“Guys, I really don’t know.” Angeta looks defeated as she slumps against the white shards of the Tower Dungeon. The bags under her eyes are visible even through her fur. Her slumped shoulders and depressed expression are not helping her image. The small group of students is sitting on top of the jagged edge of the white pillar, looking out over the endless grasslands and far away mountain ranges.
Tess’ voice sounds laced with steel and razor blades. “It’s been three weeks. If he spends another one without doing anything, I’ll break into Tree and get him out myself.”
Bord has been patting a softly sniffling Ares on the back for the last hour or so but hasn’t said a word. The redheaded girl suddenly stands up, wobbles a bit, and looks at Tess. “Let’s drag Teach out right now! I’m not willing to lose Vox again. How dare that perfect good-for-nothing lose my brother!”
“I already told you all I’m sorry, okay? I only got so much juice, and punting those folks from that stasis formation already cost me, like, minutes of my life! Just chill, he’ll probably be fine. This place is a downer. I’m leaving.” Everyone stares at the perfect man until he vanishes in a twist of space.
The four students all look at each other after their simultaneous curses. They share a small smile before resuming their depressed vigil of staring at the horizon far below. This continues for a while, all of them breathing deep.
“Something below,” says Bord, breaking the windswept silence. “Look.”
“The crystal is gone,” notes Tess.
They all look upwards for a moment and see that the slowly rotating faceted gem is indeed gone. They all look down towards the central plaza, peering over the edge of the broken tower. The cobblestones in the middle of the large city square are being pushed upwards by something coming up from below. Then a single branch pushes through the soil that spills from between the moving stones, small leaves sprouting from the rapidly growing stem.
“Tree?” exclaims Bord in surprise.
Before anyone can react to his comment, a large stone emerges from underground. All the people in the plaza have fled to the edges at this point. A large crowd of people is staring at the massive boulder that’s emerging from the ground. A tree, rough roots woven over the massive smooth stone, has its thin limbs growing in size.
Then two more stones emerge, supporting the horizontal one and forming a square arch. Three round, smooth, and rather massive boulders, each one around twenty by ten by three meters in size, form a large doorway. The tree continues to grow on top of the three stones, interweaving a dense network of roots across the entire thing.
“That’s new,” sniffles Tess. She nearly falls of the tall tower as she feels a pull on her qi. Looking at her hand, she briefly sees a darkly flickering ghost trying to escape her flesh. It settles back down at once, the pull coming from the stone and Tree structure lessening at the same time.
“Nice,” comments Bord. “It’s all getting smaller now.”
“What’s going on?” squeaks a freaked out Ares.
“I dunno,” replies Bord.
A dark flash of fire appears next to his large frame, and a yellow and white beastkin with black stripes appears clad in muted wraps. “Tooth Bord, it seems that Teach Drew has set his plan in motion.”
“Cool,” is his only reply.
“What plan?” growls Angeta.
“It seems he is intent on reclaiming the entire planet,” Fifteen replies before disappearing into black flames again.
Tess sighs deeply. “We’ve got to keep up somehow. I’m never going to be able to beat him once he has an entire planet in his core.”
“Not happening, anyway.”
Tess stares at Bord, who is softly glowing red. “Why?”
“This is all his,” he replies, twirling a small sphere of red power through his fat fingers as he sighs deeply. “It’s his.”
“No, Bord, don’t jump, what do you mean by that?” Tess jumps after him.
Angeta and Ares look at each other, after which the beastkin rolls her eyes and jumps too. Ares looks over the edge for a long while, uncertain of what to do and twirling her thumbs. Then a flaming hand clad in shadows pushes her off the edge. The redhead screams all the way down.
“It’s all his, Bord, what do you mean with that?” Tess lands next to Bord, who is staring at the still rumbling construction of stone, root, branch, and leaf emerging from the largest plaza in Tower City.
“This is all Teach’s qi.” Bord waves his hands around randomly.
“No way. This qi all came from… well, yeah, maybe initially. But it’s ambient now, right?”
“Right. We don’t,” she murmurs while looking at the still shaking stone construction as it finishes settling down. The constant qi-sucking sensation is very familiar to Tess, as she vividly recalls Teach employing the similar suctioning effect coming from a certain hammer. He used to that to drain her cultivation base. “It seems he finally listened to Ket’s advice.”
