Chapter 220 - Interlude (1)

 A thrilling and eerie humming floats across endless dunes. The tuneless melody manages to sound both cute and completely a-tonal as it echoes off the featureless black wall jutting from the hot sand. The sound slowly dims as the sand shakes softly, clear signs that something odd is happening down below.

“Dear Teacher. Here is today’s first letter.” Below the heat of the endless desert, below the impressive bulk of the massive black cube sitting in the middle of the scorched yellow wasteland is a small girl. Blue locks frame a rather cute face, brilliantly blue eyes sparkling with mischief and life. She waves her hands around, the thin white dress covering her soft looking frame swirling as she softly hums to herself, a sweet smile on her lips.

“First, of course, let us resume the plans I have for you today. I didn’t manage to put all the nice events that I want us to experience in yesterday's letters because I was interrupted, so let’s resume there.” She waves her hands around again, a blue wave of power emerging from her white fingers. The sand pouring from the ceiling turns into a liquid, the dimly lit yellow mass moving upwards as she gestures at it.

“After the last round of medical explorations, I will let you heal for a bit. Instead of letting you repair your own body, I will make sure to manually apply healing concoctions that cause the most scar tissues possible. At this point, you are undoubtedly immobile. You can still wiggle your spine a bit, though, so that’s where I’ll focus next.” Slowly walking forwards, the ring on her finger glows briefly as she makes a glowing rock appear with a twist of her hand. She then gently tosses the shining item towards the ceiling, where it sinks into the smooth yellow stone. Small and elegant ripple patterns form around the light, giving the tunnel she is forming a sophisticated yet playful style.

“As thanks for teaching me a lot of good stuff - and feeding me delicious food, of course - I will avoid your central nervous system. Instead, I will slowly and lovingly cut all the small little muscle fibres that surround your spine, making sure to let you feel every single jolt of pain and slice of agony. I'll make sure to overload each sensory nerve I come across with pain, as that is the least I can do in thanks for my current placement.” Here she pauses, smiling to herself. Her eyes turn into crescent shapes as she imagines the delicious pain that she will inflict upon the person she is addressing the letter she is writing to. Shaking herself free from her daydreams, she waves another cloud of blue qi towards the end of the tunnel. Instead of expanding the walkway any further, the loose sand piling up at the end of her current task liquifies before quickly shifting into a smooth wall.

“In order to prevent you from passing out from the pain again, I will shift to Lola.” She smiles beautifully to herself as she wriggles back and forth, lost in her own world. “I’ll give her another carrot and stroke her between her cute little ears. Then I’ll pet her little tail, and squish her little paws. By this time, you’ll have recovered just enough to be lucid again, so I'll continue slicing away at the stumps of your legs, making sure to liberally apply salt and that capsaicin stuff I’ve read so much about. I’ll file away some more of both your humerus bones, undoing al the regrowing you have undoubtedly been doing.” Turning ninety degrees, the small girl waves at the blank tunnel wall. A doorway forms as the solidified sand briefly turns to liquid, quickly expanding into another room. A soft pitter-patter of feet can be heard as Selis waltzes through the newly formed space as the walls straighten around her.

“But unfortunately, that is all the time I have for today. I will continue describing how thankful I am for the fact that you placed me here, in the middle of this desert, without a drop of water to be seen, later. Best regards, Selis. End message. And send.” Nodding to herself, Selis turns to the freshly created doorway just in time to see a clump of flailing limbs burst through the opening.

“Miss Selis! Ferah stole my notebook again!”

“Miss Selis! Miss Selis! Flor stole my brush, so I traded it for that stupid piece of paper!”

“It’s not a stupid piece of paper! And that brush is mine!”

“Nuh-uh, stupid hair. You don’t even need to brush your stupid hair, and I’m shed-”

“MY HAIR ISN’T STUPID!”

“New message. PS. Teach, I will absolutely do all the threats I have ever threatened you with. I’d say something 'like prepare' yourself, but that won’t save you. End message. Send.” A tangle of red fur, limbs, and black hair rolls into the new room. Selis forcefully keeps a smile on her face as she stomps over to the fighting girls. Her thundering footsteps shake the stone tunnel, causing both girls to look up at the approaching blue thunderstorm.

“Actually, nevermind. Here is your notebook.”

“I’m very sorry and won’t do it again. Here is your brush.”

Within seconds, the two small girls are patting themselves down, handing some items back and forth. Selis isn’t having any of it, though, and grabs the two by their ears.

“No, not fair! Ow, ow, ow, my ears hurt more than hers!”

“No, sorry miss Selis, we won’t do it again.”

Selis keeps smiling, her expression like an angel. Dragging the whining duo behind her, she retraces her steps. Just when she had managed to set some time apart from her daily routine to get her own rooms made, this happens. She walks through brightly lit tunnels, the sandstone walls illuminated by shining rocks embedded in the ceiling. She passes storage rooms containing all kinds of materials and items until she reaches a large central room. The sun is shining through a glass ceiling, showing a perfectly blue sky. One side of the upwards view is taken up by an ominous black face, not a single ray of light reflecting off the towering surface.

