“So, everyone has calmed down a bit?” I ask of the still murmuring crowd. I get nods in return, some people obviously ashamed of their massive emotional outbursts. “Great. I’m thinking that the fact I just spent a month moping around by myself might also be caused by a certain soul fragment, but he is taken care of now.”
Another small round of cheering follows, and I just let it happen.
“So, as I said. Now that that’s taken care of, I’d like to address where to go from here.” The crowd calms down quickly as I say this. “I’m sorry to say, but your ancestral planet is not long for this world. The only way I see out of this sector of dark space is through the dimensional… something that’s Nexus. And that connection is currently locked to the Cultivation World. Now, I’m just as keen as never to go back there as all of you combined, but I really want to see Rhea, Ket, Vox, Selis, and Ragni again.”
I keep an eye on Rodrick as I stop speaking, and he just starts smiling a shit-eating grin while fingering his axe. The knowing way he keeps showing me his canines makes it obvious he knows that I left out Green’s name just to mess with him.
“So, here’s my plan. I put a new quest on Database, one concerning the Dyson Sphere I want to set up around the sun. None of the materials I can create are strong enough to make something workable, but as everything outside this solar system seems to be an ordinary universe, I want to limit the qi contamination.” There are a few more reasons, some of which got confirmed by that useless soul fragment, but I really don’t want to address those yet, if ever.
“I’m planning on taking everything I can take, make it all mine, and be more than prepared before going to the Cultivation World. This means I want to take along all I can. You all are more than welcome to leave once I do that. Carving out a place for yourselves in the Cultivation World won’t be easy, but doable. Staying in this solar system is not something I can suggest, as there’s going to be a lot more qi to go around than any of us can handle. This will then undoubtedly cause qi golems, except that these will be able to eat planets for a snack.”
I let those words sink in for a bit. I’m sure that the data about the massive solar system spanning protection formations present around the Cultivation World is in Database. I check and see at least a dozen people accessing that information right this moment. I grin at all the braincores as they all go pale. Learning that there will be creatures appearing that can swallow worlds is sure to make anyone shit their pants.
“Twelve Thousand Times Tied Everbind!” shouts a certain hairy scientist. “That stuff has the material strength to create a Dyson weave!”
“You are correct. Now, how do you propose we make that in sufficient quantities?” I shoot back.
“We just need to… wow, three hundred years of constant weaving?”
I nod back grimly. A lot of people have wandered off at this point, going to do their own thing or checking in on their villages. The crowd around me is reduced to two dozen people, and I briefly think about bringing back the round table.
A certain slimy scientist slaps the hairy one over his head. “We lack the time, base materials, qi densities, qi affinity, and specialization to mass-produce those things. There is no way we can create that Everbind stuff. We should focus on acquiring a Heavenbinding Ribbon Spansilk Weaver.”
I don’t say anything this time and look at the hairy one.
“Are you an idiot? Those dimensions are in kilometres, not millimetres,” sais the hairy one while looking down on his colleague. The slimy one immediately starts talking back, and only the presence of all the others stops the duo from starting another slap fight.
“Teach,” sais Tess in a flat tone. “What?”
“What, what?” I ask innocently.
“Just tell us already,” she continues.
“Well, you know how we went around stealing the mage island skulls?”
Her eyes light up. “How much?”
“So much. We’d need so much.” With all the super-strong materials I’d need to make an actual Dyson sphere, we’ll need to steal an entire mountain range of precious and rare materials.
“I don’t know. Maximum a year. I need everyone out of Tree for a bit, though.”
“Tools?” she asks.
“Everyone,” I reply while nodding.
I see worry flicker across her face before a dark grin overwrites that emotion. Gods, I love competent minions. She understands what I really want so fast. She knows that we will need to rob half the Cultivation World blind to accomplish this task, and understands that we will need to work hard even to attempt this. And yet, the black-haired girl still agrees wholeheartedly.
“Come on, guys. Let’s leave Teach alone for a bit. Let’s go place some qi sucking formations on the Chaos continent.”
“Thanks,” I begin while looking at the black-haired girl. I try to convey through my gaze how much I appreciate what she is doing. “Thanks.”
She sniffs once before nodding and bounding off, the rest of my students following in her wake. Bord stays behind just long enough to slap me on my shoulder and says, “don’t get sucked.”
“I won’t. And watch your phrasing!”
I walk back to Tree, and instead of a hazy feeling of pain and emptiness, I feel purpose. I pull the sickle from my ring and start twirling the super-heavy item through my fingers again. After making the Core mine, which is still floating high above Tree, this should be easy.
Not going back into Tree’s trunk, I float upwards to gain some perspective. Making the hammer mine did something fundamental to Tree’s entire being. The whole dimension now feels more substantial, like it gained dimensional weight. My mass production lines are unchanged, but any form of metalwork they produce is somehow stronger than before. Repairing them took a bit, but they are back to their exact pre-Selis state. The same structural patterns, the same amount of integrated structural qi, the same everything. And still, every bit of metal it produces is stronger.
Willing myself upwards, I see Tree has grown yet again. A dirt pancake was a great way to start this place off, but I never really believed in it. Something always nagged me about the illogical way gravity worked back when it was just a flat plane of earth.
The same happened with the dual suns. I made a smattering of the things just because I didn’t want to risk one of them exploding and bathing the entire dimension in boiling plasma. Now, with the two small suns that Tree is orbiting around, I no longer have that nagging feeling of wrongness.
