Chapter 248 - Interception (5)

By the time the blood runes reach my knees, I am moving at Mach one. An unbreakable dome of qi around Lola prevents her from being squashed, and I watch with silent apathy as a dome of sound condenses around my face. I break through the layer of fog and immediately leave it behind.

My Will is vanishing at a pace that is honestly a little worrying, and I tone down my usage of the precious mental resource. Instead, I throw more qi at my problem. Ragni’s last body part just vanished, her left pinky toe, and the question of who is next is tearing at me.

I’m afraid of going through all the data feeds again, not willing to find out who will be next. Then I see Selis with a large chunk of her head missing, her brain vanishing block by block.

Meanwhile, the Core in my core, the black cube hanging above Tree, seems to have started doing something. Now that it is an intrinsic part of my entire being, I get the vaguest idea of how it operates. I get a seriously abstract feeling of a question mark, and the suspicion that it just went through some form of boot-up or synchronization sequence appears in my mind.

“Make Nexus be gone,” I snarl at it. It immediately goes through some kind of question mark again, but this time with a location instead of a general question. I tell it to kill that moon, the one I’m staring at, that white piece of murdering shit right there.

It requests a way to reach the moon by the time Selis is decapitated.

I command Tree to tear open a hole right above the Core, connecting Tree’s dimension with the outside world. That way, it can get at the moon.

Mach two comes and goes, and I have my legs carved with nothing but pure acceleration. My skin is smoking now, and I’m sure that I’m going to hurt a lot when I start allowing the pain signals through again. Selis’ last cube of flesh and skin disappears when I am only halfway through the atmosphere. The mass of water that was under her control immediately starts boiling off. It starts vanishing into space now that its controlling force is no longer here.

It takes me a long time to find who is next on the butcher’s bill. Vox is still in mid-transit, his body smeared into a white flash of light. His stream is slowly getting smaller, his body being torn from existence while he is moving at a significant fraction of lightspeed.

I release the small dome of protection from Lola when I squeeze through the last layers of the atmosphere. I’m moving at Mach ten at his point, but Nexus is still unmoving from my perspective. A small hole appears in front of my forehead, and I sense the Core starts highly complex calculations. The first thing it does is scan Nexus. Standard regolith, a mix of fine dust, sand, and small rocks on top of bedrock.

It then changes its calculation in a way that hurts to think about. It simply calculated that a small part of the moon isn’t there. It then repeats this calculation millions of times, trillions of times. To my surprise, something snaps, and I get the feeling that high above, on the surface of the white moon, a small square-shaped bit of dust and sand is no longer there.

It just bullied reality into changing through overwhelming calculations?

What the shit.

I order it to focus on Nexus as a whole. It complains to me about buffer sizes and spreading effort over too large regions.

I order it to focus on Nexus as a whole. It complains to me about unknown compositions and the futility of trying to change something that is not perfectly understood.

I order it to focus on Nexus as a whole, right the fuck now.

Vox’s streak of light briefly stops shrinking as the Core inside my core scans the entire moon. Then a stream of calculations, data, possibility, and detection sweeps over me. I ignore it and speed on.

Vox resumes vanishing, if at a slower pace, while the Core starts freaking out about it only existing in a limited set of timelines.

That’s when I realize that the Dungeon Core I made mine extends into more than three dimensions. It also exists in the dimension of time, more so than any ordinary matter. I briefly have an epiphany. You can multiply your processing power endlessly if you can use the same processor multiple times, just at different times. Now, the Core’s temporal length is shortening at a rapid pace.

I speed up my engraving process, my entire lower body now covered in extremely simple concepts of motion. Every single rune made from my flesh is focused on increasing my speed.

I start screaming, not caring that I’ll start wasting precious oxygen as soon as I open my mouth. I start swinging my sword forwards, the previously dark blade now a blinding torrent of blue and orange as its overloaded circuits start spinning with qi.

On my shoulder, I feel that Lola’s forehead is adorned by a long and slender horn, orange and blue spinning in sync with my sword. She is also looking upwards at Nexus, her little mouth open in her own little scream.

