“Well, I think this much should be enough for now. Thank you again, Natra. Once the generators are all powered up we should be able to send out retrofitted automaton builders to set up the other panels.”
“What do you mean this much? This is the eighth panel I’ve set up so far. No, I refuse to do anymore so you better get things going, young lady,” I harrumphed, irritated. It has been almost a week since the first panel was reconstructed through mana with the blueprint Cortana showed me. The summer’s heat only did no better than to devastate the forest even further during the day, turning the air black with its ash, and the freezing gales constantly batting against my makeshift tent throughout the night does not serve to improve my mood either. Or sleep.
As soon as the panel was built, mana quickly dissipated back into the surroundings, leaving me with tingles on the tip of my fingers, like blood rushing through your hands again after waking up on the wrong side of the floor, and gravity settled upon my shoulders again. I do not know whether people – witches – like me experience the same sensations whenever we use mana. Maybe someday when Cortana is strong enough, we could begin our research into this, but until then I need to get the dungeon working again. Cortana was silent for a few moments before laughing a sweet delighted laugh.
“I will, I will. Promise. The power generated from the panels so far seems to be working more efficiently than it did previously. How intriguing.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I’m running some background analysis right now, but if my sensors are true, it may suggest a few things. Either power generated by mana-constructed plants are at least twice as effective compared to non-mana constructions, or the sun is going to implode in a few moments, creating a black hole that will consume the entire solar system and anything breathing in a few seconds time.”
It took me a few moments before I realized I was holding my breath. “You jest! There’s no way the sun is going to suddenly collapse. It was doing just fine all this while.”
A chocolate-coated ball of fur suddenly popped out of my satchel, staring intently at me for a good 5 seconds before mewing like there was no tomorrow.
“Alright, I get. I get it, buddy,” I said as I fully unfurl the cover. “Let’s get back home and have ourselves some nice, warm meal.”
Our journey back to the dungeon took less than half the amount of time spent to reach the clearing, especially since the smoke started to clear out on the third day of our arrival. Tiny blades of grass peeked out from the scorched earth, gently caressing the forest back to life. The winds were strong as always, pulling leaves away from the safety of its branches, fluttering and flowing with its captors and the trees sway and bend, but never break.
As I trekked through the broken paths, a thought dawned on me that this ancient road must have been made more than a millennia ago, it could even be older than the creators themselves. There was a shuffling in my satchel before the covers were lifted open from beneath and a tiny kitten popped its head out.
“Hey, little guy! What are you doing outside? ” I said as I slid my hand underneath its belly and carried it on my palms. The mewling grabbed onto my left wrist with tiny claws and struggled its way up my arm before finally resting on my shoulder, purring as it leaned against my neck.
“It’s awful to be alone, isn’t it? Well, you can be my company home.”
“I believe it will be almost time for the cub to be fed. My scanners indicate the path to be relatively clear of any hostiles, and the atmospheric indicator shows a radiation storm coming in a few hours time. So, I’ll go ahead and prepare some warm milk for little Pur and a hot meal for when you arrive.”
“Sure, do that for me, please. And – pur? Did you just name the kitten?” I gasped. “Ugh, you’re driving me nuts. How dare you do that without me!”
Stomping off and thrusting my hand towards the air in anger, I yelled out in irritation. “I want those round things you call pancake with the sweet water!”
“You mean syrup?”
“Whatever it’s called. What’s a raydeeashun?”
“Radiation is the emission of energy as electromagnetic waves or as moving subatomic particles, especially high-energy particles that cause ionization.”
“In normal words!”
“Haah,” she sighed.” It’s a very small, yet very powerful thing which kills you slowly. It cannot be felt nor seen except using very special machines. I suspect the radiation levels to be minimal after a thousand years but I’ll need to prepare a decontamination area near the entrance just in case.”
I looked up at the direction of the sky where winds blow and saw clouds amassing and roiling in the far distance, pregnant with its wrath as flashes of white and blue illuminated from without and within the bulges of grey like the glow of iron when a hammer strikes iron in a forge. The rumbling of thunder echoed like the sound of an ancient tree breaking after being bent past its limits by the hands of a giant beast.
I pulled my coat closer to me and hastened my steps and made my way just before the blackened earth beneath my feet soften from the squall before the terrible rain. To the dungeon. To my home.