Chapter 271 - Encounters (4)

I learned a few things during the hours that I spent cultivating in the windy canyon. The first and most important one is that I’ve still got a heartcore.

The very clear and distinct sphere that used to be at the center of my heart is no longer there. Instead, I have figured out that my subconsciousness - in its instinctual wisdom - turned it into what I would call a full-heartcore.

When I stepped into the second step of the Earth Realm, my heartcore melted in order to provide the needed energy to take ownership of Tree.

Going through the entire qi gathering, condensing, and core stage is known as the Human Realm. I stepped into the Earth Realm back when I used all the mage island crystal skulls and had a little spacewalk. Then I got shot through the gut, and that took me a while to recover from. That was the Foundation Forming stage of the Earth Realm.

Taking the entirety of Tree into my braincore took a lot of energy and effort. Stepping into the second stage of the Earth Realm - Shelter Forming - was a massive step for me, and I really thought that my heartcore was lost in that process. It turns out, it’s still there, and it’s been very useful to me.

For the last couple of hours, I’ve been channeled the concentrated wind affinity qi that I breathed in to my heart. From there on, I circulated it through my entire body while venting the non-usable qi back to my lungs, where I breathed it out. While circulating through my body, the air qi slowly turned into power completely my own. I still don’t completely understand the way this works, but turning air-related power into my signature neutral fingerprinted power is a million times easier than any other intent.

All in all, I think I’m almost halfway back to my old relative strength. My dual-core setup might be largely changed at this point, but it still has the same effect. I need around ten times more power per level or realm, which gives me around double the power I should have at that level. It is important to take note that this goes for both my braincore and my heartcore, doubling both. Adding these together has an exponential effect on my overall power. This means that I should be able to go toe to toe with any lower Earth Realm cultivator. That is, I can go toe to toe with just my physical or magical prowess. Nobody here will suspect me of having the strength of a body cultivator while still being able to use powerful mystical techniques.

For some reason, I feel very enthusiastic about my future in the Cultivation World. Not having to think my way out of every situation - just having the ability to brute-force my way through - does put a smile on my face.

I stand up, winds blowing at speeds that can kill a mortal now a mere hindrance to me, and start stretching. Lola has been digging her toenails into my bellybutton with ever-increasing force, so I suspect that she must sense something rather dangerous coming our way. I’m currently in a better position - cultivation base wise - than her currently. What she would see as a sure loss will be a good bit of practice for me.

Also, I learned that qi is separable by centrifuge. My students have been doing a lot of research inside Tree, with an ever-growing faction focussing on what is now called the ‘hyper-conditioned-qi’ problem. This ‘hyper-conditioning’ is honestly a term that fits perfectly, as it describes the problem perfectly. This stagnant power that’s even now all around me is a cesspool of qi intents that have been a million, million years in the making.

I sensed a bit of the problem when I began cultivating, in that I got a faint idea of what each strand of power used to be part of. The Cultivation World’s power is made out of trillions of qi ecosystems that all get shattered into even more pieces. Mixing all of these pieces together makes for a body of power that feels homogeneous, but it’s actually a horrible emulsion of all the nanoparticles of extremely distinct and different matter.

Some people tried to emulsify it even further, trying to grind it up into a super fine powder or paste. This didn’t work at all, most likely because all the fragments and particles of power are already in their smallest shape.

Some people tried separating them, but that turned out to be way too much work. Identifying the separate parts of even the smallest quantity of hyper conditioned qi showed that it contained a near-infinity amount of different hyper conditioned intents. A few people tried spinning it, just like Tree’s tornado, but none managed to get any useful or repeatable results from those tests.

That’s why, when I announced that I finally managed to do it on Database, it was met with a lot of skepticism. The wind-intent increasing tornado I used in my cultivation session was the base idea. I’m still working stuff out, but in short, centrifuging small amounts of the stagnant qi with different types of gravities seems to work.

Instead of immediately dividing the power into separate layers, spinning it in cylindrical containment vessels that attract different elements allows for a very crude separation of intents. Making one drum spin at half a million rpm, the strengthened test item inscribed with ice-attracting formations, allowed me to siphon off qi that contains a higher percentage of ice affinity power.

I think that the end result of this find will be a long chain of centrifuges, similar to how uranium can be enriched. This then spits out separate and pure qi, intents, which can then be processed further. The best way to actually use this method is a question I left up to my students, however. I just published all the results. I added the drum designs on Database and freed up a few mass production assembly lines on which students can make testing prototypes.

So far, Taran is fuming that he didn’t come up with the proof of concept first. Tess is making her qi pressure-cooker spin at ever faster speeds. Rodrick has been twirling his ax through his fingers at insane velocities. All in all, not bad for a couple of hours of cultivating on a windy mountaintop.

Seeing that my students are working on ever better ways of making the decrepit and sickening energy around me usable, I move on. Lola is clawing my stomach at around half her maximum strength and holding. This either means that the beast coming this way is only fairly difficult to defeat, or it has stopped moving. And there’s just one way to find out which of these exciting options it is.

Sending my mind into my ring, I look at all the useful loot I got from the Lost Light Forger disciples and the single elder. There were only a few spatial items amongst the lot of them, and they were rather poor on average, but the elder did have some very nice things. He must have been some honorary elder at best, as he didn’t have the resources on him that I would expect a proper sect elder to have. Instead, he had a lot of weak pills, suitable to the Human Realm, a few good items, and a single nice weapon.