I use every single fiber of my being to get to the moon faster. Forming even a hint of an eyecore inside my brain is enough for me to be overwhelmed by two lances of blazing entropic contrast. One is aimed at me, or more accurately, at the small portal giving line-of-sight between my Dungeon Core and Nexus. The other one is aimed at Vox, and although his disappearance slowed down a bit once I gave my Core its orders, he is still vanishing.

Then the last white streak of the boy vanishes, and I am eaten up by uncertainty again. Who is it next? Who will disappear next? Is it going to remove everyone from existence? Just the cultivators? Just who will die next?

Then I realize I can just follow the entropic contrast beam, and I find it bathing a certain expensive looking metal suit in its light of deletion. Green is next on its hit list, and it immediately makes me wonder what is up with its targeting system. I banish the thought, not willing to suffer mundane humor like that at the moment.

I don’t bother tracking how fast I’m going anymore, as Nexus is coming closer at a visible pace now. I think that it’s a rather commendable feat. It’s visibly moving from my frame of view while I’m crawling around ten thousand times. Then I notice that the world is going a by a little faster than I expected.

Some part of my mind knows that I’m using a lot of my qi for other things and that I’m no longer pouring all I have into my head. Another part of my mind decides it doesn’t really care, and just wants to murder a celestial body.

So I swing my sword forwards, using every single fiber of my being in order to commit planetoid homicide. Not even bothering to keep hold of the weapon, I send it flying with all my might. It leaves a glowing trail behind, the number of particles - cute drawings and symbols - is so dense that it just looks like a solid width of brightness. Unwilling to stop there, I pull the superheavy blacksmithing hammer from my ring. I toss it after my sword, hitting the pommel with calculated precision, making the blade fly ahead of me even faster.

I might be panicking, furious, mad with rage, and scared as hell; this doesn’t mean that I’m planning on smacking into the moon at a million kilometers an hour. The moment I get the feeling like I’m halfway to Nexus, I start slowing down. I flip myself over, pointing my legs at the moon, and shoving every single rune, qi construct, and speed enhancing enchantment in full reverse.

A faded figment of an eyecore still present in my brain gives me a faint idea of where Nexus is focussing. Is see the beam of meaning working on Green’s armor wink out. I double-check the armor in question, and its life sign monitoring inscription sends back a report telling of suddenly ceased vital signs. The beam of meaning then focusses on my sword, which is still shooting towards its surface at his speed, completely leaving me be. It also leaves the Core alone, allowing me to study the newest part of my cultivation base for a bit.

It’s twinkling lights now look like rustling leaves instead of the dancing star’s it used to have inside of it. I now know what makes those lights, though. I quickly realize that it’ll require years, if not centuries of study for me to truly start understanding the thing. I get the feeling that every core working in tandem is the basic, massively underclocked mode. I reckon that were every single core to work independently, or even cooperatively, it might just be a state machine that would rival the complexity of a galaxy.

I do know that the minuscule base functionality it now has is super boosted by all the qi that’s inside. The image of an overclocked and water-cooled calculator comes to mind, but I’m not sure how much that comparison actually fits. I just tell it to maximize the destructive power of my sword.

Then I start pulling out every single weapon I’ve ever made myself, from a few experimental mana cannon based qi lasers to a wide array of experimental material strength test weapons. I even carefully pull the two remaining contained thermonuclear devices I’ve got left, having used one to blow up the shadow mage isle.

I keep my attention trained forwards, unwilling to miss even a single millisecond of what’s to come. I pour qi into my eyes and pull a few spying drones from my ring, turning on their cameras, just to make sure that I won’t miss anything.

Then my sword hits the surface of the moon, surrounded by a devastating halo of destructive energy. Waves of blue and orange deathly power follow the slowly rotating weapon, and it hits the surface of the moon point first. It sinks into the soil, the massive amount of energy I imbued into the thing following after. I keep my eyes focused on the small hole in the white moon surface, the only proof of the impact small patches of glowing rock and small dissipating ice crystal.

Then nothing happens.

I keep deaccelerating, slowing down my mad dash while pointing every single implement of death and destruction I have available at the thing. Tree is right there with me, prepared to throw down with copious amounts of magma, massive shards of ice, and entire lakes worth of hyper acidic poisons. Tree has roots touching every single biome in my core, and letting the stuff flow out into the outside world should be easy as pie.

