A pounding headache that could have incapacitated the Maker is the first thing that registers. Opening his eyes, Ka-Gaar closes them immediately after. The flood of blinding radiance entering his pupils acts like fuel to the fire raging inside his splitting skull, and he slowly covers his head in his hands as he curls into a ball.
Slowly, the world around him starts to come into focus, the overwhelming headache somehow leaving enough room for him to experience the outside world. All kinds of alien sounds register in his muddled brain, from painfully piercing tones to a pervasive, restless rustling. Instead of the ice he half-remembers, he feels a cloying warmth caress his sweaty body.
He uses the first strands of lucid reasoning that come back to him to open the lock near his heart. If his humanoid form is in such a terrible state, he will just switch to his natural shape, and all will be well. The energy that doesn’t flow from the organ leaves behind such emptiness, that he temporarily manages to forget the worst headache he has ever suffered. Gasping for breath at the massively strange sensation of having his transformation organ turned without actually transforming, Ka-Gaar tries to figure out what in all the Dungeons is going on.
He manages to stand after a few minutes of gathering his courage and wits. He immediately regrets it, as he spends the next five minutes puking up bile while leaning against a tree. The nausea coursing through his guts makes him feel like dying would be an acceptable alternative to continuing to live. It takes another five minutes before he is shaken from his self-pitying haze by a thunderous crackling accompanying a low rusting that is steadily growing louder.
Taking a deep breath - which he immediately regrets upon smelling his own puke - he looks around. Instead of the white plains he remembers, he is somehow inside a forest. A dense jungle of trees, underbrush, vines, and various plants hem him in. The oppressive dampness in the air is not helped by the fact that he barely even senses a trace of earth mana around himself.
Putting his hand to the ground, to his horror, he finds even less of the mystical power he has such a close connection to. Instead, this new stuff he can't even sense seems to be blocking him from touching the few strands of earth mana he can feel.
Then the tree he is leaning against falls over, and Ka-Gaar stares into the eyes of hell. A chicken, five meters high, the majority of it’s fluffy body made up of legs, stares down at him. Its head tilts precariously, and Ka-Gaar manages to dodge to the side just in time to avoid its savage peck. His headache pounding even harder, the ancient dragon finds himself running for his life, his penis flapping in the damp breeze as he runs with all his might.
The sounds of snapping branches and shaking trees grows fainter for a short moment before the old dragon can feel the relatively large monster nipping at his heels again. His back is opened by a rough yet sharp beak, a deep cut running through soft skin. Swearing at his own vanity, he keeps running through the nausea in his stomach and the migraine in his head. He rushed through the underbrush, flailing his arms and legs in the air wildly as he fails to find purchase all of a sudden.
He tumbles forwards, and the last image he sees before falling into cold water is the chicken beast staring at him. He then nearly blacks out at least five times. Fighting to keep his head above water, his frail and clumsy humanoid body is tossed and turned through the stream. He slams into rocks, is dragged across beds of gravel, and flushed through frothing stretches of white water. It is almost a relief when he gains a few moments of relative silence and peace when he is thrown down a waterfall.
Hitting the water surface flat on, he manages to fight through the lack of oxygen while getting to the shore. Out of breath, and barely able to breathe from the massive impact his lungs had to go through, he tries to get a grip.
Nothing in his long life, not a single event, experience, or dream he has ever had managed to prepare him for this sudden change of location and life circumstance. Drinking some of the cool water he is floating in, he starts to feel slightly better. Instead of a stone smashing his skull to bits, he now merely feels like somebody is sawing his head in half constantly. His stomach settles as he drinks more water.
Just when he feels a bit better, teeth rip into his back. Shouting and spluttering, he sees silver flashes under the water. Infuriated that some mere fish actually tried to attack and eat him, Ka-Gaar loses himself in a short session of mad flailing. His spastic rampage is halted when he nearly faints from blood loss, exhaustion, and lack of sustenance.
Somehow managing to get to the shore, he lays down on his back. He immediately stands, the sand of the small beach entering his open wounds enough to send spikes of pain running from his back, to his spine, and into his head once more.
Weakly venting his frustrations against a tree, which seems rather unimpressed by his punches, he is nearly brained by a large falling fruit. Instead of splattering his brains out, however, the spiky shell merely breaks his clavicle. Kicking the fruit, as punching hurts too much now, he manages to break the spiny shell easily. The sticky sap splattering him in the face enters his mouth, and the next thing he knows, he is scarfing down the rich sweetness. Covered in the deep purple sap, he comes to a few minutes later, when the sugar rush starts to kick in.
Washing his broken body in the stream, he is just about to set off to find the one responsible for this entire predicament, when he sees the pillar.
Standing on the middle of the beach is an obviously manmade ornamental stone post. A meter in height, it seems to be placed there with the express purpose of presenting or holding a single object. Walking over, Ka-Gaar sees a small booklet laying on the stone stand. He takes a single look inside, but finding nothing of interest, tosses it into the lake before walking downstream.
And so begins the most hellish week of his entire life. Living under the mentally challenged All-Dragon all that time ago seems like a cakewalk now. Experiences and periods of his life he once saw as absolute dark points seem like pure happiness when compared to what he faces in the cursed jungle he has found himself in. Not a day goes by that he isn’t cut, partially eaten, starved, drowned, or beaten up horribly.
