Chapter 36 - Control
A white smile surrounded by red splatters. A row of teeth that contain endless amounts of savagery. That is the first thing Tess sees when she finally enters the dungeon. She is suddenly paralysed by fear, some instinct deep inside of her screaming to stop, to not move or it will see her.
A hand wiping across the face suddenly frees her. She hears the man in question say something about increased strength, but it does not enter her ears. Only the gist of the last sentence said lingers, something about using the minimum force necessary for lethal injuries.
Tess looks at the face again, now wiped clean of any dirt and blood. The savage smile somehow turned into one of true joy, a row of pearly whites filled with satisfaction. She decides to shudder for a bit, letting the tension drain out of her. The sudden flash of blue lines everywhere snaps her out of it completely.
She hears the man ask another question and a sudden wave of lukewarm wetness splashes across her face. Swivelling her head to the source, she sees the blue-haired girl standing in a ring free of gore, looking down at her feet. Water is blood, blood is water, Tess has learned something new today. She decides to just ignore everything happening around her, the continued shocks a little much for the still shaken girl. She wants to smile, but the droplet of blood running over her lips stops her from opening her mouth. She just decides to walk forwards.
It is a good thing she stepped out of the way too, the biggest of their group rushes forwards and starts turning softhounds into mush. With his fist. The weird guy pulls a glimmering bar of metal from somewhere. Qi lines appear around the bar before they flash out of existence, the small cubes the bar turns into the only evidence they were ever there.
Her mind is blown again when she realises that Bord’s behind may be a better blunt damage weapon than the most exquisite club. She looks at her own ass and decides to leave sitting on enemies to Bord. Finally fully exasperated, she pulls a small black dagger from her waist and throws it forwards. She can barely make it out as it spins in the gloom, but she doesn't need much light for her next move.
The dagger clatters to the floor after colliding handle first with a softhound’s nose. The dog sniffs it a bit before he gets blown away by a small fist that suddenly appeared with a dark flash. Her smile returns in full at the sight of the previous unconquerable enemy smacking against the cave wall. She catches Bord’s eyes, and they grin at each other in the middle of piles of minced meat. Maybe that blood splattered look isn't so bad as she first thought?
Spatial rings are impossible. Looking at the black ring around my finger through the lens of science brings forth a paradox. I know of no theory that could explain the phenomenon. In the past, I spent loads of thinking power trying to figure it out. There are no traces of wormholes, black holes or multiple dimensions when I use the ring’s spatial functions. All this wasted effort did allow me to realise that using science in combination with a strong mental image or will powers up the scientific effects by a lot.
In hindsight, it only makes sense. Science is a product of the human brain. Using the product and the producer in tandem is bound to create interesting effects. Using them both in combination with forces that take Newton and his laws out back and beat them up, works even better.
It was common sense that spatial rings can only be made by foundation realm cultivators. I would agree with those people, if not for the pendant around my neck and my braincore. Making a spatial ring is done with the same process I used to create my Tree. Just shove so much stuff and energy into a physical place that it starts to spill out into another dimension.
Being a mental cultivator is a cheat sometimes, I have never come across a ring with a bigger capacity than my own. The creation took a lot of effort and required some very specific circumstances, so I will have to improvise with the ones I am creating now.
With a basic outline of a plan in mind, I begin. I agitate the molecules of a small steel block, using up a small stream of qi in the process. It starts glowing within seconds, and I carefully guide the molten metal into a tree shape. When the blob of metal is shaped similarly to my own pendant - a flattened Tree around five centimetres in height - I let it cool. A single tap of my finger and some boosted vibrations flakes off all the oxidised metal, leaving a gleaming miniature Tree floating in front of me.
I pump a good amount of qi inside the small sculpture and begin squeezing. Ten seconds later my head starts hurting slightly, but with another push, the hyper-compressed metal inside the trunk flows into another space. The slight ringing sound caused by the vibration is swallowed by the fighting sounds around me. The small Tree has shrunk down to a quarter of a centimetre. I look up to take stock of how everyone is doing.
We are still walking through the first floor, I am taking a nice and relaxing stroll while my students are flitting about, beating up dogs. Their official name literally translates to ‘squishy dog’, so I looked through all the synonyms of those two words and named them ‘softhound’. Their fur is indeed incredibly soft, it's a shame the leather keeping that fur together is about as strong as wet tissue paper.
