“He only had this small spatial ring. I don’t know his sect, but it’s probably a dark one, young master.”
I lay sprawled across a shard of ice, and my skin is freezing. My arm is broken, and my left ring finger is only hanging by a thread of sinew. At least my real spatial ring is still on my right hand, thankful for my decision to make it look like a cheap piece of sentimental jewelry. Only a high-level sect elder is able to recognize the masterpiece for what it is; the rest will just see useless junk.
“What? An unknown sect? How?”
“His body is devoid of qi; he probably burned himself out, using a forbidden technique.”
“The useless die useless deaths. Let’s see what’s inside.”
I can imagine the scenario as it happens, even though I can’t see it. The arrogant, spoiled young master receives my small spatial ring, breaks the small security formation, and pulls out my sword. He’ll then flip at seeing the ridiculous thing, and toss it. They lose interest in me, move on, and I can skulk off.
To think that I basically was the ruler of an entire planet only an hour prior... Now, I’m lying in the dirt, my left arm is broken, my finger nearly tore off, my entire cultivation base compressed into my brain, and my pet is doing little better. And yet, I have never felt more alive. This is what I did for a thousand years. This exact scenario is one that I’ve come across at least a dozen times, pretending to be a corpse in a battlefield, trying to avoid the eyes of scavengers — doing everything in my power, using every single scrap of uncommon knowledge, wit, and smarts that I possess to outsmart all these arrogant assholes.
I double-check that my face isn’t twisted in some vicious grin, and try to listen for what’s to come next. At this point, I don’t really care about my own bodily safety. I’ve survived much worse than this. But if they touch Lola, I will murder every sin-
“Young master, what is it?” The silence is interrupted by the slimy person talking hesitantly.
“Can’t you see it’s a sword?” comments another.
“Is it a spirit weapon? That would be a great boon, young master. What are those engravings? Was this one of the thousand weapons used to slay the Scheming Fox Demon?” I wince as I hear that old insult.
The younger voice snaps out a sharp “shut up, you cretin.” I can hear the panic in his speech now. My sword isn’t that bad, right? Is he angry that he only got that super heavy piece of shit? “It’s a sentient sword! How did this get here, it has a sword spirit. It’s talking to me.”
Oops. I feel like interjecting, but explaining that a soul fragment of a being a couple realms higher is stuck inside the blasted thing isn’t going to go over well. From the sudden whispers between the party members, I get the feeling that more people have a misunderstanding right now. At least I realize why I’m in such a pickle. They said something about their communication systems not working due to heavy qi interference, and the implication of that only now seep through my foggy brain.
Some massive fight went down here, and the remaining qi from all those fights will obviously have a heavily destructive intent. This power is expended in anger and a domineering fashion. I should have predicted that the moment this power comes into contact with my own, it would dominate my own spirit. Born out of tranquil contemplation and since tempered through research and learning instead of ruthless fighting, my qi doesn’t really stand a chance in direct combat.
Then my passive observation and contemplation are cut short as I sense other people. Of course, this small group escorting a young master wouldn’t be the only scavenger here. Powerhouses fought here, and there would be much loot and treasure to find. I take a large risk and slowly let a single eye fall open. From all the rustling of robes and powerful footsteps I hear all around me, no-one will be paying attention to some random corpse in the next few minutes.
The first victim turns out to be the young master himself. I barely catch a glimpse of a cruel sneer turning into a coward’s panic as an ornately clad pretty boy is skewered by four suddenly appearing daggers. The man who threw them, a hunched figure who I suspect to be very tall, quickly snatches my sword from the young masters’ hands.
“Grand Uncle sends his blessing, young master.” I match the slimy voice to the tall man, and the looks shared between him and the dying young master contain enough meaning to fill a few books. I heave a silent sigh. Internal politics are just such sad affairs, usually.
Then hell breaks loose again, something that seems to be happening more often lately, as multiple groups rush towards the group of still shocked cultivators. The black-robed people escorting the dying young man wear colors that are too ubiquitous to be from any recognizable sect, but I do catch a dark crescent pendant around one of the cultivator’s neck.
Then the rumble of footsteps reaches its crescendo, and I see a surprisingly large amount of people rush the still stunned group. Protective formations flash into existence, their dark patterns and sinister intent further proof of their origin. The half-moon illusion breaks quickly, and a group of attacking swordsman starts hacking at the small group. I can no longer find the tall slimy one; he must have snuck off in the thick of it.
I decide that this might be a lively party, but a fight over my fake sentient sword is not something that I want to be a part of. Sure, those talking swords might be rumored to be worth millions, if not billions of spirit stones, I suspect that they are nothing but a complex answering formation embedded in a nice weapon.
The area around me will break out into battle once again, as the scuffle is slowly escalating into a small war. I need to get out of here, but the oppressive qi is still suppressing me something fierce. And because the air is getting ever thicker with qi that has a battle intent, I might as well get a bit angry too. My innocent pet rabbit is in the middle of this charade, my sword got stolen, my arm is broken, my finger is basically cut off, and I’m back on the world I hate the most. I’ve got plenty of reason to get angry.
