Chapter 67 - Pressure
I really missed tuna! I hadn’t found any good alternatives to this fish in the cultivation world, so it has been a thousand years since this taste graced my tongue. The piles of veggies and fish are gone, only empty plates left on the table.
I pull the tableware back into my ring before any of my students start studying the items. The plate and cutlery I gave Rhea look the same but are slightly different, any materials that are cut or carried by the implements have their qi stripped. I didn't want the dinner to end up with a qi poisoned dragon rampaging around, so I took some precautions. It doesn't really influence the taste at these low levels of qi. I hope nobody noticed.
The fish doesn’t have any qi, but the seasonings and vegetables do, so it seemed prudent to me.
My disciples looked at me strangely, a vaguely unknown woman suddenly joining, but I spoke to them with my fierce glares. Behave or die, is the message I sent. I hope it came across, but they all ended up too enthralled by the food to really comment on the sudden interloper sitting next to me. She wolfed down the food quicker than even Bord, quite a feat!
The table is located in front of the mast, near the railing. I want to play some music now, and I don't want to sit on a chair, so I sit go sit on the ship's edge. I pull out a three-quarter guitar made from some divine moon wood or something. The sect I stole it from was rather pissed, but that wood has the best resonance properties of any wood I have found so far.
I strum some strings and fiddle with the tuning. Selis and Ket walk back to the raised aft section of the deck, Tess following them and begging for hints. Angeta jumps overboard, and I hear her cursing as her feet keep breaking the water surface as she jogs behind the ship. Bord also joins her and Vox continues to try and get a tan, unsuccessfully.
I play some basic chords. Even these simple groups of notes sound rather nice thanks to the special wood used in the instrument's construction. Every fibrous grain inside the white material resonates with its own unique frequency, supporting tone octaves higher or lower. The entire guitar is slightly vibrating in my hands as the neck and body seem to hum along with my strumming.
I fingerpick some notes here and there but suddenly pause. “Rhea, do your people make music?”
“Call me Re-Haan, stupid human. And no, we only sing to our enemies.”
“Not even a lullaby or something?”
She frowns and starts humming separate notes. It sounds disjointed, but I realise that the constant breaks in between tones prevent the air mana around her from building up. I listen to the melody in full. It sounds like some catchy sing-along song.
I hum the melody a couple of times, experimenting with different timings until I find one that I rather like. I analyse the base note and the tone ladder it's in. It’s in C minor, happy and sad combined. I decide to go with one, four, one, five. That gives me Cm, Fm, Cm, Gm. I decide to switch the Gm to a major G chord halfway to make it a bit more upbeat.
First, I fingerpick some tones, getting a feel for the melody. I throw in some sevens and nines here and there to spice things up a bit. I start working in more concurrent melodies as I get lost in the music. I throw in some A major chords that use the same pattern to switch things up in the chorus.
I have so much available brain space with which I can think about the melody, it's great. Previously, I had to keep a rather complicated muscle control program running for the intricate hand movements that making music requires. Now I just let my heartcore handle that stuff, leaving me with more mental room for improvisation.
I wake from the musical trance I am in when I notice something rather concerning. Since when did it get this dark? I look up and see a massive storm cloud above us. An eery but beautiful song is now accompanying my guitar playing.
I notice that my fingers are still moving. My heartcore keeps surprising me like this. Going from one hundred per cent manual control to the best automatic in the world is a rather big step when it comes to moving one's body.
I stop the playing on a nice high note, leaving the melody decidedly unfinished. The beautiful voice slowly fades. I feel some awe at the dark spectacle above me and am nearly blinded by the streaks of purple coming from the single still-sitting person at the table.
I look at Rhea as she closes her mouth. Her eyes open wide as she realises what she has done. I feel an enormous high-pressure area building around us, any barometer from earth would be indicating ‘very dry’, but I doubt that will be true here.
