Chapter 28 - Force
I can finally stretch my mental muscles again. My core is at the first crunch, core forming stage and slowly growing. The massive increase in power a higher density core gives me is enough to start simulating some basic models. Wait, no, I meant my multiple cores. This dual-core thing is still new to me. Allow a thousand-year-old guy some adjustment time, yeah?
The things I'm simulating are magic circles. I set up a three-dimensional grid with a resolution of a few thousand measuring points along each axis. Using this simulation, I can observe how my mental imprints and various circle shapes interact. The mana gathering circle in the Tree was a shoddy construction. This way of brute force rapid prototyping will allow me to make something that’s many times more effective for the same power and material expenditure.
I use a simple circle as the baseline for any complex construct. I assign the circle a base function, then it's just a matter of adding more stuff in a logical fashion. The outer circle of this formation will act as a double one-way barrier, keeping physical stuff out and qi in. I spent the following hour tweaking the circle for optimum effect.
I end up with a rather ugly looking thing. Four ying-yang symbols to draw in all the energy around it, golden mean ratio spirals to transport said qi to the centre where it will be compressed into a single point. Spikes jutting out from the sides are meant to scare away any inquisitive strangers while a smaller spiked ring around the forcefield is there to dissuade anyone from breaking it with force.
It will absorb any qi the Tower produces for a few weeks, according to my calculations. I don't know yet if it will have enough compressing power to form solid chunks of condensed qi, but it will prevent the apocalypse for a while at the very least.
I stand up and look around. Shards of white stone are still laying everywhere. I bend over to pick one up but find it firmly stuck to the ground. I take a better look and see it is melding back into the solid rock. It must be beginning to reconstruct itself. I should take my students on a dungeon dive later, let them get some practical experience. Any qi that's touching the stone is still lost to my control, making the entire structure appear like a black hole to my senses.
I stretch a little, popping sounds coming from my back along with a pretty good feeling. I thought that mental cultivation could be addictive, but body cultivation is like hard drugs compared to the mental soft drugs. It's pleasurable in a similar manner, just on a much higher level.
I look around and see the army has advanced a bit further. I do an automated visual sweep around me and find the dragon again. I find it hiding in the sun, so I take care not to look at it directly. No need to let unknowns know that I know about them. This is a good opportunity to spread some misinformation, however.
I start dancing. My usually awkward movements have gained a certain grace after my heartcore formed. Shuffling about, I do all the dance moves I can remember. First comes the submarine move, grabbing my nose while sinking through my knees. My other hand makes a vertical wavy motion, indicating water. Then the peace sign over the eyes, that's a classic. I do some rockabilly moves and start creating the circle.
Heeeey- Macarena, AHOY! With a shake of my butt, I place the ying-yang circles one by one. A few twirly moves later, the spirals are in place. The spikes are created by doing some rhythmic shadow boxing. I decide to just spaz out as much as I can for the last part. With flailing limbs I let the compression centre form. I spread my arms about, waving them wildly in the air. The circle is guided into position while stomping around, imitating some traditional African dance, or something.
I go all out and throw some break-dancing in the mix. I am giving that dragon quite a feast for the eyes. I notice that the white lines of qi start disintegrating. Mentally berating myself for getting too into the dancing, I re-focus my mind on locking the circle in place. I stand up and place the glowing thing above the uneven floor, right over the spewing geyser of qi. I then link it to the concept of the surface instead of the physical material. That should prevent the dungeon from stealing the circle by growing around it, like Tree did.
I jump high in the air, corkscrewing and flipping like mad. This is actually really fun. The moment I land, the circle flashes with a bright light and it starts working. I feel the qi in the surroundings getting drawn to it, allowing me to cancel the mental process that was keeping the qi from flying away. Any new qi gets sucked into the centre immediately. The qi still floating around will be absorbed in a minute or so.
I could have done all that with a single hand wave, but where is the fun in that? I don’t plan on showing potential enemies any of my true skills. The shrinking bubble of qi must have piqued the dragon's interest as a process alerts me to the fact that it is flying closer. I can see its white scaly body by the time all the loose qi around me has been sucked up into the glowing circle’s centre.
I look back at the ornamental circle and give it a mental yank. It starts slowly spinning, the rotating spirals producing a mesmerising effect. A short while later its spins fast enough that only a transparent white circle is showing. A field shimmers into existence around it, the protective forcefield slightly bending the light.
