Chapter 83 - Reunion
What can I say, these dungeons look like a giant child's toy box. So far we have had a pillar, a triangular pyramid and a massive round hole. Is it one of those baby toys where you have to put the correct shape in the correct hole, maybe?
I can now cross ‘sphere’ off that list because that is exactly what I'm looking at. Will the next dungeon I find be a cube? Maybe an n-gon shape? The peak is technically a tetrahedron, so I will be on the lookout for any massive icosidodecahedron or other polyhedra. I look closely at the black sphere and see that its surface is smooth as it glistens in the morning sun.
Moving closer, I sense my ship. I send some qi into my eyes and the battered shape of the Ascent pops into view. What have those useless wastes of space been doing to my ship! Why are there robed figures scurrying about?
The mast is gone. That was qi reinforced wood, stronger than iron. How did they manage that? What the flip…
The deck is covered with scratches, the closer I get the more damage I see. Burn marks are interspersed with deep cuts and Lichtenberg figures, indicating lightning damage. The mast is just a splintered stub of wood and I see a few holes in the sides. That must have been quite the battle.
Still covered in stealth qi, I jump on the railing. Mages of all colours are walking about, studying the ship. Let’s get rid of these pests first.
Focusing the power of my heartcore, I pressurise my lungs. People used to do this all the time back in the cultivation world, sighing or coughing backed with the power of their cultivation base. I was never a fan of the practice, but it seems appropriate here.
Small streams of blood fly everywhere as the mages get launched from the deck. Oops. Every one of them is bleeding from the ears as they land in the water. The shockwave of compressed air I just exhaled might have been a little too powerful.
The Ascent’s deck is now in even worse shape. The mast is entirely gone, the last fragments blown away by the front of violent air. Small cracks are now large cracks and the captain’s quarter is not rainproof anymore.
I cough a bit to clear my airways as I make my way into the ship while I ignore the panicked shouts around me. I see heaps of colourful cloth lying here and there, only the slow rising and falling of these lumps tells me that they are still alive. Once again, oops.
I walk towards the hold entrance and see a large cluster of unconscious mages around the hold entrance. The hold entrance is… covered in plants? Why is the hold entrance covered in plants? I send some qi through the cracks and sense bigger lumps lying in the hold. Did they abandon ship while locking up their mounts?
I’m sure they had their reasons? Whatever, I rip some of the vines from around the door, and they shatter like brittle metal. Angeta must have been experimenting with different forms of wood. These dark green plants seem half petrified.
“Come on you guys, let’s get out of here.”
The lumps slowly stand up as they stretch. My big blue bear yawns wider than seems physically possible and Selis’ cock ruffles his feathers. Tess’ mount is licking himself and Vox’s snake unfurls slowly as I hear its many joints pop one by one.
I pull the animals inside Tree where they start strolling around as they explore the place. This second remodelling of my pocket dimension has been the most expansive yet, so there is plenty to explore for the cultivating beasts.
I walk back up to the belowdecks and move to the front of my ship. There is a large cluster of unconscious mages laying around the bowls I set up. I look inside and see something fascinating.
All the singular mana type bowls have mutated fish. It seems like a premature ascension, parts of their bodies are turned into pure magic. A positive water mana fish looks like living glass, the single negative water mana fish left looks like it is constantly melting as its internal organs keep floating around.
All the dark mana bowls only have a single fish left? How did that happen? I observe the odd creatures for a bit and come to the conclusion that the light mana fish are a lot more chill than their dark counterparts. I put the dark earth mana fish in the dark fire mana fish’s bowl. They start fighting immediately.
I put the fish that has rocks sticking through its body back into its own bowl, allowing the burning fish to calm down again. Is it burning underwater and not producing steam? Single mana element overloads must cause mutations, I guess. Interesting, I will do more experiments later.
Closing my eyes, I sink my qi into the wood around me. I could normally just cover the entire thing in my spiritual sense, but that would also bring the mages along. So now I have to carefully cover only the ship itself. I grumble a bit as the extent of the damage becomes clear. There is little structural damage, the thick wooden beams too sturdy to break easily, but the superficial damage still stings at my heart. The fact that half of it came from my own snorting sound does not help my grief.
A single pull later and I - along with the mages still in the ship - fall into the sea. Well, the mages fall into the sea, I steady myself as I land on the waves. I'm surrounded by smaller mage boats now. Their occupants are pulling the drenched and drowning people on board. None have died. Not that I really care at this point, but indiscriminate killing is a slippery slope.
