A wave of dizziness washed over Chikere. Was it the herbs she’d haphazardly ingested, or the blood loss? Perhaps both. Either way, she pondered going back out through the hole she’d cut in the wall with her blood-swords but decided that through the far side shouldn’t be any worse. She already sensed people coming from the side of the cell block.
With a single vertical slash she cut the door in two, severing the annoying barrier in the process. She felt like it should have been easier, though. Her body wasn’t in a great state, and just making anything but her right arm move required puppeting her own limbs with her energy.
She looked to her right down the new corridor. A figure was running- probably called to catch her- and she went the other way. No doubt he was at that very moment sensing her presence and turning, but she wasn’t going to wait fo find out. Her senses also had to focus on what was in front of her… and the approaching figure of the light-lady. Though fortunately she wasn’t in this facility, the light lady wouldn’t take long to arrive.
Turning another corner, Chikere found another bundle of cells- these actually occupied. She had the feeling that just running wasn’t going to get her far, so she began chopping open bars and shackles. The shackles in particular were optimized to prevent the prisoner from using their upper energy, and were rather vulnerable to outside attacks.
The first individual she cut out was a large man, who began to ask, “Wha-”
“No I don’t know you. Either run or fight or stay in your cage like a coward, I don’t care. There’s a bunch of garbage weapons down that way,” she gestured vaguely towards the room where her confiscated arm had been.
Then she moved on, wasting no time with each doorway. Several guards rushed down the corridor from the far end, extending their arms from which beams of light stretched. She cut them in half. The beams, the people, both at once. How many more could she manage? If her enemies were weak, perhaps a hundred. If they were a bit stronger, perhaps five. And she likely couldn’t manage a single attack on the level that killed the sword saint. Whatever his name was.
Chikere realized she’d slightly overestimated herself, as she was used to having swords. Specifically numbers 1-10 at a minimum. Now she just had… whatever she had. Blood swords at least in name but she didn’t know if she could use swords anymore so they might be something else.
Chikere passed by some woman with a sword and killed her. Upon touching the hilt of the weapon she was filled with revulsion, and probably at more than just the poor quality of the weapon. It was probably foolish to do given how much work it was to maintain her blood weapons, but she snapped the sword as she continued running.
One of the individuals she freed followed Chikere directly. A woman that seemed comfortable moving without weapons.
“Where are we going?” said the large man- the second of those she had freed that was following her. In his hands was an axe Chikere thought she recognized from the storeroom.
“Nowhere,” the light woman landed in front of them just as they flung open the door to the outside.
“Through her,” Chikere said. “How do you feel about the effects of subspace on your bare skin?”
The man didn’t answer, instead focusing on swinging his axe down towards the woman. But he was both in a poor state and not even a proper augmentation cultivator, so she blocked it with one hand. The woman who had tagged along clasped her hands together, and an image of sand and water crashed around the enemy, slightly restraining her.
Chikere probably didn’t have the energy left to survive a battle with this woman, even with two allies.. But she didn’t really have to guess, did she? Her weapons coalesced into one, slashing forward. The flashy woman blocked with her arm, using her bracers and gauntlet to absorb the blow. That was the intention, and they did well enough. She only lost her pinky and ring finger on her right hand.
But she hadn’t been the target anyway. With the same motion, Chikere stepped through the rift in space she had opened, wrapping her one good arm around the large man’s neck as she stepped through. She didn’t really care what happened to him, but she’d rather not leave even a short term ally behind. The other woman grabbed onto the large man.
A moment later, they were in empty space, but not properly out of the planet’s gravity well. Which was not at all what Chikere intended. The slash was supposed to open a much longer corridor of subspace.
“… I guess we’re dead,” Chikere shrugged as she looked down at the planet just a few dozen kilometers below, where there was an angry Augmentation cultivator who would be attempting to kill them in a moment.
“Hah!” the man wrapped in her mechanical arm laughed, their overlapping energies allowing sound to transfer. “I’m not getting this far to be recaptured!”
He twisted in Chikere’s grip, raising the axe he held in both hands and flinging it downward. The massive burst of energy cut through the atmosphere towards the Augmentation cultivator below, blasting the trio away from the planet. There was only so much momentum a single attack could build up, however. The real hope came when the additional woman produced a wave that began to carry them along, ever accelerating as they broke away from the pull of the planet.
“That probably didn’t kill her,” Chikere sighed.
“I know,” the large man said. “But it might smash a few buildings if we’re lucky. Could you let go of my neck now?”
“Oh. The rest of my muscles failed, so I forgot.” Chikere released her grip around his neck, clamping her fingers down on his shoulder. “Wake me up when we get somewhere, or drop me if I die, okay?”
A strange liquid splashed on Chikere’s face. Salty… but lacking the taste of iron. Was there anything like that? Oh right, seawater. Opening her eyes, she didn’t see a sea around her. Instead what she saw was a bare rock. “… Man, the afterlife is boring.”
“You’re not dead,” came a voice from the end of her arm. She looked over to see the large man with purple spots on his shoulder as he pried her fingers off of him. “You have a durable grip. Though… your arm feels weird.”
“It’s fake,” Chikere said.
“How?” said the woman. “It doesn’t radiate any upper energy.”
“Electricity and crap,” Chikere said. “I dunno. Ruteran stuff.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” said the woman. “Forgive me, my name is Margriet. I’ve already been introduced to Sly. Also, you may wish to regulate your own energy so that you don’t freeze, burn, or suffocate.”
