Chapter 51 - Exploitation
Angeta breathes in the cold air through her nose and jumps. Her powerful feline legs propel her through the air at high speeds. The wind screams in her sensitive ears, the cold makes her eyes water. She does not feel comfortable at all, but neither does she mind it. She lands with a willowy grace, almost as if she sheds her momentum through roots worming their way into the ground.
She straightens her posture and takes in her environment. Her mount is in the Tree, hanging around her Teacher's neck. She would love to warm her hands on its searing scales, but the big rodent would probably freeze in these temperatures. The inner peace the animal seems to radiate feels soothing to the troubled woman. Mountains stretch around her, an endless range of jagged peaks and steep cliffs. Some rivers run through the valleys, but most of the water is locked up in thick packs of snow.
Multiple thumping sounds alert her to the arrival of her fellow disciples. It hits her all of a sudden, she now truly thinks of this motley collection of humans and a single scale touched as her fellow beings. It has not even been a week since she was suddenly kidnapped again. From certain death or slavery to a total unknown was a hard pill to swallow at first, but the proud beastkin can see that her situation improved immensely.
She stretches her body according to the method described in the fighting style she received, the plant like movement warming her cold limbs.
“Can’t you guys speed up a bit?” A drawling voice tinged with some annoyance reaches her ears. She, like the disciples beside her, looks at the source of that sound. There he stands, his simple but clean cut clothing somehow untouched by the wind. His dark short hair flutters about his face as he stands on air.
“If w-we weren't freezing, this w-wouldn't be so hard.” Her old snarky self can't help but surface now and then. Her teacher just clicks his tongue in return, makes a single step and speeds away again.
“Are you guys too dumb to use your qi to warm yourself? You learned to make fire, right?”
It always goes like this. He says a few things in passing, and they make her head explode. How come she didn't think of that before? Such a simple change of looking at things, but Angeta has to admit to herself that she would have continued to do what obviously isn’t working. Instead of simply pumping the qi through her body, she now thinks of sitting in front of a warm fireplace. Heat spreads through her bones and her shivering stops. She feels a tiny trickle of her inner qi leaving her, but taking deeper and faster breaths than usual should compensate for the loss.
Teach had told them about mana turning into qi during the slow trip from the Tower city. Angeta keeps both things in mind, both the fire and the image of multicoloured streams turning into a single white energy, and jumps again. She soars over another kilometres wide valley while swooping through the air.
She notices that she won't make it, this jump will cause her to smack face first into the cliffside. She already dreads the rattling shock that will go through her body again, normal beings would learn after doing that a few times. This would be the twentieth such blunder she has made today alone.
Then an image flashes through her mind. Back in the beastman forests, there were these trees. They produced seeds that rotated, allowing the wind to carry them far while spinning. She now feels the wind fighting her, pushing her back.
‘So that’s how those seeds fall so slowly, the use the fighting winds against itself.’
Other tidbits come to her mind, the few books that she has started reading are starting to make sense. One book implied that air had weight. She had scoffed at the idea, thinking stuff like: ‘Yeah? How come I’m not being crushed right now? Stupid book.’ She can feel it now, though, the wind below her is pushing just as hard as the wind above her.
A flat green leaf-like seed shimmers into existence beneath her feet, causing her vertical speed to drop. She manages to keep standing on the construction for exactly two seconds, then the entire thing starts spinning like a madman. As a result, she now smacks against the cliff beyond the peak she was aiming for with the added impact of centrifugal force.
She spends a few seconds cursing everyone and everything, before jumping again. Now multiple green leaves shimmer into existence, bound to her hands and feet. This jump also smacks her against the cliffside, the rotational force working against her limbs causing her to spin out of control.
Then she recalls another old memory, one of a snake falling out of a tree. Instead of smashing against the ground, this snake flattened itself, spreading the see-through fins on the sides of its body. It then proceeded to fly through the jungle, snatching a small rodent from the ground in the process. She had watched this with wide open eyes while joining her father on one of their infrequent hunting trips.
The next jump, the leaves are gone. Angeta instead worms her way through the air, small transparent qi constructions sticking from her limbs and side helping her float further. She smacks against a cliff face again while still wiggling her body like a snake. Another couple of seconds filled with swearing later she jumps again, trying to take back the lead she had in the lower mountains.
She thinks ‘At least I’m not cold anymore,’ moments before face planting another rocky surface. This, however, was the first time she got so close to her target after such a jumping distance.
I managed to finish my drone airplane last night. I am currently using it to scout for interesting things to the north because I already found my kidnap target with it. I am going to kidnap the top of the highest mountain in this mountain range. I think that the top seven hundred meters will do nicely for now. I will need to shove a massive amount of earth and water inside the Tree afterwards, the mountain will cause the entirely of Tree to freeze eventually otherwise. That is until I can kidnap a volcano, of course. I'm already drooling at the energy ecosystem I will be able to craft with such beautiful opposites working together to form a circulation. I will have to instruct Tree to kickstart the generator, but it should become self-sufficient after a while.
Fire qi will rise from the volcano, circle among the suns and cool down, where it will fall upon the ice mountain. Frozen qi will then fall down, lose its cold and come back up through the volcano. This cycle will start to produce more qi after the entirety of its components are soaked with the energy.
It’s so much fun to have an entire world free of cultivators at my fingertips. I would be immediately executed by the higher-ups had I tried these types of stunts in the cultivation world, depletion of a planet's natural resources is a rather serious issue if people can live for millennia. If those things are not strictly monitored, all you would be left with, in the end, is some asteroids and a massive amount of highly explosive pocket dimensions.
