Chapter 62 - Irritation
I almost forgot about Lola! I look into her eyes as she sits on my shoulder, those black orbs staring back at me unblinkingly. I'm pretty sure that this entire plan will fail the moment they see a castaway floating in a small boat with a little bunny on his shoulder, no matter the story he tells. “Lola, do this.”
I point a finger in front of her nose on which I collect some qi. ‘NOT IMPORTANT, JUST SCENERY, IGNORE ME, NOT HERE, NOT HERE, LALALALAA’
I see her eyes glide off my finger. She shakes her head and takes another look, only to stare off into the distance in a daze. I reduce the amount of qi hovering around my finger by half, and she snaps out of it. “Get it?”
I spend half an hour trying to teach her how to become practically invisible. She doesn't seem to understand what I am doing with the qi though, and the unknown ship is now clearly visible, and it’s getting closer. Then a brilliant idea strikes me.
I pull some thick cloth from my ring. It looks like finely spun black cotton, but it's made from Demonic Weave Spider Silk. That freaky creepy crawlies use the stuff to make webs that are clearly visible at day but become impossible to spot at night. It collapses on top of prey bigger than a certain size, binding them up tight. The unfortunate being then becomes a handy takeaway meal to be consumed later for later.
The cloth has a silky smooth finish, and I use a qi edge on my finger to cut it into shape. I sew it together with some Heavenly Weave Spider Silk; those slightly less freaky creepy crawlies make webs that are impossible to spot at day and are completely white.
Some fine qi work later and the item is finished. I integrate a few small qi formations into the material itself. One hides the wearer, the next keeps it stuck to whatever surface it is sat on and the last is a self-cleaning function. The last one is the most complex, funnily enough, it slowly disintegrates anything that is not the object itself, hair or a living being with a sufficient consciousness.
I plop it on top of her head, which causes Selis to rub her eyes. She was looking at the bunny with twitching fingers again, but now has trouble locating the critter. The thing I just made to hide her in plain sight is a miniature pirate hat of course! Including embroidered small skull. I can rotate a part of the hiding formation to break the circuit, allowing the world to gaze upon her cuteness again when we are in safer waters.
The ship is getting closer now, and I observe it carefully. It has three masts and looks like one of those fat trading vessels from the Age of Sail. People in ragged clothes are running around and climbing the ropes. Their shabby states are starkly contrasted against the expensive looking leather and light mail armour and weapons I see a small fraction of the crew wearing.
Three people stand out, clustered in a group standing on the aft section, near the steering wheel. One has a telescope and is peering at us; another is dressed in fancy red robes, seated on a fancy chair holding a fancy staff. The last one is obviously the captain, the ridiculously large hat and big beard giving him away.
The fancy guy is not paying any attention to his surroundings, fully engrossed in snacking on something while being cooled down by more people in rags. I take a good look at his face, the colours he is wearing should indicate that he is a fire mage. And indeed, I see a permanent sneer on his face while his movements come across as twitchy.
I hold my head down as I school my face in a despondent and slightly scared expression. Let’s see how this goes.
Angeta is holding herself back, big time. She has to force her nails back inside her fingers constantly, the qi inside her body now allowing her a fair bit of control of the previously stationary pointed needles of horn. Every look the crew sends her way sends shivers running across her spine and she is having flashbacks to when she first got captured. She was very lucky that some nobles pay big time for untainted slaves, else holding herself back would have been totally impossible instead of only slightly.
Teach had spun some sob story about being abandoned by lifelong friends, just so the cowardly backstabbers could run away. He bowed and scraped while offering the pompous looking guys on the boat the contents of the chest. It contained some bars of metal, a weapon or two and some food.
It seems to have worked, to her great surprise, because a ladder was hung on the side, allowing all seven to climb onboard. Once there, they were hauled in front of the captain and mage. The mage didn’t cast a single glance their way, too busy with taking a little nap. The captain took one look and ordered them to the brig while he was rooting through their gift chest. Then some armoured fellows bound their hands in chains and steered them down a hatch on deck, guiding them down the stairs none too gently.
