Chapter 46 - Processing
I stretch lazily as I appear in front of Tree. I put my hand on its bark and smile at it. I send some positive thoughts its way and I get a concert of rustling leaves in return. I monitor the pendant’s flight for a few seconds, extrapolating its trajectory. It should end up in the forest. I want to chill a little first though.
I make my way over to my castle. I built a nice little balcony above the treetops that looks out over the clearing. It looks flimsy but I used my augur to reinforce the stone with steel wiring running through them. Steel reinforced stone is the best cheap building material I have found so far. Placing quadrillions of iron and carbon molecules manually is tedious, so that was good augur automation practice. A human body has around a few octillion of molecules, that is a one with twenty-seven zeroes, so imagine how many molecules an entire building has. I only manually built the steel reinforcements, the stone surrounding it, I just hyper-compressed using lots of qi.
I made the white greek style library from normal grey rock and used my augur to structurally colour the outsides. Etching nanoscale patterns on the smooth surface allowed me to paint using nothing but surface structure, pretty neat.
I ignore the students messing with the piles of loot and seat myself on my favourite chair while sipping some nice spirit liqueur. The one I am drinking now is made from fermented Heavenly Grain with some rare spices mixed in. It burns as it goes down my throat, and I close my eyes to enjoy the flavour. I really need to scour this world for plants that resemble hops, I want to brew some spiritual beer.
I decide to reflect on the time I have spend in this world. I call up my trusty mental interface and look at the notes I made. I decided not to go with a blatant copy of the operating system I had before after re-cultivating to my current dual core setup. Those type of mental crutches are useful in the beginning, but I chose to stop using that specific one before I got stuck with it. I do still have a stripped down version of a text editor though. I open up my custom version of notepad and look at the priority list I previously crafted.
1 - GET STRONGER BE BADDER AND BIGGER while being chill about it.
2 - WTF ARE THESE DARN LOCALS SAYING.
3 - WTF IS UP WITH THIS DARK MANA SHIZZLE.
4 - GO FORTH AND EXPLORE while being low key and shit.
5 - I WANT SOME FUCKING GODDAMN COFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Ah, I was so childish and juvenile back then. I can keep number one, but number two can be removed. Number three is still unresolved, as are the last two. I decide to split them up and make a list with permanent, always on, priorities and a list of temporary stuff. After a few minutes of thinking I end up with something like this:
1 - Increase personal strength.
2 - Explore, fulfil personal dao.
3 - Do not cause the apocalypse.
That is the permanent list. It's not much, but it describes what is important to me. The current temporary list looks like this:
A - Figure out planet’s energy ecosystem imbalance. (related to dungeons/roots?)
B - FIND COFFEE AND HOPS.
C - Keep the dragon intrigued. Ask about Roots when affection levels up.
D - Find hot and cold garden starters. (Snow covered mountaintop & volcano)
E - Teach disciples the following:
Analysed techniques & manuals.
English (so they can understand my jokes).
External & internal qi control.
F - BECOME A PIRATE, YARR, SHIVER ME TIMBERS. (build boat)
G - Do more local magic & mana research, figure out the other emotion to mana links.
H - Figure out what the deal is with those black souls everywhere.
I - Figure out why only small animals where present in the starting valley.
J - Get some fancy mounts.
K - Birds in Tree.
L - Visit Tower in a month to gather the collected qi.
M - Avoid dungeon cores for now.
N - Let Tree grow into its own.
That list is getting long enough, so I stop there. I sort of feel like I almost forgot about something so the important ones are last somehow.
Otherwise, they are in no particular order of importance, these are just things I want to do eventually. I take another sip of my drink and guide the alcoholic qi through my veins. I get a nice buzz going. Unfortunately, two seconds later it’s gone. This is one of the few downsides of my heartcore I have found so far, it is really difficult to get drunk now.
With all the tedious list making done, I shift my awareness to what my disciples are doing. Half of the small shacks I made are now gone, Selis is replacing hers with a rather nice log cabin. I see her walking over to the library now and then, looking at the construction guides I put in the do it yourself and handicrafts section. She has started on her second floor and she seems to be mimicking my balcony.
Ket is making his house from wooden planks. Perfectly straight threads of qi move iron shavings around as he saws through logs, he dries them out by heating them up afterwards. He prevents warping by compressing the wood into rectangular shapes while they dry out quickly. He has taken the teaching in my books to heart and has built his house with double walls. I have no plans to make it freeze inside this clearing, so it seems a bit overkill. I do have to give him credit for the construction though, every line is perfectly parallel, every floor totally level.