I take another look around the boat, and the various animals are all peeking heads from hatches or lying on the deck. The yellow snake is breathing in big gulps of air as it circles around Vox, who is red as a lobster once again. I put the guitar away and look around.
I take a single step and appear next to the steering wheel. I can put the shield up or keep the concealment barrier going. The air that has rushed here thanks to a certain singing dragon with a really high air affinity has now started forming thunderclouds. There is very little metal on the boat, but passive qi reinforcement increases electrical conductivity, so that’s a moot point.
The clouds keep gathering, and I untie the knot that keeps the sail up the mast. I press a button on the steering column, and the oars slide out from the sides of the ship. I see thunder crackling through the clouds above, and I put the metaphorical pedal to the metal, the oars churning the restless sea. The wind is erratic now, and my students fight with the sail as they try to roll it up.
Rhea seems like she is preparing to leave. “Re-Haan, are you a lightning mage?”
She stumbles as I interrupt her take-off. “What? No, my affinity is air.”
I feel the hairs on my arms raising from static electricity. I quickly pull a spool of copper wire from my ring and unfold it. I shove a lot of qi inside as I make it stick up over the mast while the end is in the water beside the boat. ‘ELECTRONS GET FREE PASSAGE, SUPERCONDUCTING STUFF’
A massive column of lightning descends from the sky, smashing into the hastily erected wire. I have a lot of qi inside the thing, but I can barely prevent it from turning into plasma. I pull the heat from the glowing wire and dump it in the water. Maybe I should use silver wire? It’s melting point is a bit lower than copper, so that’s a negative. Also, experience has told me that copper accepts qi suggestions more easily, so that eliminates silver pretty quickly.
I talk loudly to Rhea again. “Would you have come through that unscathed?”
The lithe female looks at the rapidly dimming glowing metal with a complicated expression. She shakes her head once, causing her white hair to flutter in the wind. She then closes her eyes, and I feel the coming storm around the ship lessening in ferocity a bit. That’s nice but won't do shit about the lighting.
My students are still rubbing their eyes, trying to get the blinding flash off their retinas. Only me and Bord can see quickly again. All the animals have scattered belowdecks.
I breathe out more qi as I spread it through the air around the ship. ‘ALL ELECTRONS, GO BE EMO. NEGATIVITY, LIFE SUCKS, ANTI-POSITIVITY’
I feel the static electricity around us lessen as more lightning strikes the sea around us. Good, this way I can keep the concealment barrier going and don't have to raise the shield to protect against lightning strikes.
I close my eyes briefly, focusing on my scanning process. It still uses an extremely thin sheet of qi that is being rotated around my body. There are no other ships nearby, but the wind and waves are so bad now that optical visibility is very poor. The massive sheets of rain that have started pouring down also don’t help with my qi sensing, the raindrops lowering the resolution with which I can sense over long distances.
I look behind the ship and see the foam trail the bow makes. It is of no importance with the weather this rough, the waves are a couple of meters high by now, but I can't go at these speeds when the weather is calm. My semi-invisible ship still leaves a visible wake in its way.
I jump over to the cooking area as the items have started moving around. The deck is swaying more heavily now, and the chairs are sliding over the deck. I quickly put everything back into my ring. I only leave the chair that Rhea is sitting on.
Back at the wheel, I grab hold tightly. The waves are getting really big now, and all my dantian disciples are either holding onto the railing or have glued themselves to the deck. I increase the rowing speed a bit more, this storm must come to an end somewhere, right?
Rhea is terrified. Dragons don't get scared easily, but seeing a massive column of electricity strike moments after she planned to fly upwards shook her. She would not have died immediately, but most likely would have been burned enough to make flying hard. Even impossible if her wing had been hit. That would have caused her to drown; she's pretty sure.
So while she is sitting on the chair, squeezing her buttocks tight to prevent any leakage, she looks around. The humans who accompany the weird human are all looking around with wide eyes. The human himself is standing behind the wheel, a massive grin on his face. None of them show any fear, however.
