Henry looked up when I knocked on his office door and gave me a surprised smile. “Jyn girl. What are you doing here? It’s not even dark yet.” His eyes narrowed to slits as he smiled at his own joke.
I smiled back.
Well, it’s true. Since getting the System, I’d started to stay out later. Initially because I needed to destroy three crystals. But then also because I’d had to take the Drop Items to the armourer and sell them. My Items Bag filled to the brim everyday and so I needed to hock the loot to fit in the next day’s items. The daily task took so much time that it was always dark when I returned to the hostel.
I stepped into Henry’s office and closed the glass door behind me. If someone walked up and looked in, they could see what I was doing, but I didn’t want people to overhear. I didn’t trust anyone in this building outside of the old man in front of me, and I wanted to keep him safe.
Henry frowned. “Is everything okay? Is Leticia acting up again?”
I laughed and rubbed my brows. “Nope, she’s great.” Couldn’t be better. “I’m here because I owe you twenty-one crystals and I want to pay some of it back. It’s only about a third of what I owe, but I’ll get there.” I pulled up my System menu and clicked on the bank account at the bottom left of the screen. After a couple more clicks, a money transfer window opened in front of Henry.
He was still blinking at me in confusion. Then he looked at the window and his brows shot up on his wrinkled forehead. Did he forget how many I’d borrowed? I hadn’t. I remembered every single one. Knowing the huge dollar amount I owed was daunting, seeing it displayed like that was intimidating. If anyone overheard the conversation about to happen, there was a real possibility they’d get greedy enough to hurt Henry.
He frowned and looked at me. For a minute, I thought he was going to actually refuse the transfer. “Jyn —” He stopped. Then he sighed and nodded slowly. “Good, good.” He reached out and accepted the transfer. “You aren’t putting yourself in a tight spot with this, are you?”
I shook my head. “No. It’s from the Gate Surge the other day. I’m okay. Promise.” There was still $200 left in my account, and I needed a new Items Bag. Desperately. I just hoped I could find a big enough one for less than that.
“Ah,” Henry gave an exaggerated sigh. “Little Jyn is growing up so fast becoming a fine Hunter. What am I going to do when you’re too mature to need old, fat Henry anymore?”
His praise warmed my heart. I laughed. “Oh, don’t say that. Nothing could beat your amazing cooking.”
After talking a little longer, I went up to my room. Once inside, I pulled a pair of needle pliers and a bag of tiny silver links from my Items Bag. I set them on the desk then went to the new safe in my closet. Carefully, I pulled out my mother’s broken bracelet. I should have fixed it a while ago, but it had been harder than I thought it would be to find a matching replacement link. In the end, I had to order the links in from across the country.
I picked up the pliers and held the bracelet in my hand like it was glass. Slowly, I pried open the bent links, took them off the bracelet then replaced them with new ones. Each action seemed to take forever, but I didn’t dare go any faster. Once the chain was fixed, I picked up the ruby rose that had broken off. Luckily it wasn’t the ruby itself that was broken, but the link that attached it to the chain. With my pliers, I took off the damaged link and fitted a new one.
After I fastened it back on, I leaned back and held the bracelet up in the air. The light glinted off the red stone, making the sides of the rose flare in different shades of red. I lowered it and opened the clasp then draped the bracelet on my wrist.
As soon as it touched my skin, I froze. I couldn’t help but stare at the jewelry against my skin. The longer I looked at it, the more I remembered how it gleamed at Mom’s wrist.
She’d quietly beamed the day Dad first gave it to her. I’d never forget how it jingled on her wrist as we’d walk hand in hand under the warm sun. And her sweet smile when she thought no one was looking just before she’d hug it to her chest — I knew she was thinking of Dad inside the Gate.
But then Dad died. Mom’s lips would curl with bittersweet emotion when she’d look at the bracelet after that. In a fit of grief one night, she took it off, marched to the garbage and stood there for ten minutes with it dangling over the trash as she cried. Her tears didn’t stop as she put it back on and sank to the floor, clutching it to her chest.
