“Fuck off, fatso,” I growl in irritation.
“Hey, that hurts.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m kind of angry, and I shouldn’t take my irritation out on you by insulting your physical traits. I’m sorry.”
“No, your knee is digging into my back. That hurts.”
“Ah,” I reply sheepishly, quickly clambering out of my newly demolished castle. “Sorry about that,” I once again apologise to Bord as I hold out my hand.
“No problem. Weird that it hurts, though. Also, I feel like I should be fainting? Did you see were Lola went?” he asks as he gets to his feet. His neck seems off to me. Like it’s stuck in an odd angle. I’m really surprised that he’s not paralysed like the rest after having all of his qi stripped from him. But then again, the idiot is probably just ignoring it through sheer thickness, or something stupid like that.
“No. But that explains your forehead. She must be pretty annoyed.” I admire the gorgeously detailed red pawprint for a few moments. Bord then puts both his hands to his head and twists. The most hair-raising series of joint breaking pops I’ve ever heard comes from his neck, and it takes a conscious effort of will not to take a step back or display any visible emotions of disgust or horror on my part.
“How have you been?” I decide to make small talk while thinking of what to do next. The hammer in my hand is still sucking up all qi, and it takes nearly all I have to keep it covered in liquid Will while defending myself from the slowly increasing suction force. Already, I see the effects of the qi drainage on my direct environment. The grass is wilting, the ground is losing the fatty lustre that comes with rich soil, and Tree is already glowing dimmer.
“Pretty good. Have you seen Lola?”
“You already asked me that.”
“Oh, okay,” he replies while looking around. I’m busily remembering and sorting through potential untapped sources of qi when Bord turns to me again. “Have you seen Lola?”
“She must have kicked you real hard. Look, there are your fellow students. Go have fun with them for now.” I decide to get out of here before the stumbling row of ruffled and muddy looking people get here. Rhea is in front, the other students trailing behind her like little ducklings. They all look pissed, and I’m not keen on getting into a long-ass discussion about the ethics of my behaviour while this hammer runs out of qi to suck up.
I really don't want to let this thing explode, and I’m pretty sure that it will start sucking up more vital energies than qi once it gets serious. The validity of whether or not vital essences or lifeforce are actually real is not something I want to find out by losing a bunch of it to a greedy smithing implement.
“Hey, Re-Haan. Have you seen Lola.”
Relieved that Bord’s focus is no longer solely trained on me, I decide to leg it. All of the massive animals I’ve been kidnapping into Tree are sure to have plenty of qi for this little piece of shit hammer to suck up, and I don’t think they’ll come around and present themselves to me.
I start running towards the closest large animal I remember, namely the massive worm in the desert. I don’t want to ask Database for the information, as having a thread of my qi clone’s energy reaching all the way down here won’t end well, I suspect. I’m willing to sacrifice that massive amount of power if it comes to it, but that’ll be a last resort.
Ignoring the affronted shouts that follow me, I start running while I’ve still got my structural qi to rely upon. The forest around me diminishes as all the loose qi is sucked up while I run past. None of these plants ever had to survive in a qi-less environment, so they’re bound to require a period of adaptation if they can survive this at all.
I reach the desert after a little bit of high-speed jogging. I then form the small amount of qi inside my brain into the sigil I’ve branded into its nervous system. Commanding the worm to the surface, I quickly run over to its breaching point. I ignore the massive sand storm it creates as it jumps from the dunes, immediately pressing my hammer to its enormous girth. It takes the hammer all of five seconds to suck the beast dry and for the pull on my own power to increase again.
Cursing up a storm, I start running towards the next closest large source of qi, a massive thunderbird roosting in the small mountain range bordering the desert. Cactii wilt and desert flowers shrivel as I run past, the qi from all over Tree’s dimension now slowly moving towards this stupid object I can’t let go off.
I bitch and moan some more as I see months, even years of work go to waste. The qi levels inside Tree were finally getting to a similar level to the thinner wasteland areas back on the Cultivation World. Nowhere on that way-too-big planet was ever devoid of power, but there sure were dead zones. Neither man nor beast wanted to live there, so they were usually just empty space with only the occasional secret base hidden away. And now all that precious and hardwon power is just vanishing into nothingness!
