Chapter 274 - Encounters (7)

Selis knows she has fucked up in a massive way, and therefore she sends for some more of that delicious spirit wine. Were someone to ask her if she believes in fate, some higher power that has designed a path for everyone, she would have just shrugged and told that person she doesn’t really care. The same with a question asking about if there are actual gods or deities looking over everyone. She could start talking about how karma seems to be real and fake, or how everything is dependent on the perspective of the person investigating that question, or that it's just a line of pompous asshats all the way to highest heavens. The one thing she can say, however, is that this specific vintage is extremely delicious.

It completely pales in the face of that toxic brew Drew… Teach showed off with, but that’s only to be expected at this point. She is sure that even a single sip of that dangerous drink would fuck her up beyond comprehension, but she doesn’t need to forget the past that badly.

Sure, suddenly being zapped out of existence in the middle of a massive attack on a moon is scary and all, but she doesn’t remember a lot about it. From her point of view, one moment, she is commanding a lot of water, trying to prevent it from evaporating into the void of space. She'd just started to get a good grip on the skill of deflecting those superheavy projectiles. The satellites kept launching them at her and the rest of the students, and she was deflecting them with large angled plates of frozen water. Then, the next moment, she plunged face-first into a shallow lake. Also, the water all around her had suddenly turned into liquid lead. Except not really, because the sheer sensation of pressure all around her would make a bath of lead feel like a bath of feathers.

So she drowned for a bit on multiple levels. It was all she could to do to prevent the water from entering her lungs, as holding the massive pressure back and out of the rest of her body took up all of her mental power. Churning qi through her brain at top speed, crawling at the maximum capacity that she could manage, she fought the hardest battle of her life.

Ironically, when she finally was overwhelmed by the sheer pressure of the water, she stopped drowning. It happened when her mind started getting cloudy from the panicked thrashing, her limbs turned to jelly from trying to swim. Letting the water in turned out to be the best thing she has ever done, as there was an assload of qi all around.

She climbed on top of the lake, saw that it was night, and started inhaling such massive amounts of qi, that she couldn’t really believe it at first. All the stories that Teach had ever told her about the Cultivation World slowly started making sense. The very air just smelled like it was millions of years old. Her entire mind was in a daze, scrambled by the maddening amount of sensory data flooding her.

Only through sheer determination and crawling with all her might did she manage to make it through the first minutes. She spent an eternity there. How long, she has no idea. It felt like a hundred years, at least.

But the sheer pleasure of growing stronger made up for a lot of the negative experience. Normally, she would have gone crazy within a couple of days of subjective silent meditation. The lack of social contact would have undoubtedly caused her to go insane, were it not for the unending feeling of becoming stronger.

This sensation is honestly the sole and single reason why she hasn’t stabbed Teach or any of the other sycophants he seems to surround himself with yet.

Selis takes a deep breath, as even in her current frazzled state, she knows that it really isn’t like that. Not completely like that, at least. Every joke has a kernel of harsh truth in it, but Selis can’t really see the humor of her current situation.

The main problem is that after she finally managed to get herself together - after she could do something other than desperately cultivate and wrestle with the massive concentration of qi all around her - there was a massive group of people surrounding here. They were all clad in blue robes, they all smelled like ruthless people that have long since gone loopy in the head, and all of them had killed before. The aura training that they all underwent inside Tree actually is a double-edged sword, she realized. She had been too terrified to react to the group and had just sort of gaped at the ones that tried offering her stuff.

She had eventually gotten over the sheer bloodlust that they all passively emitted, though. Knowing that the person you are having a conversation with will just as likely murder the fuck out of you as look at you tends to give every single interaction a whole new depth.

Eventually, around a week later, she got a grip on the situation. One of the mental slaves she ordered to do work on language translation finally reported in. It presented her with an initial language information packet, which she then used to understand the talk happening around her. She had ordered it to work the moment she recognized that everyone spoke a different language. She is still unpacking all the meaning, even now.

She has overheard the basics, however. She is located in the territory of the Holy Water Inference sect, a place that Teach told her about. It turns out that everyone here actually does stare at ripples all day. The civil war over whether or not a square or round bowl is best for watching ripples is still going on. The only thing that has changed is that it’s become a cold war now, with the oval and other non-standard shaped bowl teams keeping quiet.

She also learned that the entire sect has been in an uproar because the qi across the entire sect territory had been moving towards her. This is a thing that Selis could explain very well, as she has been absorbing a massive amount of water intent qi in order to fight the insane qi levels she was suddenly thrust into.

She is not willing to go and explain that, however. Half the sect believes that she is an apparition from the higher realms, some kind of divine messenger sent here to usher in a new age. The other half believes stories that are even more ridiculous. These vary from her being a personification of the lake spirit to her being a once in a million years super genius. Also, she overhead people accusing her of being a cultivator that used a lot of formations and trickery, just so she could make the entire sect fall for her womanly wiles.

