Zac frowned when he saw that Leviala's condition seemed to have worsened even further, instead simply nodding in thanks. He went down the corridor that Leviala indicated, maintaining a pace just slow enough so that his Danger Sense would be able to pick up any hints of spatial tears in time.
He would have preferred to transform [Love’s Bond] to its defensive form as well, but it turned out that was impossible because of Leviala. She could barely stand at the moment, let alone keep up with him. He instead had to fashion some sort of chair out of two of his chains, allowing him to carry her to his side. Carrying her on his back would have been a lot more convenient, but he definitely wasn’t about to let a complete stranger have her arms around his neck. That was a good way to get yourself killed or captured.
The path they followed looked much very much the same as the area where they entered, with a state of decay that far exceeded anything Ogras described in his report. Occasional flickering in the scripts on the wall indicated that the area wasn’t completely disconnected from the base, but it apparently wasn’t in any state to repair this place. Or perhaps the Base AI had simply deemed it too costly what with the spatial turbulence.
They continued down the corridor for a few minutes before they reached a huge crack in the wall. It was wide enough for five people to enter together, and it seemed to be heading in the direction of the wastelands. Zac tried to peer inside, but it was completely pitch black apart from some light at the end of the tunnel, making it a possible shortcut.
“Do you think they entered here?”
“I can’t activate my eyes again, I will end up in a coma,” she said as she peered into the darkness. “But it’s doubtful. I don’t think the Lunar Tribe would use these kinds of paths unless absolutely necessary. The corridors are still connected to the base and they follow most of the rules, but anything can happen in a crack like this. I think we should continue down the road.”
Zac nodded and kept walking without hesitation. He felt a vague sense of threat from that dark ingress anyway, and he probably wouldn’t have entered even if he traveled alone. Something dangerous waited inside.
A minute later they reached a crossing, with a proper path heading the same way as the eerie crack from before. Zac looked at his reluctant guide again, but she still shook her head.
“No, not that way either,” Leviala said. “That corridor is the start of a looping spiral, a dead end. Cracks might have created a new path in there, but perhaps not. We would waste almost an hour going this way.”
“A looping spiral?” Zac asked.
“These endless corridors follow certain patterns and we have learned to somewhat intuit some of them after living in them all our lives. I’m almost certain that this will corridor is a dead end, but I can’t actually explain how I know it. It’s a vague sense based on the direction we’re walking, proximity to the forest, previous corridors, and so on.”
“Is it your ocular bloodline?” Zac asked.
“No, everyone born in this place can somewhat do this,” Leviala explained.
Zac guessed that it was a naturally nurtured equivalent to his recently gained sense from [Forester's Constitution] unless she was hiding something. Perhaps she could tell based on the inscriptions on the wall or some other small sign that Zac couldn’t notice. Either way, he felt it was better to go with her instincts unless his own Danger Sense started to rail against them.
The state of the base gradually worsened even further as they proceeded until Zac suddenly froze before he activated [Loamwalker], moving himself and Leviala back where they came from. Not even a half a second passed before an extremely dense storm of spatial tears passed right through the corridor, seemingly both exiting and entering through the Memorysteel walls.
“You see?” Leviala sighed, her face ghastly white. “We were lucky this time, but things will only get worse from here on out. You can’t sense these sudden storms either, so it’s imposs- “
She didn’t get any further before Zac moved again, once more narrowly avoiding a weird fluctuation that appeared from one of the cracks in the roof. It almost felt like the spatial tears from before had summoned something.
“-ible to completely avoid. Wait, how are you doing that?” Leviala asked as she looked down at Zac with confusion.
Zac didn’t immediately answer, but rather kept his eye peeled at the situation ahead. The thing that had appeared clearly was of a spatial nature, but it was something else than a tear. It almost looked like a soap bubble, but it actually reflected a blue sun rather than the surroundings. The bubble was almost two meters across, and much smaller spheres surrounded it like satellites.
It only remained a few seconds before it destabilized with a pop, causing an extremely powerful implosion that made Zac’s hair stand on end. There was no way that he would have survived it if he hadn’t moved away in time.
“What was that?”
“We call them Void Bubbles,” Leviala said with a sigh. “It’s actually a pretty rare sight. We don’t really know what they are. Some believe that they are the result of the dimensional layers temporarily weakening, giving a glimpse of the outside. More than one desperate cultivator has jumped into those bubbles in hopes of escaping this place, but I doubt anyone actually survived.”
Zac nodded in agreement. He could somewhat the power brewing in the center of that bubble, and it was definitely not something any random E-Grade cultivator could survive. However, he suddenly froze with realization. Triv seemed certain that quite a few people had escaped from this base because there were so many high-quality corpses on Earth. Was this the method they used?
“Is it always that blue sun?” Zac asked to make sure.
“No, the scene is always different. Most of them picture outer space though,” Leviala said. “Seeing one depicting land is very rare.”
Zac nodded, feeling that his theory wasn't completely without merit, but something she said piqued his curiosity.
“You guys know what space is?” Zac asked curiously.
“You know, we’ve lost much, but we’ve only been in this place for a couple of millennia. My great grandfather was born in the Zecia Sector,” she said with a scathing glance.
“Alright then,” Zac coughed and started walking.
