Chapter 435 – Flight Home

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When switching incarnations, one requires no time to acquire information about the current situation from the prior personality. After all, it is information one already possesses. But the time taken to formulate a plan must necessarily be longer. The thoughts, theories and suspicions of our various personalities are unique to each of us. One must absorb and process the knowledge at hand to know one’s position.

This Fan Li had only Tiana’s ideas and thoughts to work with at the outset. Unfortunately… no matter how grown up she sees herself, she remains a child. When troubles mount, despite her confidence in her wisdom, she can only confront them with the emotions and insecurities of Youth.

Within our shared awareness, she remained active, and she fumed at being called immature, but she did not refute it, and thus she continued to allow this humble one to ‘drive’, to use her terminology. As the incarnation of the present life, it would always be within her power to take over, and being that this scholar is, in the end, her own self, she would meet no resistance. The fact that she left this scholar in charge was proof she understood and accepted that she needed Fan Li’s help. Which, in fairness, was proof of a level of wisdom beyond her years that she does possess.

But even her level had not been enough, and she had become overwhelmed. Confronted with the prospect of motherhood, she balked in the same way any child of her years ought to. Her mind began seeing all the rationales for seeking a way to avoid it, without actually considering any of the reasons she might need to agree to it.

This must be said, however. What she did by handing control off to me was not running away. Rather, she turned to her most trusted senior, seeking guidance. She knows many seniors far more senior, but this humble one is, in the end, her own self. She made the best decision her young years could manage.

Again, that cute protest, that she is not a child, bubbled up, but this senior tasked her junior with a job to occupy her mind. The skill of winged flight is difficult, but doable for this simple one, as much of it involves an innate use of Will, and Tiana’s memory is filled with hundreds, if not thousands of ‘flight hours’ worth of practice. However, other vampire skills are more challenging. She executes one task immediately after we take off from the landing pad-like balcony of her suite: the stealth skill [Vampire Cloak].

By the time we are flying out past the edge of the truncated hilltop where Castle Narses stands and looking down past the steep declines down into the Lower Town, she knows about the next skill she must execute.

Upon take-off, our destination had already been clear to this scholar, but the details of our plans required time to congeal in my thoughts.

The silly young girl had many worries, which included fear of the loyalties of those around her. The danger of Demon Blindness afflicting the fairies in her mother’s employment, the appearance of treachery behind the attack on the duchy’s Army Headquarters and even her nagging suspicions concerning the unclear relationship between her fiancé and the pretty slave girl at his side. While this scholar considers the last, her protest that ‘the prince can do as he pleases and she has no suspicions’ flares up, only to die when she is confronted with her very own thoughts.

Conversations between incarnations transcend language at times. The moment this scholar decided how to address those worries, Tiana vetoed one target. Her reason was sound and the decision changed, no exchange of words required. Thus, her second task began.

As we arrived on the adjacent plateau, bearing the Upper Town, and flew across the rooftops, she spread out the thin veil of compressed blood that formed her [Blood Mist] and began combining the city for her target. Naturally, it was no easy task in a city, but less daunting in the Upper Town than in the dense, teeming crowds of the Lower Town. Although it also had its lower class quarters, largely to house military and domestic workers, much of the Upper Town had become the territory of the wealthy, who don’t pack so tightly.

We found him riding in a carriage just as he arrived at City Hall. The good fortune of finding him out in the open made the next task quite simple. Once he had climbed down, we descended behind Viscount Amalis. It was tricky, avoiding the entourage surrounding him, but with my Will control enhancing the vampire flight skill, this scholar found it possible to reach down from above and briefly stretch my hand near enough for Tiana to leave the [Blood Sigil] on his back, duly cloaked.

Task done, we flew back to Narses Castle, where Amana should be meeting with Oberon’s contingent of fairies and mages. The viscount had been a priority because Amana’s location had been known. His destination after leaving the castle was not known, so it had been necessary to limit the potential distance he might travel by looking for him first. But now she would receive the same blessing as we had given him.

The child in the back of my mind had misgivings about this as well, although she had not objected instantly as she had to the idea of ‘bugging’ Rod or Mireia. It was understandable. Not only had she only known Amana for forty days, while Rod was a lifelong acquaintance, it was reasonable to think Amana’s faculties could be compromised. Spying on her was the act of protecting her. Spying on Rod would simply be… spying on him.

On top of this, Amana’s theory of the attack, even though Colonel Morgas supported it, was very difficult to believe. And while Viscount Amalis seemed awfully hostile to her, it would be the people under him who were implicated if a wide number of traitors were indeed involved in allowing such a force to be smuggled in. He had cause for hostility.

Putting ‘bugs’ on these two was a simple decision. And even though Tiana hated the thought of using this ‘sneaky’ skill, as she disliked most skills related to vampires, she could not argue with the reasoning behind it.

We landed on the training ground space where Amana and Oberon’s fairy warriors were meeting. The two Reladorian mages were off to the side, keeping their hippogriffs company, so they either were waiting their turn or had already done their health check on Amana.

With Tiana keeping [Vampire Cloak] active, and pouring into it as much Darkness and spiritual energy as we could afford, this scholar casually strolled up behind Tiana’s older sister and reached out her hand.

The [Vampire Sigil] applied successfully, but Amana reacted by whipping her head around while raising the hazel branch she carried as a focus. The other fairies were startled by her sudden motion, not understanding what was happening, but they all were immediately on guard.

Jumping back, this humble scholar raised hands while Tiana dropped the cloak, then said in my best imitation of the child, “It’s me, Salnedo!”

Amana’s eyes grew wider and she bunched her lips up, then spat out, “Tiana! I could have burned you! What were you thinking?”

