Dripping. Something was dripping on me.
I blinked once, twice, and then everything snapped into focus with incredible, searing clarity.
Every drop reverberated through my skin, echoed with my heart, sang out into my surroundings. I could feel it bounce and reflect off things, travel through them, seemingly like it brought a piece of me with it.
With every heartbeat, every breath, every drop, my world seemed to grow, and grow, and grow.
I was buried, and the house was burning above me, around me. I knew because I could see it all, feel it all.
I could picture everything within thirty feet of me with total clarity. I could sense worms and insects in the ground, the grass and its roots fifteen feet away outside the house. I could feel the wood above me combusting as it burned. I could feel the flows of air coming in to feed the vortex rising off those flames. I could see every nail and screw, the shattered chimney, the decaying shingles. I could feel the ground vibrating from some distant force to the south, no, west, no east?
The sensation was awesome, glorious, a surge of information and sensory awareness that made me feel like my brain was reaching out into my surroundings...
I blinked as my awareness of the magnetic fields tugging at the iron in my blood conflicted with my awareness of how the house was laid out.
North should be… that way. Up towards Canada. Instead, it was pointing… towards Georgia, or something.
The Hell. That meant the poles had flipped, AND the axis of the planet had shifted?
Interesting. It still left me trapped under two floors and a roof of wood, shingles, metal bracing, and stonework.
I should probably be dead. My chair was back behind me, and it was pretty much scrunched flat by one of the crossbeams from the mess on top of me falling on it.
I wasn't dead. That was a good thing. I analyzed the situation, wondering what was braced on what.
I breathed, and watched the mass above me shift.
There was nothing braced. I wasn't in some hollow pocket. I had tons of house laying on top of me, burning, and I should be squashed pretty flat.
Instead, the fires weren’t getting within two inches of my skin.
My Diamond Vajra had stopped it.
I could see my whole body. I could see inside my body. Every cell, muscle, bone. I could look at the structure of my own brain, watch the snapping of neurons and bioelectricity flickering along nerves.
I could see my toes.
I almost burst out crying. I had toes again!
But the roaring inferno above me kind of stopped that. It had kind of a dominating presence.
The air temperature here was over two hundred C. So, I should also be cooked. I shouldn't even be able to breathe this. My clothes should probably be on fire.
The first Diamond Vajra energy resistance I’d chosen was to fire. 40+ points of fire resistance. Basically, I could stick my hand in molten lava and not be hurt. A little house fire wasn't going to actually hurt me. Inside my Vajra, it couldn't even hurt my clothes.
So, I was buried under a house on fire. At least I didn't see any bones or bodies in the rubble around me. My landlord and his wife should have been out to their jobs…
Okay, I had to get out of here. Two choices. Wait for the fire to burn down, which would naturally alleviate a lot of the weight on me as it all turned to ash. I could filter out the ash and dust and smoke with my Vajra, and just be patient.
Well, fuck that. On to choice two, get out of here as soon as I could. Because if my Vajra wasn't totally lying to me, I was Sama Rantha, and there was no fucking way I was going to be sitting under a goddamn fire while the world went to hell around me.
My resources were that I was Sama Rantha, and I had my Sword and Scabbard in my hands. I was currently flat on my damn face, buried under tons of rubble, with very little leverage or wiggle room.
I looked at the two items in my hands. My Sword, Tremble. My Scabbard, and more precisely, the belts that held it, currently looped around my right wrist.
Forty-four inches of steel and a yard of scabbard flowed and compressed down to the size of a straight dagger and the sheath for it. I wrist-flipped them, and watched with grave interest as the edge of Tremble slid over my hand, through my Vajra smoothly, and then down through my wrist without stopping.
Sanguinal in the adamant. I could not be cut by my own Blade. Without grabbing it with my Vajra, I literally couldn't touch it.
All sorts of possibilities in a fight when you can chop right through yourself with impunity. I smiled and slid my Sword into the scabbard, wrapped it to my hand.
Energized tungsten was adamant! Great! A guess in-game, and validated by tons of knowledge that was spilling out of my backbrain, programmed knowledge from days and days of training that I'd never lived through except on-screen and with macros.
Yeah, I was definitely going to get out of here. There was way too much stuff I had to do... stuff I could actually do now! I was so excited that despite being buried under tons of shit and the house burning around me I was having to concentrate so as not to cry...
Okay, I didn't have leverage. I could breathe because my Vajra gave me two inches of room from the pressure. I was flat on my face, arms out in front of me. At least I wasn't twisted around.
I could probably get my arms under me. But I didn't have the strength to lift all that weight. In gaming terms, I didn't have the Might.
Or did I?
I eyed the biomantic Ossus Runes scribed onto my bones. Yeah, part of the full body transformation had put them there. However, they needed to be filled with gold or platinum, and then Karma put into them to Invest them to full strength.
But! I had my Belt. The Belt I'd made to do my Heavy Gravity Training.
To Five Gravities. It was a full-body alteration, not a magical item. It had taken me two and a half years playing the game, slowly jacking up the gravity, until I could operate at 5g's as effectively as I had at 1g.
Naturally, that meant at 1g I had some terrific improvements, particularly to my Might. I could lift five times what I once had been able to.
