Chapter 90 - Disclosures
Hak-Ham Plogan Nuur Kwam-Tuurkun (and at least twenty other titles which are omitted here for the sake of brevity) is a very proud dragon. Woken from a nap at least a century too early, he is also a very pissed off dragon. The cowering figure standing halfway in the doorway to his personal chambers, a massive cave, shakes as it continues its report.
“Graawl. Groohoowul. Rarwiiirrl.”
“Mineth sincerieths exusems, oh Aal-Druuguun.”
“Is this dialect better for thine ears, oh All-Dragon?”
The figure is shaking now, terrified at the annoyance the strongest dragon currently awake is projecting towards him. The massive dragon head nods while snorting, causing the simple robes of the person to flutter. He immediately kneels on the ground, face hovering centimetres above the floor.
The massive cave is dimly lit by an entire rainbow spectrum of glowing rocks. They softly tinkle as the dragon’s rumbling causes them to shift and dance across the rough floor.
“Reporting to the All-Dragon. Re-Haan has returned without permission, her watch post abandoned while she snuck back into the fold. She has been spotted going down towards the weak quarters. All active patrols are engaged in the search.”
“I shall dispatch all personnel to the new silent area at once.” The humanoid figure immediately runs out of the cave, not even waiting for a dismissal. Blinding light pours out of the cave he just ran away from, lighting up the dim surroundings. He only casts a single glance back before running away even faster.
“UNCLE, OPEN UP!” Re-Haan is yelling at a large door disguised as a rock. The slab of stone blocking her way is unable to mute the sound entirely, causing a bespectacled old man to look up from his book with annoyance.
“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE. I JUST WANT TO ASK SOME QUESTIONS.” Pounding on the chunk of stone, Re-Haan shiftily looks around. A barrier shimmers behind her, blocking all sound from leaving towards that direction. “Stubborn old man. He can leave anytime, right? It’s not like this...”
Rhea looks around as her eyes open up wide. The occasional glowing crystal gives her just enough light to make out her surroundings. Squinting, she peers into the murky darkness. She then slaps a hand over her face.
Moments later, her eyes glow with a violet tint. “They turned this entire section into a silent zone?” She swivels her head around, not believing what she is seeing.
“He… turned this entire section into a silent zone.” Now visible to her qi enhanced eyes, tunnels litter the large tunnel she is standing in. Every cave-entrance has a massive piece of rock placed in front of it.
“These are all my kin, why would he do this?” She tears her eyes away from the beehive of plugged tunnels and glares at the rock impeding her way. She breathes in deeply before slapping both hands to the obstacle. Her fingers sink into the stone as corded muscles become visible in her arms. With a small yell, the stone rolls away from the entrance.
Sputtering at the avalanche of dust she receives to the face, she notices a placid old man is sitting in the middle of a circular room, surrounded by books. A small smile flits across his wrinkled face while he pushes his small, round spectacles up on his nose.
“Hello, Re-Haan. To what do I owe the pleasure.”
Distracted by thundering steps coming closer, Re-Haan looks back towards her uncle. “I just want to read some of your books. One moment please.”
She turns around, shoving her fingers into the stone a second time. More dust showers her as she pulls the slab back into place. The old man looks surprised for a fraction of a second before schooling his face back to placidness.
“Why are you in silence with only a few crystals?”
“Oh, you know. Just the All-Dragon displaying his dominance by suppressing the previous council.”
Frowning, Re-Haan walks towards her uncle, her eyes now the brightest sources of light in the dim cave. Looking at the books scattered everywhere, she makes her way between the piles and stands in front of her uncle. Then she smiles and hugs the old man.
“I missed you.”
Suddenly frozen solid, he looks bewildered for a moment. Then his face becomes gentle as he pats her on the back. “I missed you too. It was quite boring without you around.”
Pulling back, they look each other in the eyes. “Care to tell me why you are here and not on your watch?”
She scoffs. “Pah, watch. Just an excuse to get me out of his sight. His power isn't an issue now, don't worry about me. Do you mind if I read some?”
“No, no. Go ahead.”
“Thanks.” With a smile, she picks up a book and flips through it. Her uncle stands there for a few minutes, unsure what to do as Re-Haan flips through the books at a fast pace.
“Anything specific you are looking for? It might not look like it, but there is a system to this chaos.”
