• hcmills

Chapter 175: Hello from the other side

The second I have my revelation, I open my eyes, and Warp.

I pop out on the surface of my dodecapus, which is getting hammered by debris.

I’m forced to actually extract one of the tentacles holding Avalan prisoner to fend off a larger piece.

Eleven tentacles will have to be enough for a bit. Please hold him just a little longer!

The dangerous area ahead of us where the two enormous vortices overlap is getting awfully close. I forcibly tear my gaze away and move towards the tentacular prison.

One more glimpse at his forcefield, I have to make this work; this asshole cannot be our representative!

Magenta-coloured Boreum shifts out of the way as the Acidic Hydrum inside moves according to my will, opening up a small window.

I stare at the forcefield. It’s surprisingly visible to the naked eye.

Then again, I’ve come to understand long ago that all the energy in this Realm is visible, actually, it’s just usually too weak to notice. However, the eye-crystals are more sensitive to it, somehow. The amount of information they provide tends to be a bit much to process, however, which is why—except for during training—I generally tune it out.

Right now, I don’t. In fact, I close my remaining eye, and focus solely on what the eye-crystal shows me.

The yellow energy forming the grid practically buzzes in this view, full of potential. As expected, however, it looks and feels different compared to the Gravitational Energy I’ve experienced before.

Normal Gravitational Energy feels like a depression, in a way, like a hole that draws you in. This feels like a hill, or perhaps more like an insurmountable peak.

Like it’s been twisted, turned inside out.

I knew it!

Avalan’s grinning face appears in the gap. “Here to beg for forgiveness? I might consider it, if you grovel hard enough...”

I blink open my eye, and draw myself up. “Not quite. I’m giving you one last chance to forfeit. If you don’t I’ll be forced to kill you.”

For a beat, the silence is only broken by the constant drumming of the debris hitting Boreum.

Avalan laughs. “You know you have a terrible poker face, right Emma?”

“I really don’t,” I tell him calmly, even if my heart is pounding. Truth is, I’m really not sure I’ve got time to pull this off. “Last chance.”

His head is suddenly replaced by a violet shining Focus Crystal.

I Warp back into the interior of the Dodecapus.

I guess that’s a no. Here goes nothing, then.

I stop the continuous Qi producing cycle in the large Focus Crystal on my chest, and fill it with pure Qi.

I focus on the conceptualization I normally use to turn it into Spatial Energy. An endless expanse, void of movement. Just desolate, cold, inky black. However, instead of applying it, I set out to twist the concept. Invert it.

But what’s the inversion of this? It can’t lose its Yin properties so definitely not the cold or the stillness... The inversion of the Gravitational Energy felt kind of... geometrical, so perhaps something to do with the shape? But what’s the inverse of an endless expanse?

Well, I suppose that would be... a single point?

[Ehm, Emma?] Suri chimes.

‘Little busy here, Suri,’ I send back absentmindedly. Everything concentrated in a single point, that kinda sounds like a big bang situation, but—no, it’s not everything, it’s nothing concentrated in a single point, it’s a—

[I get that, but you’re out of time!]

Shockwaves rip through the Acidic Hydrum as several large pieces of debris rip through my Boreum shell.

I Warp up, away from the plane where the two vortices collide and are shredding my creation in half.

Tentacles leaking bubblegum-pink Hydrum are ripped from the cluster one by one, until Avalan suddenly pops free, laughing maniacally.

He twists around, ignoring the debris that bounces off his forcefield, until he spots me, and starts to move in my direction. “Time’s up, Emma!” he shouts, his eyes gleeful.

My fists clench, then unclench, as I take a deep breath, and focus one more time on the Qi in my Focus Crystal.

This should be it. Not a vast expanse, but a single point of nothing. A hole in space.

A singularity.

With all the Willpower I can muster, I force the concept onto my Qi. It trembles, it shivers, until finally... it shifts.

The formed energy is not the inky black of space, but more of a deep dark blue that’s somehow brighter at the centre, like a light coming from deep underwater.

It’s a paltry amount, considering how much Qi I poured in, but I’m positive this is it. Inverted Spatial Energy.

Avalan approaches me, triumphant, Crystal sword in one of his limbs, Focus Crystals in the others. “What, no more speeches? I’m—”

My gaze searches past him, and finds a target.

I Warp back down, into the danger zone, next to a relatively unharmed tentacle.

Avalan whirls around, surprised.

He thinks he’s won, now that he’s left my prison. However, he’s still in one. One of his own making.

A sharp rock smashes through my Boreum armour and cuts up my left shoulder, but I ignore the flare of pain and release the Inverse Spatial Energy I formed into the Aether in front of me. Then, I use it to form a Warp-tunnel.

It’s actually easier than I expected. The energy cooperates like it was meant for this very purpose all along.

A sharp spike smashes into my thigh, lodging itself deeply into my flesh, and the pain is nearly blinding, but I hang onto my consciousness by the skin of my gritted teeth.

Finally, I use my remaining control over the Lavi inside the tentacle next to me to cause it to contract and fire a jet of Acidic Hydrum right into the newly formed Warp-tunnel.

Of course, this is no ordinary Warp-tunnel. With regular Spatial Energy I could really only distort the space between two points, creating a shortened connection. Going through it, you would still actually traverse the distance between it, just very quickly.

