“What’s the worst that could happen? Tree is doing fine, and there is much more qi here now! I also know what to do with it. It’s a sickle, so let’s get farming already.”
Rhea snorts at me. “I will give everyone that lets him go a negative million points. Don’t you dare, Drew.”
“No, seriously! That dwarf over there is just sucking up a bunch of my qi right now, but haven’t you all felt how fast this entire space is developing? I’m actively siphoning qi from Tree again, stuffing it into Database just to prevent oversaturation.”
“Teach, you’re actively limiting the qi here? But it is extremely dense!” Ket exclaims.
“Yep! It’s growing exponentially again, so adding another tool really shouldn’t be a problem, no?” Relieved that at least Ket sees the light, I gain a glimmer of hope.
“You are right, Rhea. Do not let him near those tools. Another exponential increase in power density will cause it to reach all kinds of scary thresholds.”
The small spark of hope dies as Ket betrays me. Where did I go wrong in raising this bunch? How is it they don’t seem to trust me at all?
“Drew, where is Database anyway?”
“Underground,” I reply while feeling a lot of pity for myself. Tree did a number on its dimension, and my core now has a different shape. Not just external, no. The difference goes deeper than just the transformation from earth pancake to a small planet.
“The jade core is at the center of the planet now. Database’s moon is a massive underground layer supported by Tree’s roots. I moved all my production facilities down there. Also, can you all get off? I promise I won’t touch the sickle without talking about it first.”
“All those tools,” says Tess.
That snake! That black-hearted snake. “Fine, I won’t touch any of them.”
One by one, I feel my heavy burden lifting. I could have theoretically gotten out from under it, but Bord was lying directly on top of me, and he’s immensely heavy when he wants to be. I pat myself down while cracking my back to get the kinks out. I then look up and see everyone staring at me with a variety of expressions on their faces. Especially the new guys are displaying a wide variety of emotions. I decide to ignore the rabble and turn to Rhea. “Let’s ignore those stupid tools for now, and also that meditating dwarf, and let’s get started on the important stuff.”
“Yes,” I reply in a serious tone. I then move before anyone can react, and stuff the eight superheavy tools back into my ring. I can just imagine Valerius getting weird ideas with the sickle, or Angeta fondling the needle as it tears her cultivation base away from her. I turn back to Rhea. “So, any ideas?”
She lowers her raised arms at the same time as the rest of my original students calm down. The whirling cloud of darkness resolves back into Tess, Ket stuffs the masses of iron back into his ring, and Angeta shepherds the overgrowth of greenery back into the ground. “So, the moon?”
“Yea, what about it?”
“What have you been doing about the moon so far?”
“A massive amount of rockets. Even now, I’m launching a couple dozen miniature suborbital rockets a minute. This keeps the potential damage of the satellites down, as the density of their ammunition lowers with an increase in fire. Any form of high altitude scanning platforms I’ve launched so far shot down before the atmosphere gets thin enough to get clear images. I’ve been testing various types of armour plates and shielding, testing what kind of mundane materials will be able to resist super dense projectiles the best. Success has been limited in that field.”
“And?” asks Rhea.
“And? What and? I needed to get the density gradient to train my Will, and that’s what I did. Nothing else worked,” I reply slightly affronted.
“See?” asks Rhea of the crowd. To my confusion, they all nod slowly.
“Just feel for them,” says Bord.
“What is it now, fatty?” I ask while feeling my temper rise.
“Just feel the pull of the things high above. Not that hard,” is his confused reply.
“You want to tell me that you can feel the minuscule gravitational pull generated by objects in orbit?”
“What? Just feel their pull.” Bord looks genuinely confused, while the beastkin that hasn’t left his side so far is squinting her eyes at me.
“Did you try changing the state of the projectiles?” asks Selis.
“No! I don’t have some freaky-ass affinity that just allows me to change the very laws upon which this universe is built! Here, you try,” I snap back at the small girl, tossing her a thirty times heavier stone projectile.
Selis glares at the thing for a bit, and with a blue flash, it sinks through her fingers. The core of asteroid turns into a thick liquid as it disappears between the grass.
“You’ve got air,” says Rhea while I stare at Selis with an open mouth.
“Did you try to set up an intercept system? As long as you hit them early enough, even a minuscule impact can change their course drastically,” says Ket.
“Why not just let them pass through you, though? There must be cultivation techniques that work on a similar principle as entering the shadows? Even loosening the atomic bonds of your own bodily molecules in the path of a projectile should work,” says Tess.
“A space elevator? Just make a taller Tower,” says Vox.
“I can mess with their vectors, shifting them just enough to miss should be easy,” comes Ket.
“Drew, you keep complaining about the impossibility of their affinities, but you’ve got a part of my air affinity, as I said before. Just take a bunch of gasses with you, that alone should allow you to create a decent defensive and detection buffer.” Rhea finishes me off with a final critical hit.
“And the origin of the planet? Any of you wise-ass kids got a handy answer for that?” My replies are starting to get petty, I realize. But then again, they just told me that their special superpowers could invalidate a shitload of work on my part, so I’m okay with feeling salty for a bit.