And what is that ruckus in my mind? Ah, my threat assessment process has started ringing every alarm-bell it can get its hands on. The dragon is deemed a threat unknown and dangerous enough to send the analyser into high alert. DEFCON One, people, ready battlestations, ready battlestations!
Reduce threat target to basics, possibly multiple tens of tonnes. Flash emotions to check mana usage, none of the known ones are reacting to said dragon. Eliminate fire, water, earth, metal and nature as possibilities. State of qi shield is solid, should be able to withstand multiple hundreds kilotons of force, no problem.
Start active target negation. Structural integrity of threats’ body must be high to withstand forces observed so far. Blunt force can be applied in high amounts, fun! Link to circle formation, extend shield to cover self. Impact in 3 seconds. Anchor sphere to… where? Qi anchors embedded in Tower won't work, lose any qi that contacts Tower. Grab volume of air? Calculate… Must grab volume bigger than current reach in order to negate momentum of threat. Alternate options?
Can grab air surrounding tower, leave single centimetre of untouched air as impact buffer. 2 seconds to impact now. Threat assessment suggests that body is now strong enough to withstand impact thanks to heartcore at first crunch. Ponder this important question. This is a very important question. One second till impact.
Can spare half a second to ponder the most important question: Do I want to punch a dragon?
A glorious white creature glides through the sky. Massive wings carry several tonnes of meat, bones, scales and fangs into a diving trajectory. It speeds up while falling towards the broken remnants of the white pillar sticking from a medium sized city. The dragon produces deep growls from its throat, but the wind scatters the sounds before it can reach any ears. Honestly, it kind of sound like the petulant mutterings of an oversized baby. Not that the overgrown lizard in question will ever admit to something like that.
The swirling gas of doom surrounding the tower has retreated, giving the glistening beast the courage to employ its usual tactics, namely shock and awe. The dive down is all about the shock, many weeks and even months practising has led the dragon to its foolproof strategy. That strategy could very well be described as: ’bombing the shit out of them.’
In a way, smashing at maximum speed into the designated intimidation target is something extremely dragon-like. If the target dies, it wasn't worth intimidating in the first place. If it lives, at the very least it should be peeing its pants and negotiations can be started off on the right foot. Working with a target that’s scared shitless is much more relaxing.
These types of mindgames are in large part why the Flight is so feared in the first place. There is always a sky above the sky, as the saying goes, but not a single creature dares to fly over a dragon.
The dragon squints its eyes as it sees the small insignificant figure moving around. The air seems to shimmer around it. Is it casting an air barrier? The dragon opens itself to the wind but feels no amazement or loathing radiating from the small figure. No air magic then. The dragon decides to speed up a little anyway.
The small figure gets bigger faster and faster, the wind shrieking around every scale and ridge jutting out of the sleek body. The wide grin of the human man fills the dragons entire vision just before the massive beast loses sight of the figure.
A massive spray of stone shrapnel launches from the Tower, carried by the shockwave of a fleshy smacking sound. The rain of white shards dissolves the further it gets from the Tower, leaving sparkling trails. Looking back at the point of impact, a dragon is draped over the edge. White scales along with red-golden blood splatters now decorate the uneven break. A figure wearing drab clothes is seen walking over to the massive dangling beast. A single hand yanks it back from the edge, laying it beside the spinning formation.
Eyes bigger than basketballs flutter open. A fist shaped indent is seen on the dragon's forehead, making it a very weird reversed unicorn. The human walks over with shaking shoulders and studies the laying form with interested eyes.
“Hello dragon, do you speak this language?”
The rough song without any rhythm wakes the dragon from its stupor. Its eyes open widely and a flame ignites behind its dark pupils. A visible wave of white-purple mana starts flowing off its body in strands, like a slow motion full body fire.
“I am Re-Haan Ra-Lush-Neer Hu...”
A stately voice made up of pride and gravel sounds from the beast's throat. The slowly spoken name filled with audible capitalization gets rudely interrupted by a carefree voice.
“I am pretty bad at names already, I am not even going to try to remember such a long one. Can I call you Rhea?”
The dragon snaps its mouth shut. Never in all of its many hundreds of years has a mortal dared to interrupt it.
“I bet I’m the first human to ever punch you in the face.”
More stifled laughter follows this statement, much to the stricken dragon's fury. It spends a moment thinking things through. Then it narrows its eyes and is enveloped by a white glow.
