Chapter 52 - Frame
I used to be absolutely fascinated by space. The race for the moon was long over by the time I was born on Earth, but school and games - green aliens with big eyes come to mind - kindled an obsession with the immensity of the infinite black. When the shock of somehow ending up on a planet filled with cultivators had worn off, I searched far and wide for anything related to outer space.
Disappointment started to creep in when every space-related technique didn't have anything to do with absolute vacuum. Names like ‘Infinite Star Trigram Dance’ or ‘Planetary Void Traversing’ were just names, the actual techniques having very little to do with either stars or planets. More disappointment set in when I realised that space was dangerous for even the most powerful cultivators.
The cultivation world was saturated with qi, but only because the local sun was a qi generator. So imagine, if a planet in a habitable orbit around a sun can gather so much energy from said sun, how much energy will a rock much closer to said sun gather? The sun poured out enormous amounts of qi along with its streams of ejected plasma. A single asteroid on an orbit close to the sun could gather more energy in a year than was present in the entire world.
So space was a deathtrap to all but gods. The only reason these sentient asteroids and other space-based creatures hadn’t eaten the cultivation world as a snack was thanks to planet-wide formations keeping them away. I also suspect the multiple moons circling around said planet where not much more than shield or stealth field generators.
So I accepted the fact that I could only step outside of the atmosphere after ascension. Now, however, things have changed.
The sun of the medieval fantasy world I am currently on is a normal sun. I think the planet's core is generating mana, but I need more information to confirm or deny this. Looking up at the stars at night shows me a peaceful star-filled sky, not a hint of the gas-planet sized creatures that inhabited the interplanetary space of the cultivation world.
So I want to explore space, maybe create a moonbase or two. Set up some automated mining facilities and maybe even forcefully elevate this primitive hellhole into a space-faring planet. Mad delusions of space-faring sects travelling in massive carriers while traversing the endless void fill my mind.
Anyway, I started thinking about space because I am building a ship. We all had a good laugh at the fact that I stole an entire fricking mountain and then started moving again. Night fell not too long after that, so I wove a small protection and stealth formation around the necklace and we are now chilling inside the Tree, waiting out the cold.
Well, I am chilling, my disciples are working. We have all gathered inside the main clearing, and I am projecting a blueprint in the air. My plane drone caught some footage of ships when it came back to me before nightfall, so I used those images to design a nautical vessel. I sent the drone to scout to the north, and it barely reached the sea before having to return. The design is a mix between a Viking longship and an age-of-sail galleon. It's a two-story vessel with two masts and rowing ports all along the sides.
The thirty-meter long blueprint is made up of glowing lines and my disciples are working hard. They're cutting down trees and drying them out. They cut timber into the required shapes and place them inside the full sized blueprint.
“Teach, how long does the qi gathering stage usually take?”
Vox’s sing-song voice shakes me from my musings and I reply distractedly. “Usually a year. The sets of fighting techniques I gave you all are extracts of the massive tomes they had to read through. Here, tell me if you find anything useful in this stuff.”
I pull a small piece of jade from my ring and upload an entire manual into the gem. It is the ‘Celestial Guiding Paths’ cultivation method, and I throw it to the redhead who just dropped a massive wooden beam on the grass.
“Tell me what you would rather be studying, that thing or Rapid Swift Speed?”
Vox blinks multiple times as he looks through the jade. “Wha-what is this shit?”
I grin back at him. “My thoughts exactly. Ninety-nine out of a hundred words are totally useless. It’s just old guys rambling on about superstitions.”
He throws the gemstone back to me. He then stands still in front of me and bows.
I wave him away. “Don't be so formal. I think that you all should be able to condense liquid in a few more weeks at most.”
Bord runs past me, carrying two entire trees. He is muttering about triangles as he runs back into the forest to gather more wood.
“Bord, wait up.” I throw him a piece of cloth. “Tie the piece of jade with your techniques to your forehead. That way you can access them anytime.”
He catches the strip of dark cloth and looks at it for a bit. He then rubs his ring and retrieves the green gem. He fumbles around a bit until Selis helps him bind the stone to his head. He smiles widely while thanking her.
“Thanks Sel, thanks Teach, I keep forgetting this complicated stuff.” He runs off again, now with a bounce and a weird roll in his step.
I cast a glance to Vox. “I think they used needlessly complex manuals to prevent others and body cultivators from gaining proper power. It was dantian or die.” I focus back on my work.
Ket motions to one of the trees as he controls a few iron knives. The metal whirlwind trims the tree into a log. Tess then slices through these logs with a rapier-like sword made from black qi.
Selis proceeds to pull the water from the wood while Vox and Angeta work the finer details. Drying wood normally takes months at best, or at least two weeks in a kiln. Cultivation is such a cheat, I love it!
I then place the wooden planks in the glowing wireframe and use my augur to meld the planks together on a molecular level. I don't merge it into a single whole because wood needs to be able to flex a bit. We are making good progress, this type of easy work is a welcome break for my tired disciples. The trek over the mountains wore at their spirits and qi reserves, so I let them have a good meal before we started making the ship.
“What should we call her?”
My disciples glance over at me but continue working with serious faces. Their speed and precision are getting better by the minute. Their initial cuts produced useless and crooked timber, I felt the Tree becoming irritated at the wastage. They have improved drastically after some practice, now Tree is even helping out with growing specific tree shapes.
