Chapter 275 - Meeting makers (1)

Some kind of ruckus happens as I speed off. I just walk through the door and ignore all the people that were trying to listen in, their ears plastered to the wall. I then step on the sword and speed off. I hear a wave of chatter follow me; all kinds of rumors suddenly floating around as I leave. There don’t  appear to be any attacks aimed my way, so I just keep going.

Selis wasn’t lying about this being a good flying sword. It’s qi efficiency when it comes to flying is around twenty percent, which is rather amazing for the sheer amount of other stuff that’s crammed into its formations. The rather inefficient glowing trail enchantment that eats up a good quarter of the power is one such example. The sharpness formation that is always operating at full capacity even when not cutting is another. I once again wonder where this world’s enchantments and formations went wrong.

I do a few barrel rolls, loops, and other cool moves as I test out my new flying tool some more. It goes pretty fast, I find, but it uses exponentially more power the faster it goes. The maneuverability leaves much to be desired, as the entire thing is designed in a way that seems to require advanced skills. The single vector of thrust coming out of this thing is coming out of the handle. This makes sense for a flying sword, but not for a transportation tool. In short, using this sword requires you to limit it’s output severely just to prevent it from turning into a spinning top. That, or you have to be confident in your defensive abilities enough to let the sword tip poke you in the back to make proper use of its speed.

I do neither of these and have instead opted for expending a continuous trickle of Will to command the air around me out of the way. Some force distribution then keeps me upright while blasting through the air at speed.

Generally, the faster one goes, the higher one flies, so I soar above every other traveler using this major traveling route. Nearly all sects have monitoring stations set up all over their territory, a few of them projecting the airlanes through which free travel is allowed. Trespassing on sect-lands that doesn’t have these is seen as rude. Going out of these types of clearly demarcated lanes is seen as an act of aggression.

I very carefully keep between the glowing formations that light up the night sky. I’m kind of surprised that I’m managing to keep up with this speed, the high level of wind intent this high up is allowing me to regain all the power that I spent on flying.

So far, I’ve crossed more ground in half a day than the previous weeks of walking combined. I do miss whacking wildlife with my staff, though. But as all the land below is controlled by sects, the chance of finding beasts that I can beat up is microscopic at best. I’m sure that the first beast I’ll find will end up being some kind of spirit beast from some young master. Then they will demand compensation, and that entire chain of stupid events will escalate into a blood feud with half the Cultivation World, I just know it.

If I want to start a fight, I just have to tell people my name. No need to go through all that trouble to find trouble. So I keep on flying north, high in the sky.

I’ve been in some of these territories before, but that was over five hundred years ago. I was just too notorious to stay inside sect lands in the later stages of my millennia in the Cultivation World. Some minor things have changed, some sects have been taken over, and some borders have shifted. But overall, nothing has really changed.

I’m constantly updating the map in Database, and have made a new process in order to catch all the new incoming requests for additional information, sensory data, and even applications to be transported to the Cultivation World. I’ve slowly been closing myself off from the growing mass of people on Tree while growing the connection to Tree itself. The bridge between my braincore and the interdimensional space that Tree is located in is growing stronger every day. The amount of qi that I’ve been able to shuttle back and forth is also growing steadily. So far, I’ve refrained from supplementing my body with qi from Tree, but it’s great to know I can pull from there in an emergency.

Looking around, I see that I’ve got a long way to go yet. I’m planning on visiting a certain location before going to the Dark Moon sect territory. The amount of circumstantial data I’ve gathered on my destination almost guarantees that a certain money-grubber is located there. Flying there will take a few days, even at my current speed.

Ignoring all the weird looks I immediately start getting, I sit down on the sword and take my beating stick from my ring. Making sure not to slide around - I don’t think that getting my butt sliced off would be fun - I start examining the part where the arrow point should have been.

The nock of the oversized arrow shaft has a clear groove for the bowstring to go, but the tip is almost perfectly smooth. On the back part are two grooves where fletching once must have been attached, but the tip only has a slight groove a couple of centimeters behind its rounded point.

That should be enough to attach a tip to. The shoddy iron spearhead must have been attached this way. Then I remember that I can make this into one heck of an arrow. I don’t want to use any materials from Tree, as every single truly powerful cultivator will be able to tell those materials are unique and precious on a whole different level. I’d probably be milked for all the qi-less matter that I can provide.

The largest difficulty in sourcing raw crafting materials comes from preparing the items. Convincing a piece of qi-saturated ore that it now must be something different is already hard. If that ore has been that exact same piece of the ore for millions of years, the forger has to fight its entire history every step of the creation process. My clean stock materials might create initial weak weapons, but only because they are the perfect blank slates.

That said, I don’t want to waste the Quetzalcoatl feather on fletching. I am more than willing to waste the Heaven Realm bones I’ve got in my ring, however. I ignore the fact that the rocky farmlands beneath me change into tundra before switching to heavily populated mortal cities for a couple of hundred kilometers. I do keep my eyes and senses open, directly shunting that sensory data to Tree and Database, but I focus the majority of my concentration on the spear.

I first pull a small piece of the wind beast skeleton from my ring. Placing it to the shaft tip, I infuse it with qi and start molding it. First, I create a sturdy ring of bone on top of the groove, giving a tip a solid base.

Looking at Lola - who has been suspiciously silent for the longest time - I figure I might try going with a fire and ice theme again. I start looking in my ring for suitable bones. To my great shock, I don’t find a single fire or ice skeleton. Thinking back, I remember putting a good few of the things in my ring. I do find a large collection of loose bones that once radiated either fire or ice. Now, they are just normal bones, most of the qi sucked dry.

