Chapter 59 - Nurture
There is something about crafting that soothes my soul. Using my own hands to make something new is incredibly cathartic. I get distracted by my thought about souls for a moment. Nearly every person on this world has a black sphere, but I am starting to suspect that it might be a perception error on my part. I have developed certain ways of looking at things that don't seem to cross worlds very well.
I shake my head a bit and continue clambering across the support beams of my ship. The wooden rib cage that forms the vessel’s support structure is clad on the outside with wooden planks. The ship's hold will need to be filled with ballast to prevent it from keeling over with a stiff breeze, so I have no plans of making this area easier to navigate by foot.
Tess hands me another plank and I nail it halfway up the hull with my augur, making the beginnings of the below-decks floor. Please don't hold it against me if I butcher ship terminology, I was no ship-ologist back on Earth, and I refuse to call it something like the ‘First Heavenly Galley Floor’, as was custom with flying cultivator ships.
“Make some square beams to reinforce this floor. The qi-reinforced wood doesn't really need it, but we have appearances to keep up.”
I look at my disciples who are working hard. Ket is now in charge of gathering new wood. I wince a bit as Bord fails to catch a log as it ploughs into his face. The only other braincore cultivator on this planet, at least as far as I know, is chopping down trees, then he strips them of their branches and throws the log at high speed and with pinpoint precision. Bord rolls around a bit while clutching his face as Selis pulls on the water in the fallen tree trunk to make it roll over to her. Bord gets up just in time to receive another stripped tree to the back of his head. I glance towards Ket’s position and see his head peeking out between the remaining trees. He is totally doing that on purpose.
I ignore the resilient fatty and look at the rest. Angeta is using qi on her nails to slice the logs in the needed shapes, Vox is sanding the surfaces flat by lasering the protruding bits and splinters with his white beams and Tess is handing the results to me after Selis dries them out. I catch a square beam that jumps from the shadows and plaster it to the underside of the below decks.
I decide there and then to call the lowest area the hold, the floor above that the below decks and the deck is the deck. Below decks is where the banks of rowing slaves are normally, but multiple hidden qi powered rotary engines will do that job. I am still tinkering and simulating the engine design for optimal efficiency and controllability. The first prototype I designed and simulated went from zero to blender speeds without anything in between. Not only would the oars splinter into lethal shrapnel at those speeds, the water would explode into steam from the friction. Not ideal.
The below decks will be part experimental laboratory, part loading area and part guest quarters. A big-ass hatch midships will allow for stowing and loading of goods without cheating with spatial rings, essential if I ever want to leisurely tour some coastal cities.
I also decide to use the other sailing terms I remember. The front part of the ship will be the fore, the back is the aft. Port will be left, starboard right and the looking back is the stern. The big-ass stick will be the mast, the horizontal stick the beam. There will be two big sticks, the foremast and the mainmast. Those are all the sailing terms I will need, I decide. No need for complicated shit like the mizzen mast, fore jib halyard or, I snicker to myself, poopdeck. My translation process will have to listen to local sailors to pick up and automatically translate those terms first though, I see more sneaking and stalking in my future.
The ground continues to rumble occasionally as we work, the Tree is still rearranging the lands around us. The grand clumps of dirt and rock floating over our heads have disappeared, Tree didn't seem to be able to form the land and absorb dirt at the same time, so it made a buffer area. The main clearing is now located on a flat plane surrounded by naked brown hills dotted with rocks. The ice-covered mountain is located a few kilometres away.
This should be enough. Letting this little dimension grow too quickly is not smart, qi needs qi to generate more qi, spreading this too thin will slow the process way the fuck down. I link my mind to Tree with a thread of power, feeling for what it is doing. The semi-sentient perennial has thickened the ground in the centre by quite a bit. I feel it moving the big slabs of rock around, those I mined from the mountains while waiting for my disciples to climb up. The depth of the ground varies by quite a bit. I sense it planning some spots of grassland, Tree is keeping those fairly thin, but forested areas get way thicker ground. Trees tend to grow roots as deep as they are tall, the ground under Tree is especially thick now.