Bord pats Tess on her back as she inhales with a snotty shudder. “What?”
“Ket told him just to drain the qi from a large area. Draining qi from enclosed spaces, as the crystal did before, wasn’t very efficient. A large amount of that power got lost during the process. This seems simpler. Want to see where it leads?”
Fifteen emerges from dark flames, taking her customary spot next to Bord. She turns to Tess. “You doing okay?”
“No, but thanks for asking.”
Fifteen then looks between Bord and Tess a few times. Stepping away from the Tooth she is sworn to follow; she throws an arm around the black-haired girl as they walk towards the new structure. Bord stares at the to girls for a while, a rather complex expression on his face. He then decides to smile, and walks after them.
The locals all start to move away from the new feature, some of the weaker cultivators collapsing on the spot as they lose their grip on their cultivation bases. They are all dragged away from the qi sucking plaza, and left to recover somewhere the qi isn’t sucked from the air constantly.
Angeta lands with a graceful sway, her tail seemingly not reacting to her sudden change in momentum. She looks up and scrunches her face into a scowl. Tossing a seed to the ground, her hand glows a faint green while a soft-looking bush of thorns springs up from the ground. Ares lands ass first, her shriek cutting off as the bush catches her. Then the screaming continues, as the redhead starts frantically pulling long spines from her ass. Angeta runs after Bord and Tess while laughing uproariously.
I do my best to ignore Bord’s rude interruption and get back to going over the same calculations for the thousandth time. Surely there must be some form of material I can manufacture that’s strong enough, right? I refuse to believe that this is the limit of what material science can accomplish. There must be a way to produce a Dyson sphere with just mundane matter, right?
Tree’s walls shake a bit, but I ignore the rumbling. There is simply too much to do yet. All I need is a material that’s similar to scrith. Recreating a construction material with a strength that’s similar to the strong force should be easy, right? There must be some form of technology that will allow me to churn out metal plates that are a hundred times stronger than anything I’ve managed to make so far…
I’m shaken from my frantic and cyclical mental musings by a kick to the face.
“There. Now make me some food.”
“Bord, what the shit?” I exclaim while smacking against Tree’s inner wall. I rub my jaw, which actually hurts, and look up.
“You look like shit,” comments the obese heartcore cultivator.
“Teach, can I go through already?” asks Tess again.
“Stop protecting all the humans from my plants!” shouts Angeta.
“Just talk to him! There is no need for violence, guys,” complains Ares.
I stand up with much effort. For some reason, my legs are numb, and my back is complaining something fierce. “Alright. So I spend a day moping inside my cave. Can you blame me?”
“It’s been a month. It took us a week to get in here after you started shit with all those Tree stone things.”
“Hunebed,” I blurt out.
“Bless you,” Tess bites back.
“I’m not calling those things dolmen or cromlech. They’re hunebedden.” I glare at Tess. This is one thing I’m not willing to bend on. “They are a beautiful part of my heritage. Massive stone constructs that once were thought to be made by giants. Then farmers turned them into gravel for their driveways, but we all ignore that part of history, so it’s fine.” As usual, my ramblings attract very little attention, even though they contain a massive amount of truths and laws.
“Just come with us. Bord, can you drag him along?” Tess sounds tired, I suddenly realize. Very tired. I try to stop Bord’s pure physical strength, but I just can’t find it in myself to put up much resistance. Did I really just spent an entire month in here? I really thought it was just a day or two.
I’m unceremoniously dragged outside, and what I see breaks my heart again. “Wow, I didn’t even know that I was capable of feeling this amount of emotional pain. This really sucks.”
Tree is no longer looking like a majestic golden being. Its limbs are sagging, it’s once proud crown is drooping, and it’s golden glow now looks like some tacky golden spray paint. The atmosphere in the entire dimension just feels depressing, and a thick blanket of grief seems to choke everything.
“What?” I manage to croak out.
“I know that you must miss Re-Haan, but she wouldn’t have wanted-”
“No, I get that, Tess. It’s just that this isn’t natural. I made sure that Tree wouldn’t be able to…” I stop talking as I suddenly feel him. “GET OUT HERE!”