Back to my ring project. I melt another cube of steel and form it into a ring. A quick scan of my disciple's fingers get me the perfect measurements. I manually oxidise the outside of the ring, turning it a dull black. This was called patina if I recall correctly. The miniature spatial tree floats over to the ring and I let it sink inside the black metal until it is half submerged. I pour some qi inside and feel a space of a few cubic meters. In the cultivation world, this would be a low-grade spatial ring, perfect for beginner cultivators.
The following five rings take less time, I finish the last one in a few seconds. We have reached the ending of the first level by now, so I put them away in my pocket. I don't know if putting spatial pockets in spatial pockets is possible, and I have no desire to find out. The energy contained in these things is comparable to a nuke, and I am talking about the ones I just created. I think my own spatial ring could be described as a planet cracker if detonated. Some experiments are better left as thought experiments.
Lola bumps my leg to get my attention. I thank whatever gods there are that she hasn't activated her qi horn. I can't take her seriously when she does that. I am walking through the last room, the few dogs that are still alive won't be for much longer by the looks of it.
The group gathers around me as the last dogs are mercilessly murdered. Selis waves her hand around, gathering the dog fluids covering every student. She hovers the murky red glob over her hand. This could be a problem, her affinity with water could easily shift to blood. That would limit her water control, although her blood attacks would be stronger. “Do you plan to become a blood mage?”
She looks up startled, putting her glasses back on. I will have to introduce the concept of contact lenses to her. “Uhmm, n-no?”
“Then why are you using blood instead of the water inside it?”
She looks at the hovering glob of gore above her hand with a doubtful expression. She timidly places her other hand above the sphere, pulling both hands apart slightly. The underside of the undulating blob becomes a darker red, while transparent water drops are being pulled from the top. She ends up with a sphere of pure water and a hand filled with dark red powder. I nod with satisfaction. Now let's blow her mind one more time.
I pull a bit of water from her grasp and form it into two disks. I fine tune the disks to the correct curvature. I pull the glasses from her nose while hovering the two water lenses in front of her face.
“Take control of them.”
She holds a hand up to her face while I slowly retract my own qi from the water. The shape wobbles a bit, causing her to blink rapidly as the lenses deform slightly. She manages to retain the concave shape needed to correct her nearsightedness, but the changing optical strength must be hell on her eyes. Holding those in the perfect shape and position should be good practice for her. I put the glasses in my ring.
I look at the rest of the group, they all seem to be smiling for some reason? Beating up cute dogs is fun for sure, but they are almost glowing with happiness. “What are you all so happy about?”
Tess is the first to speak up.
“Softhounds at night are of the *unknown word* rank.” I look at her confused, I never encountered that word before.
“What does this place use for a ranking system?”
“Ah, of course, normal people are unranked. Someone with a good sword or spear is a private, some training or good armour will get you a corporal ranking, followed by sergeant, colonel and then the rank of the strongest adventurer in this city, a major.”
I automatically insert some army jargon to represent the ranks. The words Tess actually spoke have no meaning I can identify. The roots of the words used have a slight military feel to them, so it seems fitting to replace them with army ranks. And the unknown word used to rank the softhounds was corporal. At night, these dogs are comparable to a mortal man with a sword that has trained for a year. Good to know. The fact that an unarmed and untrained person can get to sergeant rank by paying to win speaks volumes about this city by itself.
“I don't know how mages rank themselves.”
Vox replies to Tess’ late addition.
“The mages use the same ranks, but being a mage puts you at one rank higher.”
So treat any mage I see as minus one its rank, got it.
“What rank were you all? Private or unranked I assume?”
They all nod while looking at the floor. I guess that beating creatures two or three levels above your previous ranking would put anyone in a good mood.
“Alright then, the next floor is filled with walking dogs. I will give everyone that kills them with minimal force and as little mess as possible a snack.”
Their heads all snap up to me, licking their lips and drooling. It feels kind of pathetic that I have to entice these fellows with food. Mortals in the cultivation world would sell their own parents to have a solid core expert give them guidance. I just sigh and begin walking down the stairs.
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