is stopped by another rough hand over his mouth. Soft yet frantic whispering comes from the unwashed portion of the group. “Don’t interfere. Let the women fight it out. This isn’t worth your life.”

“I’m with the peasant on this one. Come, there are more useful ways to lose your life than to jump between two women fighting over a man.”

“Sage Ket, may you rest in peace. I will never forget what you have done for us, but you will not survive.”

The group of people that had been fighting each other tooth and nail only an hour ago retreat in silence, fleeing from the sparks that flash between the two most powerful woman in the entire city.

“What is it, boy?” asks Elbogar, who is still softly stroking the hammer head in his hands.

“Nothing, I just felt chills all of a sudden,” replies Ket. Deciding to ignore the unquantifiable feeling of dread that suddenly overcame him, the full braincore cultivator continues sanding the Tree-wood shaft.

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