He felt a bit stupid hearing her explanation, and his plans for exchanging information of the outside for information on the inside died in its cradle. She might know even more than himself about the Zecia sector for all he knew since the Cartava Clan was seemingly a proper cultivation clan before they were captured.
They kept going further from their starting points, and the spatial anomalies only grew more and more common. Zac’s Danger Sense kept doing wonders though, and seeing that Zac really was able to somewhat predict the spatial tears made Leviala calm down a bit. It allowed her to relax before she started explaining the base patterns in greater detail.
Zac felt he learned a lot, though he knew that he simply couldn’t gain an intuitive feel for the place just by hearing about patterns such as ‘Downstream Wing’ and ‘Fierce Otodon’. But it did give him a glimpse into how these native forces functioned, which might be even more valuable.
“We should turn here,” Leviala eventually said as they reached another crossing. “This should be the main path leading toward the Wasteland, and if we go any further without turning we’ll reach the Outer Divide. I doubt that the Outer Divide is breached even this close to the Wasteland, so going there is a waste of time.”
Zac nodded in agreement, but they only proceeded a hundred meters before Zac’s mind once more screamed of danger. However, this time it was to the point that Zac almost fell over from the shock to his mind, with only thoughts of escape remaining. He scrambled out of the way like his life depended on it, completely forgetting about Leviala.
The Cartava scion was dragged along thanks to the chains of [Love’s Bond], barely missing a massive claw that suddenly appeared from one of the cracks in the roof. It slammed into the ground with a devastating force, shredding the sturdy alloy like it was nothing. Zac desperately scrambled to his feet to keep backing away, and he looked at the hand with fear. He didn't even dare to think about attacking that thing out of fear that it would sense his killing intent.
The hand emitted energy waves almost at the level of Greatest, meaning that the beast should be somewhere in the late D-Grade.
The hand looked both corporeal and energy-based, and it twisted and distorted as it tried to grab hold of something in the corridor. It almost looked like a hologram if not for the deep scars that were caused in the walls. However, the runes on the walls suddenly lit up, and dozens of Memorysteel spears stabbed into the hand.
But seeing the result only made Zac even more certain of the power of the creature. He had been on the receiving end of those things, and the still tender flesh in his side was a poignant reminder of how powerful they were. But the spears were actually completely unable to harm the claw, and it easily crushed them like they were made out of paper.
The claw had its own problems though, and it kept distorting more and more until it was barely recognizable any longer. Only then did the hand recede into the void again, leaving an utterly decimated hallway that seemed unable to restore its previous form,
“It’s a dimensional creature,” Leviala whispered, her face pallid. “I never expected to see one in person. We're lucky to be alive.”
“Where the hell did it come from?" Zac muttered as he peered into the darkness.
"We believe they live in the void. But I have no idea how that's possible," Leviala said.
“Why did it attack though?” Zac muttered.
“They are drawn here by the dimensional treasure, but they can’t enter this type of dimension freely. So they skulk around the cracks in space, sometimes reaching in to attack people. A few of the smaller ones sometimes fall through completely, but that only happens in the wasteland and the core region where the cracks are larger,” Leviala said.
Zac grimaced when he heard the mention about the core section where the Dimensional Seed was located. It sounded like the sector itself was just as dangerous as the Wasteland, perhaps even more so. Void's Disciple and the zealots might be the least of his worries when he reached that place.
“What now?” Zac muttered. “Is there an alternative path?"
“The beast should go away if we wait a few minutes. But be careful,” Leviala said. “I already overdid it by activating my bloodline twice. You’re on your own now, I can’t warn you again as I did during the battle against the werewolves.”
“That’s no problem,” Zac said. “But while we’re at the subject, just how did you manage to warn me before? You've seen how sharp my senses are, but I didn’t sense a thing. More to the point, you shouted out before Hevastes had even reached me. Are your clan members Karmic Cultivators?”
Leviala’s warning was as good an opening as any, and Zac finally couldn’t hold back his curiosity after having walked these broken hallways for almost an hour. He had replayed that battle over and over in his mind, and Karma was the only explanation he could think of. He still remembered that odd feeling of déjà vu, and it made him think of his battle with the Hayner Patriarch more than anything.
He knew that Karmic Cultivators were exceedingly rare, but it really looked like she had divined the future before, warning him of something that was about to take place. The backlash also matched with what he knew of divination. There was always a price to pay to peer into the future, and even a powerful monk like Lord 84th wasn’t an exception.
Perhaps the Tsarun clan wanted the power of precognition for themselves and had tried to extract that capability from the Cartava clan. Or perhaps they wanted to breed a bunch of seers, forcing them to write divinations day in and day out until they were killed by the heavens. There was no doubt that such a power would prove immensely beneficial for a power-hungry man like the Tsarun patriarch.
“No,” she hurriedly said as she shook her head with such force that she almost fell out of her chair made out of chains. “Our clan has nothing to do with Divination or Karma.”
“Then why such a strong reaction?” Zac said as a frown spread across his face. “Our planet does have a grudge against a Karmic Cultivator, but that doesn’t mean we’re enemies with all of them. But let me be clear; if I find out that you’re lying, then your clan will have to find another way out of this place than through me. I can’t have another group of people manipulating Karma against me or my people. You better tell me right now what's going on.”