Walking through the horrifically evil jungle, Ka-Gaar’s spirit is slowly yet surely broken down. He barely manages to catch a few winks of sleep at night. The darkness that comes when the cluster of bright suns high above sinks under the horizon only seems to encourage the wildlife in the jungle. All kinds of beasts, insects, critters, and plants want to eat him all times of the day anyway, darkness just complicated things by limiting his vision. Every time he manages to find a relatively safe hiding spot, like a cave or a climbable branch high up, something wakes him just as he falls asleep.
He climbs tall trees multiple times, only managing to see past his immediate environment once. And what he saw from that particularly tall tree then did not improve his mood at all. He first thought the enormous golden tree towering over the entire place to be the Dungeon-companion tree present in the marshy valleys. Those mountain-locked swamplands contain one of the dungeons; it’s massive oval shape nearly as tall as the supernaturally large tree standing in the middle of that lake. The two far away mountains he saw on either side of his location put a stop to that speculation, however. At least he understands why the streams are that cold, as the nearest mountain is covered in snow and ice.
What he did not see, however, was a single sign of civilization. Which probably meant that he somehow got stuck on the Chaos Continent. The two moons and the small collection of suns high above made him doubt that fearful conclusion, confusing him even further.
He had also come across more of those pillar things. Now and then, he would stumble across one of the small pillars, each one holding a book of some kind. He even started to read one of them, but the information inside didn’t make any sense. It spoke of this odd stuff named qi, an energy that Ka-Gaar does not have anything to do with. If it were to talk about mana, and how to gather the elusive energy in this cursed environment, then he would have thanked the provider of this information with an informal nod of the head. Such honour bestowed upon even a younger dragon would elevate their position by leagues, let alone if the recipient were to be an actual mortal.
As it turns out, even dragons have a breaking point. Being woken from his restless sleep in a dense cluster of bushes by a snake biting his arm is, at best, an annoyance. The fact that his arm turns purple not half an hour after killing and eating the snake, which he did raw, is getting concerning. He finds an oddly sharp rock not an hour later, and chopping his arm off at his elbow joint turns out to be the hardest thing he has ever done. Blood loss, the rest of his body slowly turning purple too, and a general lack of willpower leads him to collapse on the ground, near one of those cursed pillars.
Now completely delirious, he isn’t sure whether or not the smooth stone column he is resting against was there a few minutes ago. An involuntary convulsion makes him bash his head against his resting place, which causes the book on top of the pillar to fall open in his lap. By pure coincidence, he is sure, the page that opens shows him a diagram of a humanoid arm. The text, barely visible through the tears and snot clouding his eyes, talks of veins, muscle strands, and marrow.
Almost outside of his own will, his fading mind is pulled to the book. He manages to flip it to the next page without smearing too much blood on the thing, now reading about qi circulation and the various core locations. The page after that describes other possibilities, the fact that literally anything can become a core is somehow endlessly fascinating to the dying dragon.
Then, he arrives at yet another medical piece of information, a sudden gust of wind fluttering the pages to this particular section of the book. Ka-Gaar reads about the organs in a humanoid body, and how the liver is usually responsible for breaking down hazardous chemicals.
The thousands of years of tradition, pride, and pure arrogance fading in the face of possible death, lying rotting in the jungle at the fangs of a mere animal, Ka-Gaar decides that he might as well try. Pulling at the air with his mind, the ancient songs of earth and the comfortable emotions of the ground forgotten in his painful haze, Ka-Gaar cultivates a trickle of qi towards his liver.
He wakes while it is still dark out. The soft sounds of the jungle are clear in his ears, and his arm hurts something fierce. He faceplants into the ground as he tries to stand, the fog of sleep preventing him from remembering his missing arm. Wondering how a missing limb can hurt so much, he pulls himself from the sodden mud.
Despite feeling better than he has all week, there is only thunder and lightning in his heart. He vaguely remembers something about reading nonsense, doing some weird stuff with this power he knows nothing of, and something about his liver? What even is a liver? He doesn’t know, but he is pretty sure he doesn’t need one. Righting himself, he is only mildly surprised that the raw wound of his arm is completely scabbed over. Something like losing an entire underarm in his dragon form would not heal this fast, but as his experience with his humanoid form is really limited, he doesn’t think much of it.
He keeps stumbling through the forest, keeps getting into trouble, and keeps ignoring the pillars containing the little books. This goes by for another day and night, and he manages to keep out of reach of all the monsters that he comes across. For some reason or another, he feels a little bit stronger and faster. Finding it completely natural that he, a mighty dragon, is strong, he ignores this fact.
The following morning, he knows that he might be in true trouble again. Having spent the night in the highest tree he could find, eating the highly spicy and bitter fruits he found growing in its branches, two things are wrong. Possibly three, but Ka-Gaar is not sure whether to count his continual vomiting and shitting as one or two problems. The other problem is that he is surrounded by monsters, his leg has a snake dangling from it and is already turning purple, and several large birds are eyeing him hungrily.
Shivering from some form of unknown fear, he instinctively looks up at the white moon, high in the sky. For some reason, he feels like someone dangerous is looking down at him, and that this individual is extremely angry with him. But then again, that feeling is probably because several of the large beasts below have started climbing his tree, and his vision is starting to waver once more.
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