Chapter 37 - Action
It feels rather satisfying to see my lessons bear fruit. We are almost at the end of the second level and everyone is starting to grasp their own paths at this point. Ket points at one of the hunched gnolls, causing it to slump over with a hole through its chest and heart. He has shattered one of his metal ball bearings, letting the shrapnel orbit around him. A single finger points to a new gnoll, and a single metal shard rips through its chest.
Angeta was just pummeling away with her fists on the first floor, now she is using the few plants that are growing from the cracks to entrap and snare everything coming too close. Vox has started using his power offensively. He started with blinding the gnolls with flashes of light, and now he is using concentrated beams of light like lasers to burn through the mobs. Tess is flitting and punching all over the place, occasionally tying up the beasts with dark tendrils. Selis drowns her victims by forcing water into their lungs while Bord’s victims no longer completely explode into a bloody mist.
The pillar with Bord’s present on it is still standing proudly in the Tree’s dimension. The only way he can get up there is by moving extremely slowly. It is meant to teach him fine muscle control, something he is sorely lacking. He is now learning to control his punches the hard way. The first gnoll he punched splattered all over the walls, but now he leaves his victims with merely gaping holes in their bodies. The other students are actively avoiding his combat zone, the holes he punches through the gnolls still spray blood and guts everywhere.
I had to slap Bord only once. His aura started to run away from him, the blood covering him causing him to sink into the initial phases of being blood drunk. Body cultivators can get such a euphoric high from fighting that they might slip into a crazed trance. In that state, there is only more blood and movement, more blood and more movement. I slapped his face so hard the blood flew of off his body, clearing his foggy brain. I told him to control his brain, not be controlled by his brain. Body cultivators are more susceptible to hormonal imbalances, Qi reinforces what is already there, after all. This means that stuff like testosterone and cortisol - the stress hormone - will have a bigger effect, this also includes dopamine, which is the ‘feel good happy juice’ that your brain rewards you with has more effect. He was silently walking behind me for fifteen minutes afterwards. His punches were much more subdued when he did start to fight again.
I look over the fighting figures around me. I almost feel pity for the poor humanoid dogs, what did they do to be punched to death this efficiently? I did not pay particular attention to the progression of monster strength, so I don't know at what level my students will have to start working for their kills. I wave Ket and Tess over, they seem to have the most experience with Tower diving. “How is the mob progression from floor to floor?”
The two panting figures stare blankly at me. Was that too difficult? I understand that Tess didn't understand the sentence, but Ket should be able to get the gist of it.
“How much stronger do the beasts get with every floor? At what floor will the dungeon mobs be as strong as you guys are now?”
That seems to have done it. Ket closes his eyes to think while Tess opens her mouth.
“I have no idea! I’m a sneak, you know?”
Don't state your ignorance with such pride! Don't smile and puff your chest out when telling someone you don't have a clue. I continue to grumble mentally while sending her back to the rest with a wave. She twirls the dagger through her fingers as she turns around, ignoring the shooing motions I make. Her face sports a big smile as she kicks a gnolls chest, perfectly crushing its heart.
“We can handle the first two decads with ease. I never went past the twentieth floor.”
Hah, I love the language system I have in place. I heard an unknown word at first, but the context of the sentence allowed my language process to figure out the correct word. A decad is an old english word for a group of ten, just in case you didn't read that word somewhere by accident, like me.
I nod to Ket in response and say my thanks. He turns around and the small shards of metal floating over his head start orbiting him again. He runs forwards into the next big room, shooting three shards through the last three living gnolls. The second floor is almost done now, the staircase to the next level is after the last room.
“Everyone come here for a second.”
Let's kick this training montage up a notch. Nothing like a little bit of competitive spirit to get things going. When all six are gathered, I start talking again.
“The next floor has more and bigger gnolls. I am proposing a little challenge. I will clear the last room just up ahead to show you retards how it's properly done. Next floor, you will all take turns clearing the rooms by yourselves. The fastest and most efficient ones get more food at the end of the level, deal?”
Only Ket thinks for a bit, the rest immediately nod like pecking chickens, eyes sparkling. I can feel depressed over this motivation method later, I got to put up a good show for now. Shall I do it personally or let Lola have some fun? She seems fairly bored, a single glance at the fighting students told her that she isn't needed yet. She has been walking by my side the entire time.
I pick up the rabbit and look her in the eyes.
“I want you to fight everything in the next room. Wipe it the fastest you possibly can. I believe in you!”
Her eyes become bright, and I can feel the qi pumping faster through her body. I cover my face with my other hand in shame at my next words. “You… You can even use your horn.”
The students take a step back at the long horn now protruding from Lola’s forehead. Don't make such a happy sound, you shitty rabbit! That horn is ridiculous and inefficient, and you know it. I glare at the fluffball for a little longer, but staying mad takes effort, so I honestly can’t be bothered. I drop her to the floor and walk to the beginning of the next room. “Take a good look at how a proper cultivator does it. Ready?”
Lola looks up to me. She nods. When did she learn that nodding means yes? I don't know whether my students have a good or bad influence on her. “Set!”
She crouches down, wiggles her butt and prepares to speed away. “GO!”
A third of a second later, the entire room is massacred. The white streak zoomed past every gnoll in… yep, I calculated it and she chose the most efficient route possible. The gnolls fail to react to the sudden white streak that just sped past them, then every single furry dog head topples to the ground at the same time. There are no spurts of blood anywhere, she used her horn to stab every gnoll through the heart, she then dragged the sharp qi construct through their chests, making a sharp turn to cut through their necks. She did this nineteen times in a third of a second. The training with Tree was super effective!
