Chapter 229 - Junction (6)

I’ve got to hand it to my students. They can be immensely annoying when they want to be. The constant barrage of dragon breath attacks allowed me to catch a breather, funnily enough. And then the little shits put a stop to it. The hammer in my hand was absorbing all of that tasty power those lizards were breathing down at me, allowing me to regain my bearings and put some defences in place.

The brief respite in being sucked dry of qi allowed me to quickly set up a qi repulsion field around the hammer’s grip. This way, only the layer of skin touching the bloody thing will get completely stripped of qi, without sucking me dry completely. I barely got that in place and was busily thinking up more countermeasures when Angeta smacked the dragons from the sky. The beastkin must have sensed something, as only a few seconds more would have allowed me to formulate some proper offensive measures.

And now, when I’m still double checking my hastily cobbled together countermeasures against the hammer, they are bum-rushing me.

Luckily for me, Bord isn’t among the unruly gang. He and that rather dangerous-looking furry combination of affinities have fucked off to lands unknown. Probably lands that are related to Lola. That reminds me, the little bunny has also been rather peeved at me lately. She’s been sulking while swimming in lava the majority of the time, refusing to even go near the ice mountains, probably just to spite me.

My wandering mind is quickly pulled back to the present as I sense my original students coming closer. The qi in the air is being quickly sucked up by the hammer, but I can still wrangle a very rough spiritual sense from it. The smoke and debris resulting from the dragon attacks are doing a good job of hiding me, so instead of waiting for them to come to me, I advance.

I swing the small hammer forwards in a quick arc that drains all the qi from Selis’ ice and water wings. Let’s really annoy her. I grin and start taunting. “Thanks for letting me take in that power. I’ve finally got a handle on this thing.”

The hammer drains the qi from her water and the blood from her face as it passes. I then windmill around, and hit her with the flat of my fullblade, making sure to twist my wrist backwards at the last moment in order to limit the force I’m transferring. I just want to give her a nice wallop, not turn her into red mist, after all.

Busting free from the cloud of dirt and dust, I see Vox shooting beams at me. He uses his signature slow-light laser beams, pure white rays of impossibly leisurely brightness.

He then tries to speed them up? What is he even doing? He forms the weightless spears of light with his qi, and then he tries to push them forwards? Why is he doing stuff in such a complicated way, instead of just emitting concentrated beams of power?

I then swing my sword at him, and I spot what he’s trying to do. His forwards’ momentum just halted in a rather impossible manner, and I sense that he used some Will in order to eliminate his speed.

“Don’t just fuck with vectors, man,” I tell him, not really happy with how complicated he has made his foundation. He should just stick to one concept. He has somehow done something with perspective based relativity, but I sense he is looking at time and space as separate factors. No time for a long lecture mid-battle, so let’s just make him focus on a concept in which time and space are intrinsically linked, namely oscillations. “Wavelengths are relative too,” I tell him before knocking his lights out with my sword.

Then Tess and Ket start preparing a move. Tess is just off to the side, hiding in a shadow while Ket is rapidly gathering power and metal projectiles. I briefly admire the impressive collection of iron wrought masterworks he has managed to gather. That old dwarf is truly one of the best smiths on the planet, yet why do I feel like there are a lot of flaws in those masterpieces? That sword will break when hit just so, and the fullers in those daggers are a major weakness.

I glance at the hammer in my hand. I’m now getting kind of worried about what this thing actually might be. Sure, I smithed some stuff now and then, but I always tried to use modern techniques. The traditional way of hammering iron just seems so inefficient to me. I have not worked with iron enough to make snap judgement calls like that, not about that cloud of lethal steel surrounding Ket at the least.

I stop my spin by throwing my sword handle-first towards a dragon that’s about to start spewing energies at me again. I can really use the power it’ll provide, but as it’s an air dragon, the massive winds will be less than useful right now. The large purple maw snaps shut, and I get to see its eyes and scaly cheeks bulge out as it’s breath attack suddenly has nowhere to go.

I grab a stone that’s sailing past with my free hand and toss it towards Ket. The two black-haired lovers still haven’t initiated their plan, so I jump over to the shadow that houses Tess, and pluck her from beneath the fallen wall.

Wait a minute… That’s a castle wall! My castle wall! The little shits destroyed my castle, yet again!

I ignore the fact that I destroyed the previous one myself, and tap Tess on the back of her head, ignoring the scared puppy-eyes she’s using to look at me.

Looking around while dropping Tess’ limp form to the ground, I see that only Angeta is still alive and kicking. I hop towards the falling dragon, plucking my sword from where it’s stuck handle-first in its lower jaw, and prepare to take out Angeta. With her out of the picture, I can start using the dragons to feed this stupid fucking qi sucking hammer.