I focus on my students as I get ignored by all present. They are… that way. Into the gaping hole surrounded by quays, warehouses, walkways and other structures. So into the gaping hole I go.
Lots of traps here. I scan once again. A serious amount of traps here. Some of them are so poisonous they might be dangerous to me were it not for my heartcore. I stroll through the tunnel as I study the many bladed contraptions cleverly hidden in the damp passageway.
There is a lot of shadow energy here. I don’t think that this place has seen sunlight in a long time, but there is still more shadow power than there should be. That should be Tess. She pulled entire trees through her shadows when we were constructing the Ascent. I don’t think that taking a few people with her is a problem for the girl.
I end up at a room I recognise from the Tower. A set of stairs going down to the left, a swirling, dark doorway to the right. Should I prevent this dungeon from absorbing my qi? I really should, but my latest experience with the mage factions made me care about their well-being a lot less. No, don’t think about that horrible soul-scarring island, happy thoughts. It's gone now anyway...
I walk down the stairs taking them three steps at a time. The tunnel ends in a grass-covered field, illuminated by many small green lights on the ceiling. Anger and compassion nibble at my senses, but I ignore the emotional impulses with ease.
A single crystal dims a bit as leaves grow longer and form a humanoid shape. I flick my finger at it, sending a precise and focused version of the shockwave I used earlier at it. It explodes into green confetti. The light dims , and I catch the falling crystal.
I put it under my nose and breathe in. Pure nature mana enters my lungs. It is fifty-fifty positive and negative mana. This is actually a rather important find. The majority of the mana crystals I have found so far contain only a single type of mana. This crystal contains both. No wonder the mages are so protective of this place.
The conversion rate of a single mana type to qi is as horrible as my earlier tests proved. I sense traces of my disciples here and there, faint remnants of used up qi hanging in the air.
Did the dungeon reset already? I look upwards and see two mana crystals dim. This is too slow for my liking. I send out a whole bunch of mana threads and attach them to the crystals. I don't lose control of my qi. That means that the dungeon does not have a lot of control over them. I experimentally touch a nanoscopic amount of qi to the ceiling and need to fight to keep control over the power. This dungeon has the same energy-sucking effect as the Tower, then.
I pull on the qi-threads and I get showered in cracked mana crystals. They dissipate at a visible rate. Compromising the structural integrity of these things apparently releases all the mana rather quickly. I surround them in qi and compress the gaseous mana and crystals into a single point.
I smile at the perfect green sphere hovering in front of me. Forceful reconstruction seems to work just fine with these things. I put it inside my ring and stroll towards the exit, my casual way of walking propelling me forwards with speed.
I see clear glass shapes everywhere once I walk down the stairs. I’m guessing this is a light level? One of the ceiling lights dims a bit, and some of the crystals shatter, forming a spider. I frown as I cast out my threads of qi again. I pull, and the spider shatters along with all the light mana shards. Another round of compression and I'm left with a large clear orb that has an intense brightness in its centre.
I do some parkour and flips as the crystals shatter under my feet. The entrance is pretty close by and I speed down the stairs.
A true cave is next. Rocks everywhere. I forcefully collect all the crystals on the ceiling and move on. I speed through level after level, following the trail my students left behind. Their energy signatures are faint though, fainter than they should be. It feels like something is separating me from the actual physical space my disciples went through.
I never actually tested if the dungeons put each group in their own space. I think that the possibility-computer at the dungeon’s core is capable of shifting space so that multiple groups can exist inside the same room at the same time. A self-analysation process alerts me to the fact that Tess and I seemingly shared the same space in the Tower. Let's study that later.
I electrify a lake of water and collect the crystals dropping from the ceiling as all the sea creatures start floating belly up. I kick a massive rock snake and spare a moment to watch it splatter against the wall. A large black cat looks cute, so I pet it. Looking at the crater, I come to the conclusion that I might have petted it a bit too hard. I break its neck to release it from its suffering and go to the next level.
The resting area between the twentieth and twenty-first floor is thick with spent qi. Ket and Tess must have sparred over there, their energies mixing as the spent power dissipates slowly. A relatively thick aura of light tells me that Vox and Ares spent their time sitting against the wall and the green remnants allow me to conclude that Angeta rested here.
Spinning a thread of augur to its smallest diameter, I probe the black wall. An incredibly dense structure of compressed stone appears in my mind. I keep control of my augur though, so the dungeons must not be able to influence this finer energy.
