I pursed my lips and looked around, trying to think of something to do. If I was fifteen levels higher, I might be able to take on the Treant and get the Preta-Squirrel after. But that wasn’t going to happen today. The Treant attacked sound. So if I was really quiet, I could sneak up close. But that didn’t change the fact that the little monster was in the Treant branches. So how would I get up there without getting squished by the branches?
I reached down and pulled a couple gray rocks from the moist ground. Carefully, I stepped out from my hiding place, being sure to move as quietly as possible. My heart was pounding in my ears so loudly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Treant could hear it. But my feet didn’t make a sound. I gripped the stone and shifted, ready to dive to the side at any time.
I bit my lips and threw the first rock at the Preta-Squirrel. The rock hit the bark just below the tiny monster.
It looked at me and let out an ear-piercing, stuttering sound and flashed its needle-point teeth.
I flinched in surprise, but didn’t move.
Because the Treant didn’t move. It’s eyes opened and it slightly shifted, obviously looking around. It was like I was invisible to it. Seconds ticked by, the Treant shifted the bark under the Preta-Squirrel and closed its eyes.
I couldn’t tell if throwing the rock was a fail or not. I didn’t get attacked, but the squirrel didn’t run away like I hoped it would. Frustrated, I threw another rock at it, just to repeat the same process. How close could I get the Treant without making a sound?
I’d have to be absolutely stupid. Like, brain dead crazy to consider nearing the tree. I stepped forward, my feet silent over the ground.
The Preta-Squirrel watched me, chittering like an evil, broken music box, but the Treant remained still.
I took another step closer. When nothing else happened, I picked a couple more rocks off the ground. What would happen if … ? I threw one of the rocks ten feet to my right. The rock hit the ground with a dull thud. The Treant’s eyes opened and focused on that spot. But it didn’t attack. I waited until it closed its eyes, then I threw another rock in the same place. The Treant’s branch-arms moved before it’s eyes even opened all the way. They rammed down on the exact location where the rocks landed, sending a soft ripple through the ground.
It took everything I had not to jump. Don’t move, I thought. Don’t move, don’t make a sound and it won’t know I’m here.
The Treant’s face screwed up in frustration when it realized there was nothing beneath its attack. After another quiet minute — aside from the Preta-Squirrel’s awful chittering — the Treant shifted back into a neutral position.
I blew out a silent breath and picked up a couple more rocks. Slowly, I walked closer. Each step I took was a little bit easier to move silently. The Treant never moved.
The Preta-Squirrel finally stopped screeching. It stared down at me, bared its teeth and growled, high and long. I stopped beside the Treant, eye-level to its open mouth. My nose wrinkled when I caught a whiff of decay and rotten flesh. I couldn’t just throw my kindjal at the Preta-Squirrel. Even if I killed it, I wasn’t sure I’d get it back if the blade were embedded in the bark. I looked up at the tiny monster and narrowed my eyes. The things I’d do just because a teal-colored screen promised me the heavens.
I crouched and jumped as high as I could, swinging the kindjal up. With my improved strength, my body felt lighter than ever — this little white girl got off the ground! But my Stats couldn’t help the fact that the little monster climbed higher in the tree before I could reach it.
Oh shit! My kindjal missed completely and sliced into the Treant. Panic broke my form and I tipped in the air until my hands and knees skidded against the damp, rough bark. The tip of my kindjal slid all the way down the bark as I fell, right between its eyes and nearly sliced it’s nose in half.
The Treant’s eyes popped and it let out a rumbled howl right in my face. The stench was enough to raise the hairs that weren’t already up in alarm. Its branches thrust down at me, a little slower than normal since I was so close. That little bit of time saved my life and enabled me to get out of the way. The branches continued to thunder after me, missing me by millimeters as I ran for cover.
Counter-productive or not, I still tried to keep my movements as silent as possible. If the Treant lost track of me mid-flight, that would be all the better. I pulled the wolf fang out of my Items Bag and threw it to the side, purposefully skipping it across the ground so that it made as much noise as possible. Instantly the tree’s two arms shot out and slammed against the ground where the fang lay.
I froze. My heart was pounding like crazy but my labored breaths were quiet.
Everything went still. The Treant, me, the Preta-Squirrel. Even the fog in the air seemed to stop moving for an eternal minute. I was still in the wide open, only fifteen feet from the Treant, but slowly it pulled back its arms and shifted back into a tree, eyes closed. The wolf fang was nothing but dust at the bottom of the hole the Treant pounded into the ground. It sucked losing an item, but not as much as losing an arm — or even worse, my life — would suck.
That was another failure, but it also helped me realize that I wasn’t going to be able to get up to the Preta-Squirrel with leg strength alone. And it wasn’t like the Treant was going to hold still while I rested a ladder against it and climbed up.
Another crazy idea came to my mind. I silently sighed and tapped my forehead. If this one didn’t work, I really was going to turn into a bloody pancake. No, I thought as I forced myself to calm down, this is going to work. I can do this. As scary as the Treant was, it would never be as scary as that Orc and his huge sword.
