Chapter 230 - Junction (7)

Re-Haan then and there decides that she might as well make the most of her current situation. She’s lying in a puddle, half her body covered in dark mud, duckweed covering the other half, only her face uncovered by either mud or plant. She's got a rather spectacular view, though. She’s pretty lucky that she landed face up, as, in her current state, she can only move her eyes. Her entire body is stripped of qi and never have her limbs felt so heavy.

The view is really good, though. Tree’s golden trunk is part of the background. Its massive crown creates a nice backdrop for the fight. And if the view is good, the fight that’s happening inside the view is even better. Drew is facing off against his original students, a couple of later students that managed to reach their foundation, and the entire Flight.

Re-Haan herself had a part to play in making this entire scene come to pass. She’d been roaming through Flight Mountain, exploring the deeper levels, when Selis had contacted her. The conversation had been so filled with double meanings, hints, and innocent yet probing questions, that Re-Haan actually learned a few new tricks in doublespeak and social manoeuvring from the blue-haired girl.

The dragon was already sick of staring at the plaque beneath Flight Mountain at that point, no longer able to see the most important piece of Flight iconography as anything sacred. She also sensed some truly massive dragons at lower levels, but not a single one of the gargantuan specimens showed a single sign of life. So Re-Haan decided to go along with Selis’s plan, as getting back at Drew seemed like a fantastic idea all of a sudden.

Re-Haan had just forgotten that Tree is Drew’s core and cultivation base. The sudden shift of mass and matter, basically teleportation, was as sudden as it was unexpected. The sheer draining force of the hammer Drew is even now still clutching is also on a level she could not have imagined. Her entire cultivation base, a massive amount of power, literally the most she’s ever controlled, was gone in a few seconds. Even the little bit of structural qi inside her bones, flesh and blood is gone now.

Re-Haan closes her eyes for a moment, the blinding lights coming from the many, many dragons attacking Teach painful to her qi-stripped vision. Even breathing deeply and slowly doesn’t allow Re-Haan to gather a lot of power, as the air feels extremely rarified and power-starved.

What is going on with that hammer? Peeking through her eyelids, she sees and hears Drew laughing uproariously. He holds the hammer pointed towards the dragons, every single breath attack diverted into the small item in his hands. His other hand holds that stupidly massive sword of his again. The moment she makes this internal comment, he pulls on the handle while dropping the majority of the sword towards the ground.

Re-Haan briefly fears for her life, but the hollow body of the fullblade misses her by centimetres, slamming into the puddle right between her legs and splashing her with more muddy water. Internally cursing out Drew for every single bad thing and insulting him in every manner she knows, she watches as Drew goes to town with a bat. Somehow, he managed to pull a stick from his massive sword, one side glowing orange, one side glowing blue, with a band of pure black in between.

No longer does he attack with large sweeping arcs that take a while to build up momentum. No, Re-Haan watches with an open mouth - she still doesn't have any muscle control yet, and now there's mud on her teeth - as Drew kicks absolute ass.

The dragons keep up their continuous barrage, the very process Re-Haan herself set in motion allowing her kin to transform one by one. She used her administrator privileges to broadcast qi with the same characteristics as the power that normally allows dragons to transform. Recreating that power was one of the very first projects she used qi with, so it was rather easy to make it available to the rest of the Flight.

Each newly transformed dragon flies upwards, takes a spot on the grid of their hovering fellows and starts blasting Drew with their own breath. Re-Haan wants to curse and yell at the retarded lizards for continuously trying stuff that’s already proven not to work, but she still can’t move.

She winces as she sees Selis become Drew’s bat first victim. The infuriating man kicks against the air, somehow gathering enough qi or Will to propel himself directly towards the blue-haired girl. Selis reacts by shooting massive amounts of ice at him but Drew just bats it aside with both sides of his bat. The orange side makes the large blue shards explode into steaming splinters, while the blue side shatters the sharp transparent chunks into snow.

Selis becomes flustered, as the massive amount of ice she’d been saving up proves to have little effect on her charging teacher. Drew then touches her with the small hammer, almost gently so, and tosses her towards Re-Haan’s pool.

“Hey,” is the mud bathing dragons’ weak greeting when Selis joins her with a large splash of mud.

“Shit.” Is the first thing Selis manages to get out.

