Chapter 10 – Language
The cultivation word had tombs, palaces, training towers and more. The only fantasy itch it didn’t scratch where proper dungeons. There were spatial pockets filled with riches and vicious beasts but no caves with mobs and bosses and a core at the end. I can’t describe the sight in front of me as anything but a dungeon with adventurers going in and out. The standard cliché tower ripped straight from an anime is another big hint.
Dungeons are good and all, but I have things to do first. I need information and plans. I have been too lax with gathering information about this city. Now that I’ve got a solid core forming in my head that can change.
The highest point in the city is the dungeon but it’s too high for my purposes. Walking around the plaza I see some bigger buildings, comparable to apartment blocks in size. A tower peeks over the edge of a big structure and it seems to be perfect.
I stroll through the streets, making my way over to the tower. I can see it’s made from seamless, fused bricks when I get closer. Mana is seeping out of the bricks where mortar would normally be, definitively a mage or rich nobles tower. It stands about forty meters high with an ornamental top. It reminds me of European bell towers, it’s crown looks more like a gazebo than a building. Definitively an observation post of some sort. The red-brown bricks feel cool under my touch.
I surround myself with a thin layer of qi.
‘NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING’
Chanting this mantra, I jump using qi infused legs. Halfway I stick myself to the surface and grab a ledge. Luckily I grabbed a lower window ledge. My NOTHING mantra will keep casual eyes from sticking to me, but hanging in front of an open window is a bit too obvious, I still cast shadows after all. Another qi infusion and I launch myself to the top. Looking around I study the view while finding a comfortable sitting position.
The city is spread out below me, perfectly circular walls are placed evenly around the massive dungeon tower. I recognize a few districts. The part where I entered seems to be the second worst part of town. The sun rose from my right when walking towards the city, so I came in from the south gate. The slums lie in the south-western position, the dark and low buildings a clear indication of poverty. The biggest buildings and parks are to the north, that should be the noble district. I think the crafters and shops are in the centre, slicing through the city from west to south.
I have seen enough, let’s start to hear now. Closing my eyes, I focus on my core. I keep a thought in mind while creating a small symbol from qi. A small microphone now hovers in the empty space surrounding my core. The only thought I had when creating this symbol was ‘LISTEN’. The liquid qi takes up over half of the space in my core, leaving me with around a third to create my spells and techniques.
The second symbol I make is a hard drive with the command ‘RECORD’. It looks like three circular disks stacked on top of each other. I fine tune the thoughts behind both symbols. It should find a conversation and listen in while saving the audio. Getting it to recognize discreet conversations is too complicated for now. Automation in the cultivator world is useful but without a proper guiding force these little spells would just record any random sounds. One can automate a lot, but programming these type of spells gets exponentially more difficult the more features you want. I limit myself to a relatively simple construction for now.
I put both symbols next to each other and draw a circle around them. The completed little spell is then shrunk as far as I can comfortably shrink it. I then multiply them a thousand times and force them into my solid core.
That takes up a quarter of the space inside the minuscule little bead in my head. Now for the difficult part.
The second spell I create is a letter recognizer. It will go through all the audio files once and count up all the different sounds that are used. The library used for comparison is the alphabet with an intonation addition. From what I heard so far the language uses tone difference to indicate meaning. I make a list with all the possible vowels and consonants I know, adding some bits I heard from the local populace not present in any languages I’m familiar with. Roughly, this spell goes like: ‘SEPARATE FIRST UNIT, COMPARE, ADD CHECKMARK, NEXT’. It looks over a word, taking only the first sound and matching it to the list. If recognised it will add a checkmark to this sound and proceed to the next one. The COMPARE is tricky to get right; I need it to put the unrecognised sounds somewhere I can look at them later.
The word recognition protocol I had running before only comes up with garbage, so I suspect that the language is context sensitive. What I mean by that is that a word affects the sound of the next one.
I breathe out qi, spreading my spiritual sense out over half the city. The majority I cover are shops, a nice cross-section of the town now fills my mind. The recording spells in my core are all assigned a listening place. A thousand points of light appear in my mind and I adjust them to hover in between bar patrons, couples having an argument, children playing and much more.
