Selis is still overwhelmed. She is currently sitting on top of the Mazu Thousand Waves Of Dividing Ripples Blade that Teach returned to her. She doesn’t pay any attention to the sword, though. It might be one of the top ten treasures of the Divine Water Inference Sect, but the blue-haired girl is still too busy with trying to process what in the Dungeons just happened to give the sword her full attention.
She was so sure that she was finally doing the right thing, trying to get back to Teach. After he left, things didn't get any better for her in the sect. The young master that returned had set off every single alarm bell in her head. That’s aside from the constant prickling at the back of her neck each time the pretty boy looked at her.
It took her a while before she realized that she was sensing his aura. His entire being felt like some rotting hollow slime pit filled with nothingness. That description might not make a lot of sense, but she still doesn't know how else to describe the hair raising feeling she got from him. Every time she felt his eyes on her, she was forced to braincore-crawl in order to prevent herself from reacting in a physical manner. The revulsion she felt was just that strong.
So she decided to get the hell out of dodge, and for many, many reasons, she realized that she'd never get out of the sect's territory without being apprehended or questioned. So after searching far and wide for other avenues of escape, she finally heard of the sect’s teleportation array.
All it took was getting an elder heavily drunk on spirit wine - brewed and distilled by herself after learning a lot about Teach's toxic winemaking process from Database - before she got the information she needed.
Sneaking into the underwater and highly secured compound had cost her a lot of relative time, despite it only taking a handful of minutes. On the one hand, she wasn’t too jazzed about having to spend those few subjective days crawling, spinning qi through her brain, while deciphering all the formations surrounding the entrance cave. On the other hand, it’s only thanks to her braincore that she managed to escape.
She did end up spending a lot of points on new quests in Database, uploading certain complex parts of the array that she couldn’t figure out. Parts of the thing came to her nearly instinctively. She comprehended all of the waveform equations interlaced in the three-dimensional formation easily. It was the spatial math problems that she couldn’t make hide nor hair of, the complex calculations just eluding her understanding. In the end, a group of braincores from Tree helped out, and Database is still abuzz over some of the concepts that were contained in the teleportation array.
If she had stuck with her previous gutcore, she would have been stuck in sect territory for Flight knows how long, probably until Teach came to pick her up out of boredom.
The entire teleporting process had been immensely helpful to her overall understanding. The rather stupid way in which the entire Holy Water Inference sect does things seemed so backward to her, that she couldn’t help but learn by bad example. Teleporting via the concept of expanding ripples is probably the ultimate act of stubborn refusal-to-change she has ever seen.
For as far as she understands the concepts that were at play, she got teleported by sending the space around her outwards, just like a ripple. Letting that portion of space collapse into a single point - like a reversed ripple - at a specific spot allows for the teleportation of that space. A very stupid and inefficient way of moving somebody across vast distances.
The way in which the concept of expanding ripples had been beaten up and forcefully transformed until it could teleport is actually impressive. Using even the simplest of space and time concepts would have reduced the complexity of that teleporting formation by several magnitudes. The genius way of using something extremely stupid seems to be getting to be emblematic of the Cultivation World, she muses.
She is only now starting to understand the depth of that truism, and it’s still overwhelming her. The stupidly sheer amount of raw water intent qi, the immense purity of that stockpile that was used up during her teleportation is overwhelming. It didn’t really come across to her while the process was ongoing, but looking back, there must have been a truly staggering amount of power stored there.
That's the last time when she felt in any form of control. The way that she got attacked by birds was overwhelming. The way her body collapsed out of the teleporting phase she had been in, the moment she felt her own body pop back into reality, was overwhelming. The fight, the way Teach acted, the venting - all that nonsense were symptoms of the fact that she was not in control of that situation at all.
It takes Selis a long time, silently flying, to get back to her senses. The ever-changing landscape keeps scrolling by, unseen by the frazzled blue-haired girl as she tries to get a grip on her situation again.
Then the sun slowly comes up, painting the constantly shifting sky in a myriad of warm tones. The way the sky is evershifting, abstract symbols and gargantuan formations playing through the clouds is as unnerving as ever. The alien movements wake her from her daze, and Selis suddenly realizes where she is.
“EEEEP!” she squeals while falling from the sword, the sharp edge slicing a deep slit into her dress. She has enough presence of mind to start crawling, and a few subjective minutes later, she has resumed control of the sword, ordering it around to come pick her up.