Angeta has grown her house. It looks like a really fat tree with a door and windows. She is now furnishing the insides with some of the loot, nailing cloth to the walls and hanging weapons on wooden pegs.
The other three are still messing around in the loot piles, sorting through stone bricks, plate ware, weapons, tools and armour. That gets me thinking, the armour I am wearing under my fancy clothes is thousands, if not millions of times better than those gaudily decorated pieces of metal. My disciples have also made the beginning of their own fighting styles, but fully developing a form of combat takes a long while. This can be supplemented by learning from combat techniques that have been through that development process.
I focus on the cultivation manual analyzation process. It has started producing some impressive results. I look at the output and see a convoluted web. In the middle of that complex tangle is a completely neutral stance, a normal standing position. Every line that branches out from there goes into a slightly different stance. Low stances are located below the centre point, stances that require one to stand on their tippy toes above. Standard fighting stances branch off horizontally. Each branch reaches another stance, and the further it branches away from the centre, the more specialised the stances become.
Each stance also has a myriad of punches, kicks and ways of walking connected to it. Almost every stance has a link to the most normal of punches. The thread connecting the two contains the information needed to adapt this punch to that stance. Obscure, rare and difficult to perform punches have fewer connections, their compatibility with most stances is too low to bother connecting them. This entire process also applies to kicks, movement techniques, spells and other attacking or utility methods.
On top of this entire thing are a few more layers. These stances can also work with weapons, so there is a sword overlay that shows what sword moves to use with which stance. There is also a spear layer, a hammer layer, etcetera. In between these layers is a lot more information connecting them. Fighting against a spear user with a spear is different than fighting with a sword. The connection between those layers describes deflection techniques and ways to counter.
Long story short, it is an incredibly complex web of possible moves. It would make any office worker cream his pants, it’s basically a massively complex flowchart. Any possible effective move is found in that web, so I could record fights by tracing the way the fighters move on this chart. To say it in a single sentence; it’s an incredibly complicated clusterfuck of interconnected moves.
The analyzation process is now only fine-tuning the entire thing. The useful parts of the manuals it still has to process don't bring much new data to the table. A lot of information in the manuals it is currently analysing is already present on the web. It is a thing a beauty, but completely impractical. I create another process to gather forms, attack and movement techniques that fit each other. It creates nice little packages that form a cohesive fighting style. I don't like names in general, and especially hate those needlessly fanciful cultivation titles, so I tell it to be as descriptive as possible.
I watch it work for a bit, and the first thing it produces is a beauty. It is called ‘Flowing Water’. I suppress my twitching eyelid, the name is not that bad… at least it suits it rather well. It consists of moves that can seamlessly flow into each other. The movement technique is based on flowing momentum, allowing for a really good speed if you follow a smooth path. It is the most powerful complete set of movements and attacks I have ever seen. I can calculate the most optimal movement for any moment in time, so I have no need for it, but this might fit Selis.
It also created weapon-specific versions. Flowing Water works well with a spear or sword, using a heavy hammer or club is less effective but possible.
The second one it produces is called ‘Smashing Rocks’. It is the complete opposite of Flowing Water, it is based on a heavy stance with heavy attacks and forceful steps. This is also one of the most powerful sets I have ever seen. I look at Bord throwing heavy metal bars around and smile a bit. This style favours heavy weapons, like siege blades or massive clubs.
I make a small adjustment to the style generator which causes it to separate the styles into three parts. Where they previously were smaller versions of the massive interconnected web, they now have separate stages of difficulty and power. I decide to call these stages beginner, intermediate and expert. A normal human could master the beginner phase after many years of hard practice, but anything beyond that requires superhuman strength or flexibility.
The beginner stage is just movement while the later stages also contain effective ways of employing qi along with the moves. Meridians don't exist, so all that acupuncture point mumbo jumbo has been stripped out already, but the essence of those techniques is rather useful. It’s simplified from a complex pattern to a general guideline. Where it used to say stuff like: ‘circulate qi through this and that acupoint in this pattern’, it now says: ‘pool X amount of qi in fist, explode forward through knuckles on contact with enemy’. Much better that way. This will allow my students to focus on the practical application instead of having to spend the majority of their time memorising and practising useless patterns.