Just to be sure, I should set up a qi collection formation on top of the dungeon. I haven’t given the dungeon any qi like I did with the Tower, but I still don’t know why the Tower snapped in half. I retract my augur and move on.
I speed through the levels while collecting the mana crystals the dungeon is so generously providing me. It seems to have caught on to me though, the moment I set foot in a room all the crystals dim. I watch the monsters form for a few seconds, only to watch them collapse when I pull the gems from the ceiling.
I pause in a vast desert level briefly to pull some sand into Tree. The qi generating contrast between hot and cold is starting to produce higher amounts of qi now, so adding smaller quantities of qi-less materials will not harm it much. I show Tree a mental picture of a tropical beach, bright sand, cool waves and palm trees. Speaking of… I make a mental note to search this planet for palm trees.
A skeleton climbs up from the dune, gooey sand dripping from its frame. I give my qi threads a pull and it clatters into a dark pile of bones as the fire crystals high above shatter. Sand sprays behind me as I move towards the exit while gathering all the fire mana. The remnant energies of my disciples are getting slightly clearer, so I'm catching up to them.
The next level has some weird lighting tricks, dark light covering up the bright material the large space is made from. I sense - more than see - black shapes forming as the ceiling becomes a little less dark. More humanoids, pretty boring.
I have some trouble attaching qi threads to the crystals here, almost losing some of my qi as I miss the black crystals. I can’t rely on sight and scanning with qi senses is tricky if I can't touch the walls. The grid scanning trick I used in the Tower dungeon is not useful here, instead of narrow corridors, these rooms are just large open areas with obstacles here and there.
The small crystals are way too small to scan with such a crude grid. It takes me an entire extra second to disarm this floor. I must be getting rusty or something. Next is another water level, the exit is underwater. The water golems shatter into a fine spray when the ceiling crystals yield under my qi threads, but this does not deter the mass of seething sharks coming my way. I find the diving bell construction in front of the stairs going down pretty quickly.
I form small crystals of ice and send one shooting towards each shark. The friction with the water makes them evaporate into steam, but the concentrated shock waves are enough to crush their skulls anyway. I snatch a few shark fins, stuffing them in my ring at high speed. Shark fin soup is pretty good.
Fierce winds are next. This is floor thirty? I check my memories, and this is indeed floor thirty. The stairs end in a massive drop. The wind is so fierce here that the refractive effect limits visibility. I shatter the ceiling crystals, and the wind dies down.
Aw shucks, I was hoping that this would be a challenge. The wind wasn’t even strong enough to affect my qi threads. I see the exit on the opposite side of the enormous, spherical shaped room. I jump, land and speed through.
Another waiting area. I move on through the stairs going down, not even glancing at the dark, swirling doorway. I stop halfway down the staircase.
Where did the energy remains go? Walking back to the waiting room in between levels, I still don't feel them. I walk back inside the spherical room and still don't feel them. I jump up towards the entrance high above and still don't feel them. I walk back up the stairs and finally feel traces of my students.
I sigh in relief. I almost thought I would have to do all that research again. Looking for brats who have an affinity but no strong ties was quite a bit of mental work. Walking up and down the staircase for a bit allows me to vaguely sense where they currently are.
A quick focus on my braincore tells me that they should be halfway down the stairs. What are they doing? I’m sure that they should be able to shatter the crystals as I did. Why can’t I see them?
Closing my eyes, I sink into a slight trance. First, I reaffirm the basics. ‘I am me. I exist. No one will be able to change that for as long as I’m alive. I exist in space.’
I open my eyes and I see a riot of colours flicker out of existence. That was trippy. I saw a lot of black, some skin tones, some red and a slight hint of blue and white.
‘This fist exists. I am this fist. None will block this fist.’
I slowly exert pressure.
‘This fist goes wherever it wants. No stupid alien high tech probability supercomputer can change that.’
Small cracks surround my clenched hand.
‘This fist goes through space. Because it goes through space it goes through time. Frozen in space means no evidence of it moving in time. This fist exists in space and time because I move it. There is nothing more sure in this multiverse.’
Reality starts to warp as two massive wills fight an unseen battle. Cracks appear in two places at once, each pair of jagged lines a perfect copy. Veins start to bulge in one of the places, on the single fist. Reality cracks like glass as two possibilities start collapsing into a unity.
A fluffy white streak smashes through both spaces as a certain rabbit tackles a certain millennia old cultivator.
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