Chapter 34 - Converge
A few thousand years ago, a certain dragon hatched from her egg. From the moment it was born, it was showered with praises. Her white scales combined with her rare wind affinity caused expectations upon expectation from every level of their society to be offloaded on the growing creature. She, therefore, grew up proud and arrogant, even judged by dragon standards. Dragons by themselves are filled with pride and nobility, so imagine the inflated ego of this being.
But things didn't pan out all that well. The dragon did not perform any groundbreaking feats, nor did its power grow any faster than its peers. From the spotlight, the dragon’s mediocre performance caused it to be forgotten, its unique colouration now a mark of shame. This caused said dragon to grow rebellious, the unfulfilled hopes and dreams still pressing it down, even if it was starting to be forgotten.
So when the dragon reached its juvenile stage she sought attention through other means. This dragon seemed to live by the motto, even negative attention is attention. From a beacon of hope, she grew into a thorn in the side of the ruling classes. Nothing the dragon did was bad enough to warrant serious punishment or expulsion, but slowly the forgotten status turned into a hated one. Other dragons whispered behind her back, sabotaged her from the shadows or ganged up on her out of the adults’ sight. The fact that she was one of the few dragons that weren’t content with sleeping nineteen out of twenty days didn’t help either.
The moment a new Guardian position opened up, everyone jumped at the chance to get rid of this eyesore. Even the dragon herself was thinking about this chance to get away. Even though the dragon was too young to leave the nest, not even ten thousand years old yet, the decision was unanimous. The previous prodigy was sent into the semi-banishment of one that watches.
Re-Haan snaps out of her daze. She had been staring at the spot the human jumped down from, her mind still a mess. With glazed eyes, she looks at the small object in her hands, a red book covered with intricate lines flowing around a gem set in the middle of the cover. She does not know why she agreed to the humans’ request, but something in the core of her very being had told her to accept. Something had whispered into her ear that, yes, she should accept the weird agreement the human had proposed. So she did.
Now she opens the small cover and looks at the first page. A mess of symbols, lines and illustrations greets her eyes. Blinking slowly, she pages through the entire book, not learning a single thing.
Twenty minutes later, she is still reading the book, methodically flipping through every page one by one. She closes her eyes while snapping the book shut. Half a minute later she looks back at the book, flipping it open to the first page. She has done this thirty times now, the casual flipping turning into serious studying.
The first time through, the book was just nonsense to her eyes. The second even more so. Only by the third time did she start to realise that the symbols all had their own meaning. A single symbol, a line with a triangle stuck to it, is used a lot. By comparing the uses and various forms this symbol took, she understood that it was meant to draw attention to something. Either another object or the flow of something the page cannot illustrate.
The fourth time she paged through the thing allowed her to understand a few more of the strange symbols. By the tenth time through, the first few pages were beginning to make sense. The densely packed symbols and line drawings were telling her a story, a story about air. A story about flowing rivers through the sky, a story about evaporating water and rising columns of white clouds.
It did not describe any specific rivers of columns, only outlining the basic principles of phenomena. The line drawings were starting to make sense too. The first part of the book has only simple diagrams, the middle has diagrams that seem to flow into more than one direction. The last part of the book is filled with lines that seem to jump out at her, as if she needs to see them with volume, instead of flat on a page.
Now she starts her thirtieth read-through. Reading the first page allows her to understand everything illustrated there. While it seemed incomprehensible at first, her insight into the later pages allows her to understand the concepts on display here. Everybody knows that a thrown stone keeps moving until it hits the ground, it is such a simple thing that Rhea never really thought about it in all her years alive. Only now, after it has been laid out before her, does she understand that this applies everywhere and to everything. It applies to a drop of water in a stream, a puff of smoke in the air and it applies to birds in flight.
The second thing she understands from this page is that things that go fast are heavier than things that go slow. Another moment of ‘aha!’ shoots through her mind, and she races to apply it to everything she has ever seen once again. And then there is the simple fact that throwing a stone will force the thrower backwards. That one blows her mind. Such simple things, right in front of her entire life, and she never quite saw it from that perspective.