I grasp at the slippery fuck. He flows through my mental fingers with ease, and the perfectly useless qi clone originating from a few dimensions higher seeps out of Tree. I then grin, and Will my entire core to freeze. The Dungeon Core above Tree starts up, but I order it to cease. I then make another grasping motion and pluck the useless piece of power straight from the air. “Hey, there.”
“Hey man, how’s life?” he tries to play it cool.
“You’ve been busy?”
“Nah, man. Just chilling.”
“Just chilling while breaking our agreement, right?” I grin at him. “I’m not usually one to lose track of time to this extent.”
“Nah man, nothing like that.” The perfect man seems somewhat nervous. I can feel his guilt radiating from him. It appears that whatever personality traits this soul fragment holds, the ability to lie isn’t one of them.
“I hereby order you to become my bound sword spirit, with you breaking our agreement as leverage.” I pull my sword from my ring, the ambient qi immediately making it glow in cute patterns, wholesome orange symbols, and adorable blue drawings.
“Yeah, no. I’m here to have a good time. Not to sit around doing nothing inside some gay sword,” he replies while trying to slink away. I look the perfect facsimile of a human in his eyes, wondering why his creator or host soul never bothered with putting any true effort in his appearance. He is just too smooth and perfect, like some simple idealized drawing of a handsome man.
“Good chat. This is my core, and my universe, though,” I smile back. His eyes widen as he realizes what that means.
“This place has a spirit of its own? No way, it’s way too small for that.”
“Tree, if you please.” I enjoy the irony of seeing him be trapped by Universal Laws enforced by the very being he had been siphoning. I told him I’d give him energy freely, and the first thing he did was going around stealing Tree’s power. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but all he did was faff about a bit before trying to drain the little bit of Will Tree has. Forcing the fucker into my sword is honestly something I just came up with, but it seems that my absolute faith in the righteousness of this action is enough to make it happen. Somehow.
Beings from higher levels are either gullible or are subject to laws that are a bit more esoteric in nature, it seems. The relief I feel when I see the insufferable git get trapped in my blade is much higher than I would have expected. Leaving a fragment of a super deity immortal’s soul floating around inside my own cultivation base must have been worrying me more than I thought.
I’m about to stuff the glowing blade back into my ring, but then I stop. I really don’t want the disgruntled fragment of some asshole in my stuff. I order Database to send me the smallest spatial ring it has in stock, and wait for it to arrive. “So, this could have gone better, you know. I’d have given you some power now and then, and let you roam around. But no, you had to be a dick about it, and started draining some innocent Tree.”
The small piece of jewelry falls into my waiting hand, and I stuff the sword inside. It barely fits inside the small spatial fold and I put it on my finger, on the hand that’s not already wearing my unadorned large spatial ring.
I look up and see a massive crowd. Nearly every single student in the Foundation Realm is staring at me, and all of them look rather pensive. I suddenly feel rather bashfull and have to stop myself from starting to fidget. “Alright. So, things went pretty bad for a bit there. We managed to take down the satellites, which is amazing. The entire Nexus thing then took a weird turn, an-”
I’m cut off by the crowd suddenly roaring. Everyone is jumping around, shouting in jubilation while tears stream down a lot of the female’s faces. I just blink at the celebrating crowd, and take a peek at Tess. “Hey, so…”
“Oh yeah, that fake dude you just put into a sword has actually been tormenting everyone for the past month. I really don’t know how he does it, but I’m starting to suspect that soul fragment contains all the bad personality traits of a certain someone.”
“He made everyone sad and cry,” explains Bord.
“He was,” continues Angeta, “such a massive asswipe, I really don’t know how he even managed to irritate and annoy everyone so proficiently.”
While my students expound over the reasons why they couldn’t stand the guy, I’m just left to wonder why I never thought of that. No need to sever your emotional ties. No need to shed your connections to the mortal world, or cut off your emotions. You can just shove the aspects of your personality you don't enjoy or appreciate into a soul fragment and break it off. I suddenly suspect that there is more to the reason why this fake person was sent here.
I shrug my shoulders and decide to think about this later. I hope he’ll have a great time in my sword.Previous Chapter Next Chapter