Chapter 45 - Storm
Tree never asked for this. Tree was happy not knowing anything, just reaching for the light in peace.
Then the weird guy came, woke Tree. Tree is now unhappy thanks to knowing stuff. Then guy makes circle.
Tree like circle.
Tree take circle.
Guy leaves, where to? Entire universe is just Tree and surrounding trees? How can one leave?
Guy is back, then pain. Then all is pain and pain and pain. Small, too small. Cant fit, inside too big.
So Tree spilt out into other space, leaving behind only small remnant of former self. Then thinking got better. Tree learned a lot, this qi allows more thought. The sky light that weird guy makes is amazing. So amazing that Tree decides to be a little bit like that. Tree makes garden, move plants and trees and soil until it feels right. Tree is feeling… content now.
Then more people came. Short female is nice, Tree likes her. Give her fruit and nuts and water. Start to learn more, start to realise more.
And now its creator, the giver of its consciousness, is dying. Tree can see both worlds at once, the small embedded remnant of its former shell acting like eyes to the outside world. And it watched the massive fight while silently cheering for its maker. It watched him struggle with something, turning around and moving erratically while he fought with something the Tree couldn’t and still can't sense.
It watched him walk down the stairs with trembling muscles, his movements slowing with every step. Then his creator made his way over to the left door with agonising slowness. Then it watched him lose the light in his eyes. Then the Tree knew fear.
So it acted. It did something entirely by itself for the first time ever. The first completely independent action of this elevated wooden being consisted of wrapping its maker in golden qi. Tree noticed that something was eliminating its qi, ripping it from existence, so more golden qi was poured through the portal inside its massive trunk. It fought with all its might against this force until it finally managed to pull the weird guy through itself.
Tree understands a few social conventions too, so it made sure that his disciples don't notice this. They are still bickering about what weapons and armour to choose, so Tree lays its creator in a bed of long grass, on the opposite side of the other people. Tree then spends the next half an hour carefully watching him. Something the Tree recognises as joy fills its every wooden fibre and leaf the moment he opens his eyes.
Then Tree rests, its elevated level of consciousness settling back down into sedentary silence. Thinking is hard without a brain, after all, and Tree just thought enough for multiple lifetimes.
OH GOD THAT WAS TOO CLOSE. What the flipping fuck was that? A massive light absorbing rectangle nearly killed me? Was that the Tower’s core? I honestly was hoping for a floating crystal that could be kidnapp… freed from its towery prison. I did not expect a possibility eliminating quantum computer. What amount of calculating power is necessary for that kind of thing?
Though I do have some rather plausible theories on how this dungeon operates now. That black thing must eliminate possibilities until only the ones it desires are left. That also explains why the floors are similar but different with each new run. It simply seeks through some sort of possibility space until it finds a layout that fits its criteria. It was eliminating possible thoughts inside my head too, stopping any type of mental patterns dangerous to its existence dead in its tracks. And it must be forcing my qi out of existence by the same method. All it has to do is replace the space my qi is occupying with possible space that has no qi inside it.
But why does the Flight call these dungeons Roots? Are they roots that pierce into other dimensions? Too many unknowns. I decide to stop thinking about that for now, maybe I can ask Rhea later.
I sit up and check my surroundings. I am behind the Tree, lying in a luscious bed of grass. I heard talking coming from behind Tree, snippets about weapons and armour reach my ears. I put my hand on the golden bark and smile a bit. I think I know what happened, the qi in the tree itself is diminished by a great amount. So I say a silent ‘thank you’ while focusing my attention on the portal inside the trunk.
Any qi that I pour through gets eliminated. It takes me longer to realise this than it should, I do not notice my energies disappearing but when I try to move them they are gone. The necklace is lying in the left doorway. I am not going back out there, maybe I can launch the necklace through the right teleporting door?
Let's give that a try. I form an airtight sphere of qi, the size of my fist. I squeeze it tightly, compressing the air inside. I then push it through the dimensional portal, letting it exit between the black rectangle and the necklace while it touches the floor. The qi disappears at once, but the compressed air shoves the necklace back for a couple of centimetres. This will work.
Five more compressed air balls later, the necklace lies in front of the black fog door. Another small air explosion pushes it through. I try to observe what is happening mid-teleport, but the necklace appears in the Tower’s lobby as soon as it touched the fog. I push myself through the necklace and land in the lobby. I take a deep breath while looking over the spotlessly clean room.
I’m guessing that whatever power absorbed my qi the last time I teleported through here can't get to the qi inside a different dimension. I am still incredibly rattled from that entire experience, so I sit down and meditate for a bit. I notice myself softly stroking the small tree embedded in the necklace for some reason. I do wonder how I got from that room to inside the necklace, has the Tree developed a proper personality yet?
Half an hour later my nerves have settled. I hold out my hand and it doesn't shake anymore. Let's get out of this city, I am starting to get sick of it. I start thinking about whether or not I should let my students come out, but I am distracted by a breeze.
The air was dead silent the previous times I was here, so why is there air movement now? I walk to the Tower entrance and step through the door.
I nearly get blown off my feet the moment I do. Wild winds are whipping around me, I stick my feet to the ground with some qi to prevent myself from getting blown away. I look around and see a tornado. I am in the eye of the storm? Roofs are slowly losing their covering, trees and bushes are being ripped from the ground. Various amounts of debris are dancing through the wind. I also feel something in the wind, this aura is familiar to me. This is not good. Dust and debris in the air limits visibility, but I can see that the entire city is covered by a massive twister.
I look up and notice that the wind blows harder higher up. Is Rhea gaining enlightenment on air? This could be very bad, I need to go see what she’s up to. The aura I feel from the swirling air is indeed similar to that dragons’ aura.