I scooped up two handfuls of rocks and held them in my hand. I bent my legs, getting ready, then tossed a handful just a foot to my side. Just as the pebbles hit the ground and the Treant twitched, I tossed the second handful in the same place. The second pile of rocks clattered on top of the first pile. The Treant’s arms shot out, aiming at that spot. At the same time, I jumped into the air, focused on my intended landing spot with all I had.
The Treant’s limbs smashed into the ground and a second later I landed on the thick branch. I didn’t even pause for a second before I sprinted up the arm as fast as I could, each toe digging in and thrusting me upward. The Treant froze, as if confused to feel something running on it. That pause was all I needed to make it nearly all the way up the arms, my hands reached out for the screeching Preta-Squirrel. Then the shocking spell broke and the Treant started to violently shake, it’s arms lifting in the air.
My teeth gritted together and I jumped off the limb, aiming at the ghost-squirrel. It turned to climb higher, but it was too late. I grabbed the squirrel in one hand and used the other to help scramble between the gap in the branches. The branches thrashed and squeezed together, but I slipped through and jumped with all I had to the tree behind it.
The Preta-Squirrel might look semi-transparent, but it was surprisingly solid as it thrashed in my hand and bit viciously into my skin. I didn’t let go. If anything, I gripped it tighter while it scratched at my fingers and let out a shrill chittery scream. Damn thing! I thought, but I was too busy trying to get away to bother with it just yet.
The Treant smashed at the tree I was in, clearly responding to the noise the Preta-Squirrel was making. Leaves and wood splinters rained down on me as I slid around the trunk to put something between me and the tree monster. A second later, the tree that I was in started to tip to the side. Desperate, I ran down the slowly tilting main branch and jumped to the next tree just before the tree crashed to the ground. With one arm out to help keep my balance, I tiptoed across the thick branch of my new tree. My left foot slid off and I started to tip. In desperation, I spun around and threw myself back into the trunk. All the air was knocked out of me and my butt landed hard on the branch. One of my legs wrapped around the branch as I reached out and gripped a small branch on my free hand. I was able to salvage my balance, but I looked up just in time to see the two blunt ends of the Treant’s branch-arms coming at me.
My eyes widened. There was no way I’d escape this time. Two feet from my chest, the branches stopped. My mouth dropped open. What happened? The twig-like fingers wiggled as the limbs thrashed through the air. One even smashed into the branch I sat on and snapped a huge chunk off, but they never got any closer. It wasn’t until I followed the limbs back to the Treant that I realized why. It couldn’t go any farther. The Treant had bent to it’s limit, nearly at a ninety degree angle, but it couldn't move any closer because it was rooted to the ground. And yet it still wouldn’t give up as long as this damn alarm clock kept shrieking.
I glared down at the Preta-Squirrel. My hand was so wet with my own blood that it was getting harder and harder to hold. Without another moment of hesitation, my kindjal appeared in my hand and I skewered the squirrel. Instantly, the noise stopped and the Treant froze.
I let out a silent sigh of relief.
A teal box popped up. [EXP +9]
I stared at the box, feeling more than a little bitter. All that work for just nine EXP points? But now I only had fifteen points until I was level 6. That was a good thing, right? When I killed the second Preta-Squirrel and achieved the Daily Task points I would … still be one point shy of my next level. I stewed over that thought when another System box popped up.
[Mission: Kill two Preta-Squirrels. 1/2]
Two drop orbs appeared in my lap and were instantly absorbed into my Items Bag. The Preta-Squirrel disappeared from my hand, leaving my own bloody flesh. I scowled and took some bandages from my Items Bag. While I wrapped my hand, I opened my Items screen and checked what they were. My eyebrows raised in surprise.
One of them was called a Ghost Pearl, a cool name for a pale white pearl. It didn’t look important, but hopefully it had a high price tag. The other was what caught my attention. The whole box was pale white, as if someone had taken a worn out marker and tried to fill in the square. It was called Essence of Nothing.
I stared at it, trying to think of what it could be used for. But the longer I stared at it, the more it changed. No, not changed. The white color was disappearing. A second later, the Essence of Nothing disappeared from my Items Bag.
“What?!” I mouthed the word and gaped at the empty box. I worked hard for that! How dare it disappear.
A notification dinged in my ear and I was prompted to open my Abilities. There was another mystery [???] added to the list.
I let out a silent breath. Okay, I could handle losing the money if I got an ability out of it. The only question was when I would actually get the ability. Hopefully, soon.
My attention was pulled away when the Treant suddenly shifted back. I watched as it turned back into a ‘normal’ tree, completely uncaring about the wreckage it left in its wake. There were holes in the ground and splinters of wood littered everywhere, never mind the whole tree that had collapsed in broken angles on the damp earth.
The whole exchange probably scared off anything that I wanted to find — like another Preta-Squirrel.
Just before I stood up, another window popped up. [Cultivate for 10 minutes.]
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.