She flips to the second and third page, and from these pages, she suddenly realises that water and air are the same, only different. Pushing on water is impossible, it just pushes other water out of the way, while air gets pushed all the time. She lacks the word to articulate her understanding, the concept going beyond any words she has ever known.
She blinks and flips to the cover. The small and detailed black lines cutting through the red cover now convey a totally different meaning. Half an hour ago, she thought the illustration plain and boring. Now her eyes follow the straight lines coming in from the right as they curve around the gemstone. To the left of the gemstone are wavy, curly lines, while the rest continues to flow smoothly over and under the precious stone, flowing over the spine and back cover.
Broken air, she realises. She remembers falling out of the sky whenever she flew behind an adult as a child. The chopping wind confused her, the understandable flows and lines that she got from her affinity a turbid mess of swirls and chaos. Now she sees the even air being broken into separate flows that tumble and bounce off of each other.
She flips onwards, stopping at the depiction of a whirlpool. She had scoffed at this image the first time through the book; what does a water whirlpool have to do with her? Now she waves her hand around while calling upon the wind, and sees small cylinders of air forming and collapsing behind her moving hand.
She flips on, finishing the book once more. Moving her hand around again, she holds it perfectly flat and horizontal. Observing the relatively small disturbance that is created, she bends her hand like a curved piece of paper. The bigger disturbance is accompanied by a slightly higher pressure against her palm, the air pushing just ever so slightly more.
Every new concept she understands blows her mind. The last few pages seem to describe sound, and she finds her old archenemy, namely the wall in front of her when she flies at top speed. It never occurred to her that she was trying to catch up to her own sound, the entire concept foreign and unknown. She shivers a bit, as it seems like every new realisation causes a slight pressure in her chest while her head seems to get warmer, but she is too immersed in the knowledge of the wind to take notice. A small smile on her lips now, she opens the book to read it another time.
I grin to myself. That sexy dragon has kept some of her brains through her many years of life. She started comprehending the concepts of aerodynamics and its related physics by her fourth read through. I am glad that my gamble is already paying off.
I pull the qi back from the top of the tower. Seeing a hot chick clad in tight leather wave her hands through the air is entertaining, especially the energetic movements, but I am in a changing room at the moment. Clothes shopping is fun on your own, but hell with females along, so I am glad that she is occupied for now.
The deal I made with the dragon is lopsided as hell of course, but I want a contact point that's related to the Flight. My students had such reverent and worshipful expressions when we talked about the Flight that it piqued my interest. Honestly, they didn't really look worshipful nor reverent though - “about to shit their pants” would be a more apt description - but it comes down to the same thing. I wanted information about that organisation, and here comes a dragon falling into my lap. I would be a fool if I let that opportunity slip away from me.
I pull my arm through a black silk shirt and walk out of the changing area. Besides the dark shirt, I am also clad in wide pantaloons made from black and grey materials, with matching, finely made leather shoes. I smile at the female attendant and throw some gold coins in her direction.
“These will do for now.”
With a vain smile and my nose in the air, I walk out of the store. Outside, I release the cloud of qi covering my face. Instead of the usual ‘IGNORE ME’ qi, I clad myself in a ‘SOMEONE YOU DON'T KNOW’ aura. This will cause her to remember my behaviour, but she will be unable to recall my facial features apart from some basic stuff, like my hair and skin colour. I pat down my new clothes, their combat utility is non-existent, but I look like a well-off lower noble or merchant now. Quite an upgrade over my previous peasant look. I’ve even taken this opportunity to buy some essentials for my students, so now my ring is filled with various clothes. In addition, I bought a single, high slitted dress. I scan the top of the tower and see the intended recipient still waving her hands around, the book open on the floor in front of her. All in good time though.
I leisurely walk through the city until I see an apothecary I haven't visited yet. A small bell announces my arrival as I step inside, the clerk walking over after one look at my new clothes.
“How can I help you, sir?”
“I am looking to buy some essentials, my nephew wanted to go and visit the Tower. What would you recommend me as far as supplies go?”
