Chapter 79 - Ambitions

Chapter 79 - Ambitions

I've kept my qi as neutral as possible. I'd be easy prey for a water cultivator had I specialised in fire. Controlling lightning is useless if your opponent has a metal-based cultivation method. I have to admit though; this wind affinity is something else. It feels like my qi is still the same qi, as neutral as possible, but my entire being is in contact with the wind.

I could have caught up with Rhea easily now that the wind obeys my mental commands without a need for qi. I can save a lot of power by telling the wind to part before me. And still, I let her go. I am sure she has her reasons, and it gives me some time to prepare, so it works out for me. Also, how can I follow my own path of freedom if I start restricting the paths other people follow? The least I can do when I do impose restrictions - like my no killing rule - is to explain the reasons and motivations.

The jade necklace contains a whole suite of spying features along with the cultivation information, so I keep track of her wherever she goes anyway. I also included the little information I deduced about the switching process, I'm curious whether or not she can control the entire thing with sufficient data. She should be able to manually control the entire liquefaction and reforming process using qi.

She just landed a distance away and dumped my shirt in the woods and is now wearing some commoner's garb. I will go and pick up the shirt in a bit, it is a pretty nice shirt, no need to let it become some animal’s chew toy.

I mean, it is Heaven Spun Rising Sun Cotton. It contains a little bit of passive qi, so it will take a couple of million years for this planet’s ecosystem to destroy it. And its really comfortable. Waste not, want not.

Back to the wind affinity, it is pretty neat. I managed to land from my Tower jump without using qi except for my stealth field. It feels like something I have read about, divine will. Ascended personages who came back to the cultivation world for whatever reason had the ability to influence the world with the power of their mind alone. No need for qi, augur, divine energies, ordinary will or what have you. Just a heavenly will so powerful that the world obeys.

The air swirling around my body obeys me without any need for qi. I can slow down my fall and speed up my flight with my mind alone. It’s not much yet, but it helps. I don’t need to fight air resistance as hard as I used to, making moving around a lot more economical.

All in all, I'm quite happy with this outcome. I don’t know if the affinity is tied to my body, soul or mind, but the price of half my cultivation base was quite cheap, in my opinion.

I see three dragons fly off into the distance. They soar north-east, confirming my suspicion that the dragon’s home base is beyond the mage isles, in the forbidden waters. Kicking the ground, I command the air to split before me. Some leaves get caught in my wake as I burst from the thicket I was hiding in.

I make a preset for my scanning process, and it gives me a result nearly instantaneously. A small amount of passive qi is located a few hundred meters from a small village. I approach the place and see a neatly folded shirt laying on a treestump. I pick it up and sniff it. Smells pretty good. Storing it in my ring, I move on.

My next goal is the Capital. Curiosity about that place finally won out, and a small detour is a price I am willing to pay to satisfy that itch. I check the predictive part of the process keeping tabs on my students. Ares has a small chance of dying at the moment. It will reach fifty per cent in a day or three. Sowing animosity with Vox is not on my to do list, let’s not let his sister die for nothing. They should be able to suppress the rampaging qi for a few days, right.

Ares will need to start cultivating on her own. Core forming is a process I never truly understood. I only know that some steps need to be taken in order to increase the probability of forming a core. Its a delicate balance of forcing and guiding qi to the possible locations, letting some of the power free to settle in and waiting for the qi to snap into place. My disciples might attempt this, but I formed their cores for them when they were still blind to qi, no chance of them knowing how it’s done.

I start running, supporting each step with air cushions. My quality of life has greatly increased compared to my time in the cultivation world. Instead of running through long lists of muscle stimulations to execute movement techniques, I can leave that to my heartcore. Instead of forcefully ramming through the air, I can now slip between the currents. I had not learned new things for a long time, but each day in this new world allows me to gather new knowledge.

Maybe I should take things a bit more seriously once again? There is still that building full of frozen slaves in Tree. I have a group of disciples. I actually like Rhea. And if I am totally honest, I could leave it all behind. I would feel shitty for a few centuries, but what is time to someone effectively immortal? This entire planet could vanish, and my biggest concern would be my own boredom, stuck in the void of space.

That is not an aspect of myself that I like. So maybe I should start investing and building something once again.

I used to build and gather all sorts of things. I stopped once it was apparent that every high-level foundation cultivator in a couple of thousand kilometre radius could peek inside my storage spaces and just take whatever they liked. And they did. Everyone was free game unless they were under the protection of a powerful sect or figure. Everything I made or wrote that wasn’t something standard got stolen by force.

