Chapter 93 - Summit
I stare at Tess who is sitting on a branch, halfway up Tree. I have a small process running that randomly checks for incongruities in my memories. The fact that the dungeons on this planet seem to separate discrete groups of people going through their levels in layered dimensions was flagged. Why was it flagged? Because I came across Tess halfway through a dungeon level, when we should have been in separate spaces.
Shifting my gaze over to the rabbit who found her, I do some calculations. I measure the total effort it cost me to crack the layer separating me and my disciples. Then I recall how much qi Lola had at the time. The qi amounts are nowhere near similar. Even if Lola spent all her qi on kicking the dimensional barrier, she would need at least a few hundred times more power than she had at the time.
Is the Tower dungeon weaker? The fact that it stopped at level hundred seems to indicate that. I didn’t see a lot of mages going through the Tower dungeon, so maybe mages adventuring through the levels help a dungeon grow? Maybe restrictions get lessened when a person is near death? Maybe Lola messed with the separation that the Tower core was doing?
I file away the irritating conundrum in my ever-growing to-do list and decide to get a move on. I have a schedule to keep, after all.
Selis is still messing around with vast volumes of water while happily chattering at my pet rabbit. The rest of the students are either in their homes or wandering around. I sense Vox playing around with his mount, the long-haired snake I shaved. Angeta, Ket and Bord are using the beastkin's fire capybara mount as a foot warmer while reading some books in the library. It’s a good thing all those tomes are mostly fireproof, that could have gone very wrong very quickly otherwise. Content that they are using their time semi productively, I turn to Tree.
“TEACH! Wait up!” I stop and see Ket running towards me. He falteringly stops his mad dash, only barely avoiding crashing into me. “Sorry, still getting used to this qi level. I wanted to show you this. Maybe it would be fun?”
He holds out a piece of jade. Raising an eyebrow, I scan it with some augur. I let out a chuckle as I look through the contents. “Good idea. Seems like fun indeed.”
“Done with the dungeon? I stopped being able to get a clear picture of what happened outside the necklace a while ago.”
“Yeah, the later levels get very weird. The elemental energies are so thick I was nearly blind myself. I will call you guys out when we are sailing again. I’m going to do some modification to this place while we travel and don’t want to bother with keeping you guys and the mounts safe.”
Ket nods. “Okay, I have some ideas on how to make all that information available.”
“We’ll talk later then.”
Done with that, I put my hand on the massive trunk and focus on the medallion still in the resting area. Forming a set of spider legs from qi, I move the necklace towards the right doorway. The swirling darkness making up the portal is as ominous as ever. I make the necklace jump and retract my qi before the dungeon can absorb the energies. I jump back outside the moment it lands on the floor and I emerge in a dark tunnel.
Looking around, the traps in the tunnel are all reset. Some light comes from the entrance, indicating daytime. Lola jumps through Tree’s portal and hugs my neck with shaking eyes. She nestles into my shoulder while shaking a bit.
“Oooh, are we back at the entrance? Nice, I can try some things with the salty sea water. What is the next plan Teach? Having a braincore is really fun, I really like being able to think so much. Did you know...”
I groan a bit. Lola starts shivering more, ears lying flat against her back. Stop terrorising my rabbit, you irritating disciple! I should never have encouraged my disciples to try out new cultivation systems. Maybe those old fogies back in the cultivation world weren’t so dumb, secluding themselves for centuries at a time. I can sympathise a bit now.
I stare at the blue haired girl until her mouth slows down. Her sentences taper off as my glare grows in intensity. I nod at her with extreme gratefulness as soon as her mouth closes.
“Speaking is silver. Silence is golden.”
With that piece of free advice, I start pouring out qi. Linking it to my scanning process, I make a map of all traps. Small shifts in rocks and earth here and there block them one by one. I form another process to undo the changes when I am out of range and set it to self-delete as soon as it is done.
With that, I step through the entrance doorway onto the water surface in the tunnel. Selis keeps quiet with a thoughtful look on her face as she follows me. She waves a single hand when we step out into the light of day. The soft rain now avoids us both as we walk across the open ocean surface.
Two more incongruities pop out of me. Does this planet have any tides? A few meters of water level difference would either block the entrance or make it inaccessible from the sea surface. Secondly, I sometimes use physical gestures to activate a process and Selis seems to have copied that habit. I can do without, but snapping my finger just looks cool.
“Two questions, does this planet have tides and why did you wave your hand to activate the rain shield?”
“What’s a tide? And I think it looks cool when you do stuff that starts with a snap or a hand wave.”
“The moon does not have any effect on the water? The sea level doesn't fluctuate based on the moon?” I know it doesn't, of course. Looking through my memories, the sea level has been rather stable so far.
“Moon? Why...” Then her eyes go wide in realisation. “Is that this gravity thing? Ket and Vox talked about it a few days ago. Stuff goes towards stuff, right? I don’t know. I do know that the sea moves a bit faster now and then. Hmmh, yes, the ocean flow does follow the moon. Why?”