And nothing proceeds to happen. My sword is still tumbling in front of me somewhere. I can sense it speeding ahead while inside the moon. I've got most of my cultivation base inside the weapon, I could sense where it is in my sleep.

Somehow, it seems to be flying through the moon without much resistance. Then, it hits something, and I feel it explode with an incredible amount of ice and fire, all that potential energy releasing into steam and obsidian shrapnel at once.

And nothing happens.

At this point, I would start scratching my head in a comedic gesture. None of that now, though. I had the opportunity to make all the jokes in the universe before Rhea, Ket, Rag-

Cutting off that train of thought, I try to reconnect with all the qi I poured into the blade, trying to set up some form of spiritual sense. My own need for control and perfect qi usage bites me in the ass this time. There is barely any unactivated power left for me to spread my senses through. Asking Tree to provide me with a continuous stream of neutral qi, I start spreading a layer of qi to sense with.

I don’t even dare to ask for Database to give up a part of its power. My qi clone is fully occupied with keeping its melting jade housing and all the accompanying information in one piece.

Then the moon starts showing cracks of blue and orange, and it starts breaking like a shell. I don’t really believe my eyes at first, and my first instinct is to send Rhea a message, asking her if she is seeing th-

I stop thinking.

Keeping my mind blank, I see a brightly colored network of cracks appearing on the moon. Like the universe’s biggest egg breaking open from an internal explosion, its speckled white surface is first divided with ragged lines. Then it breaks up in large plates as bright lines of power start shining from its core.

Then it explodes in a rather subdued and polite way as it breaks apart. Plates thousands of kilometers wide and impossibly thin start tumbling away. Others start grinding into each other, and debris starts shooting everywhere. Nexus breaks apart in a slow-motion explosion of orange and blue before slowly contracting in the resulting implosion. I wonder why the entire thing is coming closer so quickly.

I realize that I stopped deaccelerating too late and shoot into the expanding debris cloud. I manage to kick off a large tumbling piece of shell as I speed by, only to smack right into a cloud of razor-sharp splinters. Then Lola starts vibrating on my shoulder, and I notice she is still screaming. Her horn explodes, and a multicolor blast of pure force clears the way. Silence returns to me as I come to a halt slowly.

I find myself inside a massive hollow sphere composed of slowly shattering stone. Looking at the center of it all, I see an hourglass-shaped object. Willing myself towards the thing before the entire hollow moon comes falling back down again, I see it’s made up of three parts. In the middle is a sphere, a thing as black as pitch, stars dancing inside its inky depths. Above and below are reservoirs of flowing power, two dancing vortices that radiate something familiar.

At first, I don’t get what I see. A toothpick is stuck inside the perfect circle, and it takes me a while to make sense of it all. My sword is stuck inside the black sphere, and I see a network of perfectly white cracks starting to spiderweb from where it’s stuck. The mass of weapons that I nearly forgot about then shoots past me, zooming towards the Core.

I just look and stare, silently watching as the entropic contrast wafting from the thing first focusses on my sword. Like a dying animal flailing randomly, I see its focus shift from my sword, to me, to the mass of items flying towards it, to the sword again.

The cracks spread, and it doesn’t take long for a few of the bright lines to wrap around its back. Then two of the tears must have met, as it splits apart into two halves. The semicircles breaks with a snappy ripple in reality I can feel in my bones and soul. Then the two swirling columns of power explode.

I just keep watching, absently fascinated with the entire thing. I notice that the exploding energy has the same texture and feel as the power that the Flight uses to shift forms. This must be where it was channeled in from. This recently split sphere is the Core controlling everything, then?

Then the explosion of draconic power is overtaken by a much-faster front of much-higher energy, and I feel it try to work its way into my soul. Not willing to watch this happen without reacting, I quickly form a facsimile of my soul connection, sanitizing and filtering it before sending it through to my actual soul.

The small tendril of power grabs ahold of the connection and immediately tries to inject itself into my entire body. It focusses on my brain, primarily forming a dense weave that wants to follow every synapse in my head. I feed it an image of my body, and it seems content to just sit inside the facsimile, only trying to affect my visual center. I try copying what it’s trying to do to my brain using a small bit of Will, and something weird shows up in my vision.

[ Congratulations, UNKNOWN discovered; calculating rewards… ]

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