That habit became so ingrained that I never got into crafting interesting stuff anymore. Not even by the time I was powerful enough to defend myself. I kept tinkering, of course, but the truly interesting items and weapons only got made inside my mind.

Ascension-level old monsters were even worse, privacy near a sect was nonexistent. I took me a long time to learn this fact. But I'm not there anymore. Here there are no ancient powers desperate enough to keep their leading positions through genocide. Or so I hope.

So let’s make some actual plans. I will reach the Capital in a few hours; I have some time. First, I should solidify my own powerbase. Helping others from a position of personal weakness will not be beneficial to either party. First, fix your own life before trying to fix others. So I need a volcano. I think I know where I can find one.

Setting up a qi cycle will start generating power inside Tree. This will supplement the exponential need for qi at higher cultivation levels. All the qi currently inside Tree is not enough to form a single foundation level entity. Having a source of qi that can keep up with our rising energy needs is a base level necessity.

In the past, I ran scenarios and researched this possibility a lot. I never did it because it would get snatched by some sect elder within seconds unless I stayed deep in the wilderness, where high-level monsters were abundant.

Any form of dimensional space item big enough to live in was worth an entire major sect. They would only use it for the space and prestige though. Generating qi is not that useful when the planet is bombarded with shitloads of qi from the sun.

The contrast between the ice-cold mountain and the molten heat of the volcano will produce friction. The ice influenced qi and the fire qi will clash, generating a bit more power in the process. That is my theory, at least. I have no scientific explanation of why this happens. It is just potential energy that reacts with itself in a slightly different phase. I tried pretty hard to find answers for this weird phenomenon. I have found none.

Then I should set up a proper knowledge net. I’ve had the idea for a while now, I want to compact all that I know into a wikipedia style format and allow others to add to it when they discover new information. Make a version of the internet based on all my knowledge. Maybe use a massive slab of jade with a read-write permission controller? That way, I can cultivate my path of asking why and new knowledge without lifting a finger!

Genius, I am truly a genius! That way I don't have to think so much anymore and can let others do it for me. Maybe add on a quest system that is fueled by some sort of spy system. Maybe throw a few satellites up through the atmosphere to scan the entire planet? I'll have the brain capacity to support that kind of stuff when I reach foundation level.

Give every single person, weak or strong, the ability to gain enough power to defend themselves? Maybe find out what happens when a medieval, cruel society suddenly gets some overpowered rule enforcers around? I stop my evil plotting and cease planning to take over the world because I can see the Capital.

This heartcore is really fucking awesome, I could think while running. Normally, I’d have my brain full of speedy muscle control, balancing calculations and structural scans. Now I only need to scan how much force the ground under my feet can handle.

I do a few flips and twirls around on my tippy toes. I don't need to go into slow motion anymore! These movements used to take so many calculations that I would need to speed up time for myself. Now I only think of the movement, and it just happens!

Alright, enough gloating about my heartcore.

The Capital has wall thirty meters high, like all the other cities. It looks fake to me because it seems too perfectly round and straight. Like a cheap rendered model photoshopped on a field of grass.

It does smell real. My nose crinkles as the smells of a large city wash over me. Luckily, its not as bad as some mortal cities back in the cultivation world. Some places had massive amounts of animals inside the city. I dim the signal coming from my nose and keep running.

I jump, reinforcing the ground to withstand the force, and look over the sprawling metropolis. My best guess is that four hundred thousand people live here. Smoke trickles from some chimneys, most of them located on the east side. There is no way that this is possible, right?

There are a lot of carts on the road, and I see most of them carry foodstuffs, but this massive size is hardly plausible without modern technology providing and transporting enough food. I smell a secret here.

I land and jump even higher. The ground in a ten-meter circle around me caves in as I worm my way through the air with excessive speed. My face deforms, and my lips flap about. Bwuwuwuwuwuwuwwuuuuuuuuuuu.

Haha, that is fun. I cough and look at the city. A big castle is located near the coast, in the shape of a massive, square doughnut. Why is it shaped like a stone ring? Castles are hardly ever ring-shaped. Not without a good reason.

I decide that my curiosity is more important than maintaining absolute stealth. I start weaving a small ball of qi. Done with that, I start forming qi constructs around my legs, hips and back. I send a stream of qi forwards into the path of my next jump. Halfway to the ground, I gently lob the ball of qi forwards.

