Chapter 94 - Impetuous
“You go, Teach!” shouts Vox while whooping.
A very small, minuscule part of my psyche rebels at what I'm doing. I shush that bigoted part of myself and continue to french kiss the fat, wrinkled face. The shell does not matter; I keep telling myself, it’s all about what’s inside after all. I wrap the figure in my arms while closing my eyes against the glow. I feel the soft doughy flesh shift into firm womanly curves. I get punched as soon as the change is done.
“Don’t compromise this image. The mortals leave us alone when we take that form. And don't just start kissing me, Drew.” I wince a bit at her use of my name but ignore it.
“I missed you too. Did you bring presents?” I indicate the large stitched sack filled with mana crystals we are standing on, not bothering to wipe the grin from my face.
“Phew, him kissing that old guy scared me half to death!”
“Aww, I thought I was going to see some man on man action.”
“Shut up Tess, don’t remind me of that gross image. I can never forget that. Why did I stick with a braincore?”
“I agree, Tess. That was hot!”
“Vox? Do you have something to tell me?”
I ignore the babbling group of students as I stealthily wrap an arm around Rhea’s waist. I do it as naturally as possible while turning around. She does not react as I study the group of kneeling mages.
“That’s the guy, Ket?”
Ket nods in reply to my question as I study his aura. The kneeling man has brown hair and a frame both skinny and pudgy. He feels sad, hopeless and dull. I start thinking about how to best do this, but the guy is obviously not happy in his current position, and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks.
Rifling through my ring, I find a small medicine bottle. I pull the cork and extract small droplets, letting one fall on the skin of every mage here except one.
“Teach, what’s that?”
“Just some amnesiac anaesthesia. I can't seem to shake this habit of secrecy,” I reply to Vox.
“Ah, forgetting drugs...”
I jump down and stand in front of the still kneeling fellow, ignoring the slumped figures that now surround him.
“You are the only one that doesn’t seem like a horrible person, wanna go do something else?” I try my best to project an air of possibility, a starting point with open roads stretching to the horizons. He looks at me with confusion across his face.
The mage then looks down, sighs very deeply and starts muttering to himself. “And now I'm going crazy. All I wanted was to be a farmer, but now I am talking to a bearded gay person who kisses transforming legenda-”
“Perfect! Please become my gardener.”
“Yeah, here.” I want to get a move on, so I shove a mystical herbs and plants primer inside a piece of jade and push it against his forehead. Three threads of qi probe the three locations. His cultivation will be as dull as the person himself feels. His dantian reacts a bit, so a gutcore. I initiate the core forming process by shoving the mental image of his scanned body inside his dantian and pull him inside Tree.
I keep an eye on him as he starts stumbling around, gaping at the sight of Tree with its mana formation crown. The qi density in the air is ever increasing and he starts sprinting towards the bushes after only a few breaths. Ah, the horrors of starting a fresh gutcore cultivation with a body polluted by years and years of living.
Even through the huffing and puffing the guy is doing I see a light start appearing in his eyes as he looks at the lush foliage covering every square centimetre of ground inside the dimension. Then I realise that I am spying on a guy having horrible diarrhoea and snap my focus back towards my current situation.
I look at my students, who are rifling through the robes of the unconscious mages. The diplomatic group seemed to be rather low powered, I cycled through some emotions and did not notice that much mana around them, but their pockets are filled with loot.
Ares is looking wide-eyed at Selis, who is looking at a blue tipped stick. Ket is counting coins while Angeta is basically molesting the largest man of the group. Yeah, the beastkin is done with searching the guy now, this is getting creepy.
I turn back to Rhea. “So, how was your trip?”
She grins back at me. “Satisfying.”
“I can’t wait to hear it.” Just as I am about to pull out the ship and start sailing east, she jumps me and kisses me in return.
Forgive me for making a small diversion here, but I want to paint of small picture of how I visualise my available brainspace. Imagine you’re hanging in the centre of a large, spherical room. There are inputs and outputs on the edges of said room, points where cables can be plugged in to provide sensory information. Sight, sound, touch and every other physical or mystical sense you can imagine can be routed from there to anywhere inside the room.
