Chapter 101 – Over-analyzation
The top fifth of Strata Island is running down its sides in rivers of sand. The chaotic tower is turning into a sandcastle made from loose powder. It looks like it is burning and melting except for the fact that the dust is not floating upwards.
I am standing on the waves, a couple of kilometres away from the tragic sight. I form a sheet of qi in front of me and shove it through the tower once again. Some clusters of living beings, stocks of food and material along with a lot of books. Closing my eyes, I feel for the auras still there.
Each personality appears like a small spark in my mindscape, showing me glimpses of who they are. I have operated on a pre-ascension, near demi-god level for a long time, that did something to either my mind or my soul. My massive sensitivity for qi, mana and living beings stems from that, I think.
Well, it’s absolute shit compared to a year ago, but still a lot better than what I remember from my previous solid core realm senses.
Anyway, these senses allow me to feel that there are just two types of people left in the buildings. I would describe them as mason and numb. One type just wants to build stuff while the other type wants nothing. Earth mage and slave, I am guessing. Neither of these people types are on my shitlist.
I rub my face a bit, I am used to having my plans spiral out of control, but this is getting ridiculous. I am starting to feel like a shelter or asylum manager. Sighing deeply, I give in and run past the fleet of evacuating ships.
I scan the base of the tower again, mapping the exact location of the nexus room. I shroud myself in some more ‘NOT HERE, NANANA, NOT HERE’ qi and jump. I point my fist forwards and make a few qi structures. A sound dampening field prevents everybody from noticing the new hole in the tower as I punch through the outer layers while a simple construction reflecting the visual spectrum hides my freshly made entrance.
Should I bother with all this stealth? Maybe not, but I have been doing this for such a long time that it is pretty ingrained by now.
I kick through a couple more thick walls, happy for the weakening structural integrity of the entire structure as more earth mana drains. I land in another cult-like room, everything looking to be made from hard-baked clay. A dull, matte skull is lying on top of a simple stone pillar.
And is that a dead guy? Yeah, he is a total goner. The corpse lying against the pillar looks ancient. Deep-set eyes stare at nothing from a wrinkled face. Strata must have been in the middle of replacing their battery.
I touch the corpse with a single finger. His… Nope, that’s a her. Her brain is ninety percent crystal. The rest of her brain is deader than dead, the cells half rotted and desiccated. Cause of death? Natural… I can’t sense any wounds or other ailments.
It’s like the brain stopped supplying… of course, it stopped supplying signals to the nervous system. Her brainstem is crystallized! So mages are doomed to die? Danarius has a good quarter of his brain turned to crystal. I wonder how he will react to qi.
Speaking of freeloaders, I look upwards and scan the entire tower again. The upper half is totally empty, all the powerhouses took their valuables when evacuating. The lower levels still have some people running about. Half are looking for ships, of which there are none left, the other half are chained up.
First things first though, I poke the dull skull in curiosity. There is still mana in there, just not a lot. It feels like a battery that used to run on trust and apathy but has been used too intensively. Discharging batteries entirely will usually destroy them, and that seems to have happened here too.
My poking finally has an effect as the skull cracks. The fissures shoot across the cranium and the thing crumbles to dust. I jump back in time for some symbols to start lighting up around the room. I watch the light show with interest and baulk at the horrible inefficiency.
Brute forced crystal development through supersaturation. That is what is happening here. In the most wasteful, horrendously horrible method possible.
The runes scrawled across the entire nexus chamber have one purpose, the moving of mana. The crumbled skull’s mana hovered on top of the pillar for a bit, until a few runes started flashing. This moved the mana to the corpse slumped against said pillar. This oversaturation then started the halted crystal growth. Flesh does not crystallize easily, so the process slowed down when the brains and skull were turned into solid mana.
Retrieving and cleaning the skull was… messy.
“Requiescat in pace.”
I give a slight bow to the mutilated old lady. She will get a burial soon enough.
Looking upwards, I prepare to test some of the things I learned at fire island. Spending years inside of my own head each fight is not healthy for my mental stability. I could start running simulations, plan the entire thing and execute it from a slow motion perspective, but that would take days.
I can usually amuse myself when spending long hours thinking in combat mode, but I don’t feel like it. My mind is no longer the calculating monster of old. My heartcore definitely has had some effect on my character. All in all, this dual core setup is well worth the tenfold qi requirement needed for realm advancement.
So instead of making detailed scans, mapping each brick, calculating each move and running thousands of simulations, I think of a quick plan.