Vox is the first to reply. “She? Ships have manly names, you know.”
I blink a couple of times. Earth has a deeply rooted culture of calling the sea and ships by female pronouns. I guess it was pretty stupid to assume it would be the same here.
“Alright then, what should we call him… it?”
I continue to run my hands over the planks I am welding to the frame. The skeleton is done by now, a ribcage in the form of the ship reaching its wooden fingers into the air and I am starting on the hull cladding.
“Tess, make the next planks a little thicker please, I want to able to repair this ship while pulling wood from the ship itself.”
She nods and replies. “Okay, how about the Ascent?”
I look at her, that is not a half bad name.
“For some reason or another, I don't think this ship will be stuck in water its entire life.” She is looking at the glowing lines delineating the form the ship will take with an enthusiastic smile on her face so I nod at her.
“The Ascent it is! You might well be right. Not soon though, we will be stuck on this rock until I can find a large energy reserve that I can steal without big repercussions.”
I adjust the blueprint to include the name in local writing. I smile to myself as I continue to glide my hands across the smooth wooden planks, fantasies of space filling my mind again. Should I make a moonbase first? Maybe a spinning circle space station?
An alarm pulls me from my crafting trance as a proximity alert goes off. Something is snuffling around the mountain where I laid my Tree pendant down.
A white dragon is soaring through the skies. Where previously the dragon could only fly to the edge of the clouds, some ten kilometres up in the sky, it now soars through the much thinner air. The dragon's neck is bent at an angle, allowing it to scan the ground constantly. A bubble of air paints a distortion around the winged beast, the contrast between air thickness distorting the light.
This dragon is Re-Haan, of course. She has been stalking the cultivator for a few days now. The experience of losing herself in a massive whirlwind left her shaken, so she spent a day meditating and reading the small red book. She calmed down a lot after that and the bruises the weird man left behind on her body had faded by that time. She observed the bustling city below her for a bit, watching the small insignificant figures repairing the damage she wrought.
She then cast a last look at the white blur of a spinning circle. Her skin broke out in goosebumps every time she laid her eyes on the thing. The bubble around it was still there, smoother than glass to her frictionless touch. The small bright dot in the centre was growing brighter imperceptibly. Then she jumped off the jagged Tower top and shot into the air, only turning into a dragon at great heights.
A few days earlier, she saw just white fluffy clouds hanging in the skies, now she sees them as the warm, rising columns of air they really are. The air gets colder and squeezes the water out of itself, allowing it to condense into a fine mist. She does not know why cold air can carry less water yet, but she suspects that the human has answers to her questions. The mountains are now easily recognisable as barriers that force the air to become dry, thus explaining the deserts to the south.
She revelled in her newfound realisation by flying higher than ever, causing the still imposing Tower to shrink down to the size of a wooden splinter. After coming down from that high, both literally and figuratively, she called to the wind to form a lens, allowing her to see farther than before.
With that system of compressed air lenses, she scoured the roads until she found him, riding a dumb looking blue bear. A few other figures followed him, but they were so unimportant in her eyes that she didn't even consciously take notice of them.
And it is a good thing that the temperatures so high in the sky are this cold, otherwise, we would be observing a blushing dragon right about now. Because dragons worship one thing, and one thing only. This one thing is strength. That human stopped her maximum speed charge with a single punch. That human quelled the wind that was ripping houses apart. That human casually threw her a small booklet filled with the secrets of the wind that doesn't even exist in legends.
So Rhea has been feeling all hot and bothered for a few days. She felt hot because of those casual yet domineering feats of strength and bothered because she felt that way about a human. She would gladly sacrifice every single human on this planet if it meant that she could save one of her fellow Flight members. But now one of these humans has been doing this to her, which bothers her greatly.
She wanted to fume with anger, rage against the injustice done to her ego and pride. But then she felt the wind running along her wings and she understood the mechanics of that wind and that anger slipped from her grasp.
And just when she was hyping herself up to fly down there and try to fight that small figure to regain some of her former glory, a mountain disappeared. It must be said that blowing up mountains is more like a pastime hobby for dragons, it's pretty cool if one can accomplish that feat, but nothing to write home about. But making an entire mountain vanish, leaving only a smooth plateau behind?
The moment the group left, she turned into her human form and let herself fall to the earth. She then studied the massive smooth surface but found not a single clue. There were no mana disturbances, not a single tool mark left behind on the mirror-like surface. She looks at her own face for a while, sliding a finger across her sharp cheek. She neither liked nor disliked her human form, but the human had a weird sort of fascination on his face every time he looked at her.
Now she is flying high in the skies again, observing the group jump from peak to peak. He looks to be casually strolling around as if walking through a sunlit field of grass. The figures following him are all fighting hard to keep up, deploying a wide variety of methods to do so.
Then Re-Haan sees them stop. The humans gather, and the important one fiddles around for a bit. She blinks and they are gone, leaving only an empty crack in the mountainside behind. The large, white dragon narrows her eyes and re-adjusts some of the air lenses. She sees a small black spot stuck in a crack. Her toothy maw displays her fangs in a teeth-filled dragon smile as she banks down, diving towards the mountains below.
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