Chapter 58 - Appropriation

Chapter 58 - Appropriation

I decide to ignore the frolicking dragon and bunny for now. I have some free time while Tree absorbs more dirt, so I sit down to meditate.

I focus my sight inwards, looking at both my cores. The moment I focus on both of them, I’m surprised, the small solid cores are not that small anymore. My braincore is now filling a good quarter of the available space and my heartcore has grown to a similar size. I think I have sufficient mental power to compress my liquid qi into a higher stage that should speed up the core forming process significantly. I won't do that out here though, I prefer the safety of an owned dimension for that kind of stuff.

I take a better look at my braincore and see every process I have running. I look at my danger analyser, as it takes up a good chunk of my available thinking space. I think with my brain, the separate areas in my mind still do their own thing. I still use my hippocampus for memory storage, for example. My danger sensing process runs on my braincore with a link to my actual brain.

You can see it like this; my brain is the overseer housing my consciousness. It then uses the braincore for dumb slave labour in the form of automated processes, by placing semi-permanent circuits. That means that that part of my braincore is now doing its own thing instead of boosting the brain. I can carve permanent circuits into my braincore, these programmed processes would run with a few percents more efficiency.

I don't do this for a few reasons; I would lose the circuitry when I perform another density increasing crunch and messing with permanent circuits is risky. I can't really pause the process to make changes, it has to be modified in real-time. Short-circuiting something important while changing the process is a rather painful, unpredictable and messy experience. So I will gladly lose a few percents of efficiency for the increased ability to change processes on the fly.

I take a better look at my heartcore, it wobbles around a bit as my heart pumps blood around my body. As usual, the core is both physical and immaterial. I can see and feel it, but cutting my heart out would not give you a physical thing. I suspect that the core is being held together by my consciousness somehow, my death would release the qi back into the atmosphere. I could have performed experiments on live subjects to find this out, but human experimentation is a line I feel very hesitant about crossing and beasts tend to condense actual cores anyway.

I know that I am experimenting on my students with my unorthodox teaching method, but I am not cutting them open while they are alive.

I stare at the process inside my heart for a bit longer. I breathe in mana and guide it to both cores with a fifty-fifty split. The transformed heartcore qi gets bound to the blood when it’s pumped through both ventricles. It then passes through the body, slowly getting released along with the nutrients and oxygen my cells need. The qi then follows these resources and reinforces the places where they are being used.

And I suddenly understand that exercise and training is potentially useful for heartcore cultivators. I did a lot of experiments back in the cultivation world in terms of exercise and improvement. It’s utterly useless for a braincore user, but muscles that get used a lot get reinforced more by the heartcore. This means that it is also moderately useful for dantian users, they get a small amount of automatic body reinforcement from the blood flowing through their guts. A rather small portion of the qi they gather in their core gets released in the bloodstream, like a weaker version of a heartcore.

I look at my muscle cells and I see a difference in passive qi density. My skin has a lot less qi reinforcing it than my leg muscles. My heart has, even more, reinforcement than the rest of my body. I check my brain and see that the qi is denser still. That explains why I have access to my augur already, I use and enhance my brain the most out of any body part, so that area received a relatively large amount of oxygen and nutrients.

I create a finely-toothed-comb qi construct and rake it across my skin. It leaves minuscule red lines running in parallel across my arm. The repair process starts immediately and I see blood vessels widening slightly in order to transport more blood to the damaged region. A few seconds later my skin is fully repaired and I sense that the passive qi density in that area has increased slightly.

I have to stop thinking of my heartcore in the same terms as my braincore, they are totally different. Moving around feels really good because my body feels the muscles being reinforced and rewards me for it. It is like a runner’s high on steroids. Qi reinforcement increases in active areas, sitting still will reinforce my body uniformly.

Time for another test. I found something similar to tobacco in my previous world. I pull a pouch of the stuff from my spatial ring and roll it into a cylinder. I substitute paper with a qi construct. I excite the molecules at one end and put the other end of the brown cylinder in my mouth. I take a long drag, burning up a third of the roll-up, breathing in the harmful smoke. I see a bit of the chemicals and tar stay inside my lungs upon exhaling, slowly damaging my alveoli and bronchi. Alveoli are the small sacs that do the actual work, bronchi are the branching air tubes, by the way. Blood flow to these areas increases slightly and I sense more qi being deposited there. Next, I create a small qi construct.