And the worst thing about this situation is that I can’t even fight with my full power. I need to keep this shitty artefact covered with my augur, leaving only a little fraction of my mental capacity for fighting off my students and Flight combined. Removing my Will from the hammer now will cause all the qi it has sucked up so far to come out again, in a very explosive manner.

I tried this with a stone projectile only a couple times density, and the results were pretty explosive, to say the least. I’m not sure I can even survive the explosion that will probably happen if all the qi the hammer has sucked up so far is expelled at once.

Mentally giving a deep sigh, I kick off gently against the now unconscious dragon and send myself flying towards Angeta. The grass around her is already glowing, so I hold the hammer out in front while starting to spin my sword around like a massive lawnmower.

Then Angeta halts for a split second, and I briefly get a really bad vibe from her She then dodges my brilliantly planned attack by a non-existent margin. Her moves go from willowy and supply to perfectly managed in an instant.

I smack into the grassy soil behind Angeta, and to my horror, see the grass weaving itself in a dense net. Angeta then throws the net towards me as I stand up. Holding the hammer forwards again, the green glow is sucked from the woven foliage, no problem. It’s still a net though, and I immediately get tangled in the web of tough fibres.

Before I can completely free myself from the finely laced web, it starts to rain. Looking around, I see Selis standing off to the side, half her face a swollen mess, the other half glaring death at me.

I ignore the rain at first, but then I start to feel really cold all of a sudden. Where the fuck is this ice suddenly coming from? Then I see a raindrop hitting my hand, only for it to immediately turn to ice. Selis is raining supercooled water down on me!

I lower my stance, rip the last few strands of grass from my legs, and jump. I smack face first into the mud, one of my legs somehow sticking through the ground?

The dark shadow enveloping my foot explains my suddenly lost balance… I look up and see Tess staring at my leg like it owes her money. Since when can she sink stuff into the shadows from such a distance?

I push off with my other foot, only for it to get tangled up in a web of roots at the last moment. The green glow saturating the thin strands of plant matter is quickly sucked up by the hammer, but the sheer toughness of the animated roots costs me a few precious seconds.

I swing my blade in a circle, forcing it to give up some of its stored fire qi. Suddenly surrounded by a ring of flames, the grass burns quickly, and the shadow around my foot vanishes. I duck out of pure instinct, barely dodging a shotgun spread of metal items.

I swing my sword again, but a bright lance reminiscent of a pressure washer slams my sword to the side. A thin beam of darkness causes my sword to get further out of position, and it winks out a millisecond after I block it with the hammer. Those two draconic breath attacks were too perfectly timed to be mere coincidence.

“RHEA!” I shout while starting to leg it. “COME FACE ME, YOU COWARD!”

I can recognise a perfectly managed battle plan when it’s used against me, and this has her managerial style all over it. The minimum amount of effort to get results. Not a single attack or move that happened since I went for Agneta had even an iota of wasted power, all of them perfectly meshing and following after each other.

I can only be thankful that Bord isn’t here to increase the gravity of the situation even more.

I stifle the laughter bubbling up in my throat at my own joke and keep on sprinting. I need to find a way to get a leg up on everyone, and just reacting isn’t going to get me there. Instead of just disabling people by knocking them out - which has proven to be an unreliable way of eliminating people so far - I should do unto them what this stupid hammer is doing unto me. I really wish I could either throw it or swirl it around and fly with it, but that isn’t happening until this thing is sated with qi.

Luckily for me, I've got a bit of qi back, and I intend to keep ahold of it this time. The repulsion qi construct in the palm of my hand is still doing its thing, preventing the hammer from sucking me dry. I decide not to swirl the few strands of qi I managed to breathe in and hold on to through my brain this time. It will just cause me to lose control of it before I can get any useful time dilation. Instead, I hold it still in my core.

There is one thing all my students - and Rhea, for that matter - seem to have forgotten. Or they've never learned about this in the first place. Either way, everyone here is still inside my core. And I am not going to lose on my home turf.

Four breath attacks slam into the earth besides me, blocking three possible escape routes, and I can see that Rhea is trying to force me to go somewhere. Vox is waving his hands around, blinding light that flickers in a rainbow of colours building up around him. I grin. It seems that he listened to my wavelength comment, as I sense him turning the entire electromagnetic spectrum into infrared light.

Wait, why did I tell him that? He’s about to roast me with the most powerful beam of pure heat I’ve ever seen, and it’s invisible to boot, and I’m smiling? Alright, it’s pretty fucking cool, I got to admit.

A blast of ice shards nearly takes my head off, and I snap back to the situation at hand. Ket has a single ball bearing hovering between his hands, and even though he’s hundreds of meters away, I still feel the hairs on my arms try to stand up. Holding all the qi I’ve managed to gather inside my core, I concentrate on his position and feel two primal forces charging up. He’s about to fire a railgun fueled by both electromagnetism and momentum manipulation. Two opposing forces are pushing at the small bullet, and I’m guessing that he’s planning on cancelling one to cause immediate and brutal acceleration.