I land and everything is still. The grass moves away from my landing, but freezes as the air grows thick with gathering power. The exoskeleton like constructs around my lower body starts to bend as I pre-tense my muscles. I breathe out and flick the switch.

The ground I leave behind explodes from the force of my jump, exploding and imploding at once. Left behind is a crater two hundred meters wide. My face and liwwuwuwuwwuBWUWUWUW-

Haha, I should stop doing stupid shit like that. Okay, maybe in a few thousand years. My view is magnificent this time. The castle has a dark pit in the middle. A massive pit in the middle of the palace, what use is that? I want to say dungeon, but that seems too easy an answer.

I spin around and see the Tower. A quarter turn later I see a triangle sticking up over the mountains. I get chills as I peer into the sea. Turning further, I see a massive smokestack far out into the blue. Is that a man-made tower in the ocean? There are wooded hills further east. My mapping process takes priority as it uses the automated part of my mind to fill in a lot of new areas.

I start falling and don't resist the wind pressure this time. The qi ball landed near the Capital walls, and I skydive towards it. It explodes outwards, forming a huge, faintly white cushion. I land with a solid sounding *PFOOM*, bouncing over the walls and landing on the streets, clad in a thick cloud of ‘I’M NOT HERE’ qi.

Perfect infiltration, as usual. Alarm bells are rung around me and I move out of the way of some marching soldiers. I pull up the map I just made and move towards the castle. There are a few buildings I need to examine closely. I would regret it forever if I didn’t quickly scan any libraries around. I seem to have landed inside a residential district. The roads are narrow and the buildings tower three stories high over the network of small streets.

I scan a house or building now and then, sweeping an extremely thin net of augur through the entire structure. This takes some mental effort, but it’s the quickest way I know to search for large quantities of paper.

I hit gold when I look over the detailed mind map of a church-like building. I make my net of augur grow smaller and denser as I scan in more detail. Scanning the boxes and shelves full of paper, I map where they are located. I scan a book in detail, reconstructing the pages in my head. It’s a handwritten alphabet with twenty letters. That seems like few, but each letter has a large number of possible strokes added to it.

The local language is very tone and intonation based, so I immediately suspect that these additional… I forgot. Shit, how do you call the difference between ‘e’ and ‘é’?

Accents!

These additional accents must indicate tone. I plug those parameters into a comparison process. All it does is compare speech with written words while making notes of similarities. Those notes are the information I need to read this stuff. It begins chugging away at the recorded book and I route the notes it makes to a visual overlay process. The words slowly start to become legible before my eyes.

My general language process, which is running in its minimized form all the time unless I am talking or being talked to, puts out an error. I check it and see that some accents indicate a vocal change, like transforming an ‘e’ sound to an ‘ah’. I plug that possibility into the comparison process, and suddenly I can read everything.

That single change increased the speed of language recognition from ‘slow’ to ‘done near instantaneously’. Pumped, I start reading the book.

It’s religious drivel about how the dungeon provides, sigh. I don’t mind religion, but this isn’t even an interesting read. The dungeon provides all, and we all should live in its magnificent glory. It knows all, so there is no need for us to get any smarter. That’s what it comes down to.

I delete the entire scan from my memory, only keeping the language files and begin running over the rooftops. I circle to the left, going west to the coast instead of straight to the large, round castle near the middle of the city.

A single large building is especially interesting to me. It has the symbol of a book plastered on its outside, so that’s a pretty good indication that there are a lot of books there.

During a random warehouse scan I find a chest filled with accounting books. I check a dozen random books in the building but only found pages filled with numbers. I’ll come back when I have more mental storage capacity, knowing about the economic details of this world will be useful. It’s a shame that it’s a bit much to store for my current mental cultivation.

I could read through all the numbers and compress the data to a smaller format, but that would take time I am not willing to invest.

Streets become wider and the smell improves a bit as the neighbourhood gets richer. The book building is located in between the commoner’s and noble’s district. The wind parts for me as I run across the roofs. I alternate between making many, many smaller steps and steps powerful enough to collapse lesser buildings.

I soar across a large plaza as I construct sheets of qi on my arms. Sending the wind under them allows me to perform a rudimentary form of gliding. Doing this at my normal running speed is useless, I need to keep close to the ground to exert enough force through my legs. I can’t run too quickly inside a city, so it forces me to take it easy.