“The plaque below Flight Mountain basically spells that out, right? It’s super dense, so it’s of the same origin as the rest of the junk from the poles. I tested it with a bit of liquid Will when I was there.”
“Rhea, why do you do this to me?” I ask.
“What plaque?” asks Tess.
“The holiest of Flight artifacts, actually. Its three panels, telling of a dead planet that gets seeded with life and dragons by a mysterious figure. Then this figure takes the dragons along with it into the void as the planet crumbles.”
“Wow,” says Ket. “That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to be stuck on a crumbling planet,” answers Tess.
“Tooth? Is this all as sacrilegious as I think it is? This entire Tree thing is pretty good, but hearing people talk about the Flight like this is just…”
“Don’t worry about it, Fifteen. See those three guys? Those are dragons, just in their human form.”
“Right, nevermind then!” The girl first starts hiding behind Bord, slowly sinking into dark flames when that fails to shift everyone’s attention away from her.
“Dual affinities! Why am I the only one that is freaking out about the fact that she has shadow and fire affinities! Do I have to go around catching them all now?” I complain some more, not content with the fact that everyone’s priorities are super messed up.
“Mister Teach, may I interject?” I turn to Rityn, the lovely purple lady who just spoke up, and nod. She’s a braincore, so hopefully, something good will come of this. “Are there any other defences that might be up there?”
“Not as far as I know,” I reply.
“So we only have a large number of dense projectiles to contend with?”
“As far as I know.”
“Okay. Let’s get to it then! Bord, you can somehow sense their gravitational pulls? I need you to go outside and do that. Find a way to convey this information to Database. Selis, I need you to come with me. Teach, I need a large amount of those bullets. Re-Haan, I need access to the documentation of those rockets that are currently baiting these projectiles. Bassik?”
“Bring me a cup of tea and then go look at how strong the data lines coming from this Nexus moon are. Teach, is there anything else?”
“I should go back to training. I’ll sit in Tree while upping my augur’s sensitivity. I still need to get to a precision level that’s enough to detect what kind of molecule is at the core of the Dungeon Core computing clusters.”
“You… go do that then. Ket, help me with some calculations. The amount of fire coming our away from the satellites needs to be covered by the countermeasures we have. Right, who else…”
I am in awe of the short woman. The time in the frozen southern wastes has done her a lot of good, it seems. She had the ‘housewife’ feel to her previously, like some home-bound mom that lived for schemes and tea parties. Now there is a certain amount of charisma and steel in her voice.
I nod to myself and skedaddle. The best way I can see myself helping here is to be a frontman when assaulting Nexus. And to do that, I still think I’ll need to get a grasp on the way it’s communicating with the Dungeon Cores. I’m not willing to see Rhea’s fingers vanish block-by-block again, and I fear what that big ball of inert stone might be capable of.
I look off to the side and see Tess dragging Ket away from the still meditating dwarf. Ket looks kind of disappointed, probably because he’s able to catch up with the old dwarf, but Tess almost seems scared. I briefly wonder what happened there to cause that reaction.
Then I finds my patch blocked by Rhea. “Hey,” I say to her while wondering what she wants.
“Two things. No, three things. First, is this it?”
“The big meeting! You called everyone over, presumably to have a very important discussion with them over a lot of important things. They all show up, and you just rant at them for a bit. Then the dwarf took that hammer and there was a small discussion, and that’s it?”
“I should have known better. Flight above, save me. And are you going to hide away in your little hidey-hole again?”
“Tree is not a hidey-hole. It’s an important anchor of my cultivation base, and I want you to show it some respect.”
“I meant, are you hiding again?”
“I never…” I stop speaking mid-sentence. I take another look at Rhea before deciding to take this interrogation into a different direction. “My bad. How can I make this up to you?”
“Fix your castle. Or at the very least, fix us a room.” Yeah, I thought I recognized a certain hungry glint in her eyes. “With lots of pillows.”
“Right away ma’am, one comfy pillowed room coming right up!” I immediately start working on it. Instead of making yet another castle, which will inevitably get destroyed, I start working with Tree to make a kick-ass tree-castle. I leave the simple rounded doorway in place now, but make the room with the blood circle inaccessible. Instead, I layer a nice set of wooden stairs going upwards on top of the circle space. Off to the side, I make a spacious bedroom that I will fill with stuff from my ring later. I load up a part of the dream residence blueprints I’ve been designing over the past month and set up a construction process.
“And give me that,” comes Rhea’s sharp voice.
“Give you what, hun?” Focussing on the lovely dragon, I see that she’s pointing at my hand. To my surprise, I’m twirling the sickle through my fingers. When did I take that thing from my ring? Looking around, I see that everyone in my line of sight is silently staring at me. They all look at me with expectant gazes, reminiscent of a baited crowd waiting for the next exciting trick in a circus.
Maybe that last observation was projection on my part, though. I look between Rhea and the sickle a couple of times, before rolling my eyes and handing it over. She grabs the super heavy tool from my grasp, only stumbles slightly, puts it in her ring, and drags us inside Tree’s opening. I barely manage to modify my construction process, adding in a thick stone door to block sound before the vixen is upon me.Previous Chapter Next Chapter