Her hazel branch was, in fact, currently thick with summoned Fire. She raised it and waved, dispersing the mana into the air.

A decent excuse came to mind, so it came out. “Dressed like this, I thought it would be better to stay in stealth and not cause a scandal with the mortals. I apologize for alarming you.”

“Hmph,” she replied, still unhappy. “Then why dress like that?”

“I’m headed out on an errand. I should be back before morning.”

Again, her eyes grew. “You are not going to go look for Mother, Tiana!”

“I’m not,” this humble one agreed, as amiably as possible. “I’m respecting everyone’s desires on that matter. I promise. Please rest assured that I’m heading in the opposite direction.”

“And why are you going there?” she demanded. “I thought we were in agreement that you needed to stay in a safe location for Mother’s sake!”

“There’s someone I have to consult and something I have to do.”

It wouldn’t do to continue the conversation while Tiana was standing in the middle of a training yard in broad daylight while dying of embarrassment in the back of my mind, so it was time to cut the conversation off. Tiana resumed her [Vampire Cloak] and we sprang back into the air, quickly leaving her still-objecting older sister behind.

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As soon as she understood my intentions, Tiana began panicking, realizing how high we were to fly, in order to cut down the travel time. But scholars of Huajie of advanced cultivation regularly fly that high, and far higher. This humble scholar was only one of many who had acquired the skill to reach our world’s satellites. They were not as distant as Earth’s moon or the moons of Huade, but the nearer, often visited as a training exercise, was at least fifty thousand miles above.

In comparison, a mere jaunt through the stratosphere was nothing, especially in a body well-designed for the trip. Tiana quieted as we recalled that the Elders had reached orbit, and even other planets, by flying there themselves, not through the use of the spectacular vehicles of Robert Stewart’s or Daq R’mion’s worlds.

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We rose, and rose, until the sky above us grew black and the horizon condensed to an arc of blue haze. According to Tiana’s amazing positional sense, we reached sixteen miles above the surface. Of course, we weren’t merely going up. This scholar’s Will seized hold of the thin mana around us to propel us through the sky at a speed the child had never dreamed she could manage. Of course, Senhion had been capable of this sort of flight as well, but the one flight that Oranos had made Tiana remember had been at relatively low altitude, out of concern for baby Oberon’s health. She had not yet recalled flights like this, that had included trips to bring observation satellites into orbit, but now that we were flying at this altitude, those memories were at last resurfacing.

Would it be possible for the young Elder to recreate this skill on her own, without this scholar’s help? It could not be said for certain. She could command similar spiritual energies, but her Will control was immature. It would have to remain to be seen.

Our destination, Relador, came into view, and in the past, the border patrol had easily intercepted the child when she approached it. This time, we could easily overfly them…

… but Oberon’s Great Labyrinth spell might cause us difficulties. Even from here, the distortions of space that he had woven into this land showed themselves, extending far past the atmosphere.

Rather than get lost in the maze while trying to find the path through from above, it was more sensible to use the known route. We descended upon the border town of Anto in order to retrace the reliable path through which Tiana had piloted Reia while coming the other direction.

Again, Tiana formed her [Vampire Cloak] and we charged into Relador. Although we couldn’t maintain the hypersonic speed that a sixteen mile altitude enabled, my experience still enhanced Tiana’s flight skill to the point that no fairy on a border patrol would catch us, but Tiana preferred not to alarm them in the first place. We posed no threat to them, but headaches and anxiety were still wounds that were better not to inflict.

But [Vampire Cloak] in the daytime incurs a heavy cost in Darkness mana, and this scholar suggested she drop it once the border lay miles behind us, but she formed it again when we were crossing the airspace of Royses, the mortal capital of Relador. It was only polite not to cause an air defense panic, after all.

Overall, the flight from Narses to Mount Ciddan, Senhion’s Mountain, took us less than an hour. It had been draining, but this scholar had judged the effort necessary.

The mountain’s defenses did not trigger as we approached the shrine entrance. Instead, the portal system greeted us.

Welcome, Commander! Will you be using the walking entrance?

Being in a hurry, this scholar replied, trying to sound commander-like, You may portal me directly in.

… and we appeared mid-air above the grand terra-cotta floor of the great training ground, with Central Island and our destination ahead of us.

Commander! Jia’s excited voice rang out. You’re home!

Yes, but there is a need for haste. Please alert Curator that I am on my way to the  training hall to visit my pavilion.

Little Jia’s thoughts carried a feeling of hesitation, as she replied, Shall I increase the time compression of Sky Ocean, Commander?

It likely would simply accelerate the breakdown of the pendant. Or rather, its subjective lifetime would not be affected, but its time in Huadean days would become shorter. No, please continue to match Huade’s time. But please contact Gaia and ask her whether her amulet can safely enter our training system.

Surprisingly, the answer was instantaneous, and came in Gaia’s voice. Please enter without worry, Little Sen. I can put it under my protection when it is inside the system.

- my thoughts:

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Next chapter’s setting is probably obvious. But exactly how will Fan Li address ‘the heart of the problem’ there?

No change to my software troubles. The company keeps offering suggestions that don’t fix the problem. I suspect the problem must be with my computer specifically, but it is weird that it only manifests in one program. Even similar programs like LibreOffice don’t have the problem

And this is a major product for writers, so I’m really surprised that nobody else is having the problem. I’ll probably start posting on writers’ forums to see if I can find another person afflicted with it. So please bear with me if I end up not posting to schedule. I’ve managed it (sort of) so far. Although I’ve posted slightly late once or twice, so far it’s been a matter of minutes instead of days. I refuse to promise that it stays that way.

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