Shit, so much for that. Combat mode now. Analyse. Nexus room used up mana reserves. Skull is absent. Tower is turning into sand. All at once.
Finalize crude plan. Locate targets. Prepare qi string. Preconnect to Tree. Need higher level of detail for guaranteed success. Likelihood of fatality during retrieval is five per cent. Needed time to decrease to sub-one-thousandth per cent is estimated two hundred hours of simulation.
A week of boredom or trust in heartcore?
Analyse previous heartcore performance.
Trust heartcore. Trust self.
The world speeds back up as I start moving by instinct. Soft brick explodes into loose sand as I kick against the crumbling ground. I launch a fist upwards and shoot a cone of qi out of my first. Shooting through the created hole, I feel the prepared qi threads shoot through the crumbling rock.
What follows is a dark tunnel speeding by as I feel shapes being pulled towards me. A staccato of bodies gets pulled into Tree, too fast for me to consciously follow without slowing down the world around me.
The bright sky blinds me as I shoot from the crumbling tower, a trail of dust following me up into the air. Looking down, I see a myriad of smaller dust trails, created from bursts of focussed air from the sudden velocity change of my latest kidnap victims.
Am I at a thousand yet? I focus on Tree, who is now carrying the newest freshly frozen arrivals to the qi-less warehouse. I let loose a breath of relief. Just a bit over five hundred, nowhere near a thousand.
I let my eyes wander around as my slowly spinning flight upwards starts losing momentum. A plume of dust beneath me is swallowing a large fleet of ships. Fresh plumes of volcanic ash appear from one side of my horizon. Massive rain clouds have formed on the other side, the wind patterns set in motion by air island no longer keeping their skies clear. I can also see the top of the mana dungeon from here.
I have gathered the courage needed to ask my brain a question by the time I start falling again. I check my brain section responsible for keeping logs and peer into the casualties report. Beside a shitload of fauna that kicked the bucket, there are no sentient casualties.
That is one hell of a slippery slope avoided! Letting people die for convenience’s sake is not on my to-do list.
I steer myself towards the north and dive into the sea with a glorious swan dive. Emerging like a dolphin, I start pondering how to steal the water skull as I run.
I check my running processes. To my horror, one that I have had running for hundreds of years is not there. Where did it go? I scour my mindscape for the small process, filtering on input and alert privileges. It’s not here.
My ‘potential penis joke’ process is gone. Looking at Capillary Island, this process should have been ringing like mad. I have gained enough power so that it should be back by now.
My cup measuring process is another example. I didn’t consciously remake that one. It simply reappeared when I gained some more thinking capacity. I think that running a single process continuously for centuries ingrained them into my soul or something.
I look deeper inwards, not happy with this development. My heart skips a beat when I notice a smudge. A small piece of my mind has something smeared on it. It feels like my own qi, but this… this smells like dragon.
Rhea you slut! Oh my god! Is she censoring my processes? What in the flip?
I admit we did plenty of mind related stuff lately, fully exploring these new psychic possibilities. We even used it for things other than sex. Fighting with our full powers would attract all kinds of attention and wreck the climate, so we did that while sharing thinking space.
Even so, I never would have thought that she has the gall to censor my very own thoughts. I go through my mind with a fine-toothed comb, picking through every single available strand of thinking power I have. I uncover a few more and even a single modification. She left the boob measuring process in place, only modified it to focus solely on her. My penis joke-, pun- and ‘that’s what she said’ scanning processes are disabled.
I unseal them and delight in the fact that there are at least thirty possible penis jokes I can make about Capillary Island. I feel pieces of my very soul sliding back into place. Grinning in delight, I stride forwards. I start making a list of potential punishments to administer to a shape-shifting woman as I eye the water mages’ home.
Fifteen minutes later, I have the skull in my hands and walk outside. There were no old fogies for me to kidnap here. The whirlpool is heavily buffered, the kinetic energy locked up thanks to the nexus room is enough to keep it spinning for weeks.
It will probably be a couple of days before these people even notice their missing skull. This allowed me to gather some… interesting toys and materials. Should be useful for punishing Rhea later.
“Stop pouting, you big baby!”
“I’m not pouting. And another few days at the place wouldn’t have hurt anyone!”
“No brother, trust me. You do not want to become like the people that spend the majority of their time at that place.”
Vox raises a questioning pair of eyebrows at the statement. Ares turns red as she begins to stammer.