The new mental process continues to extract fitting styles from the complete web, and I let it do its thing. I take another sip of my drink and think about the best way to teach these styles.
A few hours of relaxing later, the three houses are finished. They are all rather nice in and of themselves, but the completely unrelated styles make it look like a hodgepodge. A cosy log cabin stands next to a fat tree and a perfectly square precision-worked house. The other three disciples have also started on their own dwellings. All the loot is sorted into neat stacks.
I take another sip and pull a small piece of green jade from my spatial ring. I put it to my forehead and imprint a list in the psychic sensitive material. The list is made up of the technique names I ended up with. I also put a really short description beside each name, more an explanation of the name itself than a true descriptor. I also include a small weapon affinity chart that explains what weapons work best with what style. That done, I stand up. “LESSON TIME!”
I jump down and bring my chair with me. I place my chair with the back to the Tree so I can observe the entire clearing. I pull some more chairs from my ring and place them in a curving line facing me. I sit myself down like a king looking over his kingdom, drink loosely held in one hand. My disciples hurry over. Where does this sudden hurry come from? This is the first time that they display such quick obedience. Ah, Ket must have been showing them my dungeon fight. I give them a smug look and peer down my nose at them.
“It is good that you realise who is the teacher here, however, I will slap anyone that starts scraping and bowing to me. But feel free to praise me!” I put my nose further up in the air and wait. Absolute silence greets me. I look at them and they all have very complicated expressions on their faces while gazing at me. I smirk at them and wave the awkward atmosphere away. “Just sit down. So, can anyone tell me how we can have a nice relaxing stroll through the countryside without drawing too much attention? How do normal adventuring groups travel?”
Vox is the first to sit and speaks. “Nobles travel in a carriage with an entourage, adventurer groups don't really leave their dungeon city a lot. We could pretend to be mercenaries but then we could get roped in by nobles having internal disputes. I think we should equip good but plain armour and find some riding beasts. If we carry some trading wares, we could pretend to be small time merchant warriors.”
Wow, I am not the only one surprised by that concise explanation. The rest are also peering at the redhead with new eyes. He still has that air around him that is begging me to punch him, but at least he knows his shit.
Vox then looks at Angeta. He holds up his hands in an apologetic manner before he starts speaking again. “Her heritage will be a problem, unless you want to dress her up as a pleasure slave?”
I suppress the flash of indignation at that suggestion. Angeta starts trembling but calms down quickly. I will have to give her more of that calming tea. There is some of it growing in the garden but the plants are still too young for harvest. It will take a couple of years to grow to the same potency as the dried stuff I gave her, thanks to the low qi levels in this pocket dimension.
“Your choice Angy, you can stay here when we meet people? Or you can cover yourself in armour?”
Vox shakes his head at this. “A fully covered person is immediately suspected of having impure heritage.” He nearly spits out those last words. “And will be inspected by any human fighting force we come across.”
Angeta casts a glance at Vox’s belly. “I will come here when we meet people. I will not wear a collar.” That last word is more growl than speech.
I nod at her reply. “Then all of you gather some suitable armour after this. Store a spare set in your rings. You can choose to use weapons if you want. As usual, try out all the weapons types available but don't get hung up on one specific weapon. A fanatic that only trains in the way of the spear is useless if he has no spear.”
I see that my words fail to sink in. I release a minuscule amount of my aura to force them to remember my following words.
“This is an order; never let your weapon proficiency exceed your hand to hand combat prowess. Fight with a weapon if you want, but you will die if you fully depend on external items. Losing your weapon will never be dangerous if you fight better without it. I have seen too many people die the moment they lost their precious treasure to let it happen to my own disciples. Weapons are tools, not crutches.”
I see the realisation hit them one by one. Even Bord has no problem comprehending this fact. “This also applies to all other things. Do not let a small portion of your life control you. Keep your options open in all things, do not stare at a single subject so much that it starts to overrule the rest of you.”
This lesson will not bear fruit for a long time, I hope. Sometimes life needs to be lived first in order to fully comprehend teachings like these.
Aw man, that was such a fucking teacher-ish thing to think. I stroke my short beard as I think about growing it out. Or should I paint it grey, then I can truly look like a wise old master.
“I also want all of you to be able to control every element before you reach core forming. Everyone must read at least the first row of books in the library. Those are the basics, then study as you like. Ask Ket if you can’t find books on a subject you want.” I look at Ket. “I assume you have read nearly all of them?”
