Chapter 57 - Acquisition
‘Godfuckingdamn faggoty-ass nobles, all shit-stained smiles while holding poisonous daggers behind their backs. I can't fucking trust anyone. The only reason I am not dead yet is because the commoners would riot and the Flight would start a shit-fit.’
The king of the Shi-eit kingdom, ruler of the Capital and the First Defender is sitting on his throne. It’s placed on a dais in a big, circular room. The walls are lined with multiple rows of comfortable seats, pompously dressed people filling each chair. The air is filled with talking, cursing, yelling and thrown accusations.
The king slowly rubs his temples while smiling vacantly, not a sign of his inner tirade on his face. The usual headache-inducing clamour seems extra irritating today. A grand gathering was called the moment they received news from Peak City. A large amount of noble and merchant families are very pissed right now, and they have no qualms about venting it here.
A peaceful smile starts to spread across the ruler’s face, giving off a feeling of a strict but just grandfather. He stands up and his expression becomes even more friendly and approachable.
‘Nine copies have been found so far, half of the fucking secret recipes and god damn money-making schemes of these shitty nobles are now public. I got to do something about this.’
The king holds up a single hand. Silence slowly descends upon the unruly ruling classes gathered. The king starts to speak when absolute silence reigns.
“Our dear friends, It has come to our attention that there has been some unrest in the lands the past few weeks.”
The smile on his face is like an angel’s as he keeps internally cursing everything under the sun.
“First the honourable mages detected multiple large-scale mana disturbances to the south. Then we received reports of a stationary beast horde gathering near Tower City. That is followed by the Tower losing its top half. Then six peasants rampage through the city using unknown magics, alarming the revered mages further.”
Here he glances at a fat, sleeping man sitting to his side. It is a well-known secret that popular or successful mages never become representatives to the kingdoms. The current mage stationed in the Capital is an ageing bald man, his magical talent drying up due to old age. Suppressing the rage and frustration in his heart, the king continues his speech.
“Afterwards, a freak tornado ripped the roofs off of half the houses in Tower City, and now we have received reports of a dungeon book being sold to multiple merchants. We have learned that these books are copies, and contain many well-kept secrets.”
The king pauses here for effect. Books are highly sought after commodities, the Royal library is filled with tomes that dropped from the dungeon, this knowledge monopoly allowing the people in power to stay in power.
“We do not know the cause of these incidents. Our revered mage representative...” The king waves his hand in the direction of the snoring man. “...has told us that these happenings must be the vile rogue mages doing their evil workings. We do not know the reason or cause behind these incidents. We now ask all of you to give us your insights, one by one if you please.”
‘Horse-shit third person, I fucking hate talking in ‘we’ and ‘our’ but tradition is important. And of course, the moment I ask a proper question to this sewage-covered collection of ass monkeys, nobody says a thing.’
And indeed, silence lingers for at least a minute before a person stands up. Decorated in gold, jewels and the finest cloth, his clothing stretches around his voluminous frame.
“I have no knowledge of these events, I only want to know how I will be compensated! I will lose half my profit because a third of my proprietary recipes can now be read by...” The man pauses here to spit on the floor. “...commoners.”
A maid scurries across the floor with a cloth in her hands. She wipes at the spit stain but can't dodge the kick the noble aims at her. She grunts in response and scurries back to the servants’ alcove without making another peep.
Other voices start yelling their own demands. The word ‘compensation’ is thrown around a lot. The king still stands there with a peaceful smile on his face. Tradition allows a single interruption from the king per gathering, he will be completely ignored from now on. He grins internally.
‘I got my fucking ass covered now. Continue to ignore me, the scribes have written down every fucking word I said. Not a single fucking person can accuse me of negligence now, I brought up the entire issue at once. Not my goddamn fucking fault they can’t even agree on the colour of the sky.’
The king sits back down, watching the monkey show in front of him devolve into chaotic shouting again.
“Lola, is there anything you want?” I ask the bunny on my shoulder as I walk over grass-covered plains. “Maybe some carrots, or to make your own burrow?”
I spend the night making my way west, taking my time without hurry. The sun is peeking over the horizon now, the mountains in the east casting long shadows across the grass.
Lola just nuzzles my cheek as she lies in the hollow of my shoulder. “Alright, tell me if you want something, kay?”
I rub her head while thinking about the best way to do this. I could dig a large hole, but the soil is just a few meters deep here. Beneath that is clay interlaced with rocks. I think I should skim the top off a large area instead of digging deep here. I look inside my necklace and see Ket lying in the pond. Steam is wafting from his head, he must be applying the newly learned principles to everything he knows, seeing where they are applicable. The rest are still asleep.
The space inside Tree is not normal space. It can expand and contract as needed, the same with the application of physical laws. Tree is holding the big disk of earth and water together while imposing gravity. I could even turn it into a zero gravity zone if I want.
Expanding the walkable terrain is as easy as spreading a thin layer of soil, but I want something a little sturdier. I sink my qi into the ground, feeling for a layer of bedrock. I don't find it, just large chunks of stone with irregular shapes. I pull my necklace off and wrap it in qi before dropping it to the ground. I can break those rocks up to create the foundation for the ground, a layer of clay on top of that followed by thirty centimetres of fertile topsoil.