She then starts taking in her current situation and immediately wonders why she is still alive. A cursory glance downwards shows her a horde of monsters following her. Looking up and around, she sees an even greater amount of winged beasts hovering around.
Squeezing her eyes shut in terror at seeing so many slavering demonic beasts eyeing her tender flesh, she orders the sword to speed up. She shoots forward, a blue streak contrasted against the slowly brightening world.
Looking back at the beasts following her, she wonders why they are all so blurry. Gently touching her eyes, she notices that the thin film of water that used to act like contact lenses is no longer present. Panic starts to seep into her heart as she recalls what her life used to be like. She does not want the world to descend back into the misty and blurry haze that she thought was normal.
Her vision worsens as tears start flowing from her eyes, the horizon starting to wobble and dance.
Selis slaps herself in the face, hard.
“Ow, fuck. Why did I do that?” she immediately whines while spitting out a tooth. “Dungeons below and Flight above, what is wrong with me?”
Noticing that the sword is now a significant drain on her dwindling qi reserves, the girl slows down while keeping a wary eye out for potential threats. The flying demonic beasts that had been keeping their distance once again come closer. She notices for the first time that all of the beasts avoid the shimmering blue streak that her sword is leaving behind.
Looking down on the weapon between her legs, she suddenly understands that the majestic cutting aura emanating from the weapon is the reason why all the animals stay away. Shaking at the realization that she would have been eaten a hundred times over were it not for the sword, Selis hunches her shoulders and hunkers down.
As fast as the dead terrain shoots by under her, the day just drags on and on as she continues traveling. Having calmed down a bit, Selis starts taking proper stock of her situation.
Her cultivation base is still in a very weird shape, her Foundation no longer squished, but still feeling rather alien to her. The massive reserve of water intent qi that she has been storing is slowly deprecating, fueling the sword she is sitting on. She understands that the water intent qi isn't truly under her control. There is still a significant difference between the power that is truly hers and the blue haze of qi so prevalent on that massive lake of the Water Inference sect. There is barely any usable qi in the air, the constant feeling of stagnation and wrongness especially thick in these barren lands.
Panic once again resurges as she imagines what will happen to her were she to run dry. The land currently below her looks like a combination between a dried-out swamp and a desert, not a single speck of water in sight. She’d be defenseless after her qi runs out. Heart- and gutcores would at least have their improved physiques to fall back on. Selis hasn't been in any position to use any power in reinforcing her body. For some reason, she had been wary of using the lake intent qi in a permanent fashion. Although she isn't as weak as a mortal, she knows even the lowest beast here will be able to beat her handily.
She then remembers that her connection to Tree - and thus Database - has been restored. The ring on her finger used to be nothing but a spatial storage device, and not a big one, but now she feels the warm and silent hum of Tree in it once again.
Quickly calling up the most recent map of the Cultivation World, she plots the route she must take. Her destination - a small semi-independent production house, a branch family of some bigger - is at the edge of the deadlands she is currently in.
Relief floods her as she calculates that she’ll be able to fly there with a small buffer of qi to spare. She then realizes that the numbers only work out if she slows down to one-tenth of her current speed. Keeping a skittish eye on the small horde of monsters still following her, Selis starts losing speed.
She has to avoid the first swooping attack of a bird she barely can see by the time she is flying at half her previous speed. She speeds up again, this time despair truly pulling at her heart.
She will have to traverse hundreds - if not thousands - of kilometers of unknown deadland on an empty tank, with a massive horde of beasties eyeing her tender flesh.
She then remembers that Teach has sent her on this mission, and even though the sheer bastard has many faults, willingly letting people die is not one of them. She is sure that Teach would not have sent her on a suicide mission.
Clamping down on her deteriorating mood with cold logic, Selis imitates a cold ice princess as she starts going over her current situation. She first rules out the most logical options. Teach is unlikely to let her die out here. On the other hand, even if he equipped her with some life-saving treasure without her knowledge, she shouldn't count on it. Teach is enough of an asshole to let her come near death - to teach her some lesson or nonsense like that - before it would activate.
Not willing to be horribly maimed, Selis assumes that Teach has left her to die. She must avoid danger at all costs. Her dress might be bloodstained - the dark stains now dry and thus likely impossible to remove - but it’s still the nicest piece of clothing she has ever had. She will not have it cut, and thus should avoid getting in a precarious situation. She ignores the cold feeling of one leg, not willing to acknowledge the cut the sword made.