That should be an absolute minimum of two tons carried around, with a base Strength of 25 or 26.
So, there only remained to get leverage. Physics was still a thing to the no-magic Melee...
I pulled my arms back to the maximum extent I could, jammed my elbows against the smoking floorboards below me.
My now-black nails bit into the concrete floor like claws. Ki thrummed in my elbows, I flinched my palms, and pushed.
The rubble above me moved an inch as my soul slammed into the wood above me, and my elbows rose that inch.
Palm strike, shift, scootch. Palm strike. Palm. Palm.
Ten strikes later, my bent elbows were vertical. I looked at the rubble above me, how and in what direction I wanted to lift.
My palms planted, and now I pushed as I focused all my energies into lifting. Every second I went at it, my internal lines of energy condensed, solidified, grew more and more solid. One side rose first, the rubble above me shifted. I watched as the other side evened out, wood and stones moving slightly, the weight distributing differently.
It was an Imperial Sun Feat, The Counting of the Sun. +1 cumulative to a skill check until you are taking 20. Strength checks were basically unmodified skill checks. Heart, mind, and body all coming into perfect alignment…
Up, up, tons of weight slowly creaking, rising, the fires above shifting, ash pouring past me, smoke flowing down. My legs came free of the rubble behind me, and it settled, sending some of the weight spilling backwards. My shoulders rose further, and I got my new feet and legs under me. I put my hands on my knees to support my shoulders further, and began to push.
Oh, oh Mithar, it felt so good to be able to push with my legs, my feet, to brace as sinews and tendons began to hum and thrum with power I’d never had...
Slowly, slowly, wood creaking, stones murmuring and ash pouring down, I began to rise.
Ha ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaa!
There, one of the braces finally wedged up, halting my progress.
My left hand flashed up.
I was a Grandmaster of the Sword. The Sword was an extension of the hand. I didn’t claim to be the greatest Melee in the game, but I had all Seven Dragons Way Mastered and I knew the techniques cold. Even Seven Dragons wasn’t any better in the fundamentals than I was.
Versatile Unarmed Strike turned bludgeoning damage to slashing or piercing with an edge of ki, as you liked. It was a very handy Feat in real life, although it didn’t really do a lot in the game.
Except turn a sword into a blunt weapon without giving up damage, but that was minor to Always Having a Knife, Axe, and Spear with you, in the form of your hand. Or elbow. Or forehead.
The floorboards from above I was pushing on shattered under my first cutting hand, which tore right through them. Stones and ash cascaded down, settling around my feet and legs. I struck upwards again, and the crossbeam there, a foot square of treated oak, went chok as my fingers drove in six inches. I pulled them out, Vajra taking care of any danger from splinters, and I struck again before it could shift and bend the break closed.
The stuck beam broke in two, fell away, and my load gave way with abrupt speed, opening up above me into the heart of the inferno cooking away above and around me, hot coals and hotter stones dropping down around me.
I stepped on top of them with my bare feet as they piled up, ignoring the nails and screws in the timbers that couldn't penetrate my skin. Damn, how did I ever live without Damage Reduction? I shoved another beam out of my way, crouched my legs just a little, and jumped.
5g jumping, Ocean Dragon lightfoot. I had no problem doing a ten-foot vertical jump whatsoever, coming up out of the middle of the fire to grab the main steel beam above me that had been the backbone of the house. The roof was now directly above me, plywood burning and eating away at the shingles above around the broken and misaligned braces shattered by their fall.
My body felt nigh on weightless. I swung my feet up and forwards, slammed them into the underside of the roof between the roofing nails, and smashed a section outwards.
The fire naturally leapt up for the opening and extra air with a hungry roar. I ignored it as I rebounded, swung back once again. My feet went through the hole, leading the rest of me. I snapped my upper body through easily as I came down, and in that moment got a good look around me.
There was steady light, I wouldn't have to worry about looking at the sky.
My feet hit the melting shingles, and I jumped again, stretching for the doorway. Natural expectations and programmed ones warred briefly, and I tossed nature to the back seat. My foot hit the edge of the broken door jamb, and I easily completed the step and was outside.
The sky was an off-blue, but shrouded red by the glow of flames. I could see some sort of ring cutting through the sky up there, and kind of gaped at the moon I could see out there… and the huge freaking red planet taking up a big chunk of the sky. Yeah, not in Kansas anymore...
I was in Hell. I don't know how long I was out, but it wasn't a short time.
Everything was on fire. Everything. The air temperature had to be 150 degrees. The forests were burning. White and black ash was falling from the sky, one part wood, the other part falling stone, clattering off and rattling everything solid like tougher, harder hail. I could see no less then six mountains that had blown their tops and become volcanoes somehow, and three more volcanoes to the… old south, in Yellowstone. Dark plumes were carrying ash far into the sky, and were blazing with heat lightning. Streaks of burning stone were being ejected with massive force, spreading destruction for miles in all directions...
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- Auburn, Michigan
Bio: Editor of online webnovels, mostly at Webnovel and Wuxiaworld. Also edit Ebooks. Long time video gamer, former MMO player, lifelong [email protected] fan and RPG guy, fan of both science fiction and fantasy. Don't ask me to choose between Trek and Wars, I love all the Stars.