He nods in return. He has a smile on his face that is reaching his eyes. This is the first genuine smile I have seen from this guy. “I have one shelf left to read.”
I smile in return. “Nice. Also, do any of you know anything about mountains that spew fire?”
Vox turns out to be the knowledgeable one again. “The mages control a few volcanoes, if that is what you mean? They keep them under control, the last explosion was a few hundred years ago. And the fire mages would never let Disintegration Island explode anyway.”
I had not heard the word for volcano before, so the word started out as unrecognisable babble. Halfway through, my language processor found the meaning and seamlessly patched it into my hearing. Listening to people speak in unknown languages hurts my head. There are a few more words and names in there that sound unfamiliar, but I’m sure they will come up later.
Side note here, for me there is a difference between knowing something and having it on file in a mental cabinet. I truly know English, I can think in it fluently. But the local language is just a bunch of information that I can access. Coming to truly know another language takes a relatively long time, and in the cultivation world, I have found more than a hundred thousand distinct and different languages. That is without all the local dialects. A thousand years is not much for a proficient cultivator, but for the many generations of mortals that often live in remote villages, it is enough to generate an entirely different way of speaking.
That's why my current language process has autonomy over my hearing and vocal muscles. It directly replaces what I hear as the local language with English. A mental idea or feeling is given along with the heard words if something cannot be literally translated. I consciously think and talk in English, but my body hears and talks in local.
Okay, side note over. I slow the swirling qi in my head back down and the world speeds up around me.
“Good, I was planning on heading north anyway. I vote that we go back to the mountains followed by a trip to the sea. I want to play pirate.” They all slightly move away from me as I show them my best smile. A few of them even start shivering. I school my face back into a nonchalant smile. “Do you guys have any suggestions? Anywhere you want to go or anything you want to do?”
Dead silence greets my well-meant question. It is too much trouble if I have to think of all the plans.
“Surely you guys must know something fun to do around here? I really hope this isn't an above average boring planet. What if I’ve already had all the interesting, fun experiences to be had on this dirtball? Then, how can I get off this rock as fast as possible? Hmm, let's see, I'd need that to achieve ascension. Maybe spaceflight? Energy density is too low for dimensional rifts…”
I stare at the square windows of Angeta’s fat tree for a little while, lost in thought. Where did she get such nice glass panes anyway? “Oh, I nearly forgot, what type of mounts should we use?”
They all look at each other with some confusion. Selis is the one to finally speak up. “Any animal that can be ridden and tamed?”
She sounds pretty unsure. Now that I think about it, the variety of mounts I have seen so far is pretty big, from lizards to birds to big bugs. I haven’t seen a single type of riding animal being used, like horses back on Earth. I blame magic.
“Great, that should be all from me. Do any of you want to discuss anything?”
Dead silence again. I suddenly notice that I am still pushing some of my aura through my qi. I close that mental faucet and I see the group relax. Oops, I could swear I shut that off long ago. Let's make them focus on something else. “For some reason, local animals are really friendly to qi users, so don't be afraid if you step outside.”
I stand up and march towards the Tree, waving for my students to follow me. “Come, I want to show everyone something truly awesome.” I mean the awe-inspiring version of the word here.
I step through the gate into the forest. A branch smacks against my relaxed face as I grab the necklace while falling down. It got stuck in a tree, twenty meters up in the air. I yawn for comedic effect as I use the smack against my face to position myself for landing. I land firmly on the ground just in time to prevent a high velocity landing for the first disciple through the portal.
It turns out it was Lola, she hops onto my shoulders the moment she landed on the grass. This is unusual behaviour… why is she acting so clingy all of a sudden? She even rubs her face against mine while looking at me with puppy eyes. Puppy eyes on a young white and fluffy rabbit. Criminally cute.
Then I realise. She is possessive and jealous! She must have overheard our discussion about mounts, and she must have sensed where the Tree necklace had landed. I look out over a massive horde of animals, packed tight and sitting side by side, basking in an artificial mana tornado formed by yours truly. Weird beast shapes and coverings everywhere.
I decide to tickle her. “There is no way *awawa* that I am going to ride such a cuuuute *awaaawa* bunny wabbit as you. I would totawwy cwush yoooouuuu.”
I focus on punishing Lola for her attention seeking behaviour, ignoring the condescending stares I get from my disciples. One by one as they step through the portal, their faces first fill with scorn or disappointment when seeing me. Followed by shocked amazement as they see the calm horde of over a thousand beasts.
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