Back to the present though, my students are slowly but surely improving. The difference between them from a week ago and now might seem rather large, but it's just the first step of the first step. They turned from mortals into cultivators who can jump for kilometres and fight hundreds of normal people in the span of a week. The speed is something else though. I never entered a sect and have little first-hand experience with normal cultivating speeds, but even I know that this speed of progress is not normal at all.
The slowly widening valleys between mountain ridges is an excellent opportunity to teach them more control. The first mountains - hills actually - were just a few hundred meters apart. Angeta was the first to jump such a gap and landed with the grace of a cat, as expected. Bord was second best thanks to his constitution. I think his affinity has something to do with mass and weight, but I will let him figure it out by himself.
The rest struggled but improved so much that they are now ahead of Angeta. She got cocky and didn't bother improving beyond her natural abilities. Pride cometh before the fall. Or faceplant after faceplant, in her case. She has been improvising with some nature-based concepts though. Now I hope that she will refine them through the power of science instead of vague nature-based superstition.
I feel Lola shivering on my shoulder so I pet her a bit while waiting for the rest to catch up. I see Selis gliding through the air, a cloud of thin ice shards surrounding her and guiding her fall. I jump away again, the mountain I want is only a few kilometres away now. I see its peak sticking up from the peaks of its shorter neighbours. Fear not, you smaller mountains. Soon, you guys will be the tallest things around.
I decide to speed up for a bit and kick the incoming ground hard enough to shatter a good chunk of it. The mountain quickly grows bigger now that I’m going full speed, so I prepare my method of kidnapping.
‘Tree, buddy, prepare. Put this thing far beneath you when we push it through. Get ready, three...’
I feel a subdued sense of excitement coming from my necklace. Golden energy spills out and surrounds me. I shape a portion of my own qi into a single molecule thin rope, a few kilometres long. I throw the rope to the ground, guiding it into a big triangular shape as I soar through the air.
My flight will cause me to scrape the mountaintop, so I adjust my flight down a bit. I force a big amount of qi from myself and from my necklace to my feet, in preparation for impact.
The lowest part of the triangle starts cutting through the mountain below me now, I give it some more instructions and bend my knees slightly.
A lot of things happen simultaneously, I will go through them one by one. First, the wire cuts cleanly through the entire mountain. I sliced off more than I initially planned, but think big or go home I’d say. The bottom of the grand loop cuts through the mountain just shy of a kilometre below the top. The wire becomes perfectly straight when it passes through, and I gave it some slack to allow it to continue the clean cut through the entire thing.
Then I let the qi at my feet explode through the entire hunk of rock upon contact. I also pull some of the Tree’s golden qi through the thing. I stop the energies at the cut I made. I then ask the Tree to aid me in pulling the enormous hunk of stone through.
I pull and the mountain resists its displacement. Especially the need to move the entire thing a few hundred meter down from the portal is causing it to fight back. I am still absorbing the shock from my landing when I give a massive pull. I shove the rest of my qi into my brain to give me more pulling power. The tree starts moving dirt from underneath its roots, so we can deposit the mountain closer to the portal, but I tell it to stop. Frostbitten roots can't be good for it.
I feel the tree putting its power behind my own and our combined efforts bear fruit. A huge displacement of air causes me to tumble through the wind as the mountain disappears from underneath my feet, leaving a huge flat surface behind.
Let's do some quick math while spinning through the air, the mountain was a rough pyramid, so let's use that. Three-quarters of a kilometre in height, and let's make the sides half a kilometre wide. No, make it the same as its height, it is a pretty stumpy mountain. Volume of pyramid is its length, width and height multiplied over three. Plug in the numbers and the entire thing is just point fourteen cubic kilometers? Converted, its a hundred and forty million cubic meters, that sound more impressive! Rock weighs two point eight tonne per cubic meter on average, so thats…
The mountain I just stole is four hundred million tonnes of rock. Damn…
Hot holy dang, that is four hundred million times a thousand kilograms of rock. I start giggling like a schoolgirl. These few weeks back on the mortal plane have allowed me to put things back into perspective, the thing I just did was actually thought up on a whim. I just fairly easily transported an entire mountain into an alternate space. My giggles descend into full-blown laughter as I smack against the flat plateau. Starting over from scratch maybe wasn’t so bad after all.
I get my laughter under control fairly quickly and hop inside the Tree while letting Lola guard the pendant. I jump of the edge and get some distance between the Tree and me. I see the small circle of land, water and trees hovering above a snow-covered mountain. I start giggling again and by the time I am back outside am rolling on the floor laughing again.
My students arrive one by one and stare at me with horror in their eyes.
“Heehe, I… HAHA, If you guys thought that kidnapping you guys was a crime, hehehihi…”
I try to regain some composure, but it isn't helping my laughing fit. “I just kidnapped an entire mountain, HAHAHA!”
I continue laughing like a madman. Ket suddenly cramps up his face and starts giggling too. He joins me and our peels of laughter echo off the perfectly smooth surface we are standing on.
The rest are still looking around with wide open eyes, staring at the place where a mountain used to be. Selis looks down at the mirror-like surface, peering at her own reflected face and starts giggling too. I see Lola looking at us with confusion in her eyes. I point at her, but can't get a word out of my mouth. The rest look at the perplexed rabbit.
“HAHA, Lola doesn't even know what is so funny b-hahah because she is a rabbit, WAAHAHAA!”
For some reason, my comment sets the rest of, and they join Ket and me in laughing our asses off. The next five minutes, a group of seven cultivators spend their time clutching their stomach and letting their laughter echo off the surrounding mountains.
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