BASTION OF KNOWLEDGE
Lino and Tim stood in front of a shimmering, spinning vortex. The latter’s edges blended in and out of reality, displacing space around it in an uneven circle. The vortex was located deep underground, at least according to Lino’s calculations, hidden away from the prying world. The strangest part of it all, however, was the fact that the vortex didn’t emit even an iota of Qi or Mana; though Lino could detect energy, he couldn’t discern it, understand it or manipulate it.
Tim paused for a moment and glanced at Lino, smiling lightly, before stepping through. The latter hesitated for but a moment before following his footsteps, stepping over to the other side. He was temporarily blinded by the sheer light, being spat out almost a moment later on the other end. A brief wave of nausea swept over him, startling him greatly; even if he directly entered a spatial storm he’d be fine, yet such a brief journey caused him to nearly vomit.
Shaking his head, he lifted it up slowly and looked around, his lips soon gaping open in wonder. He stood on top of a mid-sized mountain overlooking what appeared to be a valley. Green shrubbery rose from earth and collapsed onto remnants and ruins of something. Steel beams and poles stuck out of earth at angles, all connected, rotten by tips and edges, mingling inside a vine-infested jungle. Towers of pure glass, half-cracked, rose around, with faint traces of street as well as similar, boxes-with-wheels peering behind the branches and trees of the overgrowth.
Wildlife thrived underneath the blanket of leaves, everything from small lizards to brown bears and wolves. High skies were occupied by nearly three-meters long eagles who repeatedly circled about, eyeing their prey. It was a scene Lino had trouble processing; though, on an individual level, he was mostly familiar with everything surrounding him, he never quite imagine it all fitting together.
“All our knowledge,” Tim spoke out after giving him some time to adjust. “Comes from this place. Follow me.”
The two began a brief descent into the jungle where even more wonders awaited Lino. Wheeled boxes existed in but rust and decay, yet still held a grandiose sort of appearance that those back in the city lacked. Despite the fact that most of the things around him were being devoured by the beast of time, they still seemed fervently imposing and defying. Sinking into earth, bit by bit, yet still reaching toward the stars.
Looking up, blasts of sunrays pierced through small openings in the branches, startling Lino. The sun shouldn’t yet be this strong -- at least not for ten more years -- yet there it was, blasting away.
“This isn’t our sun,” Tim explained, chuckling faintly. “Rather, this isn’t our world. At all.”
“What do you mean?” Lino asked.
“This is a small chunk of rock currently floating through the cosmos,” Tim said. “We have absolutely no clue where exactly it is, and we’ve discovered it purely by accident. We’re fairly certain it used to belong to another body, a world similar to our own, before being separated due to one catastrophe or another. You were lucky; this little place will only have sunshine for a few more years before blasting past the star and plunging into darkness.”
“...” Lino came to a halt in front of a strange, half-spherical building that was drawing its last breath. Half its innards were exposed due to a massive hole on the side, displaying crumbled rooms fitted with all manner of odd things that Lino didn’t recognize. “What did you mean when you said most of your knowledge came from here?”
“Not most -- all,” Tim explained. “And I meant exactly that. When we first discovered it, it was in a much better shape, actually. We discovered numerous books, tens of thousands of them, really, and though it took us some time to understand the language... once we did... everything we believed in changed, Lino. This place... this place is entirely the reason why we stopped our participation in the Wars, why we ceased our worship of Gaia... why we became who we are today.”
“From the records,” Tim continued, his expression somewhat dreamy. “People who left all of this to us were a lot like you, humans. Yet, in some ways, they were nothing like you. Before us, this place... had neither Qi nor Mana. At all. Zero. Nothing. And from the records, it’s clear that humans who lived here could neither use Magic nor could they cultivate. So, they were forced to make up their shortcomings another way.” Tim glanced at Lino and smiled faintly. “That’s what I meant when I said because we’re content; we cover up our weaknesses through Qi and Mana, making our technological progress a bygone thought.”
“...” Lino remained silent, still taking in all of the surrounding sights.
“Our fundamental understanding of how the world works was spectacularly different before we discovered this place,” Tim continued. “Rather, nearly every Law we practice and take for granted today was derived from books we found here. For instance, Space and Time. Every single bit of knowledge we possess comes from here.”
“... how’s that possible?”
