Chapter 06 – Moving
My mind is filled to the brim with audio files. A file explorer window is hovering in my inner sight, filled with .wav files. The first time one can imagine an inner world sets the theme for the rest of your life unless you are willing to lose everything and start from scratch. I imagined a standard computer interface at first and I’m not unhappy with it.
Rifling through the files, I think about how to process them. Auto voice recognition would just give me text without any intonation or inflexion. Pattern recognition is a bitch to start from a blank slate, requiring immense amounts of calculating power if there is no linguistic foundation to build from. I tried to guess what people were saying but I have no clue. An entire day of listening and I still don’t know shit about what the people speak around here.
The tree around me senses my mood and attempts to soothe me. I smile and pat the inner bark, sending it a nod of acknowledgement. The tree was filled to the brim with mana when I returned late in the evening, so the first thing I did was cultivate a bit. My total qi doubled after that, the swirl of gas in my head growing denser. It now looks like cloudy milk, up from the cloudy water it was just an hour before.
Misses bunny is fine too. She is starting to look fluffy and cute now, a big improvement from the pink raisin creature. As the first animal on this planet that did not have a burning desire to eat my giblets, I decided to keep her for a while. And I don’t think that letting a creature operating on an alien energy roam around is a good idea. At least not yet, muhaha.
I caught a squirrel and dug up some more roots, eating once a day seems to keep the hunger away. People seem to avoid this forest like the plague, so I made another fire for cooking and heat. It wasn’t my greatest idea ever because the comfortable warmth is lulling me to sleep.
“Aaah, I need to sleep now too?”
Frustration wants to bubble up inside me; the last time I truly slept was hundreds of years ago. As I fight to keep my eyes open I kick dirt over the fire. Deciding to leave the ring of rocks be, I crawl into the tree, grab misses’ bunny and lay down. Sleep isn’t so bad, I think to myself. Maybe I’ll even dream again.
I had a dream. I’m not talking about it. Not even to myself. I have no desire to open that can of worms.
The sun is bright in the sky as I force my eyes open. Eyelids are glued together, grainy kernels of yellow stuff stuck to my tear ducts. More downsides to sleeping. I really want to form my solid braincore so I won’t have to sleep again. A long forgotten desire for coffee worms its way back into my heart. Hmmh, coffee.
With eyes wide open I jump up and my vision blacks out. I rub my aching head and look at the tree surrounding me with a why smile.
Coffee, maybe this world has it! Cultivators don’t drink coffee; they just sip tea. Tea is fine and all but a morning is not a true morning without a cup of the black stuff. With a splash of milk. And maybe some honey on the holidays. Call me a savage for liking it that way, I don’t care. How I missed coffee. I have a new goal. Adventuring is fine by itself but the true fun starts when I want something. And I want some fucking coffee.
I say goodbye to the tree. I’ll transcribe the mental communication like this:
“Hey, thank you so much giving me shelter these past days. Thanks a tonne!”
“Hey, where are you going? The water and soil here are the best!”
“Thanks but I have a mission.”
“The sun right? That has been my goal since long ago.”
“Something like that, my sun isn’t in the sky, so I have to go and walk a bit.”
“I’ll be back in while okay? Just go to sleep, I’ll wake you when I’m back.”
What followed was confusion again. Trees don’t know shit about the world. Their entire universe is the soil they stand in, the wind, the rain and the sun. I knew some trees on the previous planet that were smart. Smart for a tree that is, they still frame their entire perspective on wanting to grow to the sun while standing still.
Trees and travel plans are like fire and water. No, that’s not right, fire makes water vapour. What are two things that have nothing in common? All things are connected through existence; all things are directly connected based on your perspective.
Anyway, trees don’t have travel plans. Their idea of a vacation is a year with ten per cent more rain than average. The confusion I felt from the tree was based on this; the moment you are speaking with a tree and say something like: ‘I’m going over there’, you’ve lost them. They have no frame of reference for travel, so no use explaining.
“Simply close your mind and rest for a while. Also, go back to normal please.”
A slight sense of grudging acceptance is thrown in my face. The tree shakes a bit and the hole in its bark slowly closes. I busy myself with erasing any trace of my presence while the little bunny just hops around, nibbling on some grass. Truly looking like an adorable little critter now, she has glossy white fur with some fading black streaks across her back.
I mentally look up my priorities list. A crude imaginary text editor opens with the following list:
1 – GET STRONGER BE BADDER AND BIGGER while being chill about it.
2 – WTF ARE THESE DARN LOCALS SAYING.
3 – WTF IS UP WITH THIS DARK MANA SHIZZLE.
4 – GO FORTH AND EXPLORE while being low key and shit.
If you feel young, you are young. Thinks a certain thousand-year-old geezer…
Artfully I craft number five.
5 – I WANT SOME FUCKING GODDAMN COFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Perfect. Closing that masterpiece of a list I pick up the bunny. Putting a hand to the tree greets me with silence, it’s asleep again. Jostling a non-sentient being into some semblance of consciousness is taxing after all. Without me present as a qi source the tree would just die.
If forcibly awakened and unable to go back to sleep, it would have used up all the qi in order to stay awake. When the qi is gone there is just life force to feed on, so the dumb being would literally think itself to death.
Discarding these morbid thoughts, I make my way to the village. My plan for today is stalking some more locals and making my way over to the big city after that. The village is still the same. Wooden huts, a single stone house and a lot of peasants. Forcing some qi into a singular point I focus on recording everything once again.
