Chapter 25 - The Very Next Day


A note from rykov00

Here ya go! Sorry again for the slow releases this month, but things are going well with trying to blaze ahead and we're on track to finish book 1 in July. That means we'll be able to edit and get stuff out a ton faster. We'll be able to do a lot more bonus chapters for stuff in August if that happens.

Comments and reviews really appreciated!

Liz crawled her way back to consciousness under extreme duress. She hadn’t put much thought into how hard she had been pushing herself but her body was certainly doing a great job in reminding her. She must have pulled her bow back a hundred times and god only knew what that constant draw of mana did to her. She held her hand up and struggled for a solid ten seconds in an effort to make a tight fist and eventually gave up.

Rolling out of bed she looked around her room. She vaguely remembered falling asleep on a couch, but someone must have carried her upstairs. Shaking her head to wake up a little she tried to plan out her next steps. Normally, she’d be figuring out her outfit for school. Today was gym, that would normally mean preparing her workout pack. Liz pondered what would need to be swapped out for her “kill monsters pack”. She let herself giggle for a moment at the absurdity of the situation. Just another post-apocalypse day. That stopped her brain process for a moment.

One day. A single day to go from concern over being late to school to worrying if everyone in school is still alive. Twenty four hours to go from shooting a bow in competitions to shooting a bow in life and death situations. It wasn’t enough time. She closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths. Breathing in deeply, she began a basic meditation exercise and felt for the new power in her body. Almost instantly she felt the places that were now familiar to her. The structures in her mind that let her draw on the mana that now seemed to permeate everything. The mana that changed everything.

A minute of rummaging through her clothing yielded an outfit she’d normally use for running. She took extra care to pick out muted colors. Highly visible and reflective clothing was great for modern society but definitely wouldn’t be part of post apoc-chic. After suiting up she ran her hand through her tangled hair. She frowned as it snagged on innumerable knots. Going on auto-pilot she took her brush and started her regular morning routine. The rituals helped her wake up and it was nice to do something familiar. She enjoyed the relative peace until it was shattered by a loud knocking at her door.

“Liz! Liz! Are you up! You should wake up! We’re figuring out what we’re doing today. We need you since you’re all like pew pew with the bow and stuff. We’re all doing stuff to clean up the giant mess we made last night. Hurry, there are are pancakes. I’m going to eat yours if you’re late. I’m really hungry. We still have tons of maple syrup though. We’re set there.”

The veins in Liz’s temple throbbed with each of her brother’s outbursts. “Mark, I’ll be down in a bit, but, just, you. Nevermind. Just nevermind. I’ll be right down.” She would need a minute to find her calm again. No one needed to deal with her strangling Mark right now.

“Oh and Mom made coffee.”

“Well why didn’t you say so?” Liz’s door swung open with purpose as she finished slinging her bow and quiver over her shoulder. Doing one last check to make sure everything was in place properly she quickly moved downstairs. Screw meditation. She wanted caffeine.

Walking down to the second floor she saw people were already busy with the day. Jocelyn was standing lookout at the window while people outside were scurrying around under Mom’s direction. She was directing people to move around the wolf corpses and had all remaining hands on deck skinning and harvesting parts. Apparently everyone had gotten a crash course because they seemed to be making pretty good time.

“Here, they left food for us. They figured that we probably would need more rest since we were pretty busy last night making the mess that they’re cleaning up now. Think fast!”

Mark threw a pancake at her with terrifying precision. She snapped her hand up to catch it, causing it to squish in her hand. “Give me coffee or I will cut you.” The death glare she was giving Mark was somewhat ruined by the folded pancake she was using to threaten Mark with but all was good as a coffee mug appear before her.

“Yeah, so, apparently I’m better at throwing just about anything. But anyway, after you finish coffee you should come out and help folks clear things out. Don’t want random creeps wandering in our yard and causing trouble. And by creeps I mean random monsters, not like strange icky men.”

“Yeah Mark, I figured that’s what you meant. Just let me drink coffee and go away for awhile.”

Liz closed her eyes and let the warmth of the cup flow through her hands. A few sips sent a welcome rush of caffeine to her deprived brain and she barely noticed as Mark headed out. “Thank god caffeine still works.” Liz thought to herself. Her moment of zen ended as she finished the cup in a few gulps. Savoring a nice cup of coffee was great and all but the monsters outside wouldn’t skin themselves. She felt a little guilty about leaving a mess and expecting other people to clean up after her. Well, maybe not that guilty, but still, it would be good to help out.

She went down the stairs and grabbed a handful of mana cores before walking out the front door. She saw that most of the wolves had been cleaned up here, and that most people had already moved to the back of the house to work. The tree line to the south still was clogged with bodies. That made sense as the majority of wolves had come from that direction. Elly and few other people were just starting to move into the area and Liz jogged alongside them to help.

“Hey Elly! How’s everything with the horses? Biscuit ok?”

“Yeah, he’s fine, and he’s been teaching me a couple things.”

“Oh really? I was wondering what was up with that whole glowy hand thing last night.”

“I know, right! It’s so amazing, I totally have this Ability called Unicorn Friend now! It lets me do the things that Biscuit can as long as he’s around and willing to help out. He can talk to horses, make things lighter, and a couple other things that I haven’t quite figured out yet.”

“That’s so cool! I’m so glad you figured that out. Abilities are super useful.”

“Yeah, check this out!” Elly touched a wolf corpse and a familiar glow enveloped her. Liz’s mind instantly returned to the time when Biscuit had helped the carriage along and finally understood what gave them the burst of speed. Elly proceeded to heft the corpse of the five foot long wolf over her shoulder and grinned madly. The thing was at least probably twice her weight but she had no problem handling it.

“That is kinda creepy, but also very impressive.”