It has nearly finished moving the earth around, creating a roughly elliptical island of dirt hanging in the void. One end of the ellipse holds the cold mountain, the volcano will be put on the other side. It is the size of an average tropical island, maybe a third of the biggest island in Hawaii. Big enough to do some interesting stuff with, but still manageable.
Tree is also starting to plant new stuff again. Instead of boosting the growth quickly, as it did previously, it seems to throw random seeds everywhere. I rub the spatial ring on my finger and get an idea. I attach the next beam, finishing the structural part of the below decks level and hold a hand up to Tess who is sinking another plank into her own shadow.
“Hold up for a moment.”
I jump out of the boat as I glimpse Tess’ expression twist up a bit. Having a massive piece of wood in your own shadow without being able to put it somewhere must not be comfortable.
“Just stack them inside, for now, be right back.”
She points both hands to the darkness inside the boat as she pulls the plank to the shadow. I walk over to the Tree and pull another piece of jade from my ring. I mentally catalogue all the seeds and cuttings I still have and gather all the knowledge I have available about them. I make a small package of information for each type of plant, including things like preferred growing areas, ideal soil moisture content, ideal amount of sun and such.
I then transform all this information to images. I strip any emotions, text and numbers and display this information with icons and pictures. I push the modified encyclopaedia inside the piece of jade and touch it to the Tree.
“Can you do something with this?”
The tree stops all other activities as I pull a single seed or sapling from each type of plant from my ring. I weave a small stasis field around each one, freezing the qi and molecules in place to prevent them from wilting. I compress the earth around Tree, making a raised ring around the trunk and place the seeds and saplings in neat rows. Not all of them can be planted just yet, some need hot or humid environments, something that this pocket dimension still sorely lacks. I raise a single eyebrow as the jade sinks into the bark.
“Getting greedy? Anyway, if you understand what is inside that jade, start planting the seeds that can be planted currently.”
All the strands of golden qi flowing through the air rush back into the massive tree. A single thread of power emerges from its bark a few seconds later. It touches a seed at random but moves on after just a few seconds of probing. The fourth item its touches is a small stem of Deep Jade Tea, a pale green leafy bush that makes excellent qi infused nature type tea. This plant needs very little qi to grow and transforms the energies it absorbs into pure plant qi, Angeta will like that one. It also grows just about everywhere.
Tree envelops the small leafy branch and starts pulling on it. The cutting trembles a bit as my small formation breaks. Tree then floats it over to the garden and gently places it on a bare spot of ground. Golden qi sinks into the sapling and it starts growing with visible speed. I nod my head, that bush flowers and produces seeds within a year. It can self-pollinate, and there are instructions about that in the jade.
Tree then looks over five more frozen seeds before it pulls up a small one, planting it a bit away from the freshly planted tea plant. That small seed is Fragrant Blood Soaking Flower. Totally innocent despite its rather sinister name, this red flower tends to do well in iron-rich soil. Battlefields tend to have a lot of iron in the ground, so sites of massive battles usually have seas of this red flower growing everywhere.
I grin at the sight of a golden flurry of threads, Tree is gathering dead insects to increase the iron content in the soil. This is proof that Tree can read the piece of jade, so I turn around and walk back to the boat.
All in all, this little Tree dimension is shaping up nicely so far. I want to go steal some sand, sea water and sea life next. I instructed the Tree not to absorb any animals bigger than earthworms, the birds I let free are all doing their own thing now, but I don't want any uncontrolled animals with higher and faster growth potentials than my disciples running around. I also gave the Tree a kill on sight order for any mosquito or tick-like insects. Those pests are bad enough when they are normal animals, no need to let them become cultivators too. You do NOT want to know what a qi absorbing parasite can do to a person, seriously. I suppress the shivers running across my back and focus back on building the sailing vessel.