I land inside gardens, kicking off from massive stone floors or large ornamental rocks. One last leap shoots me up at a forty-five-degree angle, allowing me to cross the canal running through this part of town. I land on the book symbol building and quickly scan it.

Jackpot!

The next half hour I spent in a daze of scanning books. The following half hour is spent in a daze of reading and categorising information.

I blink and look around. People walk past me as I stand in the middle of the street. Did it get busier all of a sudden? People not only ignore me, but they also tend to avoid me. Maybe there is some basic instinct in all sentient life that someone with a much higher power base shouldn’t be messed with?

I think that ‘I’M NOT HERE’ works in more ways than one. I might not be here, but that does not mean that there is suddenly room to walk through the place that I am not in.

Ah, nearly forgot, my conclusions. High school diploma!

There are two types of books. Immaculately written fonts inside perfectly made books indicate that it is, obviously, a dungeon-won book. Crappy binding and handwriting suggest that it is a non-dungeon book.

The dungeon books are filled with all sorts of information up to a college level. Overall, a very solid scientific foundation that is a great start for any civilization. The handwritten books are chiefly research notes of lonely people. The rest is historical or religious books and documents. There does not seem to be a flourishing scientific community inside this kingdom.

I gained nothing new but got a few formulas and concepts of higher efficiency or accuracy than my own deduced science. I had a few theories about quarks and gluons that were a bit off the mark. I did do some tests, but staring at colliding particles all day is not my recipe of fun. I mean, it needed too much power to automate. Yeah, let’s go with that excuse.

I sigh deeply and move on, going straight to the castle this time. I pause near a few noble houses, but I only find more of the same books. I even found a few of the books Selis and Ket sold in Peak City. I chuckle as I think of the trouble Selis’ family must be in right now.

I read through some of the noble’s correspondences, starting to form an image of the current state of this place. Selis’ family is really not doing well.

The castle gives me the impression of a massive circular cake. Towers stick up from it here and there, but the few balconies and stairs can’t disguise the fact that it looks like an enormous frosted piece of confectionary.

I lick my lips unconsciously and jump over the large walls surrounding the castle gardens. A few leaps later, and I am staring into an abyss. There is a massive hole in this city. It’s like a reversed Tower. A scan tells me that there is an entrance to my right. I run along the inside of the castle wall, landing on balconies, wall running here and there.

I pass by a single man standing on a ledge. This is nothing special, but his aura makes me halt in my steps. He feels like a rock smothered by filth. Instead of going with the flow, this rock keeps still and steady, no matter how much shit streams over it. A thin crown, a brooding, contemplative expression and rich clothes clue me in on this man’s identity.

I stop a single balcony over and study the fellows' aura. An idea springs to mind, so I take a minute to calculate some potential future paths. I then shove this information, along with some other tidbits, into a coin-shaped piece of jade. I scratch a symbol of a human face on the coin. On its forehead is a circle, on which I scratch another smaller face with an even smaller coin on its forehead, ad infinitum. That should clue him in on how to use it.

I gently toss it towards the still man, landing it on the balcony railing next to his hand with a clink. I grin as the startled figure looks around as he picks up the coin. Seed planted, I move on.

Looking down, I see a dark entranceway in the side of the black wall, surrounded by a platform and two stairs going up. Figures walk across the walkway, the castle beginning around five meters back of the precipice. I see gleaming rows of armoured men and women walking in step, marching soldiers carrying large boxes and sacks, along with tired looking slaves.

Yeah, they are slaves. I see a beastkin stumble and fall the ground, spilling goods everywhere. A large human approaches, picks up the sack and kicks the beastkin over the edge. This event gets ignored by everyone present. There are a few hundred people walking in and out of the dungeon but no one even bats an eye.

Everyone in the kingdom knows that the Capital does not have a dungeon. I see that plants, beans, meat, grains, and other foodstuffs are the main product being carried out. This entire thing is probably a lifetime deal for all involved. I don't think the people here will ever be allowed out. Otherwise, the wouldn't be so few rumours about the dungeon in front of my eyes.

I have to give the ruling class credit though, claiming that all the food is imported is a great way to keep food prices high and maintain fiscal dominance no matter what other people do.

I cast a qi wire to the falling figure. I cover him in a balloon of qi and pull. A freezing spell later and I pull him into Tree, placing it with the other frozen figures. Can’t save everyone but I can save the ones I see. I hope that these folks I saved understand what abuse of power does. Let’s hope none of them restarts the cycle.

I start designing propaganda material in my mind as I begin moving toward the sea.


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