Pulling the simple spear from my ring, it once again strikes me that the fellow must not have known what he was carrying. Simple in design, the weapon looks like an oversized toothpick. Dark, smooth wood forms a handle a little over a meter long, a centimeter or three thick. The bottom is stumpy, a smoothly rounded half-sphere of polished wood that contains a shallow notch. The business end is equally unassuming, dark metal forming a small leaf-shaped spearhead with sharpened silver edges, the spearhead’s stem seamlessly emerging from the wooden shaft.

The annoying fucker of an elder had a giant’s arrow in his possession and probably thought it to be a simple spear.

I trace a thumb across the two barely noticeable grooves that must have held fletching at one point in time, and wonder again how old the thing must be. It lacks any significant aura, which usually indicates that it’s either brand new or so old that it’s become completely self-contained. I know of at least three dozen methods to fake this effect, and I suspect that a few of these are well known. The Lost Light Forger elder must have thought that it was a fake.

I lower myself to the ground, pull Lola from my chest pocket, and move the massive arrow to the front. For some reason, I doubt that this item is fake. Then again, the only way to truly know a weapon is to use it in combat, so let’s give this thing a try.

Unlike killing humans, I have no qualms about killing beasts. Nearly none of them have the capability of acquiring human-level intelligence, and thus full consciousness levels of sapience. My current theory is that every single animal is able to ascend, but because they don’t have the spark of sapience that seems to be required to cultivate actively instead of passively, it takes them ages. And the chance of staying alive in the wilds during all that time is microscopic at best.

I will find out soon enough, I think, with a vicious smirk on my face. I will not be denied entry to the upper realms again.

Then a storm of grass is upon me. My bones rattle as they are shaken by the sheer power in the roar that suddenly blasts me. I plaster my body to the side as fast as I can. The rip-roaring mass of greenery glints with a rather menacing cutting intent that I have no desire to test on my skin. I carefully touch my ears, expecting blood to be dripping down my neck like it has so many times in the past. I really need to get my basic suite of defensive and reactive processes back up and running. My ear-protection process would have detected the deafening roar coming. It then would have put countermeasures in place.

My hand comes back clean, though. Also, the usual numbness I would feel after being exposed to such a thundering level of noise is not there. A creeping suspicion in the back of my mind, I slowly hold out my pinky finger into the stream of green knives. A particularly large leaf slams into my digit, and explodes into a fine mist, leaving my pinky finger green but otherwise pristine.

“Hah!” The tightness near my eyes tells me that I am grinning madly again. I clasp the oversized arrow in an underhanded grip and step out into the stream of greenery. Through the wavering front of noise, I can see a large shape blocking part of the gulch. One hand holding the spear, the other shielding my eyes from the continuous stream of razor-sharp leaves that splatter against me. My entire body is green. My mouth quickly fills with bitter plants. Let’s not keep this rude fellow waiting.

I spring forward, Lola’s nails digging into my neck as she hangs on for life. A quick check with a strand of qi shows me that she might be angry, but that she isn’t hurting. My smile threatens to rip my face in two as I kick off the stone, the smooth rock beneath my feet holding together. As I run through the stream of sound and greenery, I get the first glimpse of what’s going on. A massive hulking beast is standing at the end of the canyon, an impressively tusked maw opened and aimed at me.

Keeping low while I make my approach, I force a strand of my own qi against the gale wind. To my surprise, my fiber of power shoots through the wind without any resistance. This lack of resistance startles me to such an extent that I forget to do something with the thread of qi. Suddenly I’m standing right in front of the beast.

The warty, leaf-covered head of a boar is roaring at me, mouth open, a stream of plant material feeding into its deafening roar. Then I sense that I’m getting wet. Then I realize that the shitty animal is spitting on me. Suddenly realizing why Lola is hanging from my back, I jerk my spear forward in reflex. The sharp point collides with one of the beast’s tusks, causing a single bright spark of power. It then shatters into metal fragments.

I stand there for a full second while the animal stops shouting into my face. I look at the shaft in my hand, the tip now a blunt tapered piece of smooth wood. The pig then starts squealing, the soft insides of its mouth filled with fragments of my spearhead.

Somehow, the high pitched squeal of pain now coming from the three-meter high hunk of boar meat is nearly impossible to bear. The roar it was using to flush me out was just a lot of wind and base. The high pitched whine now coming from the retreating animal cuts through bone and marrow, so I once again lash out in reflex. Instead of poking the animal, I just whack it on its wide nose. It stops crying for a second, only to resume at a higher volume. I smack it again, adding another growing welt on its ugly cranium.

This seems to wake the large spirit boar from whatever mental state it was stuck in. It then truly looks at me. It realizes that I’m merely in the lower Earth Realm, while it is in the mid-Earth Realm, at least a couple stages above me in cultivation. Before it can get any ideas, I start whacking the beast, and don’t stop until it’s entire head is nothing but a pulpy mass.

When the red haze lifts, I find myself smacking at a red puddle on the rocks, a decapitated boar body looming over me. Taking my first good look at the thing, I see that it’s a nature warped common pig variant. I’m sure I could look up the actual species and variant name without much effort, but I don’t feel like doing that for some reason. I just pull the carcass into my ring, ignore the massive amount of messages inside Database requesting me to cook it and start walking.

The stick in my hand is still completely intact; the wooden staff not even suffering a single scratch. I start wiping the blood, bone, and brains from my improvised bat while wondering what just happened.

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