‘FOLLOW SKIN, SMALL CUT’

It races across my body, leaving a small red line in its wake. The split cells are repaired quickly, the surrounding cells dividing to replace them. I stop the construct the moment I see this. A top tier cultivators cells only split when they heal. A cell's lifespan is determined by how many times it has split, this entire concept is also known as vitality. Doing destructive training like this will increase the strength of that area, but it will also sap away at my vitality.

This has - among other things - to do with telomeres, the caps at the end of DNA. These caps shorten with every cell split, people age because the cells run out of telomere and stop being able to divide. Cultivators can live longer because qi supports a cell's workings. The cell has to do less work by itself and thus has a longer lifespan. Cultivators get older when they are active or need to heal big wounds. This also explains why body cultivators have generally shorter lifespans, they move and fight more, thus their cells need to split more often. It also gives some credence to the idea of sitting still in a meditation room all day.

I continue to do some more tests, but my concentration breaks when I fall to the ground. That is weird because I was sitting on the ground. I look around in a slight daze and notice that the necklace has dug half a meter of earth from beneath my butt. The circular depression is a hundred meters in diameter now. It has run around in circles, excavating more and more dirt from a widening circle. I do some quick math. Let's see, pi times fifty meters squared times half a meter is… around four thousand square meters of dirt and rock. Soil is one point seven tonne per cubic metre, rock two point eight, so the average of those... That is… about eight thousand tonnes of dirt.

That might seem like quite a lot, but this is going to take forever at this pace. I check the sun and see that an hour has passed while I was coming to grips with biological mortality. I want to put enough soil inside Tree to kick-start the qi cycle, and for that, I will need a substantial amount of materials. The mountain I stole is four hundred million tonnes of stone, so I conclude that I need a lot more dirt. I don't want the entire ecosystem of Tree’s dimension to be overpowered by a single cold mountain. I also want to kidnap a volcano later and I don't want to put it too close to my frozen mountain. I want the difference between the two to start generating qi, and putting them too close will cause one to melt and the other to cool. I will need to put a lot of soil between both temperature extremes.

I hold out my hand and snatch the necklace from beneath the earth when it comes by again. With Tree in hand, I look around. The big-ass circle is very obvious. It’s like a lazily made crop circle in the middle of grass-covered plains. I breathe out a big portion of my qi and slowly equalize the area. I sink it into the ground and start pushing and pulling. The ground shakes a bit under my feet, the grass rising and falling as the obviously sunken circle smoothes out into a very shallow bowl. There, nobody would suspect that I just nicked just under ten thousand tonnes of soil from this place. I jump away a bit, pulling my qi back to me.

Now on a fresh piece of grassland, I sink qi into the ground again. I also drop the necklace beneath my feet. I make a disk of qi, a hundred meters wide. I make sure the disk tapers off so it becomes thinner the further away it gets. I then pull all the dirt my qi is saturating to the necklace. I then start running as the ground sinks under my feet while pulling the underground circle and necklace along with me. Every minute, I pull in the same amount of rocks and dirt that got absorbed in the previous hour.

This is more like it! I speed up as I feel Tree growing used to handling large amounts of materials. I run in a curved line, leaving a shallow, kilometre long depression in my wake. I speed up a bit more, pouring out a total of half my liquid qi to increase my pace. I do three-quarters of a circle before making a sharp turn. I run straight across the wide plains before starting to turn again.

I make sure to not overexert my muscles, I want to prevent them from having to split as much as possible. I run for half an hour, enjoying the mindless pumping of my feet. Another straight, sharp turn and semi-circle later I stop. I trace a finger over the miniature Tree sunken in the necklace, Tree feels… kind of queasy? Don't throw up, Tree, I’m sorry for making you eat this fast. It slowly calms down and I take a look inside.