I smile my widest smile yet, pick her up and start petting her furiously.
“Who is the cutest murder machine?! You are! Yes, you are!”
I stop because I feel six hot gazes drilling holes in my back. Then I decide that their opinions of me can go to hell.
“You are the bestest cutest murdering machine ever! Awawaa cootchy cootchy.”
My voice derails in that horrible baby babbling voice that some people start speaking with when confronted with something intensely cute, like Lola. She squeals back at me while I rub her belly. Half a minute later I have mercy on the poor rabbit and let her go. My students are still looking at me with horrified faces. I simply straighten my clothes and put on a stern expression.
“Did you guys learn something? Or was this adorable fuzzball too fast for you?”
Selis has her eyes focussed on Lola, her hands are twitching. She also can't withstand the cute, I have at least one disciple that recognises greatness when she sees it.
I think I am drifting off topic here, so let's go to the third floor already. “Figure out who goes first among yourselves. Anyone that can't do what Lola just did by the time we are done with this Tower; no food for at least a week.”
Their accusatory faces turn into shock. I sigh at the power some qi infused food has over these lazy bums, it's a good thing that I bought a lot of raw ingredients. Keeping in mind that I have to lure six people with the stuff I have left, I will run out of pre-prepared food in half a year. The qi levels in my necklace dimension are now high enough to start growing some of the more delicate plants. I will need to keep an eye out for natural sources or fire and ice. Stealing a frozen mountaintop and half a volcano will make suitable growing gardens, I want to make my frozen lava chilli again.
I wipe the drool from my mouth and start walking towards the stairs, but I'm overtaken by a horde of frantic disciples trying to get there first.
Bord is shaking. He is shaking for various reasons, but for him, the two main ones are the near loss of control and potential food deprivation. He does not want to admit it, but the new perspective on life that has been pounded into him over the past few days is shaking his mind on a fundamental level.
He was pampered from first moment he can remember. His parent looked at him with - what he thought at the time - loving gazes. The last few days have allowed him to get some perspective. Now, he gets chills down his back every time he recalls the feverish stares with which his parents looked at him. He was sold to a noble at the ripe age of seven, the upgrade from a small hovel to a mansion was all he could have wished for at the time.
He never once left that mansion, always confined in luxury, the small part of the gardens a golden cage. The maids that took care of him were all older women, who doted on the cute blonde boy. They stuffed him full of food everyday, and a few times per year the master of the house, master Fellis, paid him a visit.
“My precious boy”, is what he was called. A new toy was pushed into his hands, and the master disappeared again for a few months. All those warm and nice memories now have a rather macabre undertone running through them. His new master, the weird guy, as Tess calls him, told him that he was being raised as a pig for slaughter. He believed none of it, consciously blocking the man's words from entering his mind.
He told Selis that he needed to poop before they went to the Lycan to eat. He returned to Selis half an hour later. And while nothing was changed from his outwards appearance, his inner self was still reeling with shock.
Instead of doing a sizable number two, he decided to check in on master Fellis. Running to the mansion took only five minutes, his improved bodily constitution allowing him to sprint the entire way. Breaking in was easy, he still remembered the place of every plant in his section of the garden. Breaking into the basement was also easy, the old brickwork crumbling under his fist. The next twenty minutes of the half hour he was away was spent throwing up. The stench coming from that dark hole in the ground was enough for him to empty his stomach. He started spewing pure stomach acid when he entered the dark room.
The room was empty except for some rusty chains on the wall and a big table in the room’s centre. The iron taste of blood in the air was so thick it was vomit inducing, the dark red stains covering the table confirmed his budding doubts.
The thick wooden door to the cell did not require a lot of force to open. Only after the door fell down did he realize that he had pulled the entire thing from its hinges with a firm push. The route he followed can then be seen from the sporadic small puddles of stomach acid he left behind.
He was not the only “precious boy”. He knows that now because he found various such individuals in various incomplete states. They all had blonde hair and were fat, just like himself. They all had blue eyes and white skin softer than snow, just like himself. They were all missing their tongues and fingers, just lik…
He tried not to show it, but his world was crumbling while they were sitting in the Lycan, eating bowls of stew. He tried to hide it while Selis took control of the water arrows racing towards them. He forced himself to stare around vacantly while his new master rambled on about the word ‘why’. Then they entered the dungeon, and he could lose himself in beating up dogs.
And then, just when he was starting to forget all he saw, just when he was starting to think about something else than the big fat lie that was his life, his new master slapped him silly. With a stinging cheek and a clear mind he realised that his brain was taking him for a fool. That made Bord angry. So Bord decided to be angry.
He managed to keep it together until the rabbit turned out to be a better fighter than him and all of his fellow students combined. Then came the threat of losing the only thing keeping him going for the last week, namely food. Then Bord got really angry. Not a boiling anger, not a wild rage but a cold and calculating fury.
Now, in the middle of this cindering rage, he sees his fellow disciples running ahead of him. This is unacceptable to Bord, so he decides to act. Brain, dantian and heart, he briefly recalls what the possible core locations do. Tightening his muscles, he feels the power of his entire cultivation base roaring to go. All his power, trapped in his flesh, wanting action.
So Bord takes active action for the first time in his life. For the first time ever he sees something ahead that he wants. Instead of waiting for the world to come to him, he goes for the world's throat, for the first time in his life.
Bord explodes into action.
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