I shake myself from my musings and look down. A clearing still surrounds Tree, but the once unbroken forest is partially replaced by massive stretches of farmland. Forests alternate fields of golden grains, fertile crops, and stretches of trees and bushes bearing fruits and herbs. A large number of agricultural projects have left massive swathes of Tree in a highly cultivated state. I chuckle at the fact that for once, I actually mean the farm-related meaning of the work’ cultivation’.
Looking and sensing around Tree, I feel that most of the people are trickling out. I take a moment to breathe and think over my plans. The entire thing with that too smooth dude just allowing itself to be trapped inside my sword is kind of weird, looking at it from hindsight. I take a look at the ring containing the blade, but I don’t get any bad feelings or vibes from it. This means one of two things. Either it’s genuinely no threat, and I will not suffer any negative consequences from this. Or the shit I’m in is so advanced that I can’t even sense it.
I pat the basic student ring and decide that I will find out someday, and that worrying about it won’t do shit.
Then, I look at the task I’ll have to deal with next. I swirl the sickle through my fingers again and ponder the nine tools that Rhea alerted me to.
Is it sad or admirable that I can think of that glorious dragoness without basically breaking my heart all over again now? Isn’t that too soon to get over having someone ripped away from you?
Looking back at the next tool on my to-do list, I try to get a feel for the sickle. I also ignore the hungry gaze of a certain earth mage whose been staring at me for the last couple of minutes. I throw a salute at the fellow and chuckle as Valerius goes pale before fleeing. I’ve taken what that old dwarven smith said about the hammer to heart. They might be great starting points, but the knowledge that seems to be contained inside the tools appears to be of a static and limited nature.
I map out the sickle, and I immediately feel the edges of something. It feels similar to looking at mental data stored inside a piece of jade, but extremely refined. Instead of the crude brushstrokes of intent with which data can be stored inside jade, the tool-related knowledge feels like a tightly packed, curated, and thoroughly vetted encyclopedia, written in fine print.
I ignore the sudden disappointment I feel at the fact that the species of onion planted in thick rows half a kilometre to the west isn’t placed closer to those fruit trees. Everyone knows that that type of plant needs some shade in order to thrive, right?
Instead, I soak the tool in augur. The atomic map of the entire tool takes but a fraction of my mental capacities, and I trickle in some qi. That grain really needs to be irrigated better, I realize while the now-familiar qi suction force starts to pull on my cultivation base. The pull coming from the sickle is pathetic when comparing it to the suction that I had to endure while on the Core, so it’s easy to withstand.
Waving at Valerius, who is still staring at the sickle like someone stole his puppy, I speed towards the fields of grain that look ripe. The qi inside the air around me starts moving towards the implement in my hand at a rather sluggish pace. The suction force becomes even weaker the moment I swing the tool in a wide arc, cutting through the edge of the waving fields of golden wheat.
The thick kernels fall quickly once their stem is severed, and I start my career as a human combine harvester. Not five minutes later, the entire stretch of partially overgrown acres are cut down, and Tree is busily processing the harvest. A multitude of golden roots tie sheaves of the stuff into large bundles, which Tree then starts smacking back and forth.
I honestly want to stay and observe the golden plant’s rather comical attempt at processing the crop, but the sickle is acting up again. I look around for more plants to reap when I see that Valerius is still stalking me. “Shouldn’t you be shacking up with that ant queen? Or are you two still in the denial phase?”
The middleaged earth mage immediately goes red in the face, and I can’t help but laugh at the transparency of the fellow. That insectkin antwoman might be connected to a massive quivering pile of egg-producing flesh; she is still one smoking lady. A major part of the tunnelling surveillance drones that Tree and Database have deployed underground are keeping an eye on the few large colonies of insectkin. One particular drone keeps sending audio recordings of a certain pale beauty that keeps mumbling about that sexy, sexy light heretic that can control the earth.
“No! No way, she thinks I’m the worst. Anyway, can I see that thing for a bit?”
I nod indulgently while tossing the thing his way. His face is pure rapture the moment he catches the item, as if all the questions in the universe are answered. He then starts falling over, and I pluck the sharp tool from his hands before he can fall upon it. Twirling the thing through my fingers again, I cast a glance towards Tree, where I see a certain plant-obsessed beastkin staring at the tool. “Good chat. See you later!”
Leaving the qi-drained man behind, I resume harvesting crops with the sickle. From plucking mature leaves off herb bushes to digging up grown tubers to digging deep furrows in a few fields, I let my inner farmer run free.
Half an hour later, every single piece of land around me is cultivated, every weed is pruned, and new fields are sown. The sickle in my hands is also done, and I feel like I’ve got a really decent grasp on the basics of farming. Looking at the neat irrigation channels that are slowly filling with water, I briefly wonder how I managed to move that much soil while only using the small sickle. I then decide that it doesn’t really matter and that I should start thinking up ways to get some sewing and weaving done.
I put the farming implement in my ring and pull the oversized needle out. Taking in a deep breath, I sense that Tree is yet again richer. The forest seems a bit more orderly, less chaotic underbrush and random deadwood cluttering the forest floor. I can already see new crops sprouting, and Tree is basically humming in happiness.
It seems that these items really are representative of, and contain the knowledge of, sapient civilization. I rub my forehead at the thought that some spoiled brat of a young miss many, many realms higher went on a mailorder spree. The fact that she is now responsible for this entire situation is really stupid, after all. I really can’t complain, and decide then and there I might as well take advantage of this parental oversight. I pull the hammer and sickle from my ring and drop them on the ground. I Will them to sink into the earth, sending them on a direct route straight towards Database. That way, I can start using them to supplement my stores of knowledge, and maybe even learn a few new things.
Then I take large steps towards Tree, the super-dense needle firmly in my grasp.Previous Chapter Next Chapter