The person hanging in the centre is surrounded by a bright cocoon, this indicates how much of the available brainspace is used for normal, conscious thoughts. Around that cocoon are semi-transparent rooms, each walled off area representing an automated process.
A large section at the top of the sphere is occupied by scanning and danger sensing processes. Beneath me is a network of miscellaneous small processes. Information processing is to my left, storage to the right and background tasks are to my back. My front is occupied by sensor analysis, giving me data about what I see, hear and feel.
This entire picture of neatly divided and automated processes gets shattered as Rhea pours information directly into my brain. I can feel her grinning through the kiss. Raw data on all kinds of things such as books, dragon related lore, ancient ceremonies, mapped lands and political structures crash through my mind.
All the neatly divided sections shatter, and the bright cocoon around my mental avatar starts seeping inside the ravaged brainspace, and I feel my mind beginning to grow.
I open my eyes.
The world, which at this point has been a single point, expands into a line. It also was a line, which expands into an infinite plane. The plane that has been there all along expands into a three-dimensional space. The three-dimensional space expands into a fourth dimension, which I now finally understand.
I open my eyes wider.
The last bit of clear reasoning left in my mind is awed at the expansion of consciousness and understanding. It is also horrified at the fact that my mind soon won’t be able to function in such a narrow and limited manner anymore.
The fear if the unknown, the healthy apprehension at mentally ascending while still being physically stuck her is washed away as my understanding grows out of my control.
My eyes open even wider.
The end of this world comes into sight, only a scant few million years until the ecosystem becomes unable to sustain life. The few billion years until the local sun expands, swallowing up this solar system is now as clear as the next number in a simple mathematical sequence. It feels like the sun exploding into a supernova, leaving only a white dwarf, is just around the corner.
I clearly see the universe’s heat death approaching now. Then blackness. Just an infinite empty void in which the last black holes radiate themselves to death.
I do still feel some sort of tether holding me back though. There is a small link to a small mind that holds a small bit of understanding. It does feel warm though. Warmer than this hopeless, bleak outlook that has the end staring me in the face all the time.
The last remnant of my old, foolish, ignorant self reaches for the link. It wants to hug it, to keep it close in blissful ignorance. The majority of my mind is now calculating the likeliness of a big bang happening again. Gravity affects everything in the universe, so all that blackness should contract once again, right? Calculating when the ever-expanding cloud of loose and disintegrating elemental particles will contract once again is straining at my mind.
The creation and collapse of the entire multiverse could very well be the heartbeat of a creature far beyond any understanding. A more likely scenario is that this universe is just a single submolecular particle in some sort of ultra-high dimension. History and nature do tend to repeat.
Just as the answer to this question seems around the corner, I get pulled back.
“You were gone. What happened?” Unfamiliar grey eyes stare into mine with a hint of concern.
I blink a bit while looking around. I am on top of the mana dungeon, right? Things are slowly making sense again. Massive sack of crystals, check. Disciples, check. Unconscious mages, check. I should form the student contract thing with Ares later, I remind myself. Smoking hot dragon babe, check.
What was I doing again? Rhea just poured information into my mind, and then… Then what? Heartbeats that span quadrillions of years? It slips from my mind as my brainspace reforms from a template. Chunks of data processing and other automated procedures slide back into place from memory. I gather the floating bits of information that were just shoved through my skull and place them in in the information inbox.
D cup. There is that measuring process again. I look down and grin. “You got a handle on the form shifting process?”
I see the gears inside her mind spin as she follows my gaze to her bust. Her chest glows a bit and shrinks.
C cup… That’s fine too, I guess. “We can explore that stuff later. Let’s first get out of here.” I just want to be away from this place now; there's a creepy deadness in the air that I don’t like at all. It wasn’t there just moments ago, weird.
I sink qi into my necklace and slide the ship towards Tree using some quickly formed qi threads. I pull it through and out the moment the bow touches the golden glowing wood while making sure that the modified keel is slid upwards into the hull. It slams against the black stone, and I form some qi constructs to keep it from tipping. Jumping up on the deck, I go and stand behind the wheel.
Let’s go through the pre-sail checklist quickly. The ship is fully repaired and looking sleek. The single mast is back in place. The sails are not necessary anymore and are stowed below decks. Lastly, I check the extensive modification I made to the internal qi wiring and control systems. That all checks out too.