Her beastkin pride is now screaming at her not to take this kind of treatment. She is pretty sure that Teach can kill everyone on board with a single wave of his hand, and she should be able to cut her way through half the crew before meeting any serious resistance. That combined with the explosively grown strength of her fellow disciples allows her to keep calm as she is being appraised like livestock.
Murmured remarks about the best ports to sell this group of newly captured slaves reach her sensitive ears constantly. Every insult she stores in her memory, along with the face that it comes from. She wrinkles her nose a bit at the smell of all these people. Washing seems optional to everyone wearing rags, and the leather-wearing soldiers don't smell much better.
The smells below decks are even worse, hammering her olfactory nerves with a myriad of sweat, rotting food, piss and shit smell. Even a hint of something else. She forced her fellow disciples to take a plunge in the pool near Tree when they started to stink or to scrub themselves with qi, so it has been a while since her sensitive olfactory was invaded by something so foul.
She thought that the ship they had been building over the last few days was cramped below decks until she saw how small the hallways in this one are. They move in rows of two, shuffling past obstacles in single file. That weird smell grows stronger, and Angeta now recognises it as sex.
She breathes in through her nose deeply and regrets it immediately, but it confirms the smell of human and beastkin intercourse. She has not seen a single beastkin so far, so what…?
Teach stops for a single second, looking at a door he is about to walk past. Angeta hears muffled groans coming from beyond the wooden barrier. A hard to make out expression flashes across her Teacher's face, something she has not seen him express before. He coughs into his hand, stealthily snapping his fingers as he does so.
He continues walking as if nothing happens, but the soft grunts have stopped. Angeta reasons that the sound was too quiet for humans to hear, as nobody reacts. The soldier behind her shoves her forward, and they reach an open space, as the group of cultivaors is forcefully guided through strips of fabric hanging from the ceiling in rows. They descend another set of stairs and metal bars come into view. A fat, bald guy wearing a leather apron looks up from a desk and stands up.
“Wheyre dihd ya fine these sods? I heird naw fihtin?”
Angeta blinks as she listens to the accent. The melodic sounds of the Shi-eit Kingdom’s language are horribly butchered by this fat person into a crude, rough sounding speech.
“Floating on the sea, dropped by a runner. We’ll catch up to them later today, so prepare for more fodder.” The lead soldier replies with a grin, his speech the smooth and snappy sounds of city folk.
The fat guy just grunts and pulls a big ring of keys from a hook behind him. “I'll puht them in block fouwr.” He then moves around a corner, motioning for the rest to follow. Angeta nearly loses her shit as she rounds the corner.
She smelled more unwashed bodies once she stepped down the last set of stairs, both human and beastkin. She tried to mentally prepare herself but did not expect to see what she is seeing now. Rows and rows of densely packed bodies are chained to the floor, humans are allowed to sit in cramped spaces, but beastkin are stacked two high on top of each other at the minimum.
The variety of different skin colours, furs, horns and ears is staggering. Scaled panther-kin are stacked upon long coated sheep-kin who lie next to feathered goats while surrounding yellow and purple humans. These ethnicities rarely come into contact with each other, their castes too different, but here they are forced to use each other as beds. Half of the soldiers have now turned around and are stomping back up the stairs. Three of the leather-clad humans still follow the group, some holding their noses in disgust.
The variety of humans is also rather wide, and Angeta sees humans with coloured skins for the first time. Brown, yellow, red, even some people with a blue tint to their complexion are chained down while sitting squeezed together. The rattling of chains is overloading her sensitive ears as some of the prisoners turn to take a look at what is happening. The majority doesn't even bother to change position, apathetic looks on their faces.
“Okay, this was a mistake. I thought I could relax and pick up some good info by...” A soldier is about to strike Teach, but he casually blocks it and punches the guy in the gut, the chains around his hand rattling to the ground, broken. He moves quicker than Angeta can follow, and a fraction of a second later both the soldiers and the fat guy are splayed out cold on the ground. “...allowing us to be taken in as guests, but I have no desire to be stowed like livestock.”