This Warp-tunnel isn’t like that. In fact, it’s not really a tunnel.

The Fifth Yin-Yang Principle states: ‘In their ultimate expressions, Yang causes unavoidable motion, Yin is everywhere at once.’

And so, I used this Inverted Spatial Energy to connect two points in space, make them One, then pulled that connection open.

I know it worked, for I could practically feel myself reach Warp level 2 as the connection formed between the area right in front of me, and a spot just behind Avalan’s back.

If he’d been vigilant to the possibility of me attempting this, he might’ve managed to prevent it by filling the area directly around him with lots of Gravitational Energy, instead of keeping it all concentrated in the outer shell of his forcefield. Unfortunately for him, we’ll never know.

He lets out a horrified shriek as the Acid hits him at full blast. Of course, his repelling forcefield makes sure it all flows along the contours of his body, staying nicely pressed against him. In the blink of an eye, his reddened limbs are flailing, thrashing from the inside of a bubble of Acid that envelops him nigh-entirely.

Only now does his forcefield fall away. Though, of course, that alone doesn’t remove the Acid now clinging to him.

With the tentacle’s munition expended, I close my extra special Warp-tunnel, and prepare to Warp out myself so I can tend to my wounds as I watch to make sure the piece of shit properly dissolves, when suddenly—

[Emma, duck!]

The world goes white.

I come to abruptly, floating in Hydrum. Disoriented, I stretch out my hands and hit something solid.

My eyes blink open, and I find myself suspended inside a glass tube that’s half-embedded in a wall.

Before I can so much as panic, the Hydrum is sucked away at the bottom at a rate that reminds me of one of those airplane vacuum toilets.

Gravity kicks in and I stumble into the glass tube. Thankfully, it holds, and for a moment, I look out at what seems to be an odd, yet luxurious apartment.

Though it is—predictably—shaped like a hexagon, there’s none of the smooth grey stone I’m used to. Instead, the floor is covered in dark, oiled wood, the walls made of marble-like stone inlaid with dimly-glowing crystals, and the ceiling is high-vaulted and intricately decorated.

Then the glass tube abruptly turns, twisting me around as it slides open, and sending me sprawling in the process.

[Ah, my apologies,] Suri chimes, sounding a little odd.

“Suri?” I start as I dazedly get up. “What happened? Did I—did I beat him?”

[Oh, yes, certainly,] she chimes, getting more into a normal flow as she continues. [There was very little left of your foe after your big finish. Some tried to argue you were technically incapacitated before he was, and should therefore be awarded second place, but after he perished and you survived, Starmother declared you the victor.]

“Starmother?” I mumble. “Wait, where am I?”

[Peilinor, of course. The Pillars, to be more specific.]

My eye is drawn to the large windows covering two of the six walls, and I make my way over unsteadily.

My jaw drops at the view. First of all, we’re way up high in a skyscraper of sorts. One of many, apparently, for there are several enormous hexagonal buildings towering next to the one we’re in, framed by a sky full of stars.

Down below, between the Pillars, figures move over straight paths through what look like fields of knife-grass, interweaved with streams of Hydrum. I soon recognise some of them as a couple of urudo, some froggos and I think a krah or two, but there many other unfamiliar shapes, moving in all kinds of manner. At first glance, I can’t tell which of the unknown creatures is the Peilor, but then, I still don’t know what they look like.

[Drab, aren’t they?] Suri chimes. It takes me a moment to realise she’s still talking about the buildings. [The Pillars of Society, is what they’re actually called. The Council of Stars must’ve had quite a laugh about it when they came up with that one. Well, it’s no matter. We’ll be moving on to better lodging very soon.]

I glance around the odd room once more. Aside from the glass tube, there’s a seating corner with seats and couches in different shapes and sizes—tastefully coloured in browns and shades of green and turquoise—an enormous, practically wall-covering glass screen, and what look like glass sliding doors leading to other rooms.

Doesn’t look that bad to me...

“Where’s Kait—where are my friends?” I ask. “Are they in this building too?”

[Oh, I can’t say I know the exact—well, I suppose the nerdy one, Dave, would be here. I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of being Rose’s upstairs neighbour for quite some time, you see. Not much longer, mind you. Oh, the displeasure she must’ve felt when I won! I wish I could’ve seen her...]

Wait, this is Suri’s apartment? Why would an AI...

An uncomfortable feeling settles in my stomach. “Suri... not to be rude but... what exactly are you?”

[Yes, I suppose it’s about time we had this conversation, isn’t it?] Suri chimes, sounding somewhat wistful. [Well, Emma, the truth is... I am a Peilor.]

I swallow, glancing around the apartment, but see no signs of life.

[To your left.]

I turn to find a wall-covering mirror.

After a moment, my eye naturally falls onto my cyan eye-crystal.

[Got it in one,] Suri chimes, punctuating the statement with a pulsing glow from my right eye socket. [Hello, dear.]

Author's note:

So, had you guessed it? Let me know in the comments or on Discord ^^

Also, just a little heads-up, I will be publishing Book Three this month!

If you want your name listed in the back as a supporter, now would be the perfect time to:

Thanks for reading! ^^

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