Well, only a single person accuses her of that last one, and that person is the previous Dao Child of the sect. She only understood what the term meant a couple of days after the super confusing ceremony of bestowal had been completed. In short, she is now basically the up-and-coming leader-in-training of the entire sect, just because she disturbed a lot of water qi.

Also, these people apparently think that her fishie is some kind of holy omen. It's a divine water spirit that marks her as having a special constitution, a special fate, being an auspicious omen, or some more things that she doesn’t want to think about.

So, she did what any sane person would do, and started living life!

She is now living in the lap of luxury. She is hand-fed the best food by the cutest of boys and girls. She is paraded around on this amazing boat, which is much better than that small ship of Teach’s. She can talk to whomever and go wherever she likes, and everybody is super happy to see her. Old powerhouses take one look at the water she keeps around at all times and her fishy swimming inside it, and they treat her like a favorite granddaughter.

And then Teach came along and messed everything up.

No, she admits to herself. He didn’t mess everything up. She did that herself by taking him into a private room the moment he showed up. Some random guy, acting all mysterious and powerful, and she just gave him the honor of a private meeting. A private meeting with all the privacy wards activated. And when he emerged after ten minutes, he held one of the sect’s top ten treasures in his hand. He then casually flew off, leaving her sitting there, tears still dripping down her cheeks from the shock of the entire meeting.

Saying that a rumor explosion happened would be a gross understatement. She managed to hide that shes a braincore cultivator up to this point, but that's been a blessing and a curse. The fact that Teach has infected her with the need to spy on everything and everyone is also a great positive and negative. Knowing what everyone truly thinks of her, what they whisper about her in the ship’s corridors is both humiliating and endlessly valuable.

The only reason she is managing to keep her head above water is thanks to all the inside information she has. Also, she is unraveling the mysteries of the large ship she is on slowly yet surely, this process sped up immensely by the fact that she does indeed once again have access to Tree and Database, if in a limited manner.

The biggest problem she is currently facing is an unknown one. She has heard multiple people talking about a delegation coming in today, but hasn’t managed to find out any information apart from that single fact. This seems to be one of those things that everybody knows, so nobody talks about it. They all just refer to how they are looking forward to the delegation, without saying why or who is in said delegation.

So Selis pretends that all is fine, even though she knows she fucked up bad. Things might look similar, but everything is different now. All the servants, cultivators, and elders no longer talk about whether she is a one-in-a-million genius or a divine messenger. Now all the talk is about whether or not she has had relations with that stranger. Why did he leave her crying, why did he receive that sword from her, and why did it seem like she knew the fellow? The previously fascinated gazed everyone was lavishing upon her now contain contemplation and suspicion.

Life is still good, but she messed up, and even just lounging in her large comfortable chair while dressed to the nines in artifacts no longer satisfies her. She can no longer focus on cultivating, even though the water intent qi in the air still seems eager to be used.

Then a ripple goes through that very same water qi, only that percentage of the thick, cloying power moving, while the rest of the ancient and stagnant energy hangs still.

Looking up from where she was tranquility studying her embroidered shoes, she sees a sleek ship speeding their way. The elevated deck gives her an excellent view of the lake, allowing her to see the majority of the massive puddle. This boat is fast and comes from an inland direction.

“He is back!”

“The delegation has returned!”

“Young master Holy Water is approaching. We must prepare for her!”

“The young patriarch is finally back.”

“Get the dishes ready, quick!”

From all over the ship, Selis hears people getting worked up. The slow broil of unease in her gut comes to a fierce boil as the ship comes to life. People rush over, carefully adjusting the many ornaments in her blue trussed up locks or touching up her light makeup.

Selis just sits there, all of a sudden unsure of what to do and how to act. She just keeps up the part of an aloof water spirit, unimpressed and unreacted to the physical comforts that she is surrounded with. Keeping a slight smile on her lips, she leans back as the sleek ship comes closer. Then, without warning, the low boat lifts from the water, only to start floating as it comes level with the high top deck of the massive barge Selis is sitting on.

A boy with an even more aloof and indifferent expression on his face steps over the railing. He casts one glance at Selis, only to look away. Then, he freezes, only to slowly look back at her.

“Greetings, fairy of the water,” the young man greets her with a slight nod of the head. “The ripples emanating from your form are pleasing to me. You will do as dao companion.”

A few of the mortal maids faint as the boy smiles. Everyone onboard has been holding their breath up to this point, Selis only now notices, from the youngest child to the most aged and powerful elder. The remark of the young man seems to unfreeze everyone, and Selis can actually sense the rush of excitement that everyone feels at his words.

Then the meaning of what he just said penetrates her consciousness, and Selis suddenly doesn’t want to be here anymore. Casting a glance towards the north, she suddenly regrets not going with Teach.

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