“Yeah,” replies Re-Haan as she continues watching. Vox is next, the instantaneous rays of heat the redhead is shooting at Drew almost hitting their marks a few times. The shimmering beams of heat have absolutely no effect on the orange side of the glowing bat. Vox is also drained through a gentle hammer touch and tossed into a pond just to the side from the one Re-Haan and Selis are in.

Before Vox gets his breath back from slamming back first into a shallow pool of water, Angeta bites it next. Her plants have little effect on Drew now that he’s just zipping through the air, and the beastkin comes soaring down towards the ground as Drew goes after Ket and Tess.

The two black haired kids also bite it quickly, Ket’s metal hailstorm of projectiles batted away with ease, while Drew actually seems to have some trouble with Tess. The girl has plastered herself against Tree, right where a few smaller branches emerge from the golden trunk. The light coming from Drew’s bat in combination with the bright glow of dragon breath attacks that are constantly aimed at him cast deep shadows. The contrasting light and darkness seem to empower Tess, but her defence is quickly cut short the moment Teach lights up the flaming side of his bat, eliminating all the darkness. Tess is also tossed towards the female mud pool, drained of qi and unable to continue her cursing tirade.

Ket lands with a wet smack, right next to Vox, by the time Drew is turning towards the dragons.

“This was stupid,” grumbles Selis. The small group of paralyzed observers all make agreeing noises.

“Selis, I understand why you wanted to give Drew a piece of your mind, but why did the rest of you get all fired up?” Re-Haan has also asked herself this question. No matter how she thinks back on this entire clusterfuck, she only remembers that she really wanted to teach Drew a proper lesson. A lesson involving maiming, and probably even worse, she only now realizes. “I really wanted to hurt him,” is her mortified whisper.

“Shit,” coughs Ket as he tries spitting out a mouthful of mud. “I fully understand his reasoning, and I might not agree, but I don’t think it’s worth trying to kill him over. I really wanted to, though.”

“Same,” groans Angeta in a sullen tone. “He put me with cockroaches. That’s nearly a capital offence.”

“I really tried…” whispers Selis. “I would have slit his throat if I’d been given the chance…”

“Damn, that’s hardcore,” croaks Tess. Her last-ditch effort involving shadows combined with Drew’s draining of her qi really did a number on the shadow girl. “Same, though. I’d have stabbed him in the kidneys, easy.”

“So everyone here had true murderous intent towards Drew?” asks Re-Haan.

Every single mud-bound paralyzed spectator agrees, one way or the other.

It’s silent for a couple of minutes then, all of the students and Re-Haan just watching as Teach systematically takes care of the dragons. One by one, he speeds towards the massive creatures, touching them with the hammer for a few seconds, before tossing the unmoving lizards into the jungle.

“What’s with the hammer? It’s not normal metal, by any means.” Ket interrupts the silence by the time half the transformed members of the Flight are incapacitated. The others keep attacking Drew despite the apparent uselessness of their breath attacks. Some try to engage him in hand to claw combat, only to be eliminated even quicker.

“One of the polar artefacts. The most normal one so far,” replies Re-Haan.

“What artefacts?” asks Tess.

Realizing that every single student here spent the last couple of months taking care of their assigned villages and towns, Re-Haan decides that this is as good a time as any to fill them in on what’s been happening. She explains the problems Drew has been having with the super dense projectiles, and his inability to determine the atomic make-up of the dungeon cores. She caps it off by telling of the polar drone excavations, the mass rocket launches, and the resulting density gradient that allowed Drew to train his augur, or liquid Will. She tells them of the hammer, and the eight other items they found, before capping the entire story off with how the lunkhead just finished spending a month of alone time inside Tree.

“Wow,” breathes Ket. “And he made Tree his cultivation base, I think.”

“That too, yes,” replies Re-Haan. She realizes that she forgot to talk about that, how Drew and she both had spent a lot of time taking care of the wildly mutating beasts and qi golems, and her own episode of being caught inside her own cultivation base. “Also, some other stuff happened,” she concludes, unwilling to explain those things right now.

“So this is the moon’s doing, right?” comes Tess’s fragile voice after a few more minutes of watching Drew beat up dragons. “Teach called it Nexus, I think?”