The necklace sinks into the ground while I guide materials to it. I tell the Tree to eject the soil and rocks beneath its roots, no need to interrupt Ket by floating tonnes of dirt above his head. The icy mountain is a few hundred meters below the Tree now, slowly lowering the temperature of its surroundings.
I sink down for half a meter, the grass under my feet turning in a shallow bowl. I then adjust the qi construct around the necklace, telling it to absorb a wide disk of earth. Radial filaments of qi pull earth, dirt and rocks to the necklace, where Tree pulls them inside. I set it to absorb about half a meter of material in a ten-meter radius. I can make a shallow and wide depression, that should attract a lot less attention than a gaping hole. The necklace starts moving faster as the Tree grows used to accepting a steady stream of materials.
The process pauses now and then to allow for a big rock to be pulled through. I instruct the Tree to deposit the materials in the manner described earlier, and it happily agrees that it is a good plan. Some of the leftover normal trees have their roots dangling from the thin soil layer, they get covered one by one as Tree thickens the ground. I keep walking, speeding up slowly as we smooth out the kinks in the process.
I instruct Tree to create a big lake. I want fresh and saltwater separation, I do not yet have a volcano to start a small rain cycle. If I were to pour seawater inside the necklace now, it would just create brackish water and kill all the plants. Tree makes a big bowl shape from dirt beside the garden.
Seen from the top, the garden is to the northeast, the clearing is to the south and the new lake is to the north-west of the Tree. The water surrounding the ring of dirt gets slowly funnelled to this lake and starts filling it. Golden threads of qi pick up water plants, fish and aquatic insects as they get transported to the new body of water.
I can see the sea to the north, so I plan on surrounding the disk of earth with sandy beaches and salt water.
I create a few processes to automate the necklace’s underground path. I see the ground sink in a widening circle around me and adjust the radius to slowly increase, speeding the process up further. I then grab Lola from my shoulder and look her in the eyes. “Had a nice time relaxing these past few days?”
She tilts her head at my question. I grin at her. “That ends now, go do some training.”
I throw her up into the air while wrapping her in a small qi formation and watch her soar upwards. There are now two white dots in the sky and they are growing closer fast. I hope that Rhea has cooled down a little bit, the rabbit flying towards her at subsonic speeds is sure to piss her off.
I stop walking, automating the necklace to move on without me as I gaze upwards. Enhancing my eyes with qi, I sit down to watch the show. I compress some air to form a zoom lens, allowing me to clearly see what will happen.
Re-Haan is confused again. First, her stalking victim went into a city with two of his disciples, then he ran to the west at top speed, and she had to work her wings heavily to keep up. He stopped when he arrived on the open plains and the ground started sinking under his feet. The dragoness can see a circular indentation forming, her sharp eyes catching the widening circle turn into a longer shape.
Then he threw something at her. The small object went too fast for her to get a good look at it, and it didn't slow down until it was nearing her height. Now she sees a small flailing rabbit gasping for air. The fluffy critters stops flailing as it slows down, and the dragon calculates it should reach its apex around the height she is flying. She licks her lips and concludes that the human is not only strong, he is also considerate, sending something to eat her way. She was just getting peckish.
The wide dragon’s maw opens in preparation for the snack, the bunny has stopped flailing at this point and seems to be breathing slowly. It must be paralysed by fear, she realises.
Re-Haan snaps her jaws shut, expecting a satisfying crunch of fragile bones. Then she is confused when nothing enters her mouth and even more confused when she feels a slight weight on her back. She turns her long neck, looking at her new passenger. The bunny is sitting between the spikes jutting from her spinal column, making itself as small as possible. She tries to reach for the morsel of food but it is just out of reach.
The bunny is sitting there with its eyes closed. Its breaths are coming slow and methodical, but it's breathing rhythm is speeding up slowly. Rhea raises a single scaled brow as she understands that it is acclimating to the thin air up here. She looks down again and sees the human looking back up at her. There are two sets of magnifying lenses between both parties, so she can see the slight hint of disappointment on his face clearly. What was the purpose of this action? She decides to ignore the bunny for now and continues to make lazy circles high over the plains.
Five minutes later she feels the critter hopping around. She cranes her neck again and stares into the big, dark eyes of the fluffball. She moves to bite at it again, but the bunny stamps her hind feet once.
The force of this small movement nearly causes the dragon to lose control of her flight. The scale the bunny stamped on almost cracked in half. She stops her attempts at eating the thing and watches the bunny hop around her back, weaving through her spines and seemingly having a good time.
So Rhea is confused even more, especially when the bunny hops over to her head and lies down on her nose while looking around. She has to admit it looks kind of cute. She jerks her snout upwards to send the critter flying, ‘dragons don't think that other animals are cute’, she chastises herself.
The bunny is airborne and lets out a soft squeal. It then kicks the air and Rhea is shocked at the force. The sharp crack of air means that the bunny’s feet passed through the sound barrier.
Her confusion only grows as the bunny starts jumping through the air, circling around her massive frame. It lands a little later and licks the white scales of her nose. She launches the critter again with a jerk of her head, and a small prickle of amusement works its way into her heart at the sight of the flailing and squealing critter.
I sigh in frustration. Leave it to Lola to play around with a dragon instead of fighting her. I frown as I stop looking up, maybe introducing these two females in my life to each other was a bad idea? I decide to stop worrying and focus back on the necklace that is now absorbing dirt and rocks like a madman.
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