My mind buzzes with the influx of information. A headache starts building up until I assign a part of my core as data storage. With the numerous recording spells and the single analyzing spell in place, I close my eyes. This will be pretty boring but it’s necessary after all.
I internally grumble a bit at the convoluted way of doing things. I will be able to make these type of spell formations directly into the air while linking them to a mental process later, for now, I lack the raw power. I could do it the easy way, but then I’d only be able to support a dozen listening points at best. Everything has a price, and doing things the easy way is quite a bit less efficient.
Taking another deep breath, I lose myself in the streams of data flowing through my cultivation base.
As a certain cultivator in an alien land continues his further dive in advanced xenolinguistics, let us set out for a bit and take a look around the city. As we lower our view we see people walking through the bustling streets. Here is a middle-aged woman that seems to be carrying a basket. She seems to be humming a tuneless tune devoid of meaning.
“Hmm, hmm, got to get, hmm, hm, another me- dal- lion, hmm, hmm”
She hums to herself. Seems like a cheery type, how nice. Further up this street are children running around, dirt caking their bare feet. A man flies through the air, launched from a bar door, smashing face first onto the cobblestones. The children scatter and wearily approach the knocked-out guy. They must be checking his condition to see if he is al… And here they are running away with everything but the fellows’ underwear. Wait, one boy returns and worms the folded piece of fabric through the guy’s legs and runs off, leaving a naked drunkard behind.
Suddenly a tile slides from a roof, shattering with a spray of stone shards on the cobblestones, covering our robbed victim in the dust. A fleeting shadow dashing away giving hints to the origin of this unintended projectile. As we follow the shadow a silhouette of a girl becomes visible. Dashing over slate roofs and ducking under washing lines is a skinny female figure. Clad in wide cloth pants with a dark leather vest strapped to her chest she streaks over the rooftops, a shiver still tingling through her spine.
She had been observing something interesting. She knew that she shouldn’t have taken a closer look at the blur shooting up that tower.
‘Fucker used one arm to launch himself up fifteen meters, that’s a major’s worth of strength. Was a bad idea that I kept looking though.’
She thinks to herself as her sparkling eyes start to buzz even brighter while she runs on, leaving the cold sweat evaporating of her back behind her in the wind. She had felt a shiver run through her as the odd person reached the top of the tower. She had been trying to get to a high enough vantage point to peek at the mysterious guy when the chill had suddenly spiked. She didn’t feel quite naked, but her back had broken out in cold sweat from the immensely piercing feeling she had received. Like eyes had stared at every inch of her body from a hand span away. Like ears were ready to catch any form of sound she made. The cultivator in question might or might not be paying some extra attention to this fleeing lass, we will never know.
Her standard smirk had frozen on her face while she sprinted over the roofs, just to get away from that clinging observer.
“Looking that much is going to cost you next time!”
Finding back a bit of her courage she shouts towards the tower from a block over. Standing on the roof of a small tower jutting out of a warehouse she feels another shiver coming.
“Keep your fucking lookers to yourself! Don’t stare so much.”
People are now casting glances upwards from the streets so the girl sprints away, seemingly floating over the gaps between the roofs. She hums to herself, sprinting to the south-western district.
A grimy boy sitting on a crate in an alley jumps up in fright when a certain girl lands just behind him.
“Bugger all, Tess. Stop doing that, you’ll scare the water out of me.”
Tess only grins and laughs, a puffed up chest indicating that she is proud of her stalking skills.
“No worries Noll, who’s up today?”
“Got a volunteer actually, said he is a big fan?”
She breathes in.
“Have any fans…”
No change in Noll’s expression can be seen.
“That’s what he said though, he is waiting at the Lycan. Called Nik.”
“Kay, see you later!”
She waves at the boy and sprints further into the alley, disappearing into the shadows.