Selis is viciously pulling moisture from the air and the ground, turning gas into solid through the process of direct deposition.

Angeta is precariously balancing on one foot while also doing stuff with plants? Her foundation is the one I’m having the most trouble with figuring out so far.

Vox is just gathering more infrared power, the air around him distorting from the concentrating heat.

Tess is really obvious, making a rather striking figure. She is also gathering some form of power, the sheer difference between her body and the air somehow coming across extremely blatantly. I’m guessing that she’s doing a lot of juxtaposing for some reason or another.

And then there’s Bord, who is far away, followed by a very interesting beastkin, and yelling at Lola. Right, let’s ignore him for now.

Inventory done, I start to move again.

I almost forgot about the dragons, to be honest, but they are now massing in such numbers that it’s getting hard to ignore them. Rhea had been chasing them up and down Tree’s lands over the past month, forcing the entire Flight to get off their asses while I was tempering myself inside Tree. Now the group of hypersomniac lizards is transforming into their draconic forms one by one as they gather in the air. They’ve started forming an impressive array of airborne beam artillery platforms, to be honest. If they were to fire all their breath weapons at once, I’d be in a lot of shit.

So let’s be somewhere else then. I tried this before, but because Tree is now my cultivation base, I’m pretty much omnipotent here. I can literally do anything and everything. Provided I have enough Will at my disposal, but with all the augur training I’ve been doing, that’s pretty much a moot point.

I also sense for Rhea and find her hiding inside Tree’s lush crown. I look up at her while dodging Vox’s heat ray. I catch a glimpse of where it landed, and let’s just say that I never knew that forests could explode in flames in such a spectacular manner.

More calculations churn through my mind as I slink through the trees until they all snap towards me all of a sudden. This little hammer might be sucking up all the power it can; it does little to combat conventional forces such as momentum. The slender and quickly moving trees shooting towards me force me to dodge and weave just so, and there is no doubt in my mind that every move I currently make is perfectly predicted and calculated in advance.

This allows me to dodge at my leisure, as I know she wants me somewhere, but I don’t know where or how yet. Selis shows me that she has grown in all kinds of interesting ways next. I saw that some of the trees Angeta was snapping back at me were wet, I just didn’t know that Selis’ control over state shifting is this good. I throw myself towards the ground, sliding under the massive array of ice spikes that sprung up out of nowhere with nanometres to spare.

Then I see the endgame, and I’m silently relieved that I just solved the last problem in my counter plan. Vox launches his main attack in a grid pattern, and Ket releases his hold on his ball bearing. The small smooth piece of iron cuts through the air, leaving a white trail of shocked condensation in its wake, cutting right through the only path left for me to dodge.

That thing will actually hurt, and I’m not keen on broken ribs, so I teleport thirty-two meters to the side, a hundred and nine meters, fifteen centimetres and six millimetres upwards, and around sixteen handspans forward.

Once again, instead of me being teleported, every single speck of matter inside my core that is mine moves. This includes the projectile Ket shot out, the sintering beam of heat made by Vox, the many, many exploding fragments of ice commanded by Selis, and all the plants under Angeta’s control.

Neither the Flight, my students, nor Rhea move. Neither do some of the weird super dense item’s I’ve stored in a vault circling Tree in a large orbit, but that’s not relevant now. What is most relevant is that Rhea just had her hiding place ripped from under her. Instead of a thick branch to stand on, she is now standing on top of empty air. Instead of a gorgeous view and a good vantage point to plan from, she is now staring at me, from a couple of centimetres away. This is the move that cost me the most time to calculate, as I had to step outside of Tree’s dimension, only to pop right back in at the spot I wanted.

“Hey. So I know I broke my promise, but that’s no reason to set up my students to murder me, right? Those plays and tricks they suddenly started performing smelled of extremely efficient management tactics…” I stare her in the eyes as I leisurely talk to her. I’m holding myself up by the last few threads of my Will, combined with the air affinity I gained from her. I’ve put my sword back into my ring so that I can hold the hammer against her chest while keeping her upright with my other hand. Her body is rapidly draining of qi, and I see the threads connecting her to the people below snapping one by one.

“You broke what promise now?” is her unruffled reply.

Wow, she didn’t notice? Hadn’t she spotted me trying to time crawl by spinning qi through my brain? “Nothing,” I snap back.

“No, Drew. Tell me more,” she replies, somehow unfazed by the fact that she is rapidly running out of qi.

Instead of wilting under her stare, I hold firm. “Admit I won. We can talk about promises after.”

“After what?”

I just point at the mass of dragons and students that now have fully recovered from suddenly having the ground pulled from under them. I wave to Rhea as I drop her, pulling my sword out in order to block the first attacks coming my way. I can only manage to guarantee Rhea a nice and soft landing in a pond before the large number of furious dragons and students attacking me takes up all my attention.

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