Vox is thinking a lot about the nature of things in general since Teacher threw that piece of jade at him. It contained an immense amount of information, but most of it was near senile ramblings. The process of sanding down the planks does not need a lot of brainpower, allowing him to think. His eyes shone brightly when he saw Teach walking over to the Tree and pulling an incredible amount of seeds and seedlings from his ring. The way he created a perfect ring around the Tree with a casual wave also impressed the redhead, but the sheer variety of potential plants has Vox salivating.
He had to learn the rule of the jungle when he was abandoned in the middle of a dark forest. The realisation that it was not an unusual holiday didn't hit him until a few days later when a boar-like being gored his legs open to the bone. He managed to climb some low hanging branches until the angry beast left. The gaggle of small boar-like beings following it explained its aggressive behaviour.
The next few weeks were hell. His leg started hurting more and more until he found a plant he recognised. His teachers had given him an education fitting of a noble’s son, and he knew a little bit of everything. The sap he wrung from the disinfectant plant stung like fire, he chewed through a wrist-thick branch to keep quiet.
He licked dew from leaves until he found a small stream. The stream ended up being the territory of a rather large cat though, and only the lucky find of a cat repellent plant saved him this time. He dug up roots and ate berries, wracking his brain for any scraps of useful information he learned from the few precious dungeon books that his family had access to.
He wandered through the forest, looking for a way out. He made spears from long and straight branches to defend himself, even managing to kill some small animals now and then. Fire was a mystery to the boy, dungeon tools and those fidgeting fire mages the only known way to make fire, and he thus ate the meat raw. Plants kept him alive, healed him and protected him.
When he found the end of the forest a long time later, his body was covered in scars. He managed to keep his face, hands and feet undamaged somehow. Finding humans again forced him to hide the marks lest he attracts attention. His frail looking noble features were washed away by a year of survival.
He finally made it to the dungeon city the furthest away from the Capital, Tower City. He decided to cast away the remnant of his personality and craft a new one. His father and teachers were all outspoken and obviously masculine, so he decided not to be like that at all. His noble habits were unlearned in the forest and he made sure not to act in the manner he was taught as a boy, ever.
Slowly but surely he picked his life back up, even taking his fabricated personality so far as to insult a noble, landing him in jail. He did odd jobs here and there to survive, but he never forgot about the plants that allowed him to live. So now, Vox is walking over to his Teacher.
“Need two more beams, then we can get started on the deck. OY TREE, GROW TWO BIG ONES FOR THE MASTS. Hey Vox, what is it?”
Vox remembers the massive amount of information in the jade that his teacher showed him. His fighting styles are both best for running away, something he had to do constantly in the forest. That information is very clinical and clean, however. Like a collection of neatly but lifelessly drawn pictures stuck in a big web. The cultivation manual his teacher showed him had something else though, it had a certain personality that shone through the ramblings.
“Can you give me everything you know about plants and medicine?”
No sing-song voice this time, but a neutral flat tone. Vox still doesn't really know why his teacher kidnapped him, but he suspects that the white glow he sometimes feels flitting through his body has something to do with it. Regardless of the reason though, Vox feels enough gratitude for this weird man to not bring forth his fake personality when asking this question.
Instead of frowning or annoyance, Teach grins wider than he ever saw him grin before.
“Finally. Sure, give me your ring for a second.”
Vox takes off the black ring with a minuscule Tree stuck inside it without question and hands it over. A big piece of jade appears in Teachers hands, the size of an egg. Teach then narrows his eyes for a single second before it disappears inside Vox’s ring. Some light flashes as Teach brings the ring on his finger in contact with the smaller spatial storage item.
Vox takes the ring back and nods a single time. The vapid smile he tends to wear takes a bit longer than usual to reappear, Teach frowns a bit at this as Vox turns around and resumes sanding.
Vox casts a glance at the ring now back on his finger as he smooths out the wooden splinters, the vapid smile turning into a genuine one for a single second.
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