To no~one’s surprise, it works. Well, sort off. As I fill my body with rage, my qi starts fighting back. That’s when I sense Tree. The golden perennial feels rather far away, though. Database is there too, my qi clone never really having been out of contact. I also notice that there is a small channel between Tree and me, and a minuscule trickle of power is flowing towards me from my core.
It’s far from enough to make a difference, the flow of qi similar to a whisper of wind entering a hot air balloon. I put that entire debacle to the back of my mind for now, as it’s not useful to my current situation, and start moving. Instead of heroically sprinting across the battlefield, I start emulating a certain human king and start cursing at everything and everyone that’s near. I mentally piss on the young master, calling him all kinds of names, and curse nine of his generations. The anger keeps me focussed and allows me to regain some control over my body, but I find it gives me extreme tunnel vision.
The moment I grab at Lola’s hiding place, my instincts scream at me. Out of pure reflex, I put Lola on my shoulder in the same instant that I pull a cheap metal sword from my ring. The world barely slows down as I deflect the arrow that was aimed at my heart. My qi is running through my body now, my pure rage making me forget to keep it contained to my brain.
Now, I can either keep relying on anger and my heartcore, or I can rely on my mind and my braincore, and start thinking my way through things again. Retracting all my power from my muscles, bones, and blood will take too long, though. Let’s go full raging retard, then. “YOU FUCK! WHERE IS THAT TALKING SWORD? WHERE IS THE ONE THAT TOOK IT, THE ONE WEARING BLACK ROBES, THAT SLIMY BLACK MOON FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!?”
My shout causes a small spell of silence to descend. Then the fighting resumes with even fiercer intensity. I keep feeling an irrational amount of hate towards the asswipe that stole my sword and killed his own young master. I also ignore all the people that are now running towards me, all of them coincidentally wearing black clothing. They must not appreciate the fact that I just painted a massive target on the back of everyone wearing black.
Even through the red haze covering my vision, I can see that I won’t make it. The closest piece of shelter is the forest a few kilometers away, and at this rate, I will be minced meat before I get halfway. Looking around, I see that small scuffles have broken out everywhere. There are a lot more people than I thought, as I easily spot a couple of hundred cultivators. I’ll need to take some drastic measures to get out of this one intact.
Taking a quick inventory of my possessions, I remember that my spatial ring is absolutely stuffed with random items. Among them is a large pile of mundane explosives, made using simple blacksmithing and chemistry principles. I pull out all the stops and start tossing the varied explosive everywhere. I see that I’ve got a couple thousand of the conventional explosives, so I scatter them liberally.
Then I see the small copse of woods closing fast, my mad dash eating up the ground. I glance behind me and see that there is a small group of cultivators following me. I take a single instance to thank all that is holy for the fact that they all seem to be cultivators of the human realm. I’m sure that there are higher-level people around, but they are usually too arrogant to bother with the rabble.
The people still running after me are a few of the remaining people dressed in black. I really didn’t think that my statement about fashion would have such an effect. Maybe sentient swords are a bigger issue than I thought?
I quickly put my left ring finger in my ring, as it’s still dangling by a thread. Only now do I notice that it takes a large amount of my power to operate the spatial fold connected to my storage ring. Is that why I’m feeling lightheaded? That must be. Or maybe its the blood loss from all the small wounds I’ve been accumulating. The structural qi integrated into my body seems too busy with fighting against the massive ambient qi pressure to give me much protection.
Well, let’s go out with a bang, then. I use my quickly dwindling supply of power to pull a series of larger explosives from my ring. This time, I pull out shrapnel versions instead of the high heat ordinance. I throw the last bits of power I have into my legs and use it all in one massive jump. I make sure to twirl around like a beautiful ballerina.
I would pay big money to see a ballet in which the dancer suddenly does a massive twirl while scattering explosives everywhere.
I do get a pretty good view of the current situation as I soar rather majestically, though. I know that my jump will end with me landing in the middle of this patch of forest, for better or worse. This knowledge that all will be solved one way or the other once I land allows my fury to fade. The progress my cultivation base has made against the morass of loose qi is immediately lost, and I barely manage to erect a shield around my brain to keep the bad stuff out of my thinking pan. This once again concentrates all the power I have at my disposal inside my brain, and I give it a spin.
Time slows down, and I get to watch the work of my labors unfold — flowers of gory orange, red~rimmed yellow, and bloody light bloom below me. I am super thankful for the fact that no higher tier cultivators are present, as my assault would be easily thwarted by someone a realm or two above me. I do see a lot of them try to resist, though. I take no small amount of glee in seeing their ancient heritage shields fail under the overload of ragged shrapnel. Their shattering ancient talismans give me some joy. The fact that millennia of refining protective items and shielding techniques are broken and turned to dust by items that cost me mere minutes to make brings the best of feelings.
Then I fail to notice the branch that’s rushing to the back of my head, and everything goes black.Previous Chapter Next Chapter