I look at Lola again, who is very clearly not looking at me. I pick her up and hold her in front of my face. “Did you eat up all the fire and ice qi bones?”

The fact that she doesn’t look me in the eyes confirms my suspicion. I probe her with a few strands of qi and find my scanning attempts rebuffed. My eyes fly open wide, and I nearly lose control over the flying sword under my butt. Refusing someone’s qi like that is only possible when there’s a large gap between power levels. I scan her with a thread of augur, which she has no defense against. To my horror, I find that she is stronger than me.

This horror transforms into anger when I take another look inside my ring. Taking a deep breath, I decide that I want to be impressed by her stunt instead of angry. Grinning at the little guilty furball, I shake my head. How did she even manage this? How did she gain access to my ring while sitting on my shoulder?

“You’re a little shit. You know that, right? What bones do I use for my bat now?” Lola peeks at me, her ears drooping, and her eyes big and wet. Rolling my eyes, I pet her between the ears. I flick her as hard as I can the moment she relaxes.

I grin wider as the little idiot shoots off, squealing into the horizon. I flicked her forwards and upwards, and we should cross paths in a minute or so. Maybe that’s enough time for her to reflect on her crimes. I honestly doubt it.

The answer to my question of how she gained access to my ring comes in the form of a small rabbit statue. She somehow managed to gnaw two pieces of bone into two half rabbits. Sticking these things together forms a neat white figure, one half fire, one half ice. I’m sure that she’s been spying on the way I create links to Tree, as the principles are the same. As to when she snuck it in? I’m guessing right after the willow licked my face. I was in a hurry back then, unwilling to get another tongue bath from the eldritch horror.

The reason she has been this quiet must be because she was draining all the fire and ice from the bones in my ring. The connection between my ring and her heartcore is similar to the connection between Tree and my braincore, i suddenly realize.

That mystery solved, I look up, only to see a rapidly spinning rabbit whirling my way. She is still screaming like a little girl, the fact that she is spinning like a sideways top turning her shriek into a staccato wearble. I let her land gently on my fist, trying to punch the idiot upwards again. She manages to twist in the last second, and gracefully touches down on my hand.

So we stare at each other for a few seconds, her sitting on top of my outstretched fist while tilting her head and ears to the side. I roll my eyes again, and she hops onto my shoulders once more. From there, she sneaks into my pocket and falls asleep within seconds.

Maybe I have to start taking her serious one of these days. Peering down at her, she wiggles her nose rather cutely as she twitches one leg, apparently dreaming. Maybe not just yet, then.

Ignoring the many, many eyes staring at us from below - I’m now flying over a housing area filled with cultivators - I shift my focus on my spear once again.

With the possibility of making a bone fire and ice speartip out of the question, I look through my ring for other elements. I see the fractured bones that are filled with toxic green poison, the deadly stuff captured in Lola’s ice.

Thinking back to the Lost Light Forger elder, I go through the scenario again, for the thousandth time. I still think that pulling the satellite artillery from my ring was the only safe way to handle that situation, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate the fact that I had to rely on outside means. Running would have been suicide, and fighting the fellow would have to give me way less than a fifty-fifty chance of winning — way below any odds I’ll take.

Had I been in top condition and in possession of a suitable force multiplier such as a weapon, I might just have reached the fifty-fifty mark. Fire and ice would most likely not have been the ideal elements in that case. Fire and ice are more battlefield control elements than anything else. I’d have needed either a crowd control or stacking damage over time, and preferrably both. That would have allowed me to take the fight into my own hands, on multiple levels.

Looking through the skeletons in my ring, two elements stand out — the poison one to begin with, as well as a very familiar smelling set of bones. The hollow and light bones of a large bird, one spot in the middle of its skull blackened by something. That one sparks a memory. Its the remains of a crane, struck by lightning one fateful summer day. I refused a kernel of its qi while meditating in the windy gorge. Do I really have to start reassessing whether or not fate is actually a Dao or a Law of some kind?

My mind made up; I start pulling pieces of bone from my ring, swaddling them in qi while slowly adding them to my spearhead.

I lose track of time once again as I mold the bone. The ring of wind will let me and Tree - who is still sending a trickle of its golden qi into the shaft - control the spear’s trajectory. I can make it act like a rocket, using the wind flowing past the top as propulsion. 

One edge is shining with faint green glimmers, small holes just behind the bevel waiting to release deadly toxins and poisons. Now and then, a purple flicker reminiscent of Tree’s toxic swamps moves across the edge. The other side is shiny and even sharper. It actually cuts atoms in two, the spitting of electron and nuclei, causing the slightest buzz of electricity.

I give the spear a twirl. Cutting the air with one edge leaves a green trail while lighting crackles in its wake when I turn the other side forwards.

Clouds have been gathering for a while now, casting me and the lands below in their darkening gloom. That’s when I start to recognize the telltale signs of Heavenly tribulation. I stare at the spear with horror. There’s no way I just created an artifact of enough power to attract the wrath of the Heavens, right? My heart racing and Lola peeking up to take a look, I hurriedly detach the spearhead and stuff it in my ring.

Thanking all that is holy for the fact that I had the forethought to include a quick-release mechanism in the thing, I peer upwards. I breathe a sigh of relief as I see the clouds parting, the static buildup around me slowly fading. I decide to just keep my head low for now, and focus on flying.

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