Chapter 197: Healing the world with comedy
Pre-chapter author's note:
If you haven't yet reread Chapter 189 after my retcon, I still strongly suggest you do. ^^
If you still don't want to, that's fine, as I'm going to give a small recap in:
All right, so Kaitlynn and Suri show up along with Starmother and Lio. Starmother gives some thinly veiled threats that suggest if Emma steps through the portal, she will take out her displeasure on Kaitlynn. Then Akir deliberately sneezes with a lot of force, launching Kaitlynn and Suri through the portal. Emma directs Kirri through after her, and Lio is thrown in as well by Starmother.
During the freefall down, Lio's attack throws Suri and Kaitlynn into the Realmvoid first, then Emma pulls her trick on Lio ditching him as well, and finally she's torn away from Kirri and crashes into the Realm.
And that's what you missed on... Glee!
(Sorry, couldn't resist. ^^ Seriously though, that show was insane...)
The Realm sends me something akin to a crude 3D model.
It’s a world of layers, with sand on the bottom, water above it, and air above that.
Moreover, I realise what it’s sending me is actually a question!
As in, ‘Is this what you want?’
Shit, of course!
I’m the bloody Apex now, so I make the rules!
As I grow elated at the realisation of what this means, the feelings that the Realm sends through our connection change a bit. The curiosity and trepidation remain, but mixed in with those intangible sensations, something new arrives.
Interesting. I guess it’s quite sensitive to my mood, too...
Without further ado, I start trying to convey my wishes by pushing images toward it.
However, I soon realise I’m not getting much back but confusion and bewilderment in response to my barrage of suggestions, so I slow things down.
The images I send are of open skies with a gentle sun and fluffy clouds. Fish flying in the breeze, unfettered by gravity, waves peacefully lapping at the shore.
Understanding slowly begins to bloom, followed by joy.
All of a sudden, things start to move. Thankfully, my sense of the Realm tells me exactly how it’s shifting.
High above me, the ocean floor cracks open like an egg, as the spherical Realm begins to unfold.
The bubble we’re in—along with all the others—starts to rise. The ones near what is now the top of the Realm come together, where they begin to merge into a sky.
I quickly make my way up to Kirri’s deck to witness the changes with my own eyes as well.
Kirri creaks timidly at my reappearance, and the myriad flying creatures above us buzz around, startled by the deep vibrations creating cymatics patterns on the rising bubble’s surface.
“It’s all right, girl,” I tell Kirri soothingly. “All according to plan. Well, more or less...”
As the ocean floor retreats along the sides, it gets bunched up below us, causing the ground to bulge and rise in various places.
A familiar copse of trees rises up next to our bubble, heading for the growing sky alongside us.
At last, our bubble reaches the surface. For a moment, it floats on what is now the flat surface of a massive body of water.
Lights start moving overhead.
The bubble pops, and I look up.
Small lights streak through the dark-blue sky, coming together and merging into a growing ball of light that glows with a milky-white hue.
Next to us, and in many other places across the body of water, trees break the surface, rising up as islands form out of ocean floor being pushed up.
Some curious flying fish immediately come over, darting between the buoyant leaves.
In my mind, I get a sense of the Realm’s new shape, and it kind of breaks me.
I expected it to turn into a kind of bowl-shaped structure, but instead, it’s turned into an infinitely recurring, flat plane.
That’s to say, if I were to sail Kirri in any direction, we would eventually end up in the same spot.
It takes me a bit to realise how it works. Apparently, the Realm has actually taken on a hexagonal shape, and connected the opposite sides to each other.
So really, it’s not infinite at all, it just loops back on itself, but the result is that it looks infinite.
And I suppose that means if I had a telescope or something to peer into the distance in one of six specific directions, I would be able to see myself from behind, looking into a telescope...
The concept is giving me a headache, so I quickly tamp down on the connection, satisfied with the results of the shift.
Specifically, I’m happy because of what I can do next.
“Hey Kirri, guess what?” The only response is a happy creak of her boom. “Yip yip.”
And with that, I push the lever that means ‘fly.’
It takes a moment for Kirri to respond to the unexpected command, but then her white-feathered wings spread wide, and with a few powerful flaps, she lifts off.
I close my eyes and enjoy the warm milky-white light on my face and the wind flapping through my hair, as Kirri soars through the air for the first time in a long while.
Perhaps I don’t need to rush off immediately after all...
With gravity no longer mandatory, predators might make their way up here as well at some point, but they probably haven’t flown in ages, if ever, and are likely not even aware yet that it’s an option.
Moreover, Kirri is an excellent flyer, so we should be safe enough for a while at least.
I verbally instruct Kirri to enjoy herself up here, and please not land in the water, then retreat back below deck.
Honestly, I doubt Kirri would have landed even without my order. She’s clearly ecstatic to be flying again; I bet she missed it a lot.
Only being able to sail is no way to live for a boat-bird.
Below deck, I sit down cross-legged, using tendrils of Devouring Energy to anchor myself against Kirri’s acrobatic aerial manoeuvres, and to drain Espir from my supply of Extant tree cuttings and wood pulp.
Closing my eyes, I once again move my attention into my Core, and start taming Schlorpy’s burning Essence...
A long time passes before I open my eyes again, but my efforts have not been in vain.
While there’s still a slight prickling coming from my Core, what little is left of Schlorpy’s Essence can no longer mount a meaningful offence.
Moreover, compared to before the Apex hunt, my mote count went up from 312 to 361 motes!
Now that’s progress!
My spiritform feels noticeably denser, stronger, but I take a deep breath and tell myself not to let it get to my head.