Other possibilities flit through her mind. She checks her ring, but aside from an odd space that she knows isn’t important, Teach didn’t stuff anything new into it. The large amount of crappy pills and nonsensical books claiming to be cultivation techniques is currently useless to her.
Normal and common-sense ways of thinking depleted, Selis starts to play a game known to be great mental fortitude training. A lot of people in Tree use this manner of thinking to harden their hearts, and it goes by the name of 'what would Teach do?'
Her head already aching from the idiotic leaps of logic and asinine short-sightedness she will have to work through, she looks at the sword.
Then it hits her. Teach would never have used this sword like a normal person. Teach would have reverse engineered the thing, scoffed at its construction, probably mentally sworn a bit about this and that before using it in an impossible way.
It takes Selis an hour of real-time, a day subjective time, and a good quarter of her dwindling qi reserves before she finally figures out what’s going on in the sword. For a single moment, she sympathizes with Teach. Upon understanding how complex the sword’s enchantments are, and why they are so complex, she feels that Teach is very understandable.
Only a fifth of the power she is currently pumping into the thing is being used for flying. The rest is wasted in doing something to the edge, making a pretty blue trail, and other things that she can’t get a grip on.
Doing a few quick sums in her head, she realizes that she should be fine. Forcing her qi into only the flying portion of the sword takes a lot of mental effort when it comes to qi control, but she manages after a few minutes of trying her hardest.
The moment she succeeds, she resumes cursing her heart out at Teach.
The wind was fierce before, but the moment she isolates the flying formation, shutting down the rest, a hurricane blasts her full in the face. The sword - previously only slightly uncomfortable to sit on - starts cutting into her ass. The beasts behind her all roar like they’ve gone crazy, and start attacking each other, including her. Her eyes are immediately blasted dry again, the lenses she was manually keeping in place evaporating under her flagging control. The sound of the wind - previously a faint murmur - now blasts at her eardrums with a deafening sound.
“FUCK YOU TEEEEEAAACH!” she screams at full volume, her tearstreaked face twisted in rage as she starts to fight for her life, only barely fending off the constant stream of flying demonic beasts that bite at her.
What follows is a desperate fight for survival. The beasts - previously either spellbound or intimidated by the sword’s generated aura - now act like mad and raving demons. Selis ends up fighting in a chaotic zigzagging pattern, coming close to death more times than she can count. Her dress is in tatters after only a handful of swipes from the winged beasts, but she is too preoccupied to curse or even notice.
She zooms across the ground as much as she can, her close proximity to the rough terrain dissuading all but the most persistent dive bombers. She is forced up with tiring regularity, either by the terrain itself or by beasts ahead of her coming to see what the ruckus is about. More often than not, Selis is forced to wield the sword mid-flight, trying her hardest not to be slowed down by the acrobatic maneuvers she is forced to make.
It’s dark by the time she sees lights in the distance. The relief flooding through her nearly qi-starved body is overwhelming as she sees mountain ridges come closer. Her wary heart cries out in joy as she notices the large horde thinning slowly.
The last bird still following her - a rather big Waterblessed Round Eagle - turns around as she passes into the forest covering the foothills. Not even caring about other potential dangers, she falls asleep at the base of a random tree.
She wakes sore, starved, parched, and aching all over. Munching on random rations, she makes her way up the hill. Her destination should be right over this slope, her mind still as she stumbles on.
The morning sun has reached its zenith, the trees shading her from the burning globe, by the time she reaches the top of the ridge. A plantation becomes visible between the thinning trees as she makes her way down the slope.
Turning the little qi she has left through her eyes, she catches glimpses of a waterfall on the other side of the small valley, a babbling river cutting through making for an idyllic scene. She recognizes Ragni at the same time as she sees the plantation for what it is.
The plants are set in neat rows and are covered in what looks to be white down. The curvy beastkin saunters between the plants, clad in fine white silks and running her hands through the white fluff. People clad in standard sect robes mill through the area, busying themselves with stuff Selis can't make out.
Selis then sees large spiders skulking all over the plantation, freezing in her tracks as realization hits.
Teach sent her here just because he is afraid of spiders. Ragni is obviously doing fine, her skills with weaving undoubtedly having secured her a place of high import here.
Teach put her through this entire ordeal just because the shitty asshat is afraid of spiders.
Smiling the sweetest smile she has ever managed to put on her face, Selis skips over to Ragni. Seriously thinking about recultivating once more, this time with the aim to become a spider tamer, she hurries down the hill.Previous Chapter Next Chapter