THAT WAS AWESOME! I have punched a dragon in the face. Just in case you didn't follow me there, I PUNCHED A FUCKING DRAGON IN THE FUCKING FACE! I hold my bleeding right fist behind my back as I look at the changing figure with my spiritual sense. Hardheaded is an understatement, my right-hand bones have cracks all over them. Never punch with your fists, kids, they are way too fragile for that kind of stuff. Use your elbows or legs or something.
I flooded my skull, spine and pelvis bones with liquid qi while I was but a simple mindcore user. My heartcore has been infusing the rest of my bones since its creation, but the rest of my skeletal structure is not reinforced fully yet. My fist would have been turned into tomato soup if the dragon had been ten percent bigger.
The dragon is changing forms now. I suspect that it thinks that if it can't beat me physically, it will try doing so magically. Very little mana radiated from the lizard's big form, I think it is changing to its caster form now. I am very curious about what types of magic it’ll throw at me. It is shrinking down rapidly. Questions like, where does all that mass go, don't even cross my mind anymore. You just accept these things as magic and move on.
What the dimming light reveals is a pretty good sight. A tall female in her mid-twenties, with a lithe figure wearing white leather armour with violet and gold trimmings. Scaled leather armour actually, those seem to be her own dragon scales covering her important and vulnerable parts. Long white hair and eyebrows frame an angular face. C-cup, my breast measurement process chimes in. That’s pretty good info, this is why I love mental automation.
The flame inside her grey eyes starts burning brighter as her hair starts whipping around. I still feel no recognisable mana around her, she must be using something outside of my known mana types. Air is the most likely candidate.
Let's fight air with air then. I stretch a hand towards the spinning formation and call a thin strand of qi my way. No need to use my own while my cores are growing nicely. I spread it out around me in a shell and imagine a submolecular grid holding every single molecule in place. The whipping wind stops a meter in front of me. Resisting an immense force is a lot easier if you divide the entire impact over billions of tiny connections.
I cough and expand the air lock over a bigger area, turning the flowing wind into a rigid shape with my thoughts. The dust caught inside the grid falls to the ground slowly, the submolecular bonds not strong enough to hold solid objects in place. The female looks at me with narrowed eyes.
She opens her mouth and I assume she is going to speak. Instead of audible words, her lips undulate as she screams at me. The concussive blast batters uselessly against my shield. I let my smirk grow a little, I want to know what she is capable of.
“Ru-aan nu kudnir...”
She starts chanting some language I don't know. I don't pay it any conscious attention, my language process will record it anyway. I focus on the area in front of her mouth. I feel the vibrations of her voice flowing through my qi, it is a simple application of will to stop the spread of these vibrations. The air just in front of her mouth starts to glow. Any air that her voice is travelling through is being affected by the spell. She shouts the last phrase of the spell and the air shoots forward.
A rather disappointing ball of air makes a small dent in my qi shield. I can only imagine how embarrassing that must have been. I check my threat assessment for the numbers. My face pales a little when I realise that that little ball of air had the punching power of a full howitzer artillery barrage. If that ball had fallen onto any other target it would have hit like a few tonnes of TNT.
It seems like she is preparing an even longer spell. I didn’t fail to notice it because her intake of breath made her boobs jiggle under the armour, no, not at all.
“What does the Flight want with me?”
She stops her intake of air and speaks. “I have no business with you worm, my business is with the Root”
I file away the bit of information for later. “Then do your business, no need to land so roughly, yeah?”
I need to handle this delicately. I keep looking her in the eyes the entire time, studying them. There is a certain quality about them, a certain disconnect from the real world. I recognise that look anywhere, those eyes have seen a lot, those eyes are pretty old.
If there is one true fetish I have, it is a female with an old soul. The body’s shape is largely irrelevant to me. Any person younger than two hundred years or so can be perfectly predicted when all the backstory is provided. After a few hundred years of life, though, people start to recognise life for what it truly is, a lot of stuff just happening, action and reaction on all scales. This allows them to take a step back and see things from a truly objective perspective. All the subjectivity scrubbed clean by life happening around them. And this sexy dragon lady has eyes old enough to see quite a lot.
I manually restrict blood flow to a certain part of my body. No need to show her what hold she has over me. I have found a new goal and I place it rather high up on my list, find out everything there is to be found out about this lovely being. And maybe fuck her.
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