Chapter 53 - Instigate

Chapter 53 - Instigate


These words keep bouncing around in Ket’s head since he heard them. Teacher had said these words in passing as if they don’t hold a lot of importance, and while the rest must have missed this bit of information, it is fucking with Ket’s head big time. Theory after theory got made, examined and trashed.

‘Sun is just a star? Stars are suns. Planet circles around the sun, then do stars orbit each other? The band of white across the night sky, that's more stars? They are falling so fast they escape, right? Cluster of stars, are there more star clusters? Do star clusters orbit each other slowly? Need to ask Teach for books about space, start recording stars?’

On and on and on his thoughts go. He has half his mind locked up in theory-crafting right now. The fraction of his mental powers he is using to control the tree trimming knives is inconsequential, giving him a lot of space to think while he chops the trunks Bord is hauling into neat cylinders of wood.

‘No, this world has no qi. Not this world, the world outside this pocket space. It has only mana. Qi is a higher form of energy, another place? Like the Tree, but bigger? Are they side by side or completely separate from each other?’

He has read all the available books, their information recorded in his memories. But each book is so dense, each page filled with important theories that need to be examined. Then there is the hologram projected in the air. Sleek lines that will carve through water. He optimises the path of a knife, shaving another millisecond of his average branch cutting time per tree. Then his Teacher stops running his hand over the planks and looks to Tree.

‘Planet, planet and moons, sun and planets, cluster of stars, group of star clusters, groups of groups of star clusters, does this apply the other way around? Bigger is the same, so smaller is the same? Cycles in cycles in cycles but where is the end?’

Teach then walks over and puts his hand on the golden glowing bark. He then frowns, opens his eyes a fraction and smiles, in that order. A rather mean-spirited smile, if Ket has anything to say about it. The Teacher analysis process he has running gives him the needed info, that smile is one he makes just before pulling some kind of ridiculous scheme. A ridiculous scheme that has a predicted near hundred per cent chance of going well.

He then pops out of existence with a muted flash. The group of disciples around him stop working for a moment. Bord comes bouncing back into the clearing, carrying two trees. He drops them and then catches another pair of trees that come falling from the sky. He seems to be muttering while working up a sweat.

“Two times more, that’s double? That’s double. Why is the boat not triangular? Wait, it sort of is. Squares with the points connected are also triangles?”

It seems like Ket is not the only one using his brain at maximum capability while enjoying the rewarding work of qi-crafting something. Ket diverts his quest for answers to crafting possibilities for a bit. They spin and flow through his head, from minuscule statues to how to craft the biggest buildings from stone.

Answer is a pyramid. The top part of the library is also triangular. A pyramid can support its own weight the best. Ket looks to the rustling bushes Bord just walked through, off to get more trees. Maybe he is onto something with his mutterings about triangles.

He stops this train of thought before it can spiral out of control. A sudden presence makes him drop the knives working on the trees and look at the Tree again. Teacher is back, but why is there a tall lady with him? She seems slightly familiar to Ket, but he has trouble recalling where he has seen her before.

I feel the wind steal my warmth as I appear on the mountainside. It is still night, but there is no way in hell I can miss the huge dragon’s head a few centimetres from my face. Instead of panicking I smile lazily. I extended the protection bubble around the Tree necklace upwards to include myself, the air around me shimmering with power. I try to give off a lazy smile while shouting some words at my qi around me.


I see the meters long dragon head sniff me, my clothes flap in the warm breath she exhales. I sniff my own armpit. I don't think I smell?

*Sniff sniff*

Yeah, I don't smell bad. I have some small cleaning processes take care of sweat and grime. Let's see why she is here?

“Hello Rhea, how can I help you?”

I think I see the dragon frowning to herself. I am not an expert in reading a dragon’s facial expressions though. She isn't moving any other part of her body, is she shocked at my appearance? A low grumble starts to come from her throat and I think she is talking to me.

“I don't speak dragon, what do you want?”

The dragon head makes a tsk-ing sound, so that expression of annoyance is universal? I have to praise her for being able to put so much exasperation in a single sound, that can’t be easy with such a toothy maw. I wonder how far I can annoy and push her? I feel the wind swirling around her scale-covered body. I consciously begin to feel admiration for her impressive form, and the faint indigo trails of mana surrounding her become visible. Back when I first met her, on the broken Tower, I only sensed some white-ish trails of mana circling around her. So air mana is actually a purple-blue to my senses?

The mana inside her body seems to be roiling as if she has trouble controlling such dense energies. She must have gained heaps of power from reading that book. That small book only has the basics of aerodynamics, enough to get a feel for the scientific field, but not enough to make one an expert.