“I know! Well, I’m going to haul this back to your mom. Let me know if you need me to make things lighter for you too. I have to rest a bit after doing this a few times, but it’s been really helpful for everyone since the things are so heavy otherwise.”

“Thanks, I’ll do a quick check around just in case. After that I’ll pick something out for you to help me with.”

“K, I’ll be right back.” Elly walked by a group of four who were using a makeshift stretcher to lift another corpse and applied her ability again. The group stumbled as their load suddenly lightened but they all smiled and thanked Elly. Liz was glad her friend was doing ok. After watching in amazement at the sight of a small teenage girl with giant wolf wolf slung over her shoulder she turned her attention back to the task at hand.

Liz started navigating around the corpses to check for any monsters that may have wandered over. The crack of gunfire to the north told her that Dad was most likely doing the same thing. As she scanned the trees she heard a low growl from a pile to her left. She turned her head to see a large green tinted wolf giving her the stink eye and baring its fangs. It was trapped under a pile of its dead packmates and didn’t seem like it was able to move. Liz’s eyes widened in surprise and she smiled to herself. She had an idea.

She focused on the wolf and concentrated on her abilities. She pushed all the mana in her body towards that feeling that she found when she had linked with Barry. Trying to replicate the effect was much easier and she felt a tendril of power reach out towards the wolf. In her excitement, she lost focus for a moment and the thread suddenly vanished.

The wolf, sensing something was amiss, increased it’s growls and made a pained yip as it struggled to free itself.

“Not so fast, I’m not done with you yet.” Liz took a breath and focused again. This time, she kept her breathing steady and didn’t let stray thoughts intrude. Within seconds the tendril formed again and she directed it towards the wolf. It stabbed the creature and suddenly Liz was flooded with a set of alien emotions.

Liz was somewhat startled by the influx and her focused wavered for a moment as she attempted to parse the strange new data entering her mind. The wolf started to yip louder as it felt Liz’s mind push down on it. Liz redoubled her focus on the thread and started feeding it more power. She reached into her pocket to grab a mana core to see if that would help, but for whaever reasons she couldn’t feed the energy into the connection she was forming. Ignoring that, Liz redoubled her efforts with the strength she had inside and felt the connection solidify. In an instant Liz started to make sense of the jumble of emotions coming towards her.

Pack destroyer! Flee! Must Flee! Help Alpha! No! Alpha gone! Must Flee!

Liz had a moment of inspiration and suddenly knew how to proceed. She sent her own thoughts through the connection.

I’m Alpha, you are now part of my pack.” She projected in images and feelings more than words.

For a moment she could feel the wolf pushing back, but it was injured and scared and Liz was intimidating as hell to it. Liz may look like a five foot tall teenage girl, but the wolf saw a bringer of death that had killed the great pack. A pack that was larger than any the wolf could ever conceive. A pack that nothing could stop, or so it had once thought. Apparently, the pack had never encountered a Liz.

Stop. Submit. I’m Alpha.” Liz reiterated and simplified her message. She pushed more mana into the connection and after a brief struggled she felt something give. The wolf stopped it’s struggling and patiently waited for Liz to direct it. Liz smiled. She had a new puppy. A nice seven foot long one ton puppy with six inch fangs and magical ice powers. She thought it was adorable and through the connection she could tell it was female. She decided to call her Moonlight. The notification popup made her smile.

Core Notification

Animal Taming Successful
Animal Companion Added
[Moonlight] linked

The yips and yowls Moonlight had made were loud enough that Mark had come over weapons drawn. He encountered an odd scene where Liz was digging through corpses and a wolf was trying to escape from the mess.

“Liz! Heads! I got this!”

“Wait, no Mark, she’s friendly!”

“Liz, it’s a giant monster wolf thing. I’m pretty sure it tried to eat us last night.”

“It’s ok. It’s mine now.” Liz grinned.

Mark looked skeptical but his eyes widened in surprise as the beast to slithered out and politely lay down next to her. Moonlight then proceeded to make a few whimpering noises.

Weak. Fading. Alpha has strength rocks?

“Mark, you have any cores on you?”

Mark reached into his pockets and produced a set of green colored cores. He had a confused look on his face but Liz paid him no mind as she snatched them and held them up. “These are strength rocks?”

Yes! Alpha strong, doesn’t need. Can has rocks?

Liz hesitantly held out the mana cores and Moonlight greedily crunched them down. Her breathing stabilized and while not as dramatic as a healing potion, she seemed to be much healthier than before. She stood up and limped over to follow Liz.

“Ok, this is totally not fair. You have to teach me how to tame giant wolf monster things. You already have Barry! I want a pet!”

“I’ll try, but I dunno. It seems that abilities tend to roll along the lines of what your skills are and you never wanted to do all the walking, cleanup, and training with Barry.”

“Fine then, but you’re picking up after your new pet.”

Liz winced. She did not want to think about what a seven foot long wolf would produce after eating a bunch of meat. “Thanks Mark, really appreciate that.”

“With great power comes great big buckets of poop.”

“That’s not how that goes.”

“Does now.”

Liz almost got angry for a moment, but then she realized she had freaking magical wolf pet, and that made everything ok.

“Fine, but when she gets better, you don’t get to ride her.”

Mark was speechless and his eyes widened in wonder as he imagined how awesome it would be to ride a wolf. His mouth opened then closed like a fish as he struggled for a comeback.

Liz couldn't help but wear a smug grin. Totally winning now.

A note from rykov00

Do the characters feel better now than they did earlier on? I think I'm hitting the personality notes a bit stronger, but would love feedback if you think so too.

If you have the wherewithal to do a reivew, that would be incredibly helpful. Getting reader input is really important for us right now so please let us know what you think.

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