Chapter 78 - Autnonomy
Finally, some peace.
Sitting on Fe-Taak, an earth dragon much, much older than herself, Re-Haan breathes in slowly. The last few weeks were just too much. Thinking back on her behaviour, she barely recognises herself. The cold wind calms her down as she follows the turbulence trails and swirls of wind rushing by with her eyes.
Ow, what? A green stone with a metal chain drops in her lap. How did this get there? A few hundred possibilities flit through her mind this time. She sees a small, black dot falling from the tower. Then her sight just loses him. Another one of his tricks.
She takes another deep breath. These last few days were way too much. At this point, she just wants to curl up in a cave and sleep a few centuries. Why did he get to her like that? Dragons are badly made, he said. Someone has had his fingers in the very makeup of her being.
Re-Haan's hand finds the green stone and she takes a closer look. It’s just a stone. Thinking back to his story, she should put it on her forehead? Yeah, he did that earlier with the cell knowledge. Re-Haan finds it odd that this simple solution to her question took her some time to think of.
A diagram appears in front of her mind's eye. Start here, then read this, and some optional parts. She takes a look at the data and finds the basics of cultivation with a braincore. Her face gains a wry cast as she looks at the stone. She already knows most of this. He told her himself. Thinking back, the amount of information indicates he must have talked for a very long time.
Re-Haan tried to make compartments in her mind already, but thinking got really difficult and sluggish when she did that. She tries it again while clinging to the warm scales beneath her, and finds her mind is a little less slow this time. She releases the process and her thoughts speed back up.
She drops the chain around her neck, pulling the simple piece of jewellery beneath her loose fitting shirt. She looks down on herself and realises she will need to get some proper clothes. She usually just transforms a thin layer of her skin into some simple armour. Re-Haan decides to not experiment with her broken transformation skills just yet. That feeling of drowning in her own… melted organs was horrible. And he didn't seem to care.
That’s another reason why Re-Haan decided to flee. Selective caring. Re-Haan doesn't really care about anything. She'll just go to sleep when something is bothering her, waking up right as rain a couple decennia later. He doesn’t seem capable of that. If he does care, he's great at hiding it.
There is just an intense focus on whatever shiny thing catches his eye. Maybe she is judging him too harshly. Then again, maybe he shouldn’t mess with her mind and body like that.
Phah, dragons are created. Next thing he will claim that she has some form of inbuilt drive to find the strongest mate possible. Like she is ever going to believe that.
It’s fine though, she’ll just get more powerful. He was looking for large sources a mana, she recalls. Flight Mountain has heaps and heaps of mana crystals. Re-Haan makes a fist and feels the power inside her body. She never really liked her human form all that much, but now it seems she'll be stuck like this for a while.
Hah, Re-Haan wishes she was young still. She's a couple of thousand years old, as far as she knows, but she does feel older sometimes. The vigor of her youth sapped away by years of boredom and napping among other sleeping dragons.
‘YOU SHALL LAND THERE’
A shudder runs through all three dragons as she mentally shouts at her qi that surrounds them. It’s weird and funny how similar to mana control working with qi is. It is also totally different though, Re-Haan can’t quite explain it.
She holds onto the spikes jutting from her ride as they descend towards a field of grass. A village is nearby. She will dump the shirt there and get some new clothes.
She bends sideways in order to get a better look at the ground. The spike she was holding onto snaps in half and the dragon beneath her butt rumbles in pain. Looking at the brown shard, she notices that she jst ripped it free by accident. Fe-Taak could fall from the sky onto solid rock, and his scales would not snap like this. They might crack and he would not survive it, but such a clean separation needs immense force.
Re-Haan drops the shard and stares in the direction of Flight Mountain, clenching her fists and grinding the scale to powder.
“So this is qi poisoning?”
“Seems like it, how did Teach form our cores?”
“He slapped us, right? He punched Ket in the stomach.”
“Me on the top of my head.”
“No-one ever asked him why or how?”
Ares feels like she is dying. Her stomach is turning, her skin is reversing and her brain is melting. She can only slowly flail about as she feels her body turning inside out. She pulls a clump of grass from the ground as she rolls around, clutching her stomach.
The girl has had a pretty laid back life so far. She was raised as a noble, with the sudden disappearance of her brother as the only major negative point, living a life of relative luxury. She got tested and her light affinity came to light. Light mages are the healers and medics of the mage factions. They never fight, they only get shipped around as rich people pay out of the ass for treatment.
Losing total control of her life - thanks to meeting her brother again - and being inducted into this weird group of weirdos, is not something that she experienced before. So she is getting angry. Really angry. She wants to curse but can only vomit and dry heave, further angering her.
“Lots of plants around, this is a weird dungeon. There is nothing in this massive room, only some lights on the ceiling.”
“Yeah, I feel really comfortable here. Lots of nature mana around.”
“Comfortable, why do I feel like I should be angry then?”
“I'm just feeling thankful...”
“Wait a minute, those are the emotions linked to nature mana, right? This must be the nature or wood floor? Maybe other floors have other affinities?”
“Can you guys please focus on helping my sister? I just gave her some rations to eat when she was hungry but forgot that qi is bad for untrained people. I’m sorry, sis.”