I really want to have a nice long chat with the person that came up with the idea of trying to qi drench the hammer, but it was completely my idea. No point in dragging myself into a dark alley, after all.
The massive thunderbird barely has time to give a sudden squeak as I rush the feathery sparkler. I don’t even bother with the nerve imprint, as its very nature as a lightning beast makes it slightly unreliable. I don’t want it to start getting used to me messing with its nerves until the imprint is settled deeper. So instead of commanding it, I sneak up behind it and hit it over the head with the hammer.
I leave a twitching pile of feathers in my wake as I start sprinting for my life once again. The tundra in front of the ice mountain holds some nice thick furred hordes of somewhat similarly shaped plant-eaters, and those are next on the hammer’s menu. Leaving more paralysed livestock in my wake, I make it a point to also relieve the surrounding predators of their qi, as I don’t want them getting fat. An hour of steady jogging later, I’m done with the lower and colder third of Tree’s lands, and I’m seriously contemplating whether or not I should steal the frozen heart of the mountain.
This massive freezer started out as a mere mortal mountain top I kidnapped, after all, and its icy core is also of my own making. I sigh deeply and decide that Tree is going to get fucked up anyways, so I might as well do it myself. The hammer is still showing no signs of slowing down its qi consumption, and I’m sure that halting the process now will result in my immediate and irreversible death. I start sprinting up the icy slope, immediately regretting this stupid idea of climbing a sub-zero snow-covered mountain while I’m extremely low on qi. Luckily for me, the black energy hole manages to suck the mountain dry when I’m only halfway up the slope.
I immediately pull my sword from my ring and realise that it’s just a bat. Slapping myself for forgetting the outer part of my sword, I pull a roughly snowboard shaped piece of wood out of my ring and use that to descend the mountain instead. The ride is still pretty cool - in more than one way - but not as awesome as swordboarding.
Putting my stuff back into my ring, I suddenly realise that I haven’t tried putting the hammer inside my spatial storage! I start moving my ring hand and the hammer closer together but immediately stop. Thinking on this concept some more, why would I want to put a qi absorbing object inside a pocket dimension that is running on qi? Wiping some imaginary sweat from my forehead, I instead decide to resume running. The image of the entire content of my ring suddenly appearing in the exact position of my finger haunts me for a while, before my worry for Tree sets in again.
All the animals - and my students - I’ve stripped of qi so far just need some time to get their power base back. Tree won't be so lucky, as it's just a tree. Will removing its qi mindwipe it? Where does a tree store its memories anyway? The big golden piece of timber has started developing a personality of its own, but that’s thanks to qi. Without that mystical power, it’s just a really overgrown and physically improbable perennial.
Let’s first find out whether or not stealing the qi from all the beasties here is enough.
Five hours later, I can definitively conclude that this is not the case. Holding out my last hope, I tap Lola’s fuzzy head with my hammer. Two of the last five hours, I had to waste as I was trying to catch the little rascal. She probably sensed that I was planning something she wouldn’t like. Dropping the now qi-less bunny to the ground, she takes a few wobbling steps before curling up and going to sleep.
Well, I'm out of good ideas. Tree is keeping the fundamental laws of this entire dimension together, so I really don’t want to mess with it. Database is imposing some form of human recognisable order on this mess of a folded space. It handles things like its own orbit, keeping all the air where people can breathe it, preventing the small suns from burning up or exploding, small stuff like that.
My own mental processes are back to a bare minimum again, the lack of qi and need for constant and steady augur control locking up the majority of my thinking capabilities. I start pulling stuff from my spatial ring while a dull form of desperation sets in. I drain all the qi from the many dishes before putting them away, rendering healing tonics and other potions unusable by removing the highly specific qi intents. I then drain all the mana crystals I still have lying around, pull out all the clothing I've been boarding and enchanting, and reduce a whole heap of precious items to mere mortal trash. Sure, this hurts my heart a little, but it's still better than having my vitality sucked out. That's what I tell myself while basically destroying all my wealth, anyway.
In the meantime, I start making my way back to Tree while commanding the toxic moon and Database to come closer. Better to place all three celestial bodies against each other now than to let them crash into each other later. I consider going to the Dungeons, as those weird geometrical shapes are still constantly creating qi, but the trickle of power they generate is negligible. The qi levels on the planet itself are also far from enough to sate this shitty hammering implements energy hunger. I’m really starting to get annoyed and worried at this point.