Rhea has seen many storms, she now even knows how they come about, but never one like this. The music that he made was just too good not to accompany with a song. She lost herself in the interplay of notes, he reacted to her singing, and she sang around his playing. When the song petered out, she came back to her senses and nearly choked on the air mana around her.
She had been singing, so there should have been some big air disturbance, but the mass of clouds above her head is something else entirely. Making it rain is rather easy to her; simply sing a rain song. Making the wind blow is rather easy too, she knows a few songs for that. Thunder is harder and takes longer, but doable.
This storm has all of those combined, something only the most ancient of air dragons can perform. The thickness of air mana around her is still absurd, did she do all of this? As another big spray of water drenches her in salty wetness again, she thinks back to a few minutes ago.
The food was delicious. Dragons don't need to eat a lot, and their bipedal form slows down their draconian metabolism to an even slower crawl, but Rhea has eaten some of the best dishes on the continent. None of them could hold a candle to the interplay of fatty fish, salty potato-like slices and sweet vegetables that the weird human served her.
Then, full and content, the weird human casually asked a question about dragon songs that would get an emperor of a continent immediately executed by draconian law.
She purposefully sang the melody in halted notes, not allowing any mana elements to gather. He then sang it, and nothing special happened. Did that guitar maybe do something? She did feel a rather peculiar aura coming from the instrument, and every pluck of the string seemed to reverberate through her entire body.
The black strings on the white wood seemed to call out to her, an irresistible invite to join this melody. So she sang along, timidly at first, but losing herself in the music shortly after. The results of this musical trance are apparent, as she slides the chair over the deck to avoid another massive splash of spray. Kind of useless in hindsight, as rain starts pelting the ship seconds later.
“Alright kids, this is the perfect time for some training! No external usage of qi, so Selis, no cheating with the massive amounts of water, kay? Hitting someone nets you one point, getting hit costs you a point. The one with the highest points can request a custom meal from me!”
The voice sounds so relaxed and casual as it rolls over the deck that Rhea is about to calm down. Then the meaning of the words seep through into her consciousness, and she stands up with unsteady legs. Just in time to dodge the fat kid, who just bounced off the main mast.
They are in the worst storm Rhea has ever seen, and they decide to start fighting now? Madness! The dragoness has known some daredevils in her time, but this takes the cake. She sees the beastwoman climbing up the mast, sweeping to and fro as the ship rocks.
Rhea feels her skin break out in goosebumps as the fur-covered woman jumps down to kick the red-haired human in the face. A fraction of a second after the pale-skinned human blocks the ambush, another massive blast of lightning hits the mast where she just clung on to.
The fat kid is now bouncing around while spinning like a madman, the small blue haired girl is stomping with steps that make the ship shudder, and the black haired girl is only visible when lightning strikes illuminate the entire ship.
‘Truly, absolute madness!’ The worst storm Rhea has even seen or heard about is unfolding around them, and they are just playing around! Looking around with wild eyes, Rhea sees a single safe spot. Next to the important human. Maybe she should use this opportunity to ask him for his name?
Rhea slaps herself across the face. What is she even thinking about, why would she ever need the name of a creature that will be dead after she takes a single hundred year nap? She still decides to sidle up next to the steering wheel though, dodging some punches and kicks on the way over.
I suddenly remember my drone! It should come back later tonight, but who knows how well it will do with a massive fucking magic thunderstorm in the way? I create a small process that will do regular long-range scans in the direction it should be returning from. It has an intrinsic link to me and should be able to find me from halfway across the globe. It runs on qi with my fingerprints, after all.
Alright, I was almost worried there for a moment. I steer the ship into another massive wave and yell from sheer jubilation as I get drenched by the bow spray as the entire vessel crashes into another watery valley. I try to wrap my arm around Rhea’s waist surreptitiously, but it gets slapped with quite a bit of force. Ah well, can’t win 'em all.
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