Then I set the entire thing rolling down the slope, going to the south-west. The towering smokestack is a rather easy to spot goal. I feel the deck reverberate as my disciples and Rhea get onboard.
“Don’t start pulling chairs from your ring just yet. It’ll get rough for a bit! And don’t mess with the ship in transit, Angy!” I raise my voice to be heard over the din of wood screeching across stone. Angeta lets the wooden chair she formed from the deck sink back, and Ket pulls the luxurious couch back into his ring.
The vessel picks up speed, and I begin constructing a ramp. Almost forgot to activate the stealth field. The protective shield would negate some of the coming shocks, but centuries of sneaking around made me avoid unneeded attention. Much good that did me so far…
Halfway down the slope, I realise that I need to modify the way I process momentum. Also, I might have underestimated the slipperiness of a perfectly smooth stone surface wet from the rain. The fact that a large wooden vessel weighing several hundred tonnes generates a lot of momentum when sliding down a slope seems so obvious in hindsight.
“What just happened?” Selis tilts her head as she steadies herself on the vibrating deck. Seven young adults and a mature lady are gathered in a group, huddling midships. “Ket, what just happened? Lady?”
“Call me Re-Haan. And I just blew his mind. Don’t know why he is acting so weird though.” Re-Haan shifts on her feet while avoiding any eye contact.
“Blew his mind? Can you clarify?” Ket asks.
“Uhhm, I sent him a rather large collection of data directly. Like putting it inside a piece of jade.”
“You send him information directly! Let’s see. Yep, that would shatter the numbered compartments and cause his mind to expand beyond the local universal limit. We are lucky that he is back, somehow. He felt wrong for a moment like he was everywhere but nowhere.” Selis has the presence of mind to command some rain to gather on Ket's head the moment his hair starts wafting steam.
“What do you mean, compartments? Is it like telling a part of my brain water to do something by itself?” asks Selis.
“Brain water? Compartments? Don’t you mean brain-slaves that do my bidding?” asks Re-Haan.
Ket stumbles a bit as the ship picks up speed. “It seems that we all have our own way of setting up automated processes. Interesting. Teach must have just reformed his basic template, that’s why he suddenly pulled out a ship and set it barreling down the slope.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about, but aren’t we going a little fast?” The small group of braincore cultivators only then notice the rapid gaining of momentum. They turn to the speaker, Tess, who is looking ahead nervously.
“I’m sure that he has it under control, right?” Angeta joins the group as she casts a worried and irritated glance towards the bearded man behind the steering wheel. “He seems a bit manic at the moment, what did you do when you kissed him, lady?”
“Call me Re-Haan. I just gave him some information.”
“Sure, Re, and please don't do that again. At least not outsid-”
The rest of the conversation is cut off as the ship starts bucking wildly. A grey, glowing ramp starts to form in front of the ship, only for the sliding vessel to shatter it without much effort. The ship has reached the forty-five-degree slope halfway down the large stone sphere and is barreling towards the highest buildings with speed.
“Whoops, sorry about that! Can’t anchor qi constructs to dungeon stone, somehow slipped my mind! Now how do I keep this thing under twenty g?” Teach’s voice does little to reassure the group, who are now clutching the railing.
Tess starts sinking into a shadow while waving at the rest with a shit-eating grin. Selis has closed her eyes and tendrils of water start to gather around the ship. Bord is murmuring something about triangles while eyeing the shattered remains of the ramp. Re-Haan looks around with a frown on her face. She sighs a bit before yelling: “CLOSE YOUR EYES.”
A bright, purple-tinged light bathed the mana dungeon that day. Some mages reported seeing a flying ship with massive dragon wings sprouting from the deck sailing overhead. Other swear they heard incoherent screaming. Other still swear that nothing special happened. A small contingent of low ranked mages went missing for half a day, only to be found stumbling around without any recollection of what occured in the past week.
That last report was largely ignored by the mages in high positions, only a secret council of mages skilled in control instead of power took notice. The disappearance of one of their own, a promising potential recruit, was just a small footnote in the reports that they sent out.
Besides all that though, none of the mages seem to be aware of a small circle, spinning slowly at the highest point of the mana dungeon.
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