I reach Tree by the time the poison moon is nearby, and a quick jump and another quick run around the purple ball leaves the hammer unsated still. As a result, the ecosystem on the purple moon is now in tatters again, and all the booze I've created and stored is probably ruined.
Database is next, and it hurts to see my white qi clone that I've been working on for more than a year get sucked up by the stupid fucking hammer. It’s still not enough, so I rest the jade filled moon to the side, asking Tree to keep it steady for as long as it can. People on the outside world must be getting anxious now. The town crystals are still sucking up power, but the access to Database’s information storage has been cut off for a while.
“Tree, maybe increase the crystal suction force?” It rustles its leaves at me, and I fail to discern its meaning this time. With lead in my shoes, I walk towards my castle, intent on letting the hammer suck of the little bit of qi stored inside my mass production lines. My qi repulsion barrier is still working, but it can’t fight the hammer perfectly. My entire left hand is almost stripped of qi, and it is already feeling extremely heavy. It’s only thanks to the fact that I physically can’t let go of the thing that I'm still holding on, as it’s substantial weight is starting to get too much for my weakening arms to bear.
“TEACH! You’re a dick, we all agree. Also, how are we going to kick this moon’s ass?” I look up, only to see a very muddy redheaded boy staring at me. “Also, what's that? How did you steal my entire pool of usable qi, and why do you look like shit?”
I wave him off while walking over to where the blade part of my hammer fell. I slot the baseball bat back into place, only for the blue and orange glow suffusing it to be sucked up into the hammer. I put the dull blade back into my ring, not sure if it'll even be capable of channeling fire and ice again. I then slog back towards my castle, setting a trapdoor mechanism in motion. The malleable mass production lines all have a connected strip of qi sensitive metal alloy running through it, and I’ve run a thread of the stuff through my entire castle. I touch the hammer to the glowing strip, and it dims immediately.
I hear a mass of clanking sounds coming from the large cave below, and I can just imagine all the extremely precisely created parts crashing to the ground mid-production. All the tolerances will be shot, and the entire production run might as well be scrap metal now. I glare at the hammer some more as it starts sucking the structural qi from my wrist.
Then someone is poking me, and I reel on them. My sudden anger melts like snow thrown into a fire as I see the pure concern radiating off Re-Haan. “Real shit?” she asks.
“I can’t stop this now. It will instantaneously expel all the absorbed power.”
Rhea goes pale.
“Explain!” commands Ket. I nearly snap at him, but I figure that none of us are going to survive this qi sucking monster. They might as well know why they’ll end up as mummified husks. Or maybe this thing will stop when it's gotten all the qi it can? Maybe I'm worrying for nothing?
“Tree is my new core. Tree is the next step in my foundation realm; it’s become my inner world. I’ve been messing with these weird super-dense objects.” I take a break to sit down. “And I can make matter mine, make it part of my cultivation base, by drenching it with qi. I only tried with items like these before,” I continue while tossing out an assortment of variable weight meteoroid bullets.
“They usually suck up some qi before being sated. This one turns out to be different. I’m sorry.”
“Have you seen Lola? And stop saying sorry. You don’t need an excuse to exist. Ah, there she is!” I stare at Bord as he stumbles towards the barely conscious rabbit. His sudden attack turns into a gentle pat as he falls asleep mid-strike. Lola manages to crawl on top of him before continuing her nap.
“Wow, these are super weird. Can I keep these? I think they’ll be super amazing practice.” Selis is toying with a few of the lighter projectiles, and I feel her mind trying to change their states.
“Have you tried using the hammer?” asks Ket, who has crouched down. He pokes at the evil implement but quickly pulls his finger back as his ring starts to glow ominously.
“Use it? No?”
“Try using it in the way it’s meant to be used. Make something with it.”
“What? No, this thing just needs to suck up…” My reply dies in my throat. Instead of arguing about this, I might as well try. I use the last bit of Will and qi at my disposal to pull the superheavy anvil and my sword from my ring. My arm shakes as I lift the hammer. It still weighs hundreds of kilos, and it's still sucking up my strength.
Then I bring it down.