Small planters are filled with growing plants, giving the otherwise clean and austere room a rather homely feel. Benches stick out from the wall, multiple hallways going in and out of the large space. The central feature is a rather nicely designed piece, sunlit trees, bushes, and a small stream of water making a peaceful contrast to the raucous group of children running around, playing, and making noise.

“So, who is on class duty today?” Selis’ question causes silence to descend like a thick, choking blanket.

“Kosie, but she went to count sand,” replies Ferah in the following silence, her tone way too chipper.

“I should have known better. Corl, you’re in charge for now. Just go and do whatever, okay? I will be checking your homework tonight, so you better have done it! I’m going to check on Kosie, and to the dungeon afterwards.” Having said her piece, Selis storms out of the central room, dropping the two girls on their butts. She reaches the stairs rather quickly, and the hot wind blasting her in the face causes a frown to break her happy smile for the first time.

“Kosie, did you leave the door open again?”

“EEP!”

The frightened squeak manages to put a smile back on her face. Stomping through the door on top of the long stairway, she steps into the blistering heat. Looking around, she sees the guilty face of Kosie peeking at her, partially hidden behind the simple building that’s ticking up from the shifting sands. “What are you doing here, sweetie?”

The small girl goes pale. “N-no, I was… I was just…”

“Yes, I should have known. That idiotic mathcore in your head is even worse than a braincore. I'm sure that counting all the leaves is no longer a challenge, right? Come on, in you go. Triple homework.  That should keep you from becoming bored.”

“No, please! I hate creative stuff. Please, not triple homework!”

“In you go, come now. How far did you get anyway?”

“I didn’t even get to five million.”

Selis lays a consoling hand on the girl's shoulder. “I’m sure you will be able to count all the grains of sand one day. Just not today, because you got some homework to do!”

“No, please miss Selis, ple-” The girls' wails are cut off as Selis closes the door. Another wave of her hand melts the entrance to the underground base into a single whole, locking the door more securely than any lock possibly can.

Brushing the imaginary dust from her hands with a few claps, she resolutely turns around and starts marching towards the massive black cube sticking up from the sands. “New message to Angeta. Please girl, when are we going to rip Teach a new one. I saw that Ket and Tess both reached the foundation realm yesterday, so when? Also, those two idiots actually managed to teleport to each other's city, at the same time, bwahahaha! Now they gotta earn those points all over again, haha. And thanks for the dress, I love it! Making it come here by itself using a qi formation was a stroke of genius. Products delivering themselves, right to your doorstep! Or rather, not doorstep, but hellhole of sand, children, and not a single drop of water. Anyway, I’m about to lose connection, as I’m entering the dungeon to vent a bit. Please tell me that the rest is just about ready to do this, I’m losing my patience rapidly. I never even wanted kids, let alone a whole horde of the irritating shits. So, yeah. Let me know how the plans are going. Selis out! End message. Send message.”

She receives the small nugget of information that confirms the delivery of her message - and the small reduction of points - the moment she steps into the blessedly cool dungeon entrance. Cheerily waving at the single skull laying next to the door, she strolls into the dark depths. Hurrying into the stairwell going down, she pulls a jug of water from her ring, pours it out on the floor before putting the empty vessel back. The water rises up at her command, a faint blue shimmer the only sign that she is orchestrating the liquid. A portion floats to her hands, where it changes into opaque gloves. Another portion disappears under her clothes, while the rest forms into a liquid crown.

“YO, DUNGEON! I’M BACK!” Smiling at the emerging enemies, she rushes the dungeon mobs, preparing a punch. She rushes through the floors, the smile on her face way too wide, as she places all the mana stones she receives into the watery head ornament.

It’s dark by the time she stumbles out of the dungeon, a few tears in her clothes, and her head surrounded by a dense collection of softly glowing crystals. Each breath she takes causes fragments of the glittering gems to liquify before they turn in mist as they flow into her mouth and nostrils. She moves her aching body over to the sealed up entrance, thankful for the way her foundation allows her to manipulate the blockage with ease.

Despite having to mother over a large gaggle of kids, she still managed to do a lot of cultivating over these past few months. The fluidity in which she needed to change her roles during this time, from stern teacher to comfortable mother to speedy construction worker, only helped her find her path. After a childhood that was made up of being shoved to the sidelines, every day the same, her environment never changing, she yearned for change. Using a bit of her Will in combination with a generous application of qi from her replenished braincore, the door flows closed behind her. Using the very concept of shifting states that she is basing the core of her being on, the fluid sand then snaps back into solid and unyielding rock once again.

“So, what kind of horrors did you all cause this time?” Walking down the stairs, she expects to see some form of chaos. The meticulous neatness the central room is in sends a feeling of dread shooting down into her guts. “GET OUT HERE! WHAT DID YOU DO?” She switches into the role of a furious caretaker with ease. Everyone who has ever worked with kids knows that the only time when you truly need to be worried is when they are either silent or too obedient.


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