“Just one more mystery to figure out, nothing important. Let’s get the ship out here and start-” I look up. There. Something familiar. Reinforce sea surface. Scan and calculate optimal path. Jump. Kick of off quay, wall, bridge and rooftop. Run across stone buildings, upwards. Form vacuum seal beneath feet to stick to dungeon dome surface. Target found and locked in.
Ignore Selis yelling behind me.
A small group of robe-clad men and woman carefully thread across a slippery surface. The robes are of all kinds of colours in differing hues and levels of colour brightness. One man dressed in dark brown robes has a very confused look on his face as he carefully walks across the slippery black surface of the massive dungeon sphere.
He opens his mouth now and then but doesn’t make a sound. Trudging along after the silent and rain-soaked group, his mouth starts moving in silence. Unheard by the collection of mages, he starts complaining silently.
‘Why in all the dungeons do I have to follow this bunch? Why are none of the current powerhouses here? All I see is patrol duty mages. And why do I have to follow this bunch while it is raining? The smiling immortal is not to be disturbed, all the legends say.’
This complaining figure is Valerius. His supervisor had commanded him to follow some time after the emergency meeting ended, but that command was the only thing he had said to him. He had waited in silence throughout the night inside one of the higher ranked resting areas.
Sure, the furniture was comfortable and the room was as gaudy as ever, that did not mean that Valerius felt comfortable with sleeping under the nose of his boss. The boss who never really bothered him otherwise. A pit formed in his stomach through the long hours of waiting. Combined with the lack of sleep, the mage was feeling pretty miserable when the morning came.
More mages gathered, the only communication happening were loaded glances. Then they started walking through a network of tunnels he had never even heard of. They ended up on top of the dungeon and started walking towards the very top. Towards where the smiling immortal was waiting still.
Valerius recognises some of them. A woman of the air affinity that he had fancied for a while and a reticent fire mage that he had shared a table with during dinner a few times. The rest all unknown. It took him longer than he would like to admit to recognizing the single aspect they all have in common. An apparent lack of power.
Half of the group has the robe brightness of journey mages, the highest power level coming along belonging to a full mage. Pondering about why a meeting with a legendary figure such as the smiling immortal is being done by such low power magic users, Valerius trudges on across the gently sloped surface of the dungeon.
‘Tonn Vink is on dungeon duty, why is he not here? He is the highest power earth user. It just doesn’t make any sense. And we should leave the silently smiling immortal alone, right? That figure is always present when great shifts happen in the world's history. And the announcement also mentioned Flight? What do the dragons have to do with anything?’
Resisting the urge to tear his hair from his head, he just puts one foot after the other.
“Valerius, stop talking to yourself.” The voice of his superior startles him out of his stupor.
“My apologies, magus Fredon.”
“Haha, no worries. You' ll understand soon enough. You have done well the past few years, ignoring all those stupid power hungry fools. If only they knew.”
Startled by the absolutely savage smile on Fredon’s face, Valerius keeps walking.
A damp and arduous journey later, their goal comes in sight. Standing on top of a massive round object is a rotund figure. The round face, round belly, wrinkled skin and happy, vacant stare become visible in the dreary morning light. Valerius sees an old fat man, clad in white ornamental robes, standing stock still on top of a large object. An air of timeless and majestic dignity shrouds the person like a second set of clothes.
The round object turns out to be a massive sack, stitched together from a wide variety of pieces of cloth. Sharp objects poke against the tightly stretched fabric, making small tears here and there. The group slowly approaches.
“Hail the immortal.” Following the rest of the group, Valerius also sinks to his knees.
“Might we be of service?”
No reply. The fat figure does not move a single muscle. So the group waits. What follows are the longest hours of Valerius’ life as he kneels while the rain soaks him to the bone.
*thump thump THUMP THUMP*
Something speeds by and lands next to the large sack. Valerius looks up as a gust of wind makes him shiver. He was already pretty cold and the speeding figure creating a large gust of wind does not help him get warm in the slightest. He sees a bearded man staring up towards the still silhouette of the smiling immortal.
“Teach! Wait for meeeee! Why are you running away! I promise I'll talk less!”
A small blue haired girl also runs by, the soft rain somehow avoiding her entirely, leaving her completely dry. She stops next to the man.
“Are we sailing yet?” More people suddenly appear as the girl joins the lanky bearded man.
“Sel, keep me dry. Drying out my fur is a pain.”
“Sure Angy. Teach, why did you run off?”
“This is the top of the mana dungeon? Why are those mages kneeling?”
“CRYSTALS!!” Valerius can't help but shout out. His shaking finger points to the group of newcomers standing around the smiling immortal, only now seeing the sharp pieces of mana crystal sticking through a few rips in the cloth here and there. If the entire sack is filled with mana crystals, that would be such an enormous amount that the cold, soaked mage can’t even wrap his head around.
Everyone now stares at him. The mages look confused while a black haired boy and girl shout in recognition as they point at him.
“Teach, that’s him!”
The bearded man is gone, looking upwards Valerius sees that he is now standing in front of to the old, fat man.
“Hey,” says the man with a smile.
The dignified immortal moves for the first time, shifting its posture to face the bearded interloper. Absolute silence follows as the intruder kisses the old guy full on the mouth.
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