“A-anytime we… Water mages can keep clean, they can’t heal. They can’t heal chafing. Nor swelling.”
The puzzled eyebrows crease further in confusion. “Chafing? Why w… Oh. Did they do it nonstop? I mean… It gets a bit sore if handled too much, why would they need healing?”
Vox and Ares both seem to realise the subject of their discussion at the same time. Vox crouches down with hands covering his face as Ares looks at the ocean with her full concentration.
“Nevermind. I will miss the massages from Areil though. Those fingers, ooh.” A shudder runs through Vox as his eyes cloud over in remembrance.
Ket is staring at the duo with dull eyes. “Could you discuss those things in private? And ask Angeta about… that piece of jade. She will know which one.”
Re-Haan is studying her nails like they are the most interesting thing in the world. Sitting on the steering wheel column as if it is a throne while looking bored, she tries very hard to look unapproachable.
Something that she seems to be failing at. Selis splendidly ignores all the signs and the very ‘do not disturb me’ aura Re-Haan is projecting and looks up at her with big eyes.
“Hmmh? Se… Sols?”
Selis smiles widely. “Why are you with Teach?”
Re-Haan’s thoughts crash to a halt. She stares at the cheerfully smiling face framed by blue hair. “Wha?”
“My name is Selis. And why are you with Teach?”
The dragoness looks away from the beaming face to gather her thoughts.
”Look, miss Re. You guys don’t fit at all.”
Re-Haan is now glaring at the small girl. She is about to open her mouth to give the little cretin a vicious tongue lashing, but shuts her mouth when strands of water gather in between Selis and herself.
“See here, if I map all the personalities I have observed so far on a scale, with dominance and submissive or subservient on the line, formal and informal on this one, the third one becomes intuition and reason with feeling and sensing mapped as the size… You two are nowhere compatible.”
An intricate web of lines, symbols, numbers and dots made from sparkling water now floats in between the two. Ket walks up to the two females, staring at the multi-dimensional graph with fascination.
“Look, Ket and Tess are well inside the compatibility zone. They will get together within a few months according to my calculations. Oh, hey Ket. I’ll add some more numbers so you can understand it.” Selis frowns in concentration as small droplets separate from the maze of water, shaping small numbers that float in between refracting lines.
“I want to praise and kick you at the same time, Sel.” Ket’s eyes buzz through the forming numbers with speed.
“Angeta is the most balanced of us all, weirdly enough. You should just ig- OW!” A slender finger snaps against Selis’s forehead. The watery structure now a wet spot on the deck, the pouting girl looks at the female dragoness sitting on top of the steering column with furrowed brows.
“I commend you for your effort, that data must have cost you a lot of time thinking. A few months at least?”
Rubbing her forehead while looking down, Selis mumbles softly. “Half a year.”
“Well, good job on not going crazy then. I barely use my braincore, have slept for nine out of ten parts of my life so far and I feel like going crazy from boredom whenever I use my braincore intensively.” Re-Haan waves at the back of her head nonchalantly while adjusting the steering wheel she is lying against.
“You built this theory on faulty information. You have observed a few non-standard individuals for what, a few days? A week or so since you formed that braincore? Your sample size is too small, that was the first thing I learned. Your observations are too subjective. And you based the non-compatibility theory on the personalities of a non-human with an underdeveloped human personality and a hyper-controlled show that… Teach put… Are you listening?”
Re-Haan stops her lecture when she notices that neither Selis or Ket are paying attention. Instead, they are sneakily passing a shard of jade back and forth. They both notice that she has stopped speaking and look up guiltily.
“Uuhm, sorry for asking such an insensitive question.”
“I have recorded your lecture and will review it later.”
Re-Haan rubs her face a bit as she watches the boy and girl walk away while huddling, working out a new theory based on shared data. The dragoness seriously thinks about punishing the two for disrespect, but her observation skills keep her from acting.
The two braincore cultivators are not at the level of perfect bodily control yet, and data Re got from Drew tells a whole story. She looks at Ket’s gait, the way the boy walks speaking volumes of neglect and deeply ingrained avoidance behaviour. The manner in which Selis looks away at certain times, along with muscle twitches uncontrolled by her developing braincore, tells her a lot about what kind of stuff the girl went through.
Looking at the endless blue horizon with a melancholic look, Re-Haan thinks about the few unconscious tics she saw from Drew. Even hours of thinking later, she still can’t figure out if those twitches were truly trauma or another veil to hide behind.