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A note from puddles4263

6/14

It really would be so easy to just let go...Alana thought idly. She was cold. Bites of snow nibbled at her face and shoulders, leaving only numbness in their wake. She felt colder than she had ever experienced in her entire life. It felt like the left side of her body was so covered in so much ice that she would never move again. But… that’s not my Path. I won’t just give in here.

I’ll pierce through this. And then…!

Roaring, Alana’s eyes snapped open to the cascade of ice and frost around her. She was tumbling backward, which made it difficult for her to gather her bearings for several seconds. Alana’s heart was pounding and a rising sense of urgency was percolating upward through her chest. But for whatever reason, her mouth stretched into a wide grin.

I must look like Randidly Ghosthound right now, Alana thought. And although she had no idea where that impression had come from, it took root in her heart and surged upward in a gleeful manifestation of her refusal to give into this foe. Energy filled her limbs. That wild freedom, his savage joy as he fought…

But the threat of danger spun Alana around in a mid-air pirouette. The cobalt bolts of frost energy that had been about to hit her whizzed harmlessly past. With sharp eyes, Alana glared upward. Large chunks of stone and ice tumbled lazily in her field of view, but Alana could make out the blurred shapes of the lessor dragons coming to finish the grisly job their Broodmother started.

Skreeeee!

The harsh shrieks of the Dragons cut even through the cold blast of wind unleashed by their Broodmother. Alana raised her spear, but her mouth dipped into a fierce frown as she realized that her left arm was pinned to her side by a thick layer of frost. And yet that only meant that her smile stretched even wider.

The air was so thick with snow that it was difficult to understand how far Alana had been blasted off the ledge. Winds buffeted her from every angle, and the only real sense of direction that Alana could obtain was from seeing the approach of the Dragons. Some part of her mind wanted to try and return to the mountain, but Alana knew that Annie and Warlord would likely be fine.

Then she might as well have some fun out here.

The howling of the wind grew more intense as Alana’s horizontal momentum from being blasted backward tapered off and she was pulled inexorably down toward the frozen abyss below. Alana spun the spear across her fingers as more and more orange energy swirled around her in a protective bubble to take the edge off the wind. The cold was getting so bad she was having difficulty taking a full breath into her lungs. Yet that joy in her chest was a tenacious thing.

She was the Valkyrie of the Red Clay, a mishmash of theological references that meant she was the first warrior shaped by god. Her spear was sharp and peerless, and this would not be the end of her.

Two dragons cut in toward Alana from each side, bringing the total number of her foes to four. The ones on the right were blasted helplessly backward when they collided with Alana’s sharp energy from a spear thrust, but the two on the left wove past each other with sinuous grace to strike. One came high with claws while the other nipped at her legs.

Luckily Alana’s left leg was simply numb, not incapacitated. A sharp kick cracked the jaw of the lower dragon. There wasn’t enough force to deal any real damage, but it appeared that it was briefly stunned by the impact as it drifted to the side.

The higher dragon lashed out with its claw, which ripped through the frost on Alana’s upper torso and dug deeply into her vulnerable flesh. Alana almost chuckled as the ice-covered her body weakened and fractured. Gasping in pain, Alana regarded the dark blue Dragon in front of her with a look of almost gratitude.

Perfect.

Blood and hungry orange energy burst from Alana’s wound like tongues of flame. Hissing in displeasure, the dragon pulled back somewhat and raised its neck to unleash a bolt of its breath directly toward Alana.

With a snort, Alana lashed out and kicked it in the chest. As it spiraled away in agony, Alana also dodged two more cobalt bolts fired by its allies with the rebounding force from her kick. Alana spun around mid-air until she caught sight of a chunk of rock that likely weighed as much as she did. She twisted her body, controlling her tumbling momentum to flow quickly toward that stone.

Her eyes burned as Alana shoved her hand through the exterior rock and gripped the surface with a desperate glee. Then she twisted, bringing the rock in a full orbit around her body. Twisting her abdominal muscles even further to force the movement while midair, Alana’s spin accelerated. As the dragons gathered above her once more, she smashed aside their long range breath attacks with the whirling stone.

In an infinite helix downward, Alana and the stone became a halo of orange energy and evaporating ice. The dragons seemed to sense that she was regaining her strength because they roared and surged closer. Wind and darkness seethed around them.

Alana knew that all she really had to do was buy time. At some point, the howling wind would give way to their inevitable landing. It would hurt like a bitch, but Alana’s confidence in surviving was surging back with every moment. As she struggled at the edge of her capability, her image felt like it was weaving itself into existence at her slightest whim.

And once they were on the ground, these dragons would be nothing to her. Yet some part of Alana urged her to take a different Path. One that involved fighting now, and damn the consequences. That was the part of her that identified with Randidly Ghosthound, her own savior. What had he felt like, struggling against the entirety of Donnyton?