The man smiles widely and guides me over to the counter. He then launches into a spiel about what items are must-haves. Yep, I am being scammed again. That health potion is coloured sugar water. Similar potions on the shelf are brimming with mana, the glasswork immaculate. Does this city really get everything from the Tower? I interrupt another round of him praising a useless glass bauble and hand him a small note.
“Now that I think about it, I really should have brought my nephew along. Those explanations are truly profound. Do you have the materials on this list available? A friend of mine asked me to bring these back for him.”
I try to outdo his smile. I have perfect control of my facial muscles, and I don't think my smile wins in this contest. Merchants are truly not to be underestimated. The man’s eyes start gleaming, and I can see him thinking of a hundred ways to rip me of.
“He also gave me the suitable amount of money.”
I try to out smile him again while I lay a small leather bag on the counter. Inside is enough money to buy everything on this list along with a small tip. It will leave him with some profit, but it will be a pittance compared to the sum he probably planned to overcharge me with. The clerk takes a single glance inside the pouch, and his smile fades by a fraction. Playing around like this is truly amusing.
I receive the crate filled with precious resources while spouting more nonsense about my friend and nephew. I then carry the box myself while walking out the door. Yep, the clerk is simmering with rage. No noble worth his salt will carry his own items, they have servants for that after all. He must realise that I have been playing my own game by now. I pull the crate into my ring as I leave the store.
The sun is starting to set, and I have shopped all that I wanted for now. My ring is filled with raw resources, a lot of metal ingots, local herbs and alchemic ingredients and a wide variety of cloth. I am not going to pull out all the qi cloth I still have from the cultivation world, the cheap stuff I have remaining leaks qi like a fountain. It's not a problem in a qi rich environment, but taking them out here will destroy them as the materials bleed all their qi into the air without any new coming in. Besides all that, I have a lot of cooking ingredients again. I bought big sacks of grain, flour, sugar, salt, spices and more. My preprepared dishes are starting to run low.
Not really, but I don't see how I can find any seven thunder heavenly cow steak on this planet. My students won't know the difference between the genuine article and a qi infused steak I can make. Maybe dragon tastes good? Let's ask around for good tasting legendary beasts later.
I walk on towards the central plaza. I check my running processes in the meantime. My language analyser is still picking up as many conversations as it can find. Every sentence is checked a few times, any new words or grammar rules are sent to the language library, while the rest gets ported to my general knowledge database. The chest measuring process is back again, is that my subconsciousness’ doing? I shake my head and decide to let it be.
I add a small process in between to catch any prices said aloud. The information is technically inside the general database, but I really don't like manually rooting around in that cesspool of objective facts. I link it to a sectioned off piece of the main database and watch the average price of many products jump up and down as new data averages out.
The sky is painted a deep red by the time I arrive at the Tower’s base. I sense Tess skulking around in the shadows, the rest has yet to show themselves. The few city guards still blocking the door are walking away in clumps, the adventurers that had gathered in front of the entrance are gone. Going into the Tower at night is such a bad idea that they don't need to guard it then? The mobs at the tenth level were comparable to top tier qi gathering beasts and thus easily defeated by me, does this mean the inhabitants of this world are weak or that Lola and I are too strong? I make a rope of qi to Tess’ ears and whisper.
“Why is nobody going in at night again?”
She jumps a couple of meters into the air. People look oddly at the black haired figure that just jumped out from the shadow of a missing brick. She looks around and only recognises me by the third time she looks at me. The clothes work, excellent! She jogs over, meeting up with me as we are halfway to the dungeon entrance.
“Nothing drops loot at night, it's too dark to see and the monsters are more than double their usual strength.”
Why would a dungeon do that? The usability of that design decision is rather shit. Is it a hard mode? But why doesn't it drop anything?
“It is evil to disturb the dungeons night rest. This entire city, but especially the divers, treat the Tower as a god. The general populace thinks it is odd that the tower snapped in half, but don't treat is as something bad. It is just a thing that happened.”
There’s a good girl! I want to pat her head, but I restrain myself. Unwanted head patting can be incredibly condescending. Instead, I decide to follow my good buddy Pavlov’s teachings and throw her a Red Morning Violet Croissant. She takes a small nibble from the faintly glowing pastry and immediately her face is the perfect picture of bliss.