“Haha, sure. Remembering where all the books are does not mean it’s a system. And I'm just browsing.”
Silence once again descends on the duo, the only sound the shuffling of paper.
A man who looks like he is smuggling large watermelons inside his arms is walking speedily through a spacious tunnel. A space of ten meters around him is clear, his following of humanoid figures clad in a wide variety of dress giving him more than enough room. The man himself wears the barest amounts of leather armour, only covering his important bits.
“Is she found yet?” No one seems to have enough courage to answer. Only when the man glances back does someone speak up.
“No, All-Dragon. She seems to have gained a great talent for subterfuge.”
“Or you are all incompetent.” His words drip with disdain and the small female brave enough to answer shrinks back. “Maybe the wrong brood is in silence right now?”
The entire crowd of followers shiver at this question. The procession continues to move at a rapid pace for hours as they half walk, half run through a complicated network of rough tunnels. The man in front suddenly stops and looks around.
The group watches on in silence as their leader scours the environment with his eyes. Then a low growl starts to emanate from his throat, slowly becoming louder.
“rrruummBBLLEAAND NONE OF YOU THOUGHT TO CHECK FOR SIGNS OF ENTRY?”
The sound of falling dust and rolling crystals is very loud in the ensuing silence. The muscled man spits on the floor, drawing a gasp from the crowd. He then walks up towards a rock and studies it closely.
He puts his hand to the stone, brushing fine powder from a set of five holes. He does the same for another set a meter to the side. His fingers sink into the holes halfway before getting stuck. His arms bulge as a dense network of veins pops out from his skin.
Five minutes of futile struggling later, he slinks away from the immovable rock. “One of you shift and push this thing away.” His face is an unreadable mask and none of the bystanders dares to make a single sound.
The same female from before speaks again. “Uuhm. I’m the youngest. I think I’ll fit in this small tunnel.” Timidly she steps forward, a white dress patterned with dark scales adorning her slim frame.
The All-Dragon waves a hand in assent. Dark light spill from the girl as her silhouette expands, the rest of the hangers-on quickly scurrying to the sides. Moments later a dark grey and sleek dragon is standing in the now cramped tunnel. She shuffles around a bit before grabbing onto the rock with a large clawed paw.
And nothing happens. The claw retracts before it crashes against the obstacle once again. It does not move an inch. Veins are now visible on the bare-chested man's forehead. The grey dragon whimpers as she begins to gnaw on the rock, with little effect.
“Re, what’s that ruckus outside? I can’t read like this.” An old man grumbles as he looks up from an open book, a dim mana crystal in the hand that's not holding a tome.
All kinds of sounds have been audible inside the dimly lit cave for a while now. They vary from groaning sounds of stress to a jackhammer-like staccato.
Re-Haan looks up from the latest book she is scanning, only to snap her fingers. That snap is followed by an eery silence, not even the usual groaning of rock reaching the small library. “Better?”
The old man stares at the grin on Re-Haan’s face for a bit. He then shakes his head and resumes his reading, once again the only sound the rapid flipping of pages.
“So, my dear students. What have you all learned this past week?”
I sit on a couch, relaxing. Not on my usual super comfy chair but something made from materials I harvested in this dimension. Vox’s snake has a lot of trouble floating around now that it’s shaved, but the couches I stuffed with its hair are really comfortable.
We are all sitting in a large circle just before Tree. The small pond it used to have is now gone, allowing us to sit in its shade. Not that we really need it, the clouds circling around this pancake of land are getting thicker by the day, and they provide ample shade.
It will properly rain soon, and that should provide another cycle that will liven up this place, and increase qi generation by a minute amount. Speaking of qi generation, that has been going rather well. More about that later though, Ket is about to speak. This should be good.
“I want everyone to promise never to speak about my heartcore fiasco again.” The poor boy is looking rather depressed. He's slumped on the couch, his head in his hands.
“Why though, you were so happy with that core. Even kind of cute, giggling all the time.” The beastkin sitting next to him is smiling rather broadly. Her tail is twitching behind her as she tries to hide her mirth.
I notice Tess twitching the moment Angeta said the word ‘cute’. That reminds me, I never really talked about safe sex with these kids. Being a cultivator makes some things easier, others a whole lot more complicated.