I jump to the top of the Tower entrance, planting my feet on the light grey surface. I immediately slip and fall as the Tower sucks my qi away. Okay, that was stupid, take a deep breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Repeat a few times.
I jump up again, kicking at quickly constructed sheets of qi to launch myself higher. I speed up, the amount of wind leads me to believe that she has been doing this for a while now. A quick glance down at the city shows me moderate amounts of destruction. I calculate the current rate at which the city is being damaged and come to the conclusion that this has been going on for a few hours at least.
Enlightenment is basically a long and drawn out epiphany. But the epiphanies of today are the boring facts of tomorrow, same with enlightenment. Whatever an enlightened person is realising seems like incredible information to them. The problem is that people tend to get lost in these types of thoughts. They end up spending so much time and energy while comprehending their elements, or whatever, that they end up dying as soon as they snap out of it. I had previously come to the conclusion that unguided enlightenment has a one per cent survival rate.
I reach the tower while fighting the hurricane-level winds. Rhea is sitting there, eyes closed, body vacant of life signs. She has spread her consciousness throughout the wind she is controlling, leaving her physical form vacant. That is another reason for the high mortality rate. If another party does not snap them out of it, they simply leave their body empty for too long and die. This will have to be handled with utmost delicacy.
I slap the ever living shit out of the dragon woman while shouting at the top of my lungs. She smashes against the shield guarding my formation, bounces off and rolls over the chipped ground bonelessly. I jump after her and start giving a barrage of slaps and punches. I create bright flashing lights inside her eyeballs while shouting directly into her ears. I grab her by the arms and swing her around for a bit, smashing her to the ground hard enough to rattle teeth.
A spark of life is seeping back into her body, good. I continue to use her as a punching bag the moment I see the spark dimming again. It is not working, I need to do more. I spread my qi around me, locking up the air with molecular bonds. I drill my augur into her chest, searching for her kidneys. I find them and locate her adrenal glands. Thank fuck that her anatomy is largely the same as a normal human. I stimulate the glands and watch the pep juice flow into her veins. I call over some of the qi trapped by my formation and push it into the air around me, expanding the zone of dead unmoving air I’m creating.
All of this causes her to spasm wildly, so I grab her with a tight grip. I hug her arms to my chest and bind her limbs with temporary qi bands. I then grab her face and stare into her grey eyes. I stop screaming random noises as I see life flowing back into her glassy orbs.
“YOU ARE RE-HAAN RA-LUSH…” Shit, what was the rest of her name again? “…NIEER HU, A PROUD DRAGON OF THE FLIGHT.”
She starts blinking blearily and I see utter confusion flash across her face.
“YOU CONTROL THE WIND, IT DOES NOT CONTROL YOU. NOR ARE YOU THE WIND, YOU STUPID DUMB DRAGON.”
I feel her presence disappear from the air around us as it seeps back into her body. I let go of her face and she crumples to the ground. I follow her down after pulling back my qi, but manage to land on my ass. My qi reserves are still pretty empty, I did not expect to have to perform such feats of strength right away. I pant heavily as the wind dies further down around us.
I hear vague crashing sounds coming from a long way below. I crawl to the edge and see all the debris falling back down. The centrifugal effect caused most of it to land outside the city gates. I spot doors opening with small figures peering outside.
I stand back up on wobbly knees and walk over to the formation that is still spinning its heart out. I grabbed some of its qi to force the air to a standstill, but there is still a massive amount gathered in the centre. I hang the necklace in the middle of the formation. Tree can use some refuelling. I sit beside the crumpled form of Rhea after walking back out and decide to meditate for a bit. I really need to relax and calm my mind after that debacle.
I want to grumble about all these weird tornado-related things that keep happening, but I realise that I’m the cause of them all. I’m doing a horrible job of staying low key. I can sneak and fly under the radar with the best of them, but get bored of it very quickly. I somehow always end up causing truckloads of shit to start a fan hitting trajectory while looking for something interesting. I spend some time looking over my body with my augur, fine-tuning my cells manually as I wait for the dragness to regain her senses. Might as well use this time effectively.
I open my eyes and look at the female form towering over me. I stand up and meet her gaze.
“Hmm? What is it?”
She has this frowny look on her face. I see a lot of emotions flashing across her visage, anger and slight flashes of confusion are the main ones.
“I was comprehending the wind...” Her reply does not have much power.
“And was it useful? Did you learn anything new from all those mind blowing, really important seeming thoughts?”
She looks away but doesn't say anything. Now there is some pensiveness in her expression as she looks towards the horizon. I spot a red corner peeking from her chest plate, I was wondering where she stored the book. The gem on the cover is a self-destruct mechanism, it will go up in smoke if anyone but me or her touches or reads the thing. Thus I am not worried about it falling into the wrong hands.
Now how do I wrap this up? The massive fucking tornado destroying the city was a good excuse to check in on her but I should leave before I overstay my welcome. Being near a powerful female that had her hormones messed with is also low on my personal priority list. Do I jump off the tower again? I already did that and I want to avoid creating expectations like that.
“Who are you?”
I give her my biggest shit-eating grin. “Does it matter?”
I see her turning these thoughts over in her head. I hope she comes to the conclusion that it doesn't matter because she can't talk about me. “Don't try something stupid like that again without a person watching over you. It was nice talking to you, see ya!”
I briskly walk over to the formation and grab the pendant. I then give her a wave and throw the pendant with all my might. I jump through the Tree portal at the last possible moment, jumping through just before it leaves my hand. It should land in the forest, near the mana tornado animal clearing. I want to gather some fancy mounts before leaving here.
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