I couldn’t wear it. I’d die a hundred deaths if it were damaged, lost, or stolen for good. My heart quickened as I thought of Leticia having had it for the short time she did.
I took it from my wrist and connected the clasp then walked it back to the safe. I gently arranged it on a cloth napkin and locked it inside. I touched the cold dial and smiled. My heart swelled. I had a piece of Mom safely tucked away.
Now it was time to call my sister.
I blinked away sleep and rubbed blear from my eyes. A System window appeared over me.[Daily Task: Walk out and kill two Nixies.]
I sat up from bed like caffeine shot through my veins. “What’s a Nixie?” I looked it up as I quickly dressed. When the monster’s information popped up, I stopped with my shirt half on, staring at the screen. “What the...?”
A Nixie was a water fey that lived in Prine Lake. They were humanoid in shape, but very slender and beautiful. They also had a habit of attacking sailors and drowning them — if the Hunter didn’t die from the Nixie’s toothed spear first. And they were only found in the middle of the lake. They never neared the shore.
“Walk out?” I muttered and finished getting ready.
An hour later, I stood on the shore of Prine Lake and stared across the water. A perpetual rainbow arched over the huge lake, the colors vivid against the bright blue sky. Under it hung a thin mist that gleamed pale gold in the sun, the moisture lazily rising and swirling across the surface of the pale teal water. I’d heard that there were lakes in Canada that had water this color. Glacier water, or something like that. Like everything else in Gate Vale, there wasn’t a good explanation from why the water was this teal, but it was an absolutely stunning view with the golden mist, rainbow, and mountain in the background.
But as much as I appreciated the view, I was perplexed by it. I crouched and frowned at the water gently lapping against the rocky shore inches from my feet. Walk out? Walk out on what? Was the System seriously telling me to walk on water? I wasn’t a water mage, and even if I was, there were only a handful worldwide that could walk on water.
I opened the Daily Task page again and read the short directive. Why would it say walk? Not sail or swim. But walk? And to where — the middle of the lake? If I didn’t follow the task exactly like it said, would it not count as completed? Would I have to start over? That would suck. I mean, not only would it take a lot of time, but it sounded like Nixies weren’t the easiest to deal with. Never mind the fact that they lived under water.
My mouth pursed to the side and I stood up. Still, the System wouldn’t do anything to harm me. In theory. It wanted something from me, but I hadn’t done anything for it yet. And I seriously doubted it would go through all the trouble of training me just to simply kill two monsters a day. Until it got what it wanted, I could only assume that it wouldn’t purposely harm me. If it wanted me to kill the Nixies, there was a reason. Just like cultivating had a reason — to improve my mist abilities.
I took a breath and lifted my foot. Walk on water, right? Since I was told to do it, that means that I could … Right?
I lowered my foot.
My boot skimmed the surface and sank right down. Since I expected there to be something to step on, my balance was thrown off and I stumbled forward. My feet seeped into the mud under the water and I pitched forward. With a shocked squawk, I landed on my hands and knees, the force of my fall splashed water all over my face and body.
I gasped and shook the water off my face.
Loud laughter exploded behind me.
I climbed up to my feet and looked over my shoulder.
Two men in full armor stood at the forest line not too far off from Prine Lake’s shore. They were laughing so hard that one was bent over, slapping his thigh.
“Oh, god, I don’t think I’ve seen something that funny in ages! Hey, miss, there’s a lake there, in case you missed it.” The man with a red tunic beneath his armor wiped under his eye with the back of his armor-plated hand.
“What did you think would happen?” the Hunter in a green tunic and black armor asked. “That you would just walk right out there?” He gasped, still slapping his thigh with a metallic thunk.
I moaned and retreated from the lake, trying to repress the heat that seared my face. That was exactly what I thought I could do. And I had an audience for my amazing fail. Awesome. “Can I help you with something?” I asked, trying to salvage any scrap of dignity I could.
The Hunter in green and black hunched over, laughing all over again.