“You seemed so happy when you were bashing those swamp things over the head with a massive chunk of metal. Those stone fish never knew what hit them when you headbutted those metal balls right through them. Or those water things, I never saw you that happy. I also never knew you could giggle so much. Pfhaha.”
Angeta’s savage comments cause Ket to shrink further into his seat. He just groans as he tries to forget those dark days. Then he suddenly sits upright and starts talking.
“I don’t think that we have affinities for a certain core system. I do think that certain personalities match with certain cores better. Extrovert and introvert were the terms I learned from some of your information, Teach. Body cultivators do everything external, both in body and mind, in terms of their cultivation. Braincore cultivators do everything in their heads before it sees the light of day. I have found out that I enjoy not thinking too much. The memories from the time I had a heartcore are irreconcilable from my current, braincore perspective. A gut core gave me the worst of both worlds, so I am sticking to a braincore.”
Here he takes a deep breath. "I shifted my general intent to all types of metal. Controlling ferromagnetics is still easier, other metals also have their uses though. I am currently experimenting with alloys, both here and through simulations.” He takes another deep breath. “Done, next.” And he goes back to sulking again.
“That was quite a story. Who’s next?” I continue to pat Lola as I sit back in my seat. This couch can’t hold a candle to my own personal chair when it comes to comfort, but I think I did quite well with the materials available.
“I’ll go next.” Tess stands up and holds out her hand. “Someone please cut off my hand.”
Ket looks up in horror as the rest display varying levels of alarm. “Just do it. I’m not quite as stupid as Ket with a heartcore, trust me.” Tess is now also grinning at the boy. He gets a mean look in his eyes while pulling a sword from his ring.
A slender hand is now lying on the grass. Ket looks between the severed limb and the sword clutched in his hand as he slowly starts turning pale. “Tess, sorry, I never mea-”
The hand turns into wisps of smoke as it returns towards her stump. The end of Tess’s arm is wreathed in black smoke as the strands of darkness return to their origin. Moments later, Tess is showing off a pristinely reformed hand with a smirk on her face.
“How much can you sublime?” Tess looks at me with a dumb look on her face. “How much of your body can turn into smoke?”
“Two fingers.” Her ring and middle finger immediately turn into black mist. She forms some shapes with the fog before returning her hand to normal.
“I think braincores are super boring and heartcores are too limiting.” Tess nods to herself with a satisfied smile before sitting back down.
“I'm a fast, close range support heartcore,” Vox says. He is sitting next to Ares, who speaks up next. “I'm a long range support braincore.”
Vox and Ares look way too smug as they high-five. They must have rehearsed that bit. “Elaborate. Wait, I mean explain further.”
“My heals and buffs are around three times more effective now, but I need to touch people. My intent is fast and wholesome. Also smart.” Vox casts a wry glance at Ket and Bord when adding that last part.
“I can attach a qi thread to someone and improve all kinds of different things. I also learned that healing is very similar to damaging.”
Are they going to continue this duo act? I hope not. It will get old fast, I think.
“Triangles all the time is not good. I learned that no triangles means more triangles when triangle.”
Bord is back to his chubby self. Other than that, I'm not even going to try to analyse what he said. Let’s move on quickly. Angeta breaks the awkward staring contest between Bord and the rest by speaking up.
“I first changed my intent base to wood. That was useful when fixing the ship but rather useless when fighting.” We all glance towards the pristine-looking boat at the edge of the clearing. I give her a thumbs up. “Relying on plants for armour all the time has its drawbacks too, as Teach and Bord showed me.”
Here she rubs her stomach a bit. “So now I am focusing on aspects of plants for my intent. I am still working on it. Poisonous intent is not fun though.”
You bet, her fur was purple for an entire day after she asked me for the most poisonous plants at my disposal. We now all stare at Selis.
“I am still working on it. Can I tell you guys later?” Her bright blue eyes are staring into mine with such innocence. I think it’s all an act though. She can be vicious.
“Sure, tell us when you are ready. Anything else?” I receive head shakes all around. Now it is my turn to grin. I put Lola on the couch and stand up.
“Great, we have half a day left before we need to leave. I want to know if this dungeon also stops at level one hundred. Lola, want to join me on a small rampage through this place?”
Her head perks up at the mention of her name and a certain expression comes across her face as she hears my words. My wide grin might have something to do with that though. She jumps into my arms, and I start walking towards Tree.
“You guys do whatever. I’m going to do some exercise.”
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