Suddenly, the retching girl is filled with compassion and love for her brother. She feels gratitude at the care he showed her. Then anger floods her again as she realizes that her current state is his FUCKING FAULT, THE ASSHOLE.
And just when she is getting distracted from the roiling pit that is her stomach, she somehow manages to vomit up even more biting bile.
“Te… You know what, she's in just as deep as us right now, no need to hide things anymore, right? So Teach formed our cores for us, how do other people form qi cores?”
“He punched me in the gut and I have a braincore, location is not important.”
“Let’s try punching her with some qi loaded strikes?”
“You are not punching my sister for fun.”
Ares is too wrapped up in her tumultuous emotions to really pay attention to the conversation happening around her. All her attention is concentrated on laying down in a fresh patch of grass. She manages to squeeze out the presence of mind to not roll around in her own puke, at the least.
“Let me try something.”
“Ket, you are not punching my sister!”
“No, no, I have a few theories on how to form a core. Let me try it.”
“No Ket, you are also not groping my sister. Tell me what you want to try and I will do it.”
Tess glares daggers at the black haired boy. “So you really wanted to touch her? What's wrong with you?! Come on Angeta, beat him up, we girls have to stick together!”
Honestly, at this point, Ares is fine with anything. Just, please make this feeling stop. “Vox, please h-” Her plea gets cut off as she vomits again.
“Ket, tell me what you plan on doing, she is not looking good and getting worse.”
“Simple, move a ball of qi through the three locations.”
“Yes, see what sticks and release control of your qi if the place feels right. That’s all I can come up with.”
“Kay, I will try.”
Ares feels a hand on her stomach. She cracks open an eye with much effort and sees her brother staring at her with concern in his eyes. Compassion floods her again, barely winning out over anger.
“All the hells, I feel her organs failing.”
“What do you mean?”
“She is slowly shutting down. It'll get really bad in a day, I think. Please shut up, let me concentrate.”
Ares feels a ball of… something moving inside her body. Her nausea fades a bit. Then, the ball moves up inside her chest and she faints.
“Is she dead?”
“Shut up Selis.” Vox’s terse reply causes the blue-haired girl to snap her mouth shut. She then furrows her brow and seems to be getting more and more angry in response to the terse reply. Then she looks around and suppresses the rising anger with obvious effort.
“Not the gut, not the heart, not the brain. I don’t know...”
“Try flooding her with your own qi, maybe you can suppress the rampant qi that way?”
Vox closes his eyes in reply to Ket’s question. Light floods the unconscious figure as Vox slumps his shoulders a bit. “It stopped her organs from breaking down, at least. She vomited up her stomach lining there and there.” He points to the latest two places of dirty grass. Small flecks of pink can be seen in the yellow bile.
“Damn, that must suck. So, what's up with this dungeon?” Angeta asks while tapping her foot.
As if in response, Bord kicks the ground and shoots off. His spinning flight stops when a figure appears under his foot. The shape formed from leaves that suddenly appeared explodes into a storm of shredded greenery.
Only Vox is not looking at the majestic scene of Bord being showered by green confetti.
“What was that? I felt a mana fluctuation just before you kicked it.”
Bord shrugs at the beast woman's question. “It felt slightly dangerous, so I kicked it.” His finger slowly reaches for his nose again but gets interrupted as a glowing green shard falls into his blonde hair. Fat fingers pluck the object from his head as he studies it.
“Look at the ceiling, the crystal dimmed when Bord destroyed the… nature golem? Plant monster?”
Everyone gazes up at the ceiling just in time to see two of the lights dim from blinding to just bright. “Vox, you are on healing and support. I will guard you two. The rest, do as you like. No uncontrolled external qi usage, I don’t think Teach would like it if we caused this dungeon to explode.”
Angeta grins as she cracks her knuckles. “Finally, some fighting without all this stupid holding back!”
Just when she is about to turn around to punch some plant monsters, Tess appears from her shadow, two green crystals in her hands. “They are even weaker than those dog things from the Tower’s first level. Ket, are these useful for Teach?”
Ket catches the two shards and studies them. He flicks a hand sideways, a metal ball piercing through a suddenly appearing leaf monster. He crooks his finger and the metal ball hits the crystal falling from the ceiling. It explodes into green dust upon contact. “Oops, they seem quite fragile. I think that we can start producing quantitative amounts of qi with these.”
He holds the crystal up to his nose and breathes in. “Going to need more mana types though, single mana type conversion gives very little qi.”
“Yeah, whatever. We just have to beat up these plant things, right?”
“Yes Angeta, we just have to beat up these plant things…” A tired expression flickers across Ket’s face as he answers the pumped up beastkin. “Why are you not feeling angry, though?”
“Why do I need to be angry if there is so much anger in the air?”
Ket seems about to reply but just shrugs his shoulders. His own face sports a grin as he rubs his spatial ring. A stream of metal objects, varying from ball to ingots to swords, start spinning around him. “Vox, heal as needed but focus on keeping the wild qi in Ares suppressed. Let’s kick this dungeon’s ass. We got to level forty last time, let’s see how far we can go!”
Eight ceiling lights dim and eight plant golems appear as the group - except for the sibling duo - all smile with the same wild grin.
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