Golden qi is everywhere, massive tentacles of rock and soil are slowly moving to new positions. Enormous globes of dirt are floating through space in a holding area. The floating island of ground is a lot thicker now and rich, brown soil is being spread out, expanding the habitable area rapidly. It should have enough dirt to form a habitable area the size of a big island. That is enough for now, next up; sand for some beaches, a shitload of seawater and some fishes, and a volcano. Then I can call this pocket dimension’s first phase finished.

The qi levels have been dropping rapidly though. All this unpowered raw matter will start absorbing qi until they reach the same power levels as the ambient air. I look at the centre of the growing disk and see my disciples standing on Tree’s branches, looking at the grand spectacle with awed expressions.

I retract my focus from Tree and look around the plains. The sloping caused by the absence of underground dirt and rock is barely noticeable. I then reinforce the ground with qi and jump up, spinning slightly to look around. My grin breaks my face in half as I see my work. Some of you might have noticed already, but I drew a massive penis. I remind myself to come back here when it rains, the shallow phallus shaped ditch isn’t that visible unless you know what to look for, but rain will gather there. It should make a massive and glorious dong river. I burst out in laughter at the sheer stupidity of it all.

My danger process warns me of incoming danger but doesn't put me in battle mode. Must be something friendly? I look up and see Lola falling towards me. The projectile is friendly. She plops down on my head and lies her ears back. I make a grab for her, but she jumps to my shoulders with speed. I make another grab as we start falling, but she jumps off, kicks the air and lands on my other shoulder. She snorts and grumbles a bit. I tie her down with a band of qi and grab her by the scruff of her neck. She flails a bit but then hangs there dejectedly as we plummet to the ground.

I hold her to my chest as we land and begin scratching her between the ears. This seems to mollify her as she starts making small noises. “Had fun with the dragon?”

She looks up and twists her ears around. She wiggles her nose as she burrows into my chest. She’s such a cutie.

“What the fuck is even happening right now?”?

Half of the disciples cast a glance at Tess before looking back at the spectacle in front of their eyes. Ket was already awake, and the rest woke when the ground started rumbling and shaking. They gathered to find out what was happening but saw nothing out of sorts. Then, an hour later the Tree exploded into a golden glow. Streams of rock and dirt started spewing from multiple points around the large Tree, golden qi surrounding the undulating snakes of soil. They all looked around with large eyes at the weirdness surrounding them but went to do their own thing after it went on for quite a while. The snakes of dirt moved an incredible amount of earth to massive floating spheres as if Tree is storing the materials temporarily.

Now the rumbling suddenly stopped and they are all standing halfway up the Tree, looking out over the lands dotted with the remaining trees. Ket replies. “We can enter and leave through the Tree, I think Teach is gathering more soil by pushing it through.”

The circle of brown earth is growing visibly bigger as the ground continues to shift. The entire disk of walkable ground used to be fairly small, but it is rapidly expanding outwards. Large globes of dirt hanging over their heads start moving to the outer edges as they flatten and form hills.

“I sense the ice moving, look over there!” Selis points a finger seemingly randomly. Before anyone can say something, a white-capped peak breaks through the soil surface. Far away, at least a few kilometres from the centre, the mountain their Teacher stole slides upward into view. A cold wind starts to blow from that direction until golden threads of qi start a slow whirlwind around the stone behemoth. This keeps the cold contained, preventing the slowly creeping ice from spreading too far.

The group of disciples keep looking at the changing horizon, watching as the Tree makes valleys and ridges. Big rocks float together into formations to break up the ground here and there. The big and cold mountain gets surrounded by elevated plateaus while some of the snow breaks off to spread on the surrounding soil.

“WHAT ARE YOU USELESS NINCOMPOOPS STARING AT AND WHY IS MY BOAT NOT FINISHED YET? WHY ARE YOU STANDING THERE WITH YOUR THUMBS UP YOUR ASSES?”

The group of disciples nearly shit their pants as they jump into the air. Bord seems to float for a few seconds longer than the rest of the group, but this goes otherwise unnoticed. They scramble down Tree the moment they find their footing, the amazing sights forgotten for now.


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