I may be hot shit here, but once I move up to the next Realm, I’ll likely be somewhere near the bottom of the food chain again. I can’t get overconfident now.
Especially as I’m about to go. Processing the last scattered drags of Schlorpy’s Essence could help me grow a little stronger still, but the rate at which it’s going is too low.
I need more Essence, so I can grow faster. Which means it’s time to leave.
I take position behind Kirri’s steering wheel, and direct her up.
Thankfully, Kirri’s exuberance has calmed a little already, and she obeys without delay.
Using my sense of the Realm, I’m directing us straight towards its only reachable border: the top. It’s still quite a ways out, however.
Long before we reach it, the atmosphere thins and disappears, all sound falling away in the vacuum.
We pass by the silently glowing ball of milky-white light, and continue past it into the darkening sky.
The Realm seems aware of my intentions, for it unexpectedly sends an impression. This time, it’s one of itself, a watery Realm full of life. Moreover, the impression is accompanied by a bittersweet sense of departure.
Huh. Didn’t see that one coming.
In complete defiance of physics, we’re currently flying almost straight up, so all I have to do to glance back down at the Realm beneath me is turn my head.
The seemingly endless expanse of water beneath me is dizzying from this height. If it weren’t for the regular patterns of islands, you’d never be able to tell it’s actually a repeating hexagon.
All in all, the effect is quite beautiful.
I can’t help but wonder how the next Apex is going to redecorate. It’s kind of a shame, really...
Ugh, what am I doing feeling nostalgic about this place?Get it together, Emma.
Short of staying here, there’s nothing I can do. These are like the wilds back on Earth, where things eat or get eaten. There’s no point in trying to change that.
Even in the Realm of Imagination predation still occurs—though it’s much rarer.
Still, part of me wants to help to leave this place better than I found it.
So, after thinking for a bit, I send a series of images, messages to the Realm, suggesting a non-predatory Apex, like one of the flying rays.
I must admit, I have a bit of a weak spot for them, as they remind me of my pet ray Elizabeth, that I had to leave behind in Hub Three. But I also spotted a couple genuinely large ones who might make a good candidate.
I’m not entirely sure if the Realm understands, or what the consequences will be if it follows my suggestion, but it’s the best I can do.
And as we near the upper border of the Realm, I ask for one last update of my destination’s position, exchange a final goodbye, then close down the connection.
There’s a shimmering membrane up ahead, which I recognise as the border to the Realmvoid.
Though it’s starting to dawn on me that if the border weren’t exactly where I was headed, I could’ve travelled up indefinitely.
Either way, I keep my gaze locked onto it, staring straight ahead as if I can see through it.
I can’t, but that’s all right. My mind is fully locked onto the lush Realm beyond it where we’re heading, and that’s all that matters.
Additional tendrils of Devouring Energy spread out, to anchor me even more firmly behind the wheel, and to provide me with a constant influx of Espir from below deck.
I’m going to need it.
My heart beats in my throat as I start to Imagine a river of milky light flowing through a sea of stars.
Espir floods out of me at an unprecedented rate as I will the image into existence.
In front of us, the shimmering membrane begins to swirl, and a hole opens up, revealing a milky-white stream leading through a glittering sky to a distant, lush Realm.
Determined, I push Kirri’s throttle forward.
As we cross the border of the Realm, I feel my connection to it fade until it’s gone.
The swirling opening closes behind us, leaving Kirri and me alone under a million blinking lights, guiding us over the milky way forward.
I have Kirri retract her wings and land in the gentle stream of light. I Imagine a breeze from behind, and it swells up Kirri’s sails, pulling us forward.
Flying might seem faster, but this kind of travel has little to do with speed. The distance we’re traversing is a meta-physical one. Moreover, it’s a climb into an area of higher density; it’s not about speed, but endurance.
Endurance of the mind, obviously.
Already I feel the chaos of the Realmvoid tearing at my conjured scene, random lights and sounds threatening to destroy the serenity.
I calmly block them out, deny their existence, and remain focused on the calm scene.
Just like Akir taught me.
Above me, the stars shift, forming the image of a grumpy octopus.
It brings a smile to my face, but it quickly fades into serenity as I calm my mind.
No distractions. I need to preserve my Espir.
The image of Akir fades back into the starry sky as Kirri slowly sails up.
Progress is slow, but by not giving my extraneous thoughts any room to grow, I’m able to maintain an equilibrium between my Espir intake and consumption.
However, as we continue, the chaos coming from the Realmvoid around us increases in intensity. On the one hand, it’s a sign that we’re moving up in Spiritual Realmspace as intended, but it also makes it harder for me to maintain my serene concentration, and my Espir Pool is beginning to slowly drain.
Unfortunately, the lush Realm in the distance still looks pretty far away.
How much closer have we actually gotten? Are we at a third of the way? Are we halfway there?
It’s rather hard to tell. I’m pretty sure we passed the red, arid Realm earlier, but I’ve yet to spot the rocky grey Realm that’s supposed to be the next landmark.
Then again, with the lack of colour and how dark it is here, I might’ve already passed it without even noticing.
Closing my eyes, I try to calm my thoughts again, aware that worrying would be very counterproductive in this situation.
Worst case scenario, if I fear I don’t make it, I could decide to turn back around. As I’ve experienced before, travelling down the Realmvoid can be done much faster, though that comes with its own dangers.
As I struggle through an attempt to once more achieve inner peace, however, a strange shudder passes through Kirri, as a breeze picks up, and she suddenly begins to bank to port side.
What the hell?
Thanks for reading! ^^