At least fifty people, both humans and beastkin, have seen the commotion happen. They slowly start rattling their chains and clamouring. Teacher snaps his fingers again and a wave of silence engulfs the room.
“This is not fun; this world has some truly shitty sides.” He rubs his beard as he looks around. “What do you guys think we should do?”
Selis closes her eyes as drops of water start to gravitate towards her. She worms the liquid between her bound hands and her chains join Teachers’ on the floor. She uses big movements to step over and between the bound people on the ground until she reaches a spot in the middle of the busy room. She bends down and another set of manacles falls to the ground.
She is holding a small limp form when she straightens back up. Tears are shimmering in her eyes as she lifts a small fur covered girl, reminiscent of a wolf. “I… I knew that my parents traded in slaves, but this… this is...”
Angeta immediately recognises the little one as one of a soldier caste. She raises her eyebrows at the weird behaviour of Selis. The small soldier is breathing and got herself caught, what is there to cry about? “Selis, why do you care about a soldier?”
Teacher snaps his head to look at Angeta, who is still staring at Selis. “What do you mean?”
Angeta looks Teach in the face and replies. “She got captured, now she is a slave. What more is there to say?”
Her Teacher closes his eyes for a short moment as his eyes roll around in their sockets. His face twists into a scowl as he opens them again. A vicious aura starts being released. The tail wrapped around Angeta’s waist starts squirming around as it poofs up in an instinctual response.
The sudden shift in his aura causes all the students to take a step back, the eerie lack of noise in the room only serving to enhance this dramatic shift, the few prisoners on the floor who were getting rowdy at these developments freeze. Angeta feels cold sweat running down her back as Teach begins speaking slowly.
“So just because someone more powerful than her said she is a slave, she now is one for life? You don't return to your own country because you will become a slave when you return, should I see you as one too?” His face twists further, disgust and anger now dripping of his very being. “So it is fine if someone more powerful than you uses that power to control your life? Just because someone can control a bit more strength, qi or mana, their word is law?”
Only Ket seems to be able to withstand the darkness now swirling around Teach. Selis is looking wide-eyed at what is happening as the aura seems to avoid her entirely. The bearded man’s voice now thunders through the absolute silence.
“Just because someone can punch or fight a bit better, should we all take their word as law? Should we all revert back to the animals we evolved from? Throw away the amazing thing that is consciousness and sentient thought, just to start fighting like savage animals who kill each other to become the alpha?”
Silence reigns for a full minute as he gets himself back under control. Slowly, the sound of rattling chains become audible again as the prisoners shift around nervously. Angeta is now cowering in the corner, huddled into a ball.
Goddammit, this is why I don’t like looking up stuff in my information database. I went through the archive of everything Angeta said so far and found the conversation between Vox and her as they sparred. I had to look through a lot of irritating and morally disgusting facts to get to it. I know that keeping my modern-earth, so-called enlightened mindset, is not smart, but I refuse to be dragged down to the level of the world I am in.
I lock away the rage and the green swirls of mana fade from my view again. I sensed someone busy performing rape as we walked down the stairs, killing that man calmed me down a bit but those callous remarks brought back those feelings with a vengeance. I really shouldn’t take it out on Angeta though, she is a product of her environment.
I look around the hold we are in and drag my hand across my face. I close my eyes and pour out nearly all my qi. ‘FREEZE YOU MOLECULE FUCKERS, STOP ROTATING, STASIS FIELD FREEZE ALL ALIVE, GO!’
People stop moving as I push the qi around the ship, avoiding my students. Selis freaks out a bit as the small form in her hands starts stiffening. “I froze everyone other than us, put her down somewhere.” She carefully drops the half-conscious girl back on the floor.
I can hold this for… at least half an hour before I start getting a headache, let’s get to work.
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