Alana’s mouth curled into a smile.

This time, the Dragons came with a plan. One dragon wildly beat its wings, ascending upwards to blast periodic ice bolts downward to limit Alana’s mobility. The smallest of the dragons circled rapidly around them all, while the two largest spiraled downward and came at Alana from either side. Their mouths were open and their fangs were so bright and white that they seemed to have been carved from the purest snow.

Ice is truly so fragile… Alana gaze caught on their luminous teeth for several seconds. Then she began her counterattack.

The muscles of Alana’s right arm bulged as she twisted her body out of the tight spiral with the stone. The vein along her bicep wriggled with the exertion. But then with a bellow, Alana managed to break the holding pattern and whip the stone upward like an asteroid.

The Dragon above Alana squawked and had to twist to the side and use its wing to awkwardly deflect the projectile. Wind whipped at Alana’s hair around in a wild tangle as her toss threw her downward, out of the path of the two Dragons that had struck to surround her.

But of course, the fourth and smallest Dragon swept downward with its claws outstretched… and received a spear through its chest for its troubles. Alana regarded it coolly, before looking upward to the weapon that had mortally wounded the Dragon.

A long, gleaming silver spear that stretched almost three meters long, a full meter beyond the usual range for her spear was clearly stretching out of the Dragon’s chest. Orange energy radiated outward from the gleaming attack like drunk dragonflies. It was an attack made entirely with the image that extended as Alana used a Skill.

In the classification that Randidly and Helen popularized in their clear demonstration of power… this would be the abilities of an Adept. Alana’s heart beat faster at the sharp joy she felt at finally making a step forward in the art of images.

And this step was not a small one.

“Do you think you will be the end of me?” Alana barred her teeth at the struggling dragon. Then she looked up with a dark smile toward its companions. Her orange energy surged forward, flooding into the wound to burn the body of this dying Dragon from the inside out in some terrible method of torture.

Alana’s gaze swept between the suddenly hesitant Dragons. “No need to come one at a time. I will personally end you all, one way or another.”

The metal of her Valkyrie helmet felt hot against her skin, even as her smiling face was numbed by the tumultuous wind. For several long seconds, Alana considered her foes. But then the Dragons abruptly spread their wings wide and their speed seemed to drop to nothing. To Alana’s vision, the Dragons seemed to zip upward as though yanked by a long rope.

Alana glanced downward and grimaced. She stored her spear in her ring and twisted so the feebly writhing Dragon was below her to break the fall.

BOOOOM.

Stone shattered and ice flew up in a chilly plume. Her knees ached, but Alana forced herself to remain on her feet. Beneath her, she could feel the ribcage and organs of the Dragon rupture.

Alana staggered several steps forward. Even though she had braced herself and used the body of the Dragon as a cushion, her teeth still ached painfully after they crashed into one of the ridges below the peak of Mount Olympus. And the impact would have been even worse if the ice or rock of the outcropping they smashed into hadn’t cracked and splintered from the mountain proper.

Due to the constant swirl of snow in the dark night, Alana couldn’t tell their exact position relative to the peak. But due to the direction of the wind… it was likely that she had blown into the dangerous northern foothills surrounding Mount Olympus.

Even as Alana looked slowly around to the grey slate and dark ice around her, the sensation of rumbling traveled up through the soles of her feet. The ground underneath her feet began to rumble and turn slowly as the shattered ridge began to tumble down toward deeper crevices.

Alana looked sharply up. The Dragons circled, having difficulty seeing her through the debris from the crash. She should really be focusing on preparing for her next attack, but on the other hand...

As the Dragons took a few moments to gather themselves, Alana poured some of her gathered PP into her Path that was very close to completion. With big jumps in Elemental Resistance, Sun Strike, and Fighting Proficiency, Alana was just barely able to complete the Path.

Congratulations! You have completed the “Heretical Ascendant of the Red Star, Alaihym” Path. Guided by one of the seven false stairs held by the World Tree Yggdrasil, you have embarked upon the Path to change your very nature. It is difficult to predict this Path because it is tied to the growth of an unpredictable world that is not a world but a body.

But like all Paths, there is great meaning in continuing to walk forward. We wish you luck. All Stats +25! Your Stat Resistance has evolved to become Inviolability!

Inviolability: In addition to increasing your ability to resist external influences, you have gained a spark of celestial energy. All specific weapons and methods will be ineffective at ending your existence the first time they are used to do so.

Congratulations! A distant resonance was detected! Energy and meaning flood to fill the gaps!

Your Soulskill has evolved to become “The Life of Alaihym, the Angel with no Lineage”!

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