Chapter 32 - Bait

Chapter 32 - Bait

I don't like stories or books that use the Deus Ex Machina principle. This is often a symptom that a writer has written themselves into a corner and needs to pull some far-fetched miracle out of their ass to make the storyline work. My spatial ring could very well be accused of being such a trope, so allow me to defend this black ring on my finger for a moment.

Back in the cultivation world, the ring was filled with all sorts of treasures and artefacts, gathered over a millennium of adventuring and exploring. I sold all the items that were considered expensive and easily sellable in order to buy massive quantities of electrically conductive metals in preparation for my ascension. I had felt the laws of the world itself starting to reject me, so I knew that I had to initiate the ascension procedure soon, else the process would start randomly when I wasn't prepared.

What I did not sell were my handicrafts. I made lots of furniture, books, toys, weapons and other miscellaneous knickknacks in my free time that might hold an immense amount of value, it’s just not immediately apparent that these items are potentially powerful. My mental cultivation path hinged on knowledge, so I spend a lot of time reconstructing all the known sciences from Earth, using whatever basics I remembered from a myriad of fields as a starting point.

For example, a mathematical genius will be able to derive a lot of arithmetic, algebra and math from a set of basic principles, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. I brute forced my way through a lot of scientific fields using the basic general knowledge I held. Except for chemistry, as the basic elemental table is totally useless when you bring mystical powers into the mix, but one plus one is still two even if you have the ability to crush planets with a single punch.

I knew about Newton's laws of motion, and with those, I managed to rebuild a lot of aerodynamic principles. The ability to make scientific lab equipment from qi is incredibly useful. I did not need to build a complex wind tunnel. I could just will one into existence and work on proving principles with that.

I then wrote down all these scientific laws in self-made books. I knew that it would’ve created an uproar if discovered, but they would have to pry this ring from my cold dead fingers. I would be beyond caring at that point. And I was reminded of a small book in said ring when I saw the dragoness using powerful but structurally simple air magic.

Rhea has a tranquil look on her face when I appear on the Tower. I grab the necklace and hang it over my neck. A quick check of the circle tells me that the dragoness hasn't done anything that the circle deems threatening as of yet. The look on her face would not be so peaceful if her attacks tripped the defensive measures.

I take advantage of the blank expression on her face to step closer to her. I pull a small booklet out of my spatial ring. It is red with a small gemstone in the middle of the cover. Surrounding this stone are intricate swirls of turbulence. It looks like a wind tunnel experiment that uses smoke trails in order to show how wind flows around an object. The insides of the book are filled with drawings and illustrations describing all my insights into aerodynamics and other wind-related topics. Basically, this book contains a starting guide to the scientific Dao of air.

Designing illustrations is so much easier if you can do it directly, without the need to go through a computer and editing program. All my self made items were a good opportunity to practice my qi drawing skills.

“How are you doing? This is a little present for you, so please humour this insignificant human with a small request.”

My wide smile wakes her from her dazed state. She looks at the gift I am holding out with a single raised eyebrow.

“If this little book helps you in any way, please never mention me to anyone. You can talk about the six idiots you saw all you want, just leave me out of any reports.”

She grabs for the book, but I pull it back. Her eyebrow goes back down and they both crease into a frown. I have to keep her off balance.

“I know some tricks that allow me to withstand your power for a bit, but I don't think I’m a match for you in an all-out brawl, so do me this small favour please?”

The hook is set, let's see if the line and sinker will work as well.

“I don't know if this small gift will be useful to you...” Yeah, right, this will be pure steroids for her magical prowess. “But it is the result of a lot of work, so I would be greatly honoured if you could accept it.”

I make a small bow while holding the book out in front of me. I am weaving a rather complex formation in the meantime. I never found out how those oath made before the heavens and earths worked, but a deal made between willing parties is easily enforceable. It is like a scale, one promise on each side with a balance in the middle is the basis for my spell. One side is my promise of her gaining power, the other is her potential promise of silence about me. If she gains power, the gag order on my information grows stronger. If she blabs about me, the book will burn up and she will lose a portion of the power she gained.

‘MAKIN A TRADE, KNOWHOW VERSUS NOT BLABBING, FIGHT! KEEP IT ON THE DOWN-LOW THOUGH, YOU KNOW, FO SHO!’

I finish the last component of the spell, a detailed depiction of her brain with the information centre highlighted. Combining intricate symbolism with mental shouting is the most powerful way of laying formations I have found to date. She makes a grab for the book, but I hold on tight as she tries to pull it from my hands.

“Please promise, I just want to explore this continent. I have no desire to come into contact or cause trouble with any of the true ruling classes.”

A vein pops up from her head as she exerts more strength, but I hold on tight. I don't even need to flood my body with qi to keep a grip, being a heartcore cultivator is really cool! We stand there like jackasses, locked in a miniature power struggle for half a minute. I can't see her expression while bowing but something must have changed her mind. She gives in and says a single word.

“Fine.”