I feel inside my core for the contracts I have running. The student’s contracts are small pinpricks of light compared to the blazing inferno of power that represents the agreement between me and this dragon. She must have gained more power than I thought. I wonder if she is aware of it yet? At this power level, she shouldn’t be able to think about reporting my presence to third parties without the contract activating.

The dragon growls for a bit but backs off after poking the shield with her nose. A flash of light later, I see the female form of Rhea standing before me. That process used to take a few seconds at least, now it’s done in a flash. Another indicator that her power shot up over the last few days.

“Give me the next book.”

Ah, so it was as I suspected. You don't need much intellect to realise that the book that she is now holding is only a beginner guide. I want to see how far I can push her before she starts fighting back for real.

“Sure, I only ask that you do one thing for me.” I smile at her. Doubt is clearly written across her face, let’s up the ante.

“That book seems to have increased your power by quite a bit. Surely one request is worth more knowledge? I don’t think you can find this...” I pull the second volume out of my ring and wave it front of her face, “...anywhere else on this dirtball.”

This volume is also red, that was the type of leather I had on hand back when I made this. I have primers on all the elements and I put protection formations on each one of them. I added the gemstone to this second volume a few days ago, when I was temporarily stumped on a design problem for my airplane. It starts smoking because only I am allowed to see it, so I quickly add Rhea’s aura signature to the acceptable people list.

Her hands twitch the moment she sees the small book, but the shield around me is stopping her from taking action.

“What do you want this time?”

Suspicion is truly dripping off her face now. This is going to be fun. I give her a coy smile and explain.

I begin another small lecture while sitting in the clearing. “In my previous world, cultivation was also known as going against the heavens. This is both true and utter baloney. It’s true because cultivating extends a being's lifespan. You guys will live for a few years longer with the power you currently hold. I am at a power level where my natural lifespan is at least doubled, same for you guys if you reach the core forming stage. You will be functionally immortal if you can reach the foundation realm.

”It is also true because this longer lifespan allows you to learn a lot. Ten thousand hours of work are needed to become proficient in a field, cultivators can thus become proficient in any field they choose. This is of course apart from the fact that cultivators tend to learn faster, but they can develop a single field further, so it evens out.

“It’s bullshit because the heavens are filled with more cultivators. Ascension is a big and fancy sounding word, but all it entails is that the person in question can fully function using only qi. Their mortal, fleshy body does not need physical materials anymore, they can function on pure energy.

“I think that this entire cycle extends upwards ad infinitum. In the so-called heavenly plane, a cultivator works to swap his or her qi body out with an even higher form of energy. I don't know if ascension is even possible in a world that only has mana, I will need to do some more research on that topic.”

My words linger in the air. My students are all paying attention, but not a lot of what I am saying seems to stick. In through one ear and out the other? They are distracted by the aura given off by the newcomer, I think. I smile at the seventh form sitting on a chair in front of me. We are all sitting on comfortable chairs in the clearing while I am giving a small lecture. I sort of got off topic, so let's bring it back. I wave my hand towards Rhea as I continue.

“This lovely lady over here has had the fortune to be born inside the body of a long-lived race. It is lethally rude to ask a lady’s age, but I think she is physically older than me. That’s why I want you all...” I look my disciples in the eye one by one here, “ have a little spar with her. Fighting in that form might not be her strongest point, but she should be able to put up a fight.”

“One more thing though, but this is important. Killing is easy.” I pause here for effect. “Stabbing a spear into someone's heart is a lot easier than applying just enough force to a person's head so that it renders them unconscious without permanent damage.”

With that, I walk away. I approach the skeleton of the boat we were working on and continue to layer on planks. The rest are all still sitting there, not moving a finger. I cast a glance towards the houses and see the various animals all lying down near their rider’s abodes. My blue bear is relaxing on my castle’s balcony, slowly breathing in the qi in the air. The mark of ownership guarantees that none of the animals become stronger than their riders, so my bear is the only one that can breathe in qi like a madman. He should advance to the condensing stage in a few more days. I place the second plank against the frame and notice that all seven figures are still just sitting there, not moving. This won't do. Won’t do at all.

“Rhea, hold out for half an hour and I will give you the next two books. Disciples, if you can hit her, unlimited food for a day.”

The next moment, I hastily erect barriers over the Tree and buildings to protect them from the shockwaves of battle. Ket looks my way with suspicion in his eyes but joins the fight anyway. I was counting on Rhea’s pride and their hunger for good food to prevent them from working together against me, and by the fight that is unfolding it has obviously worked.

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