A boy called Nik is waiting at a bar with a rather colourful reputation. It’s a dark and smoky bar with lots of little alcoves and people in hoods, you know the kind of place. Nik looks around with some irritation on his face, mid length dirty blonde hair swivelling about. When a girl burst through the door in a dark streak his expression changes into a neutral position.
After that enlightening conversation, the girl pats herself down, checking for something. She smiles while pulling a leather cap from a pocket and donning it. She pushes the heavy oak door open, leaving the smoky dark interior of the bar. Running along the street she takes the fastest road to the centre of town. Halfway there she looks at the boy and smiles.
“Good of you to keep up. You know what you signed up for?”
She doesn’t frown, she doesn’t like people that frown.
“Wanna tell me?”
“Sure. We sneak into the dungeon, grab some stuff and leave.”
“Looking for anything special or do you want the basics?”
Did she just see something flicker behind his eyes? A certain glint of something? She isn’t sure but raises her vigilance a little.
“I need some medicine; this is the fastest way to get it.”
“Okay, basic rules first. Do not fight anything.”
The silence between the two is only interrupted by their plodding feet and the background noise of a busy city.
“Please repeat the rules.”
The boy finds her smile both blinding and irritating.
“Yep, absolute silence on the second and fourth.”
“Silence, second, fourth, got it.”
“Don’t vamp. They will just leave you behind to face a boss if they don’t kill you outright.”
All that greets the girl is a confused stare from the boy. The girl curses in her heart, she is smelling trouble now. She is interested in how it all will play out though, so she just continues her explanation.
“No clinging to a delver group. They are here for money and fighting experience, they will get neither by taking care of some brats. If they do invite you in, run away fast.”
She continues spouting all kinds of tips and tricks. Nik just nods and repeats the gist of it. Half an hour later they are in front of the massive tower. The boy is out of breath; Tess hasn’t broken a sweat.
“All in all, we are not here to fight, just to steal shit. The dungeon doesn’t really mind us sneaks most of the time. Stay alive for a week while doing this daily and you’re mostly in the clear, it’s a gamble whether you will be alive by that time though.”
The boy frowns at the smiling girl while they walk into the gaping opening on top of the stairs, dodging groups of delvers left and right.
While retracting all my qi from the surroundings I open my eyes and grin. Step one of integration in a new world complete. The massive amounts of raw data are still processing, but I’m starting to glimpse the basic structure of the language. It required constructed spells of a much higher complexity than I had expected. My standard five symbol language scanner was not effective, and I needed to tinker throughout the entire day in order to beat this confusing and illogical linguistic mystery.
The sun has set a few hours ago, bringing the fourth day I spend in this world to a close. I can’t help but chuckle a bit as I take stock of my cultivation base. A core forming cultivator after only four days. Anyone, even mortals would shit their robes if I were to tell them.
Back to the language though, I got the basics down. It is a really weird mix of tone and sound dependency. I can talk at the level of a three-year-old child now. A mental process is still going through all the other data I gathered, slowly piecing the complete grammar structure together.
I make weird faces, loosening up my facial muscles. I mumble all the words and variations I know so far. This takes only a minute as my face blurs with the speed. About a third is spoken wrong, I mumble the entire thing four more times until I can’t hear any difference between myself and the locals. I can almost see a blue box with a message like: ‘language level 1 gained’ floating in front of my eyes. Almost though, these systems tend to have major flaws so I don’t use them. I came across one once, in a very weird pocket dimension. I shake my head as I stop thinking about that weird place.
I stand up, stimulating my nerves and blood vessels with some qi in order to wake them up. What’s next? I don’t really need food or other materials and I’m not at a level of strength where I can start crafting useful gear. My current clothes are better protection than a meter-thick steel plate, so I don’t need any armour. Weapons would be nice but I still have my little spear.
Patting myself down I cloud myself in some qi while internally shouting things like: ‘HIDE’ and ‘DARK’ and ‘LIGHT IS SHIT’. A jump and a superhero landing later I’m standing on the street. Boring stuff is done, for now, let’s go adventuring in a dungeon. Also, I have a rabbit to train.
A devilish smile graces my face while I start walking to the centre of town.