Hours of listening later the sun is going down. More audio files fill a messy file structure; I’m hitting the limits of what I can remember. If I were to spend my qi now, with no solid core, I’d forget it all again. Information takes a while to get transferred to the long-term storage. I suspect that these me memories are offloaded to the soul, but that’s a theory for another time. Most people would strive for more strength instead of just boosting one’s mind, but information is king after all and much mightier than the fist.
I assign a compartment to gather mana and generating qi. I have a couple of per cent of my mind to spare so I build a rudimentary audio analysis process. It’ll simply go through the files and count discreet words. I hope that this planet has a normal language, and not some context based convoluted mess.
Praying it’s not some crazy ritualistic language with thousands of years of development, I walk around the village. The sun rose from the mountains behind me, so I went around the village’s west side. Shadows hide me as I make my way through the underbrush.
“HAAAR FUNDIK NI aardti loopti….”
Damn shadows, hide me for fuck’s sake! The rest of the yell gets quickly left behind as I sprint away and back into the forest on enhanced legs. Sending some qi to my eyes the forest lights up around me. Focusing the qi only on my retina does away with the blurry whitewash of fully qi filled eyes. Dodging some branches, I decide that I’m far enough and slow down. I take the bunny out of my pocket and put her on the ground.
“Don’t look at me like that, you need exercise to grow.”
Talking to a bunny is much better than talking to yourself. Like this, we leisurely walk through the forest. I focus my senses around me, scanning for interesting stuff. I find some odd plants, but nothing that uses any type of energy.
My spatial ring is filled with seeds for all types of rare qi herbs, but planting them in this toxic mana environment would guarantee negative mutations. Why did I sell all the good stuff again? Oh yeah. Lamenting about how expensive spiritual metals are, I keep walking.
Danger. Start standard cranial qi circulation. Time slows. Head-sized object to the left. Head slowly turns, pour more qi out to observe. Bunny is to the right, ignore for now. Closing in fast. In visual range. Red and yellow, wings and carapace. Wasp type? Stinger probable, no antidote, avoid getting stung. Gather qi in front of face. Basic triangular lattice. Smallest construction unit? Millimetres instead of nanometres, how the mighty have fallen. Concentrate now. Construct triangle.
A small triangle takes form in front of my face, made up out of white glowing lines.
Construct tetrahedron. Expand into weapon shape. Sword? Hammer? Spear. Reinforce edge. Qi getting low, absorb some from sense. Pour into spear.
A meter-long white glowing spear constructs itself in half a second. The wasp thing has enough time to half the distance in this timespan.
Use transformation matrix to move spear? Better integrity, but my mind can’t keep that up for now. Grab spear. Move ten centimetres to the left. Adjust point. Wasp reacts. Readjust point. Force wasp to commit sudoku. Lol.
That’s how I ended up with a wasp carcass the size of a football. A pretty big football too. And don’t forget the perfect hole through its abdomen the size of a coin with chunky goo slowly dribbling out. And various cuts on my hand with a distinct triangular pattern.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic weapon was not high on my priority list. Triangles are the sturdiest shape and this hand will heal in a day or so. I stop the bleeding by rotating some qi through my palm.
I sigh at the massive qi wastage. I’m not getting that quarter of my power back without effort. I might look down on weapons as a crutch but ignoring firepower like that is not something I can do now. I’m simply too weak at the moment. That and the dripping stinger of the wasp might make a fine spearhead.
Walking on with a dripping wasp in my hand, I keep an eye out for good wooden staves. The trees around here have gnarly and curly wood. An hour of walking later I spot a bush thing with straight branches. Getting closer reveals almost black bark with five-sided leaves. Three sides on the left, two on the right. Shaking my head at this world’s flora I look for the best shaft…
Ignoring my own innuendo, I send qi into the straightest branch. Then I perform a lesser version of the tree talking trick. It’s basically imposing your will on a living being to such an extent that it becomes that beings’ new reality. It’s also a lesser form of mind rape, so no using it on anything with a chance of becoming sentient.
That’s a fancy way of saying I shouted really loud, inside my head. After a good session of yelling things like: ‘BE STRAIGHT. NO SPROUTS. BE ROUND.’ I convince the branch to separate. Spear shaft acquired!
The wasp corpse in my hands is turned over and I examine the stinger. In its resting mode, it barely pokes from the wasp’s abdomen, pulling on it reveals a hand span worth of glossy black murder weapon. Pulling further… isn’t working. Is the venom sack attached to the stinger base?
Retrieve qi from my core, send it through arms. With a sickening plop, it comes free. The point is sharp and the entire thing is hollow. It flares out at the base, so now I’m holding a fifteen centimetres long air horn with a sharp tip. Some more mental yelling at the wood and the barb is snugly encased by one side of the stick.
A black wooden shaft a meter long and a vicious looking stinger completes my first weapon on this ball of dirt. I hope it’s a ball of dirt anyway; science and flat planes of ground that go on forever don’t like each other. Being in an unscientific situation makes it harder for me to be convinced that Newton and Einstein were right after all.
Misses bunny is still hopping around happily, nibbling grass and sniffing about. Totally oblivious to my fight and the following crafting process. She’ll have to start being more aware if she wants to survive this place. Her parents didn’t do a good job of drilling survival skills into her. Wait, that’s technically me now. I never trained a bunny before.
Suddenly I remember my bloody magic circle inside the tree. Nothing bad will happen, right? It’ll lose power in a few days, right? This won’t come back to bite me in the ass later, right?
Done with the setting of flags and jinxing myself I smile and walk on.