“Nope, I’m not buying it. Teach is an asshole, and I wanna stab him and make him bleed. I wanna strangle him in his own guts.” Selis continues venting for a few minutes, and Re-Haan learns some more things. Most of the things the small girl describes seem way too impractical, but a few of the acts do sound rather fun.

“You done?” asks Ket after Selis pauses to catch her breath. Teach has now downed nearly all the dragons; a few are trying to run away. They are all of the air affinity, varying in colouration from pale pink to deep lilac.

“Fuck no, I’m not done! I spent months with those annoying little shit apes! Months of my life, I’ll never get back. And now I truly never want kids, I’ll kill myself before having to go through such an ordeal again.”

“You’re not done, I see. Continue, then.” Answers Ket, who sounds rather depressed.

Re-Haan has finally managed to scrounge up enough qi to get her body back into working order. Having all of her structural qi stripped from her left her body in a state of shock, but she is slowly regaining feeling and control over her muscles. She manages to sit up after a lot of effort and takes in her direct environment. “You all look like shit,” is her only comment before she continues trying to get up.

“Guys, I don’t really mind that Teach did what he did.” Vox suddenly starts talking, an odd firmness to his voice. “I kind of understand. He got his guts blown out, and that stuff was bound to come back to haunt him - and us - eventually. I’ve read up on the concept of karma, and whether we like it or not, we are thoroughly intertwined with Teach’s karma. Do you all agree?”

Vox repeats his question after a few seconds of silence, and hesitant but agreeing mumbling follows.

“Good. So we all agree that for good or worse, we owe Teach a lot, and he owes us varying amounts. He saved me from prison by kidnapping me, so that evens each other out. He then beat me up while teaching me to cultivate. Temporary discomfort does not stack up to the opportunity to-”

“Life forever! There is no balance here, shit. How did I not see this before…”

“Right, Angeta. Thanks for finishing my sentence,” finishes Vox lamely.

“Well, I’m sort of his Dao-companion now. The coward hasn’t even asked me to marry him, but he’s given me a ring. He’s also given all of you a ring, so that probably doesn’t count for much.”

“If that ring means that little to you, want to switch?” asks Ket while feebly holding out his own much smaller spatial ring.

“No. Vox, were you planning to go somewhere with your little speech?”

“Yes! Nearly forgot. I HATE IT WHEN I’M MESSED WITH!” is his suddenly very loud roar. “Teach messed with me plenty, but he didn’t plant invisible tendrils of manipulation INSIDE MY VERY THOUGHTS!” Vox bolts upright as he starts shouting again. “That fucking moon dared to mess with my brain! I can not accept that, no matter the perspective or viewpoint.”

“Okay, you’ve got a point. Teach is a massive, major, gargantuan asshole, but he does his manipulating and screwing over in plain sight,” grumbles Selis as she groggily wipes mud from her dress.

“Okay, blue hair has a point. Cockroaches and mind control aren’t comparable,” agrees Angeta.

“The entire switching thing was a dick move, but not really worth mentioning, agree?” asks Tess as she twists towards Ket.

“Vox’s dramatic speech reminded me that we’ve got an eternity to be together,” slimes Ket.

“Get a room,” chimes in Re-Haan. “Teach is nearly done. You all good?”

The dragoness gets mumbled replies and grunts in answer as the students all slowly stand.

“Hey, were’s Ares?” asks Angeta. “And Bord, for that matter. Weren't there a few more students here? I think I saw Bassik and Rityn somewhere.”

“Bord will be here in a second or so, and Ares is hiding in the castle ruins. Let’s go get her.” Putting words to action, Re-Haan starts stumbling towards the pile of rubble. A dozen or so steps into her journey, she stops and looks up at Drew. The man in question is still using both hammer and glowing bat to chase down the now fleeing dragons. He’s apparently not willing to let the Flight members get off that easy, as he tenderises them thoroughly before draining them with the hammer and tossing them onto their own designated spot of jungle.

Drew quickly dispatches of the last freshly transformed dragons, and a quick data request to Database lets Re-Haan confirm that all of her kin is now done in by Drew.

Then Bord comes hurtling along, his undulating frame breaking the sound barrier, a small and deep paw-print on his forehead. Drew barely has time to turn to the newcomer before his exhausted frame is enveloped in copious amounts of body cultivator. Re-Haan continues stumbling forwards then, fiercely grinning as she makes her way over to the castle ruins Drew and Bord crashed into.

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