We both snap out of our respective enjoyment at the sound of rumbling footsteps. I am now in front of the Tower’s entrance and can look down the straight main street for a long way. A dust cloud starts to rise above the streets, and I enhance my eyes to see what is going on. My mood sinks as I see three figures pumping their hands up and down, running frantically. I recognise the shock of red hair at once, the black hooded figure whose face is covered is easy to figure out too. A drop of water falls on my cheek just as I see that the third runner is Ket.
I wipe my face as I recognise the ones doing the chasing. Since when did the army get here? They should not have reached the city yet, but I recognise the uniforms. Another drop falls on my head and I turn my gaze upwards. Where did that enormous water tornado come from? Two figures - one round and one small - can be seen floating in the eye of the storm. Lances of fire start flying towards the two but they’re snuffed out as soon as they come near the water swirl.
I make a new process, a threat analyser for everyone but me. I don't want my stupid disciples accidentally killing someone important, they won't be safe anywhere with a massive bounty on their heads. It won't be that dangerous, more immensely annoying for me. The process should make sure there are no accidental or stupid deaths. I set it to only take minimum action in order to prevent mortal injuries.
I see Ket stopping and stretching his arms out. The army goes flying backwards the next moment, their metal items glittering grey. His skills are increasing at an acceptable level, I saw him only pushing against the armour, leaving the weapons to clatter harmlessly on the cobblestones. As he begins sprinting again, the groggy soldiers start getting up. A few figures clad in robes walk through the sprawl of limbs, pointing their hands at the fleeing group. I see water blobs and chunks of earth materialise before flying towards the running trio at high speeds. Angeta doesn't pay attention and gets clipped by a stone chunk. Vox picks her up and keeps running, his hands now glowing with pinpricks of light.
I turn to Tess, begging and pleading with my eyes that it might not be true. “Please tell me you weren't hiding in the shadows to lose your own chasing mob, right?”
Faint shouts of “There’s the bitch!” and “She injured Lord Fellis, kill her!” provide an immediate answer. I see a ragtag group of men clad in torn clothing pointing to the girl standing next to me. I have long since covered myself with ‘I DON'T KNOW THESE FUCKING IDIOTS, DON'T ASK ME,’ qi. A closer look tells me that those thugs’ clothes are not torn, they are cut to ribbons.
“I told you that knife isn't good for fighting. It has such an insane shadow affinity because it doesn't cast one. It is the shadow of a knife given form. That is great for shadow skills but useless for cutting anything alive.”
I am furiously rubbing my eyes, but the same scene greets me when I open them again. The blue tornado is getting closer now, why is Selis moving through the streets with such an extravagant transportation method? The running trio has reached the plaza, busily dodging spells and thrown spears. The army has gotten its act back together, and are running in a single row towards them. The army’s mages have climbed up on roofs, using the height advantage to increase their spells reach.
A wall of water crashes into the reformed army as Selis steers the tornado from a side street onto the main road. Is she shouting apologies? I can barely hear sentences like “I’m sorry, but I can't see good!” and “Waaa, please get out of the way” over the massive din of crashing water. It’s a good thing she followed the roads, they are sparkling clean wherever she passes. Also, that water construct would grind any house and its inhabitants to a fine powder. Good job on not wrecking the place, I will make her another pair of fancy glasses later.
I give up all hope as Angeta runs through the group of thugs approaching Tess, not even looking where she is going. As I walk towards the Tower, a big and bassy ‘BOOM’ scatters the water, spreading rain and a putrid stench everywhere. Vox runs back, catching the falling Selis, while Angeta makes a beeline towards the culprit of the explosion while covering her nose.
“I SAID I WOULD KILL YOU IF YOU DID THAT AGAIN!”
“I cant help it, it just happens when I’m nerv-” *HURK*
A fierce wind whips my clothes around as Bord flies by, missing me by a few centimetres. I just can't handle this anymore. I ignore the bouncing fatty and walk into the gaping Tower portal.
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