Chapter 41 - Augur
I saw that everyone had recovered to full health after half an hour of munching on chips, chatting and chilling. Selis spent all this time petting Lola, who didn't seem to mind at all. Ket started talking a bit more while Bord still seems as dumb as a brick. Let's start phase two of the training!
“Alright, I am busy with something in Tree, so you guys should train yourselves for the next ten levels. One thing I want you to train in is fighting with sensory deprivation.”
I pull six strips of cloth from my ring and throw them at my disciples.
“I want you to blindfold yourselves in the next floor. That way, you will be prepared if you ever have to fight without sight. Plug up your ears with the cloth in the next level, so you can train without relying on hearing. Do the same for your other senses.”
I think for a bit, what else is useful at this stage?
“I also want you guys to switch it up a bit. Let's take Selis as an example.”
She looks up startled, nearly dropping Lola. Focus for once, girl! “She can reach immense heights if she continues to fight with pure water. But when she ends up in a desert where there is no water at all? Then she is royally screwed. Or what if she gets stuck on a pole? There will be water everywhere, but she won't be able to influence ice without melting it first.”
I focus on her, turning my body to face her. “So you should try messing around with fire, lightning, earth and everything you can think of. I don't need you to be able to control masses of flame or anything, but I want everyone here to be able to light a campfire.”
I spread my right-hand open, grabbing at the air. I open my hand to show them a freshly condensed globe of water. I open my other hand and start ripping carbon, hydrogen and oxygen bonds apart. Letting them recombine gives me a small pale flame hovering above my palm. “Extracting water from the air is also one example. Learning new elements will become immensely more difficult when you reach the solid core stage. Just try a lot of different things.”
I turn around and walk over to the table, depositing the entire dining set back into my ring. “Alright, don't go through the right door, that will eat up all your qi.”
I pick up Lola from the floor and look her in the eye. “Give me a signal when they need help, or when they reach another room like this, okay? And keep this safe again.”
She gives a small nod and I rub her head. I wrap the necklace around her body again and drop her to the floor. She wiggles around until she is comfortable with the added weight.
I immediately continue my practice the moment I am back inside my Tree dimension. I tie my shoes and feet to the ground and grass, using a spider webbing of qi thread under tension. This stability allows me to move my hip and ankles in order to rotate my head in horizontal circles. I vary the speed and size of said circles randomly. A quick nearly vertical spin is followed by a sudden slow turn that has my head halfway to the ground.
I am doing these weird gymnastics in order to find something. The brain of a cultivator will eventually start to generate a type of secondary energy. This process starts once a certain level of passive qi density is achieved inside the brain.
Passive qi is energy that has naturally reinforced the workings of the body. It sort of deactivates itself in order to help the body out, integrating into the bodily tissues. This is then no longer available for use by the cultivator and is therefore passive. I also refer to this qi as structural qi.
Body cultivators, with their highly qi infused physiques, generate this energy a lot sooner than dantian cultivators. This is also why heartcore holders tend to be the best crafters, for reasons I will get to in a moment.
These weird movements are the best option I have if I want to move my head freely and quickly. I want to move my head freely because I am searching for that secondary energy and quickly because that’s a decent way to start sensing it. I call this energy augur. The body houses qi, qi houses the augur.
The best way I can describe what that augur energy feels like is by comparing it with qi. Let's say qi is comparable to rocks. I can make sturdy buildings out of rocks, but I won't be able to get much fine detail from that building material. Then the augur is a powder so fine that you can leave fingerprints in it, one of those high-tech nanoparticle powders. That fine energy can be used for scanning, for understanding the world. With qi you feel the shape of the world through its voids, the augur flows between the quarks and passes through the bosons and the leptons.
I got the name from some half-remembered history lessons. Augurs were old Roman priests that predicted the will of the gods through bird flight observation. That is a line from Wikipedia that I still remember. When I read this article, I had this vision of two priests chatting to each other:
Augur 1: “And what did you auspice yesterday?”
Augur 2: “The duck I followed around all day turned a total of sixteen circles to the right. That means it will rain tomorrow.”
Augur 1: “Hmmh, good read. I got bird shit on my head three times today. The harvests will be plentiful.”
And it’s weird, I know. But it's similar to the way my augur works. I will immediately know everything there is to know about an object I scan with it. I have found no credible scientific reason for the amount of information that can be learned from using my augur. I understood exact elemental gas volume percentages the first time I spread it through the air. I saw the ratio between oxygen and nitrogen. I could feel all the trace noble gases in the air, I could write down the exact percentages of each.
Every internal fibre and alloy change was easily visible. But it was a bit more, it would provide me with accurate information I didn't consciously know about. I could replicate any alloy, puzzle out the source materials of any potion and feel an object's molecules one by one. I had an actual and up to date atomic level three dimensional map available for further processing. Augur is the best CAT scan you could ever hope for.
That's why I am trying pretty hard to find it this early, I miss the feeling of truly understanding everything about an object. The rings I made were crafted by pushing molten metals around. Through the augur, I could manually place every molecule. That is a pretty big difference in crafting quality.
Now you should know that everything has inertia. So when I move my head, some aspects of it follow slightly behind. Most obvious, my hair. Slightly less obvious is the fact that my qi follows behind my body. There is a delay of a few picoseconds between when the body and when my qi starts moving.
And my second energy then should follow a few picoseconds behind my qi. So I look at my brain's internal structure, at the place where that energy should follow behind. So far it still eludes me. I previously gained this energy just before I started foundation building at the third crunch, so I was hoping that having a heartcore would push this date up a bit. I am not even close to a full first-crunch core now, so I might be a bit premature.
I think that this energy gets created when massive amounts of qi flows through each other. The passive qi inside the flesh will channel the active qi, and the results of this friction is the augur. The brain has the most qi activity, so it is only natural that this finer energy shows up there first. It feels like the rocks that represent qi smash into each other, working like a ball mill to create a fine powder.
I move around like this for a few hours at least. I get one useful thing out of this bizarre dance though, I end up fine tuning my muscles to perfection. All this moving around allows me to feel the electrical impulses running through my nerves, from its inception to the actual muscle movement. So that’s pretty neat I guess.
An even longer time later I start to fall asleep. My mind gets drowsy while my body has started sweating from all the exercise. And then I feel it. A film over my brain. I reach for it and it is gone.
That’s not right, I don't need to reach at all. That energy is inside my brain whether I want it to be there or not.
And that small shift in thinking allows me access. I feel the film covering my brain, feel the augur sitting on top of my thinking. I gently pull it to the back of my head, mentally blowing on the thin mist until it reaches my core.
And then I feel it. Every single detail of the small ethereal rock floating in my brainstem. Each time a particle of compressed liquid qi settles down on the surface and crystallises, I feel it. Each part of my core that is running a process, I feel it.
I burst into laughter. I spend the next five minutes in absolute joy. A pre-foundation cultivator that has divine sight, such absurdity is simply impossible, yet here I am. I swirl my augur through my brain and I can see the process of its creation. I push a little bit through my veins and through my finger into a single blade of grass. A molecular map of the leaf fills my mind.
I stand up and look around. A fidgety Lola is staring at me. I jump at her and manage a tackle before she can escape. I roll around, hugging her and throw her into the air. She squeals while I catch her. I run around in pure joy for a little longer.
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