The red tunic Hunter smiled at me. “You know, there’s a boat rental shop on the north end of Gate Square. If you wanna go out on the lake, that’s the way to do it. You’d get a lot farther than … whatever that was. But I don’t think a little E like you should go. All the monsters there are over your head.” By the time he stopped talking, most of the ridicule had left his face.
I nodded slowly. “Thanks for the info.” Still, I didn’t think I should get a boat. I turned around and looked at the lake again.
Behind me the Hunter who’d actually been helpful was talking to his partner. “Come on, dude. Let’s go.”
“Nah, nah, man. Look at her. She’s going to do it again. I wanna see her do it.” Apparently he was still laughing at me.
I huffed a breath and ignored what they were saying.
If I was told to walk out there, then the System would have given me the ability to accomplish the task. No official new Ability had appeared in my menu, so it had to be one that I already had and just needed to activate. Already had … Ah!
I activated Feather Step and leapt out onto the water. I felt the friction of rippling waves against my toes, but moved to my next step before my weight had a chance to sink beneath the surface.
Two exclamations of shock faded behind me, which I barely heard anyway over the cheering in my head.
I was walking on water. Seriously, I was walking on water! “This is so awesome!”
Laughing like an idiot, I sprinted across the glassy surface, rising and falling with each rippling swell. I twisted around and looked back at the shrinking shoreline. I didn’t think the mist was that thick, but soon the shore and the two Hunters on it were barely visible. The mist wasn’t gold right against me, but within a couple feet, the sunlight refracting on it lit up. Smiling, I reached out to the vapor. Instead of sifting through my spread fingers, the mist drew into my hand.
“Cool,” I whispered and rubbed my fingers together.
But it wasn’t just my hand that the mist reacted too. The whole area around me seemed to spiral around me, drawing closer until it was absorbed into my body. I didn’t even have to cultivate to activate the effect. Which was a good thing because I was still running. I couldn’t help but notice that as soon as the mist was drawn into me, thin wisps rose from the surface of the water to replace the mist that was taken away. As if the lake was trying to regenerate what went missing.
I was so focused on it that my pace slowed. Instantly, my foot sank into the water. I jumped and took another quick step so that I was on top of the surface again. The water on the bottom of my boot shook off with my movement and immediately dissipated into the air, adding the mist.
It was cool and all, but it also brought up a problem that I hadn’t thought of before I set out. What was I going to do when I ran out of MP and had to stop running? And where was my destination? I assumed the middle of the lake, but I wasn’t even halfway there yet. It would be impossible to reach the middle of the lake, fight two monsters, and get back to shore Feather Stepping the entire way. Maybe I should have rented a boat after all. That way I could at least stand on the boat while I fought Nixies.
I huffed a breath. “If only I could walk on mist.”
I mean, there were water and fire users that could walk on their element. Granted, their level was higher than my own. I didn’t even really know what all I could do with my mist ability. The System still hadn’t given me any clear guidelines or limitations. To what extent could I control the mist?
I rolled my eyes. What the hell? If it didn’t tell me not to, then why couldn’t I? I glanced at my MP as it clicked down one more point. I guessed now was as good a time to find out as any. What the worst that could happen? Ah, well, I guess the worst was that I’d fall into the water and get caught up with monster Nixies and drown. I wasn’t the best swimmer so I’d be in trouble even if I didn’t meet a monster.
A jolt of alarm shot from my skull down to my toes as my sixth sense went off. A split second later, the water exploded where my foot had been. A red fish the size of a large cat soared out of the water. It’s oversized jaws closed in the air with an audible snap, four inch fangs protruding out of the sides of its mouth. It flailed in the air for a second, its round, green eyes focused on me with purpose. Above its head read: [Fanged Snapper Lv 9]
I twisted around and slashed out with my kindjal. The fish split in half and dropped to the water with two plops. A Drop Items orb appeared, bobbing up and down on the water. But I didn’t have time to do anything about it, or bother with the sinking energy crystal. With every single step I took, another Fanged Snapper leapt through the air. I twisted and turned, slicing and stabbing as I went, but there seemed to be no end to them.
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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.