“... we don’t know,” Tim shook his head. “Though we’ve managed to replicate many technologies we’ve found here, we still fail to do so with many more. Perhaps, answers to even more question lay deeper there... and perhaps what we know now is all there is to know.”
“... wait,” Lino suddenly realized something. “Aren’t understandings of the Laws subjective?”
“No,” Tim shook his head. “Applications of them are. Space is space, regardless of how you choose to apply your knowledge of it. Same with every other force, and everything else, really. For instance, do you know that localized Time travel is impossible, but a macro-scale one is to a certain extent? Or did you know that the amount of energy even the most powerful being on our world can unleash pales in comparison to some of the things that transpire in the universe? Did you know that stars die by technically eating themselves inside out?”
“...” silent and stunned, Lino couldn’t even muster a reply. It was his to accept all this and try to reconcile it with his limited reality.
“Secrets of the Cosmos are plenty and fascinating, and we’re hardly any closer to understanding even a hundredth of it all as those who left this place behind. Yet, every day, we learn something new. Just recently, actually, we have discovered that our little cluster of worlds doesn’t have six, but seven planets. A few months ago we have narrowed the age of our sun to a difference of a few tens of millions of years. And, perhaps most-impressively,” Tim added with a smile full of pride. “We have managed to finally calculate Noterra’s age.”
“... hm?” Lino mumbled, glancing at him. “Isn’t it 6 billion years old?”
“... no,” Tim shook his head. “That’s merely when the Writs and the Scripture arrived there. The world itself, however, has existed for nearly thirteen billion years.”
“... what the fuck?!” Lino exclaimed stupendously, shellshocked more so than ever before.
“Ha ha ha, don’t be so shocked -- the sun that we orbit is at least ten times older than that,” Tim grinned, pulling Lino’s arm and resuming their walk. “Even though Cosmos is fascinating, it is not the time to think on such a massive scale. The reason why I’m telling and showing you this is because I believe it will help you reconcile your gap in knowledge. I imagine you know many things I couldn’t even begin to understand, but I also know many things you cannot even begin to imagine. One reason I wished for your help was certainly because you were one of the few who could do it,” he added. “But also because of what came after. Most of the other things we know about Noterra are largely localized, or behave entirely differently on a macro scale. And, more importantly, they all exist in every corner of the Cosmos we’ve observed so far. Chaos, however, does not.”
“... what do you mean?” Lino asked, frowning.
“Ah, let me rephrase that -- there are remnants of Chaotic presence, but we were unable to directly detect Chaos itself. For instance, Law of Entropy is present throughout the entire Cosmos, but it isn’t necessarily driven by the force of Chaos, but something else entirely. Truth is, most of the Chaotic activity, and all of Chaos we are aware of, is localized to our home. Even more specifically, to you. I had hoped that, by sharing my knowledge with you, you would be able to understand why, and probe deeper into the underlying truths of the reality. We have studied Cosmos for eons now, and we have attempted to study life we cannot see with our naked eye, life we cannot even perceive through our Divine Senses, to no avail. We know it is there, all around, building up the reality we see... but we have been unable to create a tool to see it.”
“I’m not following.” Lino quickly added.
“Before I die,” Tim paused as the two stopped inside what appeared to be a square of sort, with a decaying, marble fountain at the center. “I’d like to learn the truth of it all, Lino. Just like those who lived here did. And, I believe -- unlike my colleagues -- that Chaos is the key to everything. Not the Writ, not even the individual commanding it -- just the pure essence of Chaos. It is the solitary remnant of time before time, and, if it may be, I hope it will unlock the doors of knowledge... not just for me, but for everyone. They, here, did it,” Tim said, glancing at Lino. “Without Chaos, at that. They did it with their wit and persistence. We lack the latter, but I believe we can compensate with the former. For instance,” Tim said, suddenly glancing toward the rise where they arrived and where the spinning vortex was still visible. “The wormholes -- that’s what they called the distortions in space that allow you to travel places quickly -- they were never able to create one due to lack of energy. We can, however, do so freely. Yet, they still somehow managed to know more about them than us.”
“... wormholes?” Lino mumbled, glancing back.
“Tiny tunnels in spacetime,” Tim explained. “Connecting two points in Cosmos. Like Noterra is connected to Devil’s Hell. Or Silver Cities. Or this place, right here,” he mumbled faintly. “A remnant of Earth...”