I can hear the annoyance dripping from her speech. Line and sinker successfully deployed. I hide the glee in my heart as the formation snaps into place around us, binding us both to the promise. It helps that the deal is incredibly lopsided. Is a massive potential power boost even comparable to simply forgetting to include me in her reports? She gains a lot while I gain little, this helps the deal settle in place easily.

I hide the glow of my qi while it wraps around us. Let's distract her before she notices that I pulled a fast one on her. I let go of the book immediately, causing her arms to snap back, still clutching the red rectangle. I look up to her face and smile. I talk very softly, just loud enough to be audible.

“My name is...” I allow a gust of wind to blow this single word away. “...and it has been a pleasure doing business with you. Think of me when you are reading that.”

I contemplate stealing a kiss but decide against it. That would give her power over me, and I want her to come back to me of her own accord. Let's be aloof for now. I give a wave and jump of the Tower as fast as I can, falling into the nearest cloud. I shout back up to her while falling.

“AND PLEASE Leave the circle alone, it is there for a rea...”

The small sonic boom my accelerating fall produces cuts off my sentence halfway. I look down and see the city growing closer at an alarmingly fast rate. I spread my arms and cover myself with qi.

‘NOT HERE, NANANAA, YOU CAN'T SEE MEEEEE!’

I sense thousands of gazes glancing over me, unable to hold onto my form under the misdirection spell. A massive crater will be harder to ignore, so I use the qi bubble to bleed of excess speed. I land with a soft thud in a dark alley. I base jumped towards the south-west, so I landed in the middle of the slums. The sun high in the sky indicates that it is midday, plenty of time for my students to gather information before nightfall.

I make sure nobody is watching me. Pushing qi into the necklace, I grab each of my students around their middle with qi threads. I can hear the screams of shock reverberating through the necklace as I yank them through Tree’s portal, landing them the right side up in the dank alley.

“Welcome back to Tower city. I am going to do some shopping, while you guys can do your own stuff until nightfall, but I would appreciate it if you can all gather the latest news and rumours.”

I pull a large sheet of dark cloth from my ring and hand it over to Angeta.

“I am not sure how people will react to you walking around the city on your own. You can use this to hide your features if you want. Putting a collar on you would solve this problem, but I don't feel like doing that.”

I walk off, making my way towards the centre of the city, towards the crafting district.

A group of six young people is standing in a dark alley. Trash litters the ground and a filthy smell permeates the area. The first one to speak is a fur-clad female.

“Grrr, typical human. He only thinks about how I would inconvenience him and forgets that my nose is rotting from the inside by breathing in this smell.”

“Can’t you use your plant control to make fake armour?”

Angeta glances over to Ket and replies while clicking her tongue.

“Tsk, to cover my nose? Do you see any plants around?”

Ket shakes his head and closes his eyes for a bit. The trash around them starts to shift, a wide variety of items extract themselves from the goop. They start to float towards the black-haired man as he inspects each one.

“This is all the metal around here. No discarded armour, unfortunately. No fake Tower crap either.”

The metal pieces gather into a single pile and clatter to ground. The only red-haired man in the group speaks up.

“We could use this opportunity to run away from him?”

“I’m staying for the food.”

They all look at the fat figure that just spoke. One by one they nod to themselves. Tess is the next to chime in.

“That might be the smartest thing you ever said, just thinking about that meat I ate on that mountain makes me drool.” She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.

“I’m off, I have some information to find.” With a dangerous glint in her eyes and a wave, she walks off, leaving the group behind. A second later she dips into a shadow and disappears.

Ket is the next to walk off. He turns around and leaves with some parting words. “I’m going to do some information gathering too, see you all tonight.”

Vox and Angeta look at each other. He lifts his shirt out of sight of the rest, showing her the white scales on his midriff. He gives her a wink and motions for her to follow while walking in the opposite direction of Ket. Her eyes open wide and shock flashes across her face. She grins, showing a pointy row of teeth and walks beside him. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

Vox looks at Angeta and makes a fist in answer. He joins her in smiling savagely. “The weird guy did make a good point about killing though, so we should limit ourselves to near-death beatings. Okay? I will show you some places you can hit really hard without killing anyone. And some places that will hurt a lot with little force.”

Vox unconsciously fingers a small book in his pants pocket. The beastwoman nods and starts stretching while throwing the dark cloth over her head.

“We should really ask him for his name one of these days.”

Vox looks up sharply. “Hmmh, that totally slipped my mind. It seemed more important to figure out what the hell was happening. But more importantly, I know a few ‘trading’ buildings that are manned by scumbags. Let's go give them a visit, yeah?”

The duo continues to speak in a soft and conspiratorial tone as they walk off.

The two remaining humans seem content with ignoring each other for a while. Bord then rubs his belly and speaks.

“I’m hungry, you know any good eating places in the city?”

Selis snaps out of her daze of looking around. She touches the glasses and with a rueful smile she takes them off and puts them in her pocket.

“Let's go to the Lycan, they have the best stew there.”

They both walk off, leaving the dark and damp alley empty again.


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