“Hmmn,” Chikere said.
“Are you going to…?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Chikere admitted.
“Might I suggest living now and deciding if you want to later?”
“Fine,” Chikere said. She drew in some energy around her. It was enough to sustain herself, at least. And her wounds had clotted or frozen over from the trip. “I’m Chikere.”
“Good to meet you,” Margriet said. “I must admit, I don’t recognize you. And I certainly should have at least heard of most of those in the Exalted Quadrant’s dungeons. Then again, you might be a more recent addition.”
“How recent is recent?” Chikere asked.
“… two centuries?” The woman said uncertainly. “Or something like that.”
“Oh. Yeah, I’ve only been in the upper realms at all for a little longer than that. The dungeons were… this month? Year?” Chikere shook her head.
“From the lower realms? What sect were you from?”
“None, really. If I had to name one… the Million Sword Vault.” Sword. The word used to make her happy.
“Wait,” Margriet frowned. She looked over at the large man named Sly. “Does that mean…?”
“Is that the Million Sword Vault on Ceretos?” Sly asked.
Chikere shrugged. “Is there another one?”
Sly shook his head. “Not that I know of. But there could have been. The two of us are ultimately from there as well.”
Chikere wanted to tell them she’d never heard of them. But that was probably true for most people ascended from Ceretos. “Okay,” was all she said. “Why are you here, and not on Xankeshan?”
The two exchanged glances. “Where?”
“Its where most of the people from Ceretos and our allies are located now.”
Margriet frowned. “I suppose I could be considered among your allies. You know of the Worthy Shore Society, of course.”
“That’s on an island, right?”
“Yes. The Exalted Archipelago. Or I suppose it might not be called that anymore, given the reason we were imprisoned.”
“Oh yeah. I bet these guys don’t like you, if you’re one of their members.”
Margriet nodded. “I was a previous sect head. The one who was first friendly to those from the continents. That ultimately led to how things are.”
“You know Anton?” Chikere asked.
“I did,” Margriet said.
“Makes sense. Everyone knows Anton.”
“I don’t,” Sly said.
“Has Anton ascended?” Margriet asked.
“That… won’t be possible,” Chikere said.
“Ah. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Chikere tilted her head. “What? It’s just because of that funky technique. He’s an Assimilation cultivator now, you know.”
Margriet bit her lip. “I do remember some mention of that, if I think back. One of Everheart’s forbidden techniques, right?”
“Yeah. You could ask him about it.”
“Isn’t he in the lower realms?”
“Oh no. Everheart is in his own system now,” Chikere said.
“I-” Margriet shook her head. “I honestly have no reaction to that news except resigned acceptance. So, you’ve ascended from the lower realms. How did you get here?”
“I dunno. I was trying to kill that Limitless Edge Sect lady and then the flashy lady picked me up after I lost and stopped being anything.”
“Are you okay?” Margriet asked.
“My right arm feels pretty good,” Chikere said.
“So everything else hurts, then.”
“Dunno. I refuse to think about it.” Chikere opened and clasped her fist alternately, watching the motions. “Do you have a sword?”
“I do not.”
“That’s okay. I think I might hate swords now.”
“I… So this Xankeshan, where is it?”
“Scarlet Midfields,” Chikere said. “Kinda in the middle.”
“That’s a bit vague. Where in relation to… the Harmonious Citadel, for example?”
“Nowhere. They’re dead.”
“… What?” Margriet blinked.
“I mean I don’t think we killed all of them, but like all of the important ones. The sword guy for sure. I didn’t see the other ones.”
Sly cleared his throat. “Where is Xankeshan in relation to where the Harmonious Citadel used to be, then?”
“Like… west a little,” Chikere shrugged. “If you get close anyone in the Scarlet Alliance can point you to it. That’s how I find it.”
Margriet sighed. “That’s a long journey. And without weapons, with people looking for us…”
“Hey, what happened to my blood?” Chikere asked.
Sly frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The stuff that was outside of me.”
“Oh. Those blades. I believe they were left behind.”
“I wonder if I have enough blood to make another one…” Chikere frowned. “Hey, do you guys think I’ll die if I take out that much blood?”
“You probably shouldn’t,” Margriet said. “You really shouldn’t. Especially if you’re not thinking clearly.”
“Am I not thinking clearly?” Chikere asked.
“I have no baseline to compare you specifically to,” Sly said. “But I’d say you seem like one of us that’s knocked heads a few too many times.”
“I don’t knock. I cut. I used to cut.” Chikere looked at her good arm. “Now I just… swoosh.”
“… Have you started your wounds recovering?” Margriet asked.
“It’ll figure it out on its own,” Chikere said.
“Very well. I suggest we keep moving. This isn’t exactly a safe place, though I wouldn’t expect them to check this particular rock, we should be in another system as soon as we can. If you think you can survive the trip.”
“Nothing has killed me yet,” Chikere replied. “So we should try it and find out.”
Sly placed a hand on Margriet’s shoulder and shook his head. “I think we just have to go.”
Margriet lifted them away with a wave of water.
Chikere clawed her arm at the air in front of them. It didn’t really work with just fingers. But pinching space open was probably different than cutting it anyway. “Do you know anyone who can pinch space open?”
“Not that I’d want to visit,” Sly said.
“Alright. Let me know if you find someone,” Chikere said as she let coolness of the wave lull her to sleep.